Interesting Trivia

“Why is it trivia? People call it trivia [trivial] because they know nothing and they are embarrassed about it.”

Robbie Coltrane

“I love learning and always seem to have my head in a book, or engrossed in a documentary, or a film about a true story. 

So, rather than let the pieces of interesting trivia I come across drift aimlessly back into the ether, I thought I would begin to gather them here so, from time to time, I may reflect back upon them, contemplate their meaning, importance, or otherwise, and generally increase my knowledge.

Maybe, then, taking Mr Coltrane’s quote to heart, it should no longer in my world be ‘trivia’.  …but then again, we never really ‘know’ even that which we think we ‘know’…

What do I know for sure?  That I know nothing for sure – and I’m not even sure about that…  and so continues the journey…”  ~ Ms Bella St John

What is trivia?

…and the origin of the word ‘trivia’?  According to Merriam-Webster, in medieval times, the word Trivium referred to the threefold education curriculum encompassing Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric—as opposed to the Quadrivium, which included Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, and Astronomy. The Trivium was regarded as a prerequisite of sorts for the Quadrivium, and as the foundation of a liberal arts education. In the word’s earliest use, trivial described what belonged to the Trivium.

Starting with something close to my heart, my four-times great uncle, Dr Richard Parnell,  FRSE MWS (1810–28 October 1882) was not only a noted British physician, amateur zoologist, ichthyologist and agrostologist, he also has a species of bat named after him, as well as a species of grass! (I was ever so privileged to go behind the scenes at the Welcome Collection in London to view the portrait of him (above) that was painted by Mr Normal MacBeth – astounding experience).

The lost property office at Dublin airport has an unclaimed tombstone with the words: ‘You will always be remembered, never forgotten.’

Aleksandr Ilyich Ulyanov was tried and executed for his failed assassination attempt on Alexander III of Russia.  Why is this interesting?  His younger brother was Vladimir Lenin.

Thomas Hardy‘s editor for “Far from the Madding Crowd” was Leslie Stephen – who also happened to be Virginia Woolf‘s father.  (I feel very honoured to have a set of Hardy’s novels, published between 1871 and 1895)

Cannibalism is not illegal in Britain.

The ozone layer is only 15 parts per million made of ozone.

interesting trivia

Why do some drive on the right and others on the left?

Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent and their scabbard further from him. Also, one generally mounts and dismounts a horse from the left side of the horse, and it would be very difficult to do otherwise if wearing a sword (which would be worn on the left). It is safer to mount and dismount towards the side of the road, rather than in the middle of traffic.

In the late 1700s, however, teamsters in France and the United States began hauling farm products in large wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. These wagons had no driver’s seat; instead the driver sat on the left rear horse, so he could keep his right arm free to lash the team.

Since he was sitting on the left, he naturally wanted everybody to pass on the left so he could look down and make sure he kept clear of the oncoming wagon’s wheels. Therefore he kept to the right side of the road.

But we can thank the French…  Before the French Revolution, the aristocracy travelled on the left of the road, forcing the peasantry over to the right, but after the storming of the Bastille and the subsequent events, aristocrats preferred to keep a low profile and joined the peasants on the right. An official keep-right rule was then introduced in Paris in 1794. [Source:]

London Bridge is falling down” nursery rhyme is based on a true story involving Henry III and his wife (the “my fair lady” in the rhyme), and an organisation that currently has a surplus of £20 million per year that it donated to charity!

The world’s first oil refinery was in Romania.

The man who created the National InquirerGeneroso Paul “Gene” Pope Jr. (1927–1988), previously worked for the CIA’s psychological warfare unit…

It’s a wonder anyone born before the 1990s can read and write in Uzbekistan

  • Uzbekistan: 1929 – Arabic alphabet was outlawed, and Latin characters introduced into Russia – Lenin
  • Then 1940 Stalin – Latin was out and Cyrillic was in
  • Then 1991 Soviet Union fell, Uzbekistan became independent
  • Then in 1993 out went Cyrillic, back came Latin
  • Then 1995 some Latin characters revised…

The founder of the printing press was ‘goose flesh’..?

“Johann Gutenberg” or “Johann Gensfleich, commonly called Gutenberg” because his parents owned a townhouse known as Gutenberg. His full name could be rendered as Johann Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg = goose flesh.

Not having read Mein Kampf, I didn’t know this before now… OK – it is November 10th, 1918, the situation is that Adolf Hitler has been temporarily blinded by a British gas attack and is in a hospital recovering… all he knows to this point is what he has overheard about how the war is progressing, just bits and pieces… then all those patients who can stand are brought to the main corridor to listen to an elderly pastor tell them: the war is over – Germany has surrendered – the Emperor has gone – Germany is now a republic.  Jeeeeepers!

interesting trivia - James McCune SmithThe first African American to earn a medical degree anywhere in the world was James McCune Smith who graduated top of his class in 1837 – from University of Glasgow – After his return to the United States, he became the first African American to run a pharmacy in the nation. Smith was born into slavery in 1813 in New York City and was set free on July 4, 1827, at the age of 14, by the Emancipation Act of New York. That was the final date when New York officially freed its remaining slaves.

Writing with reed pen on papyrus is three to four times faster than writing with quill pen on parchment.

Scottish bank notes legal currency not legal tender – British merchants can refuse to accept them! Even in Scotland! They are only legal tender during wartime. The only legal tender in the UK are Royal Mint coins, and Bank of England bank notes.

What is the name of the head of MI6?

Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming was the first director of what became MI6 – he also followed the tradition of ship’s captains writing in green ink – and named himself C for purposes of security. Ever since, all heads of MI6 have been known as C.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1953 was awarded to Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

Virginia Wolfe, dressed as an Abyssinian prince, along with three male friends, also dressed as Abyssinian princes, managed to convince the navy they were Abyssinian royalty, and were able to get a special behind the scenes tour of the pride of the British navy, the HMS Dreadnought – the year was 1910. Her made-up name was Prince Mendex which is Latin for noble liar!

