The Internets are full of facts and falsehoods. It’s not true that Abraham Lincoln lip-synced the Gettysburg Address due to laryngitis or that the first Egyptian chariots were powered by sails. But the following list of trivial bits are all true, and most of them will crush your mindgrapes like they’ve never been crushed.
1. The descendants
President John Tyler, our 10th, born in 1790, has two living grandsons. Not great-great-grandsons or any such lineage — actual grandsons. Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. was born in 1924, Harrison Ruffin Tyler was born in 1928. Keep that in mind the next time you read “The World’s Youngest Grandfather Is …” stories.
2. WASP swarm
If it’s Romney v. Obama in 2012, that’ll be the first time in history neither candidate was a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant. If Romney picks a non-WASP running mate, all four people will be non-WASP — Joe Biden is Catholic! (But this is assuming all our founding fathers were truly Protestants and not secret pagans, which is up for debate.)
3. Skutnik of the Union
Topical: Notable people who are invited to sit in the gallery at a State of the Union address (or other joint meetings of Congress) are called Skutniks, after Lenny Skutnik, a Congressional Budget Office assistant who pulled plane-crash survivors out of the Potomac River after the crash of Air Florida Flight 90.
4. Teddy Roosevelt’s guinea pigs
The 26th president owned a number of them and gave them all unusual names: Dr. Johnson, Bishop Doane, Fighting Bob Evans, Admiral Dewey and Father O’Grady.
5. The least presidential letter
Despite S being the thickest section of the dictionary, we’ve never had a president whose last name started with S. We have, however, had one with an S first name. Give up? Stephen Grover Cleveland.
Update: Harry S Truman’s middle name was just “S,” and Ulysses S. Grant was actually named Hiram Ulysses Grant. Those are the only two with “S” middle names, and in both cases, it’s not quite legit.
6. Four score
Only two men have appeared four times on a winning presidential ticket: FDR and Nixon.
7. In Soviet Russia, hair sheds you
Since 1881, Russia’s leaders have been alternately bald and hairy.
Oh, the Humanity
8. Rolling Stone Bill Wyman’s bizarre family tree
Bassist Wyman married 18-year-old model Mandy Smith in 1989. (They met when she was 13 and first slept together when she was 14 — he was 48, 34 years her senior.) Wyman’s son Stephen, who was 30, then became engaged to Mandy Smith’s mother, Patsy, 46. If the two marriages were concurrent, Wyman would have been the step-grandfather of his own wife.
9. Just think about it
Seven percent of all human beings ever born are alive. Alive right now.
10. Unless you’re Prince William
If you trace your family tree back 25 generations, you will have 33,554,432 direct ancestors.
11. Navel gazing
Alfred Hitchcock did not have a belly button. He was born with one, like most people, but it was eliminated when he was sewn up after surgery. Hitchcock also directed the first talking film ever made in England. It was called Blackmail and was made in 1929.
12. It’ll be weird if they all design grills
George Foreman has five sons named George Foreman. The eldest is called George Jr., but the next four are differentiated by their nicknames: “Monk,” “Big Wheel,” “Red,” and “Little Joey.”
Yes, men can lactate. Which means if we could breastfeed, we could do it in public.
14. Special delivery!
Before we started to preserve dead bodies, pregnant women who were buried would, um, release the child as they decomposed. It was called “coffin birth.”
15. The Midas touch
The Roman triumvir Crassus was killed by having molten gold poured down his throat.
16. Don’t quit your day job
The Earl of Rochester wrote a bawdy poem titled “Signior Dildo.”
After being decapitated, a human head remains conscious for about 15 to 20 seconds.
18. How could this be useful?
You can suppress your gag reflex by making a fist with your left hand and squeezing your left thumb.
Smokers are far more likely than nonsmokers to develop lower back pain.
20. Side effects include burns, stink
Running very, very hot water over a bite will stop the itch. Oh, and dog shit works too.