Category Archives: Articles

Why are Some Pages “Intentionally Left Blank” and Why Do They Say This?

book

Gabino asks: Why do they bother putting the text This Page Intentionally Blank on blank pages? It’s easy to dismiss the phrase, “This page is intentionally left blank” and its usage as an example of bureaucracy gone mad, but it and the blank pages themselves are actually there for good reason. To begin with, the practise of marking intentionally blank pages, […]

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Weekly Wrap Volume 125

monopoly

This is a weekly wrap of our popular Daily Knowledge Newsletter. You can get that newsletter for free here. Where Did the Saying “I’ll Eat My Hat” Come From? “I’ll eat my hat” is an utterance commonly used when a person is absolutely certain that something will not happen. But where did this unusual phrase first originate and have there […]

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What Exactly Does Landing on Free Parking Do in a Game of Monopoly? (And Other Ways You’ve Been Playing Monopoly Wrong That Make It Take Longer)

monopoly

Richard G. asks: I’ve seen so many different rules for it, but what’s actually supposed to happen when you land on free parking in Monopoly? Few board games have the ability to cause arguments like Monopoly, an unsurprising fact given the object of the game it was based on (see: Who Invented Monopoly?) was to send your opponent to the […]

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Tom Waits vs. the World (Of Advertising)

tom-waits

Tom Waits’ raspy, almost growl-like singing voice has become synonymous with the singer and has been variously described by critics as sounding like it was “soaked in whiskey” or alternatively like it was “hit by a car”. This distinctly recognisable sound combined with Waits’ vast back catalogue of hits has seen the artist approached numerous times over the years by […]

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Weekly Wrap Volume 124

twin-girls-340x509

This is a weekly wrap of our popular Daily Knowledge Newsletter. You can get that newsletter for free here. Why Gnats Swarm A common sight in the spring and summer, the seemingly unprofitable and pointless habit of gnats to hover in a cloud is, in fact, the single most productive thing they’ll ever do with their short lives. Although there […]

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Where Did the Saying “I’ll Eat My Hat” Come From?

eat-hat

Jeremiah C. asks: Did people actually used to eat their hats? If not, where did the expression come from? “I’ll eat my hat” is an utterance commonly used when a person is absolutely certain that something will not happen. But where did this unusual phrase first originate and have there ever been any recorded instances of people actually eating their […]

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That Surprisingly Recent Time in British History When Husbands Sold Their Wives at Market

wife-selling

The following is an article from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Let’s say you’re an 18th-century British peasant, and you and your wife just aren’t getting along anymore. What do you do? Divorce her? Too expensive. Kill her? Too risky. Oh, well, looks like you’ll have to auction her off. Welcome to the wacky world of wife selling! HARDY HAR-HAR Hands […]

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What “Mrs.” is Short For

gloria_steinem

Today I found out what “Mrs.” is short for. You may have wondered, if you’ve ever thought about it, why there is an “r” in “Mrs.” when it’s generally spoken as “missus” (also sometimes spelled “missis”). “Mrs.” first popped up as an abbreviation for “mistress” in the late 16th century. At the time, “mistress” didn’t popularly have the negative connotation […]

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The “White Mouse” Who Became Australia’s Most Decorated WWII Servicewoman

nancy-wake

Today I found out about Nancy Wake, aka “The White Mouse,” who became Australia’s most decorated servicewoman during World War II. Despite her future successes, Nancy Wake had humble beginnings. She was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1912, but her family moved to Sydney, Australia when she was almost two and she grew up there. A Maori midwife delivered […]

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Parrots, Peg-legs, Plunder – Debunking Pirate Myths

pirate-map

Pirates murdered, pillaged, raped, stole, and generally made the lives of others who stood in their way terrible. But despite these facts, books and, more recently, Hollywood have glamorized the “swashbuckler on the high seas.” In the process, a lot of fiction has been attached to the pirate mythos. For example, the rumor that pirates commonly made people walk the […]

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Can a Vice Presidential Candidate or the Speaker of the House Really Be Elected President Instead of the Main, “Winning” Candidates?

veep

Michelle S. asks: Is it actually possible for a vice president candidate to be elected president like on VEEP or were they just making that up? The season five finale of HBO’s Emmy-award winning comedy VEEP sure seemed like a Hollywood fantasy. Through a series of wacky situations, hilarious gaffes and complicated procedures, an obscure Vice-Presidential candidate was elected by […]

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The Plot Against President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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The following is an article from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Conspiracy theories can be amusing to read because they’re usually so bizarre and far-reaching that they couldn’t possibly be true. What’s even more fun is a conspiracy that’s not a theory at all. Here’s one that actually happened. ALL THE RAGE IN EUROPE In the 1930s, many Western countries suffered […]

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Why Things That Are Haphazardly Built Are Called “Jury-Rigged”

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David N. asks: Who was the Jerry in the expression Jerry-rigged? Although many describe shoddy workmanship or a hasty, temporary repair as jerry-rigged, in its original incarnation, the term was actually jury-rigged. While jury as a noun meaning a group of peers that decide the outcome of a legal proceeding has been in use English since the early 14th century, […]

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