Zsa Zsa Gabor was Elizabeth Taylor’s mother-in-law.

Dan Brown wrote the outline for Da Vinci Code in his parent’s tiny laundry room in Florida, the dryer whirring beside him, sitting on milk crates, with the ironing board as his desk!

Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802) – Charles Darwin’s grandfather – drew plans for inventions of a steam powered carriage and a flushing lavatory.

Erasmus Darwin was a very close friend of Josiah Wedgwood (1730–95), the founder of the pottery firm, Josiah Wedgwood and Sons. Josiah’s granddaughter, Emma Wedgwood, married Erasmus’ grandson, Charles Darwin.

A ‘wake’ lasted three days as originally that was how long one needed to stay ‘awake’ to prevent grave robbers from taking the body.

Fistulated cows & catalytic converters for cow noses..?  Say what you will for ‘progress’ today, but for me, this is just too far……

I am deliberately not putting an image for this…  A ‘fistulated’ cow is one that has been ‘fitted’ with a see-through chamber in its side to act like a porthole…

…and catalytic converters for cow noses?  Yes – apparently the ‘green’ brigade among us think this is a way to solve climate change…….

It’s a gizmo that looks like an ipod and is fixed to the cow’s nose like a nose ring – as the cow exhales, the device detects methane and activates a ‘micro-oxidation’ chamber, where it’s turned into carbon dioxide and water vapour.

When we consider that Henry VIII was responsible for the destruction of soooo many abbeys etc across Britain, it is interesting that the title “defender of the faith” was first given to King Henry VIII by Pope Leo X after Henry’s defence of the Roman Catholic faith against the teachings of Martin Luther. But the title was taken away when England left the Roman Catholic Church.

interesting trivia - Hedy LamarHedy Lamarr is remembered by many as a Hollywood film star…

However – she had brains as well as beauty! She invented the technology at the heart of all smart- phones!  …and even more interesting when one considers she was born back in 1914!

She invented the technology for guided missiles – secret radio-controlled guidance system – using seemingly random alternating frequencies – based on a version of the piano player roll – spread spectrum – or frequency hopping – used 88 frequencies – 11 August 1942 patent issued – military rejected because she was seen as beauty not brains…

THEN move forward to ‘modern’ times – mobile phone manufacturers needed to find a way for phones to communicate wirelessly without disrupting existing signals CDMA – and they turned to Hedy’s invention… and the rest, they say, is history…

Nov 9 – her birthday is Inventors Day in her native Austria.

The SPINE of a book is called such because the spine of the skin of the animal in the parchment was where it was folded.

Dale Carnegie was in acting school in NYC with Edward G Robinson

In his WWI war journal, a private in the German army used the word ‘ignominy’ (in German, of course) – I just find it interesting that a low-rank private would use such a word that many people of all ‘rank’ today would never have even heard…

In Japanese, a man’s tailor-made suit is pronounced “se bi ro”. Why? In 1871, the Japanese Ambassador bought himself a suit and when other Japanese men were asking about it, he mentioned that he bought it on Saville Row…. sa vil ro….. >>> se bi ro..!

Apparently Russia has a unique naming convention that many still follow – and, being a lover of language, I am keen to visit to experience this for myself. Patronymics in Russia are used as middle names are in English and are part of a person’s legal name, likely to appear on documents.  As opposed to the very informal practice of calling people by only their first name in places like the the United States, in Russia those who are not intimate friends or family are likely to call a person by both their first name and their patronymic.  Men have patronymics that end in ovich or evich. Women’s patronymics end in ovna or evnaI was watching a period drama set in 1880s Russia where the father of the lead character, Anna, is Viktor Mironov – therefore, she is known as Anna Viktorovna.


Mr Charles Darwin was the grandson of Mr Josiah Wedgwood  FRS (12 July 1730 – 3 January 1795) was an English potter, entrepreneur, and abolitionist, who founded the Wedgwood company.

The CIA bought the rights to turn Mr George Orwell’s, “Animal Farm” into the 1954 animated feature as part of anti-communist activity.

interesting trivia - George WilsonMost of us can recall the Scottish Proclaimer’s song, “500 Miles, but there really was an Englishman who said the equivalent of, “I will walk 500 miles, and I will walk 500 more”…  On September 11, 1815, 50-year-old George Wilson took his first steps on a 1,000-mile walk, one of several feats of long-distance walking called “pedestrianism” that enthralled Britain in the early 19th century – but on September 26th, close to his goal, he was arrested… for walking!  Here are the fascinating details of this equally fascinating man.

A woman, Mrs Jeanette Rankin, was elected to the US Congress before women were allowed to vote.

There is a direct correlation between musical notes and the colours of a rainbow (aka the spectrum of light).

“The octave of visible light, extending from the color red to the color violet, is forty octaves higher than the middle audio octave, that which you would hear on a piano keyboard. Light, however, is measured by its wavelength, whereas sound in measured by its frequency.”

interesting trivia - musical notes correspond to color

If one takes that a step further into mapping it against the ancient color-coding of human chakras, one finds that the chakra colours are complimentary (on opposides of) the colour wheel.  For example, the colour of middle C in the light-frequency is green – in the chakras, it is the complimentary colour of red (interesting that this also is reflected in red-green colour-blindness in some)…

chakras, musical notes, astrology | Chakra chart, Chakra, Chakra healingWhat is a Colour Wheel? - Answered - Twinkl teaching Wiki

I also find it fascinating that no matter which chakra frequency chart to which one refers, each of the frequencies is evenly divisible by 3… and that brings me to think about Nikola Tesla’s fascination/fixation on the numbers 3, 6, 9…

Chakra Sounds | 7 Chakras Bija Mantras – 7 Chakra Store

The world’s first submarine attack was in September of 1776, when the submarine, ‘Turtle’, attempted to sink the flagship, ‘Eagle’ in New York Harbour during the Americal Revolution. (btw, I urge everyone to visit the Civil War submarine, ‘Hunley’ in Charleston, SC.  Not only is it incredible to imagine what it must have been like to have been underwater in such an amazingly small space, but the story of Lieutenant Dixon and his coin is so very moving – I won’t spoil it here, but if you are anywhere near Charleston, SC, please do go and visit).

