False Fun Facts

You can find any number of lists of “facts” in the Internet. Weird facts, fun facts, pointless facts, interesting facts. And just like you’ve heard before, just because your read it on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. Here are some corrections to some “facts” I’ve seen on these lists:

  • Aix sponsa -Texas, USA -flying-8

    A duck with no stealth-coating on its quack. By Manjith Kainickara from Dallas, Texas, USA (Wood Duck Uploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    The quack of a duck does indeed echo, and lots of people know why: sound waves bounce off of solid surfaces.
  • The Pony Express did indeed use ponies—they used thoroughbreds, mustangs, pintos, and Morgans, and a pony is a bronco, mustang, or similar horse of the western U.S. The fun fact seems to be confusing pony with foal or colt.
  • The longest word you can type with the left hand only is ‘sweaterdresses’, not ‘stewardesses’. rec.puzzles adds ‘tesseradecades’, but it’s not in my word list, so I can’t tell you what it means.
  • The longest word you can type with the right hand only is ‘hypolimnion’, not ‘lollipop’. The cold, low-oxygen region of water in a lake is its hypolimnion. rec.puzzles adds ‘kinnikinnik’, but it’s not in my word list.
  • The longest words that you can type alternating left and right are ‘dismantlement’ and ‘neurotoxicity’, not ‘skepticisms’. rec.puzzles lists ‘leucocytozoans’ with this distinction, but it’s not in my word list.
  • There are two 15-letter words that do not repeat a letter: ‘uncopyrightable’ and ‘dermatoglyphics’. Dermatoglyphics is the study of patterns on the skin, or the patterns themselves. (There is one word that uses 16 different letters, although it repeats a few: ‘phenylthiocarbamides’, the plural of a nice chemistry term for C7H8N2S. rec.puzzles has more of these too.)
  • There are lots of autoantonyms (words that are their own antonyms). ‘cleave’ is only the most popular. You can find more at http://thinks.com/words/autoantonyms.htm.
  • There are 6 words that contain the vowels a e i o and u only once each in the correct order: abstemious, abstentious, arsenious, caesious, facetious, and parecious. Most lists mention only three of those.
  • There are 6 words that end in ‘-dous’: decapadous, hazardous, horrendous, palladous, stupendous, and tremendous. Most lists mention only four of those.
  • The longest one-syllable word is ‘squirrelled’, not ‘screeched’ or ‘strengths’. If you pronounce ‘squirrelled’ with two syllables, you can fall back to ‘scraunched’.
  • Sentences such as “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” are known as pangrams. You can find more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pangrams. (This ‘fact’ isn’t wrong, since it makes no claims to be the shortest, only, etc.)
  • ‘chilver’ rhymes with ‘silver’, ‘sporange’ with ‘orange’, and ‘curple’ and ‘hirple’ with ‘purple’, according to rec.puzzles. There are no rhymes for angst, breadth, bulb, depth, eighth, else, fifth, glimpsed, gospel, gulf, liquid, mollusk, month, mulcts, ninth, oblige, sculpts, sixth, twelfth, width, or wolf.
  • ‘Politician’ comes from ‘politikos’ (Gr: from polites, meaning citizen) + ‘-ianus’ (Lat: adjective suffix), not from ‘poly-’ (Lat: many) + ‘tete’ (Fr: head or face).



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