Saturday, June 03, 2006

Encyclopedia ( that's Tamil for 'hold my bicycle)

I know that, in these internet-obsessed days, it is too much to expect you bloggers to read hard-bound volumes of old-style encyclopedias. So, as a public service, I had taken it upon myself to read 33000 pages and 44 million words of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and proudly present some pearls of wisdom, carefully distilled from the collection.

  • Know how to identify an Arabian horse from a non-Arabian one ? Count the vertebrae. Arabian horse has only 23; other horses have 24. (So, if you are in the market for horses, remember to send me a thank-you note.)
  • What country do you think has the highest per capita alcohol consumption ? France, Ireland, Scotland ? Not, it’s Luxembourg. The Luxemboozards!
  • The word’s largest bell was built in Moscow in 1733. It weighed in at more than four hundred thousand pounds. It never rang. It was broken by fire before it was struck. Ask not who the bell rings for. The bell doesn’t ring at all.
  • The name cappuccino comes from the Capuchin monks of Italy, whose robes were light brown, the same colour as coffee with steamed milk. If coffee had been discovered in India, we would have had saffron coloured coffee named the Sanyasino.
  • The easiest divorce around : Pueblo Indian women leave their husband’s mocassins on the doorstep and –that’s it- they’re divorced. Simple. No lawyers, no fault, no socks, just shoes. Wife, please take hint.
  • Dragon flies can eat food equivalent to their own weight in thirty minutes. Wonder what its cholesterol level is.
  • Technically, the term ‘duck’ should be used only for female. The proper term for a male duck is ‘drake’. No wonder that Donald Duck has a gender identity disorder.
    The literal translation for the Greek word’ gymnasium” is “school for naked exercise”. Now, you know how to be appropriately dressed at the gym.
  • Know why Greenland is called so, although it is almost entirely white ? Turns out that the country’s name was coined by an Erik the Red, who had been banished from Iceland in 982 AD for manslaughter. He called his new home Greenland to entice more people to move in there. Real estate agents have followed this practice ever since.
  • Hollywood was founded by a man called Horace Wilcox a ‘prohibitionist’ who envisioned a community based on his sober religious principles. Huh ?
  • “Jack and Jill’ is actually an extended allegory about taxes. The jack and jill were two forms of measurement in England. When Charles I scaled down the jack ( originally two ounces), so as to collect higher sales tax, the jill which was by definition twice the size of the jack, was automatically reduced, hence ‘came tumbling after’. Hell, we teach our kids commercial stuff in their kindergarten.
  • Opossums have thirteen nipples. How unlucky for them.
  • Napoleon sold the western half of the United States to Jefferson for less than 3 cents an acre. Should France rescind the contract now ?

    Well, to be honest, I couldn’t read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica myself, but I did the next best thing. I just finished a book, “The Know-It-All” by a A.J.Jacobs who has completed the awesome task of reading all 33000 pages of the encyclopaedia and has presented some tidbits and trivia in a very interesting and humorous manner.


Anonymous said...

The background about jack and jill killed all the fun in the nursery rhyme!!

do the pueblo women get alimony? i guess not and so there ends the appeal of an easy/cheap divorce. :)

Anu said...

How about buying a new pair of shoes? Perhaps the wife doesnt want to touch the old one? Just a thought!

Shruthi said...

Encyclopedia = hold my bicycle == ultimate definition :))) [I know enough Tamil to understand that ;)]

Raj said...

Sowmya, did you know that 'Ring a Ring O'roses' was a parody on the Great plague?

Anu, as per Pueblo tradition, keeping new shoes out may take on an entirely new meaning. Why take a chance ?But thanks for the thought.

Shruthi : Maybe the Brits picked up the expression when they were here. Who knows?