If one continues to click the first link on any Wikipedia page, one will eventually end up at “philosophy” – and even then, if one continues to click the first link, one will loop back again to “philosophy”.

Oscar Wilde’s wife was Lord Julian Fellowes’ grandfather’s cousin – and Wilde was named Oscar in honour of his Godfather, the King of Sweden.  Oscar Wilde’s father was a physician and was called to treat King Oscar – the King was treated successfully and, as a thank you, the King offered to be the Godfather to his physician’s as-yet unborn son.

Although when one thinks of silver, one usually first thinks of Sheffield silver, but the world’s largest silver assay house is in Birmingham, England.

General Robert E Lee’s mother died a year before he was born – seriously!  Mrs Annie Lee was pronounced dead and she was buried 3 days later in a crypt. Sometime after the funeral, the caretaker was nearby and heard sounds coming from inside. He opened the crypt and found Mrs Lee was still alive!

Adidas and Puma started as one company owned by two brothers, Adolf and Rudolf Dassler in Germany.  Adolf was a shoe-maker, Rudolf a salesman.  When the two brothers had such a massive falling out that they could not longer talk to each other, they closed the company and opened two new ones – Adi Dassler created Adidas, and Rudi Dassler, who was known as a puma with the ladies, created Puma.  Both companies still have their headquarters in the town where it all started – Herzogenaurach, Germany.

In 1863, the game of badminton was developed at Badminton House in Gloucestershire, England, as a means to exercise safely indoors, as it wasn’t always suitable to take long walks outdoors (it rains a lot on England!).  Also interesting, the regulation size of a badminton court today, is the size of the Entrance Hall at Badminton House. The House was also the setting for “Remains of the Day” with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.

“Mary had a little lamb” nursery rhyme is based on a true story of Miss Mary Sawyer, of Sterling, Massachusetts in the early 1800s.

Robert the Bruce was ex-communicated three times by the then Pope.

Consider life in America in the beginning of the 1950s – WWII had just ended, velcro, the aerosol can, and color television had all just been invented, and computers were being hailed as the new technology that would do far more than sit in a room and process…

“We shall now consider how we can design a very simple machine that will think. Let us call it Simon, because of its predecessor, Simple Simon…” Edmund Berkeley who in 1950, designed the ‘Simon 1’ relay computer.

With that in mind, consider when US President Eisenhower was shown the first Univac super computer, a monstrosity that took up an entire, large room.  Being a President on a mission to bring Christianity back into American daily life, he was invited to ask Univac a specific question.

“Is there a god?” asked the President.  After some time, the computer with lights flashing and tape reels spinning came back with an answer. “There is now!”

While that example may seem humorous to some, imagine life in the 1950s – you weren’t to know that the response had been pre-programmed for a marketing effect.

It makes one ponder about the power of knowledge, and possibly more importantly, Socratic wisdom to ask questions – for without both, one would quite rightly assume the computer thought itself to be ‘God’.

James IV of Scotland paid people to allow him to extract their teeth.

After serving as America’s first President, Mr Abraham Lincoln opened a whiskey distillery that, by 1799, was the largest in the country.

Everyone’s tongue has a unique print.

When the first Earl of Sandwich was head of the British navy, the workers at the ship-building yards were allowed to take home any wood that was not large enough to be gainfully used in the ship’s construction – however, the workers grossly abused this privilege, some even building entire houses with wood from the yard.  The Earl decided to put a stop to all wood being taken off-site, and the workers went on strike, walking out with wood slung over their shoulders – and that is the origin of “he has a chip on his shoulder”.

At their nearest point, Scotland and Ireland are just 12 miles / 19 kilometres apart.

Former US President, Mr Richard Nixon, was a master musician, being accomplised with five instruments (piano, saxophone, clarinet, accordion, and violin).

In 1722, Benjamin Franklin was asked to pen a eulogy for his friend’s pet squirrel, Mungo. Mourning a squirrel’s death wasn’t uncommon in the 18th- and 19th centuries, where squirrels were fixtures in American homes. Squirrels were sold in markets and found in the homes of wealthy urban families, and portraits of well-to-do children holding a reserved, polite upper-class squirrel attached to a gold chain leash were proudly displayed.

Plato was an Athenia philosopher born somewhere around 425BC and died around age 80 in 347 or 348BC.

  • Plato taught mathematics to Euclid (known as the father of Euclidian geometry)
  • Plato taught Aristotle (who then went on to teach Alexander the Great)
  • Plato was a student of Socrates (interestingly much of what we know of Socrates comes from Plato, since no known texts written by Socrates have survived)
  • Plato was actually a nickname (meaning ‘broad’) and his real name was Aristocles
  • Plato came from a very affluent and well-connected family, with blood ties apparently going back to the Greek god, Poseidon
  • Plato believed in what we generally refer to as ‘the matrix’ or a holographic universe – although he didn’t express it in those terms
  • Plato is best known for his his allegory of “The Cave”

On 10 May 1941, Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess parachuted into Scotland, landing in a field near Eaglesham.  He reportedly wanted to plead a case to with the Duke of Hamilton for England to remove itself from the war and make a peace treaty with Germany (although we will never know the complete true story).  Hess was taken to Buchanan Castle for further medical treatment.  I visited Buchan Castle on one of my Scotland trips – it sadly now a ruin.

If you have ever watched a coronation, you will have seen a large proportion of those assembled wearing crowns, or more correctlly, coronets.  Looking closely at the adornments, one is able to determine the person’s rank by the style of the coronet.  Interestingly, apart from the reigning monarch and their consort, and the Prince of Wales on his investiture, it is rare for anyone to wear a coronet other than at a coronation.

