The Know-It-All - O, P
occupational disease - Hatters used to use mercury salts to make felt out of rabbit fur. The mercury poisoning led to erethism (a mental deterioration). Hence the phrase "mad as a hatter." Is your occupation fraught with such hazards?
ooze - Sediment must contain at least 30 percent skeletal remains of microscopic floating organisms to be considered ooze. 29 percent or less and you're just plain old sediment. Who makes these laws? Ooze, for crying out loud!
opossums - Opossums have 13 nipples. This is the kind of information I will retain from this book. Ask me in 50 years and I'll forget I even read it, but I'll still be able to tell you that opossums have 13 nipples. That's the way my mind works. Retain the odd and trivial, forget the important. Just ask my wife.
Paine, Thomas - This Revolutionary War hero and author of the Common Sense series which included the moving phrase "These are the times that try men's souls" was not well thought of by many in his day. Although he refused to take profits from Common Sense so more editions could be sold (a noble act), he later wrote a defense of the French Revolution and a pamphlet attacking organized religion. Even though he made it clear that he was a deist, he was charged with being an atheist. In other words, if you don't like the way our church does things, you must not love God. Huh.
He died broke, drunk and hated by many, but that's not the way he's remembered in our history books. I guess you never know how history will treat you.
patriotism - Here's a fact I actually knew - John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the same day - July 4, 1826, 50 years after the founding of the United States. Here's something you probably didn't know - another great man who died on the 4th of July (1996) was my grandfather, Pal. I always thought his gaining true independence on that day was kind of cool.
Phrine - A famous prostitute in ancient Greece who was put on trial for blasphemy, a capital offense. At trial, Phrine tore her dress and displayed her bosom, which so moved the jury, they acquitted her. Proving once again, that your average heterosexual man will do just about anything for a glance at a beautiful woman's asset's. There's nothing new under the sun. Or the blouse. Or in a man's mind.
plumbing - Let me clear something up once and for all. Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. That is a myth. The flush toilet was actually invented by Sir John Harington, God bless him! Harington was the godson of Queen Elizabeth I of England, a member of her court, a translator of epic poems, known as a wit and sometimes a scoundrel, and knighted for military service in Ireland. But to me, he's plain old John the unsung hero to us all.
P.S. - Allow me if you will to give another tip of the hat to my grandfather, Pal who was also a plumber.
precedent - This fact has nothing to do with precedent, but that's the entry under which I learned it. It's more interesting death trivia. Three men I have some reason to admire all died on November 22, 1963. Most people recognize that date as the day JFK was shot in Dallas. However, two great writers, C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley also died that same day. Speaking of Huxley, read (or re-read as was the case for me recently) his classic Brave New World. It's scary how many of his fictitious futuristic ideas have become a reality.
Pythagoras - I knew about his geometric theorem - in a right-angled triangle the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle), c, is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides, b and a - that is, a² + b² = c². I did not know that he loved music or that he started a cult-like religious brotherhood in ancient Greece. I also learned why a square root is called a square root. There are 16 dots below:
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At the root of that square (the bottom line) are 4 dots. 4 is the square root of 16. It's not just a random name someone came up with to confuse people like me who are bad at math. Are A.J. Jacobs and I the only people who didn't know that?