Faithful readers of this column may have noticed that lately I have not been ending each article with a “UFO.”
If you did, sorry, but there is no prize money involved. You may, however, help yourself to the gum wrappers that I have been collecting in my car.
In January 2004, I started adding the “Useless Factual Observations.” Now, five years later, I am announcing the official retirement of these little ending pieces of trivia.
This is not to say that I will never ever, ever, ever again share a few random facts. But until then, here are a few to tide you over.
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Speaking of: The etymology of the phrase “tide you over” is from the idea of the swelling tide, which will carry you over some obstacle, with the implication that it won’t require effort on your part. It may be a deliberate echo of Brutus’s comment, in Julius Caesar: “There is a Tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the Flood, leads on to Fortune,” or it may at least be taken from the same idea of a ship, say, waiting for the tide to rise and carry it over the bar into a harbor.
Here’s some math: 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321
If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle; if the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.
Clans of long ago that wanted to get rid of their unwanted people without killing them would burn their houses down; hence the expression “to get fired.”
Canada is an Indian word meaning “Big Village.”
There are two credit cards for every person in the United States.
The term “the whole nine yards” came from World War II fighter pilots in the South Pacific. When arming their airplanes on the ground, the .50 caliber machine gun ammo belts measured exactly 27 feet, before being loaded into the fuselage. If the pilots fired all their ammo at a target, it got “the whole nine yards.”
The most common name in the world is Mohammed.
The word “samba” means “to rub navels together.”
The international telephone dialing code for Antarctica is 672.
The glue on Israeli postage stamps is certified kosher.
Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny) was allergic to carrots.
Until 1965, driving was done on the left-hand side on roads in Sweden. The conversion to right-hand was done on a weekday at 5 p.m. All traffic stopped as people switched sides. This time and day were chosen to prevent accidents where drivers would have gotten up in the morning and been too sleepy to realize that “this” was the day of the changeover.
The very first bomb dropped by the Allies on Berlin during World War II killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.
The term, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye” is from Ancient Rome. The only rule during wrestling matches was, “No eye gouging.” Everything else was allowed, but the only way to be disqualified was to poke someone’s eye out.
A “jiffy” is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second.
The average person falls asleep in seven minutes.
Hershey’s Kisses are called that because the machine that makes them looks like it’s kissing the conveyor belt.
Money isn’t made out of paper, it’s made out of cotton.
Every time you lick a stamp, you’re consuming 1/10 of a calorie.
Coca-Cola was originally green.
The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time television was Fred and Wilma Flintstone.
The phrase “rule of thumb” is derived from an old English law which stated that you couldn’t beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.
The name Jeep came from the abbreviation used in the army for the “General Purpose” vehicle: G.P.
The San Francisco Cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments.
The only two days of the year in which there are no professional sports games (MLB, NBA, NHL, or NFL) are the day before and the day after the Major League All-Star Game.
Now you know.
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One last UFO: The sources for these pieces of information are worldwidewords.org and jokestogo.com.