(Non-royal) Peers and Peeresses
Coronet of a British Duke.svg Duke or Duchess A silver-gilt circlet, chased as jewelled but not actually gemmed, with eight strawberry leaves of which five are seen in two-dimensional representations.
Coronet of a British Marquess.svg Marquess or Marchioness A coronet of four strawberry leaves and four silver balls (known as “pearls”, but not actually pearls), slightly raised on points above the rim, of which three leaves and two balls are seen.
Coronet of a British Earl.svg Earl or CountessA coronet of eight strawberry leaves (four visible) and eight “pearls” raised on stalks, of which five are visible.
Coronet of a British Viscount.svg Viscount or Viscountess A coronet of sixteen “pearls” touching one another, nine being seen in representation.
Coronet of a British Baron.svg Baron or BaronessLord or Lady of Parliament A plain silver-gilt circlet, with six “pearls” of which four are visible.

Professor George Boole was proficient in five languages by the time he was twelve years old; he became Professor of Mathematics at Queen’s College, Cork despite not having any university training or degrees; and his wife’s uncle was Colonel Sir George Everest, Surveyor General of India, largely responsible for completion of the trigonometric survey of India along the meridian arc from the south of India extending north to Nepal, and for whom the mountain was named – and, Professor Geoffrey Hinton, renowned as one of the leading world experts in neural network technologies, is Professor George Boole’s great-great-grandson.

Under McCarthyism in America during the 1950s, the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, that protects individuals from being forced to incriminate themselves, was made illegal.

The ‘Boston Tea Party‘ and the subsequent independence of America can be traced largely to one cause – the failure of the East India Company.  The Company found itself in difficulty and needed to be bailed out by the British government.  The government decided the best way forward was to allow the East India Company to have a special deal with America so it could essentially trade its way out of trouble.  This, however, meant that the Company had a better taxation deal than did the Americans… and we know the rest of the story…

By the way, the East India Company, at its peak, had its own army, and was minting its own currency!

Saying grace / praying about the food one is about to eat may actually have a scientific basis for supporting our heath and wellbeing.  If one considers the work of Dr Masaru Emoto and the amount of water contained within our food and drink, it stands to reason that saying prayers of appreciation for one’s meal may actually alter the underlying structure of the food for the better.

Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark is in part based on a true story – that of archaeologist, Monsieur Pierre Monet, who in 1939 just weeks before the start of WWII, discovered the tomb of Shoshenq II, a pharaoh of the Twenty-second Dynasty of Egypt. Shoshenq II was the only ruler of this dynasty whose tomb was not plundered by tomb robbers, and his final resting place was discovered within an antechamber of Psusennes I’s tomb at Tanis.  Around the time of the Pharoah’s discovery, the Ahnenerbe, or “Study society for primordial intellectual history, German Ancestral Heritage, registered society” as it was formally known, was firmly on the trail of such artefacts.  The Ahnernerbe was a Nazi establishment founded in 1935.  It was led by Hr Heinrich Himmler, Hr Herman Wirth, and Hr Richard Walther Darré, and was engaged in the hunt for artefacts and relics the Führer believed would grant him the power of world domination.

A study reported in Scientific American demonstrated that fearful memories from traumatic experiences carries through at least two generations – even when the first and second generations (the children and grandchildren) have had zero exposure to the initial experience that caused the trauma!

Despite popular opinion – and the influence of decades of films – slaves did not build the great pyramids of Egypt.  DNA evidence has revealed that the workers were not foreign slaves bought and brought in to serve a tyrannical ruler.  Rather, it seems they were locals – and most likely willingly working to help secure the future afterlife of their pharaoh, in the hope that in that afterlife, the pharaoh would in turn look after them.

In the 14th century, Scottish clerics were among the most internationally educated people in the world, many having studied with at least three universities throughout Europe as part of their training and service.

I find it fascinating that many physicists believe we now know all there is to know about physical matter – yet, “there is no single universally agreed scientific meaning of the word “matter”.”

Why did men start wearing large, flamboyant wigs in the late 1600s?  King Louis XIV was going bald, so decided to start wearing wigs – and being that everyone had to follow the lead of the King, so it was that men began shaving their heads and donning wigs!

When Phillip of Macedon asked Aristotle to tutor his son (who would become Alexander the Great), Aristotle said the price of his services would be for Phillip to free Aristotle’s native city of Stagira (that had been conquered by Phillip’s army years earlier).  Phillip agreed.

This is not so much ‘trivia’ as pondering…  Delacroix reportedly said, “it would be worthy to investigate whether straight lines exist only in our brains“.  Add to that thought, the the generally accepted fact that straight lines only exist in mathematics, not in our physical reality.  Add to that thought, if we take the Vesica Piscis (a geometric composition formed by the intersection of two circles with the same radius) and make it three-dimensional, each of its three edges would be curved BUT to us, depending upon our perspective, one of them appears straight…  Add to that thought, the generally agreed notion that the shortest route between to points is a straight line… BUT, in our logic flow, we have determined there are no such things in our physical 3D reality, AND that our 3D Vesica Piscis that ‘appears’ to have a straight line, is really a curved line that is the same length as the other two… Add to that thought, that the formula for for calculating the length of a winding river is to measure the ‘straight line’ between the start and end points, and then multiply that distance by Pi (π the mathematical constant we most redily associate with circles, but that is also impossible to determine as it is an infinite number)… then… well, I’m not really sure where that line of thinking goes, but it is fun to ponder!

In 1861, the Scottish mathematician and scientist, Mr James Clerk Maxwell produced the first colour image.

How the World's First Color Photograph Came to Be - Artsy

The last witch to be tried in England under the 1735 witch act was Helen Duncan – the year?  1945!

St Pancras Hotel in London was the first venue in Europe to have a public revolving door.

Mr John Jameson, the famous Irish Whiskey founder, was Scottish!  His wife also came from a long line of Scots – specifically a descendant of the Haig Scotch Whisky family.

In Scotland, the drink is spelled WHISKY – in Ireland, it is WHISKEY.

Charles Rolls Esq (of Rolls Royce fame) was a passionate balloonist and aviator who was the first to fly across the English Channel and back again (two others had flown across before him, but only one direction).  In 1920 at age 32, he was the first Brit to be killed in an aeronautical accident.

In 1631, the typo of all typos made it to print in what became known as the “Wicked Bible” (hmmmm, that little word ‘not’ would have been helpful…):

Beethoven had long thought Napoleon a hero – that is until the opening night of the opera that Beethoven took ten years to write (and was the only opera he wrote)…  Napoleon invaded Vienna in 1804 at exactly the same time Beethoven’s opera opened there.  It flopped.  Beethoven blamed Napoleon.

After a promising start to his tour of London, critics began complaining that the pianist couldn’t possibly be a boy that young, and must be a small man.  The family was vilified and became almost destitute.  Mozart busked in a rowdy English pub at age 8 to help his family raise enough money to return home to Salzburg.

Traditionally, a merry-go-round in England is called a “galloper” and in Europe, it is called a “carousel”.  The difference?  The direction of travel.  A galloper travels clockwise, meaning the animals face left, rather than right – and a carousel travels anti-clockwise, meaning the animals face right, rather than left.

The first business computer was a British invention called LEO, and ran its very first operation in 1951.  It was the brainchild of J. Lyons and Co., one of the UK’s leading catering and food manufacturing companies in the first half of the 20th century, and still known for their tea.

How a cake company pioneered the first office computer - BBC News

English place names are interesting…  ‘ing’ in a name means “people of” – ‘ton’ means “enclosure” – ‘ham’ means “farm” – ‘thorpe’ is a “village”.  They are predominantly a result of the Anglo Saxon, Celtic, and Old Norse influences.

Interestingly, while today we might refer to them as having a “Viking” influence, in Old Norse, there are two words, both nouns: a víkingr is a person, while víking is an activity.

The beauty tycoon responsible for Max Factor was born Maximilian Faktorovich in the Russian Empire in 1877.

Mascara was originally created as a moustache tint for men.

Why King of Scots as opposed to King of Scotland?  Whereas royalty of other countries have rule over the land, Queen of England, King of the Netherlands, etc, in Scotland the monarch was seen as the ruler of the people – but the lands were theirs, not owned by the crown.

The role of Scotland in the formation and success of America, and specifically the Scottish Declaration of Arbroath are acknowledged in the US Senate Resolution 155, March 20th, 1998:

“Designating April 6 of each year as ‘‘National Tartan Day’’ to recognize the outstanding achievements and contributions made by Scottish Americans to the United States.

Whereas April 6 has a special significance for all Americans, and especially those Americans of Scottish descent, because the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence, was signed on April 6, 1320 and the American Declaration of Independence was modeled on that inspirational document;

Whereas this resolution honors the major role that Scottish Americans played in the founding of this Nation, such as the fact that almost half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent, the Governors in 9 of the original 13 States were of Scottish ancestry, Scottish Americans successfully  helped shape this country in its formative years and guide this Nation through its
most troubled times;

Whereas this resolution recognizes the monumental achievements and invaluable contributions made by Scottish Americans that have led to America’s preeminence in the fields of science, technology, medicine, government, politics, economics, architecture, literature, media, and visual and performing arts;

Whereas this resolution commends the more than 200 organizations throughout the United States that honor Scottish heritage, tradition, and culture, representing the hundreds of thousands of Americans of Scottish descent, residing in every State, who already have made the observance of Tartan Day on April 6 a success; and

Whereas these numerous individuals, clans, societies, clubs, and fraternal organizations do not let the great contributions of the Scottish people go unnoticed:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate designates April 6 of each year as ‘‘National Tartan Day’’.”

It is always interesting to consider that history has more than one perspective.

In Belgrade, there is a statue to Gavrilo Princip, the Bosnian Serb Nationalist who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie in 1914 – events that sparked the first world war.

When he took the throne at age 9, King Tutankhamun’s name was Tutankhaten.

King Tut was the grandson of pharaoh Amenhotep III, and the son of Akhenaten – the pharaoh who transformed Egyptian culture from worshipping multiple Gods, the favor worship of a single deity, the sun god Aten, and in the process, moved Egypt’s religious capital from Thebes to Amarna.

Tutankhamun reversed Akhenaten’s reforms, reviving worship of the god Amun (the Greek God, Zeus), restoring Thebes as a religious centre and changing the end of his name from aten to amun to reflect royal allegiance to the creator god Amun.

Fordlandia – Henry Ford built an entire town in the Brazilian rainforest, and called it Fordlandia.  Not only that, but he negotiated for the area to be his own sovereign state!

Why?  He decided to farm latex in order to make his own rubber.

What went wrong?  Ford mandated strict rules – you must garden, you must attend social events, you must……  In 1930, the local people mutinied and the Brazilian army were called in.

Hermann Goering‘s brother Albert was responsible for saving and freeing countless Jewish people during the Nazi era, with help from his brother!

Their father was often absent, so both Hermann and Albert, along with their three siblings, grew up with their children’s aristocratic godfather of Jewish heritage, Hermann Epenstein Ritter von Mauternburg.

Of particular note, Albert asked his brother Hermann to free Archduke Josef Ferdinand of Austria, the last Habsburg Prince of Tuscany, then detained at Dachau concentration camp. “Hermann was very embarrassed. But the next day the imprisoned Habsburger was free,” Albert recollected to his old friend Ernst Neubach.

Only hours after Pope Benedict XVI resigned, the cupola at the Vatican was hit by lightning TWICE!

In 1871, Napoleon ordered one million cans of beef for his starving army.  A Scot, John Lawson Johnston, invented what he called “Johnston’s Fluid Beef”, that was renamed Bovril in 1886.  It was named after ‘Vril’, the fictional life force coined by Bulwer-Lytton. Having read The Coming Race, the words ‘bovine’ and ‘Vril’ were combined by Johnston, symbolising the energy a mug would give the drinker. In 1891, The Royal Albert Hall’s ‘The Coming Race’ and ‘Vril-Ya’ Bazaar and Fete was the perfect place to advertise this new product.

March 30th, 1999, Fabio killed a goose with his face!  Italian model and actor Fabio Lanzoni was hit in the face by a goose while he was on a rollercoaster ride as he helped celebrate the opening of the Apollo’s Chariot rollercoaster in Busch Gardens, Williamsburg.

Johann Dippel was a German theologian, physician, alchemist, and occultist who was born at Castle Frankenstein on August 10th, 1673.  While holidaying in the area, Mary Shelley, author of the novel, Frankenstein, visited the castle, and could see it from the lodgings she had with Percy Shelley.

Pope John Paul II was born and buried on a solar eclipse.

An ear of corn has an even number of rows and an even number of kernels.

Thomas Edison held 1,093 patents, however the majority of these were not of his own invention. He ‘appropriated’ most of them. While he did land the patent for the light bulb in 1880, the real inventors were actually Warren de la Rue, a British astronomer and chemist, who actually created the very first light bulb forty years before Edison, and independently from de la Rue, Joseph Swan, an English physicist, chemist, and inventor.  Additionally, Lewis Latimer (1848-1928), an African-American inventor, electrical pioneer, and patent expert, was the person who developed a longer lasting carbon fibre filament to replace Edison’s carbonized bamboo filament, that burnt out rather quickly.

Salvador Dali designed the Chupa Chups logo.

The Sargasso Sea is the only sea with no coastline!  Its borders are four Currents – the Gulf Stream, North Atlantic, Canary, and North Atlantic Equatorial.

On July 4th, 1826, both U.S. presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson passed away — within five hours of each other. They were once fellow patriots turned adversaries, and then in their golden years again to be firm friends – and they were also the last surviving members of the original American revolutionaries.  On July 4, 1826, at the age of 90, Adams lay on his deathbed while the country celebrated Independence Day. His last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” He was mistaken: Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello at the age of 83.

The University of Oxford is older than the Aztec Empire. The University of Oxford first opened its doors to students all the way back in 1096. By comparison, the Aztec Empire is said to have originated with the founding of the city of Tenochtitlán at Lake Texcoco by the Mexica which occurred in the year 1325.

Boston Molasses Disaster? On January 15, 1919, a 90-foot wide cast-iron tank filled to the brim with sticky molasses, exploded and spilled 2.5 million gallons of crude molasses into the streets of Boston. The brown stuff ran through the streets like a tsunami, with 15 foot high waves and reaching speeds of 35 miles per hour. The molasses demolished everything in its path, toppling buildings, drowning horses, and eventually killed 21 and injured 150.

Cleopatra could speak Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Greek, Ancient Iranian, Ancient Parthian, Syriac, Ethiopian, Troglodytae, Hebrew, and Arabic.

One man survived both the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and then later Nagasaki. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was a 29-year-old Naval Engineer on a three-month business trip to Hiroshima. He survived the atomic bomb on August 6th, 1945 despite being less than 2 miles away from ground zero. On August 7th, he boarded a train back to his hometown of Nagasaki. On August 9th, while being with colleagues at an office building, another boom split the sound barrier. A flash of white light filled the sky. Yamaguchi emerged from the wreckage with only minor injuries on top of his current injuries. He had survived two nuclear blasts in two days.

Since 1945, all British tanks are equipped with tea-making facilities. Having 30 tanks destroyed by the Germans while English soldiers were taking a 15-minute tea break, British high command realized if tank crews could make a brew on the go, then they wouldn’t be susceptible to being caught with their pants down and their kettles out by the enemy.

Apples, peaches, and raspberries are all members of the rose family- and a strawberry is not a berry, but a banana is!  Peaches are members of the almond family, and lettuce is a member of the sunflower family!

In Switzerland, it is illegal to own just one guinea pig. This is because guinea pigs are social animals, and they are considered victims of abuse if they are alone.

The mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, from July 18, 1997, until his death in 2017 was named Stubbs.  On August 31, 2013, Stubbs was attacked by a dog.  He was placed under heavy sedation, having suffered a punctured lung, a fractured sternum, and a deep cut in his side.  A crowd-funding page was set up to help pay his bills.  Stubbs remained in the hospital for nine days before returning to the upstairs room of the general store.  Other incidents included Stubbs being shot by teenagers with BB guns, falling into a restaurant’s deep fryer (which was switched off and cool at the time), and hitching a ride to the outskirts of Talkeetna on a garbage truck.

Why is all this trivia?  Stubbs was a cat.

The Cookie Monster’s name is Sid; Snuffleupagus’s first name is Aloysuis; Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts; Ken’s full name is Ken Carson; the Michelin Man’s name is Bibendum (which comes from the slogan, “Nunc est bibendum,” by the poet Horace’s Odes. In English it means, “Time to drink”); Casper’s family name is McFadden; and Skipper from Gilligan’s Island is Jonas Grumby.

…and Snoop Dogg’s real name is Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr. His nickname came from his mother who thought he looked like Snoopy from the Peanuts.

Elvis Presley was a natural blonde!  He was also a twin, but his brother was stillborn.  Elvis recorded 15 songs with the word ‘blue’ in the title, and was a black belt in Karate.

The collective name for a group of unicorns is a ‘blessing’.

She sells seashells by the seashore” was written about a female palaeontologist from the 1800s who actually sold dinosaur bones and fossilized shells.  Mary Anning, one of the foremost fossil hunters who contributed greatly to the emerging field of palaeontology. Yet Anning’s work was largely ignored by the scientific community because of her gender and her low socio-economic background.  One of her most significant finds was that of a nearly complete plesiosaur fossil.

Charles Darwin didn’t use the phrase “survival of the fittest” – it was coined by Herbert Spencer in his book on social statistics.

In 2018, a Harvard DNA study revealed that the people alive when Stonehenge was built mysteriously disappeared from the genetic record almost immediately after the monument was erected, and were replaced by an entirely new ‘type’ of people.

John Lennon was legally blind.

In the mid-1700s, First Lord of the Admiralty of the British Navy, Lord Sandwich (yes, the one who invented the sandwich) ordered that two British battleships be kitted out with machinery to make carbonated water, thanks to the recent invention by Joseph Priestley FRS, an English chemist, natural philosopher, separatist theologian, grammarian, multi-subject educator, and liberal political theorist who published over 150 works – and the man who is credited with discovering oxygen.

In his time, Nostradamus was famous – but not the way he is now.  He was one of the most famous doctors during the plague years of the 1500s, and gave advice such as removing infected corpses, get some fresh air, drink clean water, drink a juice made with rose hips, and advised not bleed the patient.  He is credited with saving many lives, but unfortunately not those of his wife and children.  After his family passed away, he went into seclusion for around six years, and after that had the ability to make prophecy.

To “get firked” means to be hit with the stave of a firken (barrel).

Mother’s Day aka Mothering Sunday is not about one’s maternal ancestors.  It was a day when one would return to one’s mother church.  Servants were all given the day off, and they would collect wildflowers on their way back to leave in the church.

Kate Bush recorded Wuthering Heights when she was only 17 and became the first female artist in the United Kingdom to achieve a number-one single with a self-penned song.  David Gilmore (of Pink Floyd fame) discovered her.

The offspring of third-generation first-cousins, have the same genetic DNA markers as if they were siblings.

The first clone was not Dolly the sheep, but rather was that of a sea urchin in 1885.  Oh, and Dolly was named as such because the genes used came from the mammary gland (yes, named after Dolly Parton).

Chainsaws were originally invented in 1783 to widen the pelvis if a baby’s head had difficulty in coming out.

Donald Duck is the only cartoon character to have received an actual award from an actual university.  In 1984, Donald Duck was named an honorary alumnus of the University of Oregon and presented with an honorary cap and gown during his 50th birthday celebration.

Mirrors do not reverse images – we do!  Consider this – a mirror has a front and a back, as do we.  If one stands in front of a mirror, and faces the same way as the mirror, ie with your back to the mirror (so it’s mirror back, mirror front, your back, your front), the image in the mirror will be exactly what is in front of it.  If we then turn around to face the mirror, it is we who have reversed!

In 1513, Admiral Piri Reis created a map on antelope skin that show a depiction of the land mass of Antarctica as it is under the ice, including mountain ranges whose existence only became known in 1951 with the use of sound-penetrating equipment to gather information from under the ice.

Speaking of Antarctica… we know that cosmic rays come from space to earth, right?  Well, since March 2016, researchers have been puzzling over events in Antarctica where cosmic rays have been going the other direction – bursting out from the Earth.  They were detected by NASA’s Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) — a balloon-borne antenna drifting over the southern continent.  Because cosmic rays shouldn’t do that, scientists are still baffled…

The Spanish national anthem is not sung in Spanish – it’s the only one with no words…  There was a competition to come up with lyrics, but they were all thrown out for being too nationalistic!  (huh?)

…and perhaps a little too nationalistic?  The words to the French national anthem are:

Arise, children of the Fatherland, Our day of glory has arrived, Against us the bloody flag of tyranny, is raised; the bloody flag is raised.

Do you hear, in the countryside, The roar of those ferocious soldiers?

They’re coming right into your arms, To cut the throats of your sons, your comrades!

To arms, citizens!  Form your battalions, Let’s march, let’s march, That their impure blood Should water our fields.

Delightful!  (not)

In the U.S., the Federal government decided some decades ago that apostrophes in highway directional signs make names take longer to read, so it banned them. The Post Office, which at the time was a government agency, went along. As such, there are only five US place names are permitted to use an apostrophe: Martha’s Vineyard in the state of Massachusetts, Ike’s Point in New Jersey, John E’s Pond in Rhode Island, Carlos Elmer’s Joshua View in Arizona, and Clark’s Mountain in Oregon (the last of the five to be approved, in 2002).  In the case of Martha’s Vineyard, they objected and their residents argued that, since it is an island, its name is unlikely to appear on a road sign.

Ever wanted to see garden gnomes underwater?  In Wastwater, the Lake District of Britain, a selection of garden gnomes were put into the lake at a depth of 48 metres for divers to look at and make the depths of the lake more interesting. Three people drowned while trying to look for them, so police divers were called in to retrieve the gnomes and take them away. New gnomes were then placed by someone at a depth of 50 metres, and the police never took them away because health and safety regulations prevent police from diving that far down.

In 1633, in an attempt to circumvent what had become common practice for Viennese nobles to attempt to out-do each other with the ‘bling’ on their gondolas, the city passed an ordinance (that is still in force to this day) that all gondolas must be black.  Gondoliers were also required to wear black, and it wasn’t until after World War II that they began wearing the striped shirts we see today.  In order to become a gondoliers, one needs to pass a stringent comprehensive exam, and only three or four new licenses are issued each year – but it can be quite lucrative as a gondolier can earn the equivalent of up to US$150,000 per year.  Traditionally, these licenses are passed down from father to son through a family, with the father holding the position until the son can pass the exam. The tradition of gondolier families is so strong that the profession has spawned its own dialect, a mixture of Italian, Spanish and Arabic, which is still spoken by many gondoliers.

The Ainu people of Japan are indigenous to the area – but are not what one expects…  According to a document published by the Japanese Tourist Board in 1942, the Japanese Ainu people are described as follows – “Old people who have long desisted from their outdoor work are often found to be as white as western men. The Ainu have broad faces, beetling eyebrows, and sometimes large sunken eyes, which are generally horizontal and of the so-called European type.” They also have blue or grey eyes, and their language shares similarities with the Basque people of the Pyrenees.

Oliva Newton-John‘s father was an MI5 officer on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park, and was responsible for taking Rudolf Hess into custody during World War II after Hess crash-landed in Scotland.  Her grandfather was the Nobel Prize-winning Jewish physicist Max Born, who was instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics.  His Nobel Prize was awarded for “fundamental research in quantum mechanics, especially in the statistical interpretation of the wave function”.

Scientists watching paint dry in Surrey and Lyon in 2016 said the results were “exciting”.

Bolton is a town in Greater Manchester area.  The bridge known as the ‘Gateway to Bolton’ is a one-way street leading away from Bolton.

In 1845, a bridge collapsed in Great Yarmouth, killing 79 people who were watching a clown in a tub being pulled by geese.  The bridge had been widened in 1832, but without taking into account the extra load of all these people standing around watching the spectacle below!

Language is a funny thing…  The Maori for ‘scissors’ is kutikuti – and the Romanian word for knife is cuţit, pronounced cutzit – and in Tanzania, a roundabout is a kipilefti.

Speaking of Tanzania, the Gombe War in Tanzania lasted four years from 1974-1978.  It was between two groups who were once unified in the Kasakela community.  Over a span of eight months, a group separated themselves into the southern area of Kasakela and were renamed the Kahama community.

First blood was drawn by the Kasakela community on January 7, 1974, when the Kasakela ambushed the Kahama.

During the four-year conflict, all males of the Kahama community were killed, effectively disbanding the community. The victorious Kasakela then expanded into further territories but were later repelled.

Why is this interesting?  The Kasekela and Kahama are chimpanzees!

Thomas Huxley taught H.G. Wells at university in England.

In his book, “The Shape of Things to Come” published in 1933, HG Wells predicted the start of a world war in 1940 with Germany’s invasion of Poland, as well as the aerial bombing that became known as the London Blitz.

In 1914, in a book titled, “The World Set Free”, HG Wells predicted the atom bomb, describing it in amazing detail.  Hungarian Jewish physicist Leo Szilard read Wells’ book and noted some time later that it was this account that encouraged him that splitting the atom might just be possible.  Szilard eventually convinced Einstein to write to President Roosevelt, in effect launching the Manhattan Project in 1939.

In 1969, actor Samuel L Jackson was expelled from historically black Morehouse College for locking board members in a building for two days to protest the school’s curriculum, among other issues.  Those held hostage included Martin Luther King Jr.’s father, Martin Luther King Sr, and he was only released when he started having chest pains.

If you hear anyone condemning their early life and using that as the reason/excuse they never achieved anything remarkable, you might like to tell them about these young men.

  • Colour-blind, habitual truant, and school dropout at the age of 15 years, Soichiro Honda‘s early life was one of poverty and sadness, having lost 5 of his siblings.  As a teenager, Honda left his home and the village in which he had grown up and moved to the city.  His first job was that of an unpaid babysitter – yet he went on to create one of the most iconic brands in the world.
  • Needing to assist his bankrupt  family, Frederick Henry Royce’s first job was at the age of 4 years as a bird scarer on a nearby farm.  Royce’s father died when he was only 9 years of age, and needing to spend all his time helping to support the family, by age 15 years he had completed only one year of school – but throughout his life, he became self-taught.  In addition to co-founding one of the world’s greatest iconic brands, Royce also patented the bayonet fitting on lightbulbs that we still use today.
  • Homeless at the age of 13 years, Louis Vuitton would go on to create one of the world’s greatest luxury brands.
  • Orphaned at the age of 12 years, Hans Wildorf would go on to create not only one of the world’s greatest luxury watch brands, but the first waterproof wristwatch (the ‘Oyster’ in 1926), the first self-winding mechanism (the ‘Oyster Perpetual’ in 1931), the first watch with a date window on the dial (the ‘Datejust’ in 1945), among other firsts – the brand? Rolex.

Not only that, but after the death of his wife, Wildorf created a non-profit foundation in her honour and decreed that Rolex be wholly transferred into ownership by the foundation upon his death.  As such, Rolex is technically a non-profit entity and donates almost all the money it generates over operating costs to charitable causes.

Everything is a matter of perspective – some people say career change means you’ve failed.  Others say it’s simply a stepping stone on the path to success.

  • Julia Child worked on a shark repellant for the OSS (that became the CIA) before becoming a famous cook
  • Vera Wang left a promising career as a skater to become a designer:  “As hard as I tried and as hard as I worked, I never really achieved the level that I wished [in skating]. It was a very hard realization that since I was in my late teens, I was never going to get better. I wasn’t going to make the Olympic team, and there were younger skaters coming up. So I quit. And I think quitting was a sign to me that I failed.”
  • Ina Garten was a budget analyst before becoming the “Barefoot Contessa
  • Roald Dahl was an intelligence officer (aka spy) for MI6 during WWII before becoming a famous author

Some people think it strange that I essentially live in hotels all around the world.  It seems I am in good company!

At different times in their lives:

  • Coco Chanel lived in the Ritz Hotel in Paris
  • Peter Sellers lived in a suite at the Dorchester Hotel in London
  • Marilyn Monroe lived at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
  • Richard Harris lived in the Savoy Hotel in London
  • John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston lived in the Hotel Pink Beach Club
  • Tennessee Williams lived in the Hotel Elysée
  • Ernest Hemingway lived in the Hotel Ambos Mundos in Cuba
  • Janis Joplin lived in the Chelsea Hotel in New York
  • Mark Twain lived in several hotels including the Occidental Hotel in San Fransisco
  • Cole Porter lived at the Waldorf Astoria in New York
  • Stanley Kubrick lived at the Chelsea Hotel in New York
  • Elizabeth Taylor lived in the Hotel Bel-Air
  • Howard Hughes lived in several hotels including the Sunset Tower Hotel in Los Angeles, and the Desert Inn in Las Vegas
  • Oscar Wilde lived and died in L’Hotel in Paris
  • Robert De Niro not only lived at Chateau Marmont for extended periods of time, he now owns a hotel in Tribeca

Around 700 AD, The Strand in London was the road right beside the Thames River.  Charing Cross, The Embankment, and The Savoy would have either been on mud flats, marshland, or underwater back then.  The origin of the word ‘strand’ is from Middle English and means shore or seashore.

At the time of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, almost all those in medical professions in America were Scottish.