50 Random Facts List #225

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26Tolkien Letter

For 20 years, J.R.R. Tolkien sent his children illustrated letters from Santa Claus where Santa would battle goblins flying on bats, and included fireworks, a prank-loving polar bear, and multiple invented languages.


27. Immediately after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, her secretary will inform the Prime Minister via a secure phone line by saying “London Bridge is down”, thus initiating Operation London Bridge, a detailed procedure that outlines the action for days and weeks after the sovereign’s death.


28. At the start of the 1539 siege of Vienna by the Ottomans, their leader, Suleiman I, was so sure of his victory that he boasted that he would be having breakfast in Vienna cathedral within 14 days. 14 days later, the Austrians sent him a letter, telling him his breakfast was getting cold.


29. In addition to “Pig Latin” there is an actual phrase called “Dog Latin”, which is effectively the creation of fake phrases made to sound like Latin, the most common example of which is probably “Biggus Dickus.”


30. Standard Arabic, the Arabic taught in a majority of schools, is based on the language Prophet Mohammad spoke. It is a language that nobody naturally speaks, and is preserved through formal education and news broadcasts. Egyptian Arabic is the most widely-understood dialect.


31Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice (one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history) started playing football in his sophomore year of high school after his principal caught him skipping class. The principal noted how fast Rice sprinted away from him, which led him to recommend Rice to the football coach.


32. Hans and Margret Rey, creators of Curious George, escaped France on homemade bicycles less than 48 hours before the Nazis invaded Paris.


33. The whitewashed village of Juzcar, Spain used 4,000 liters of paint to turn the entire village blue for the release of Smurfs (2011). After the movie had been released, residents voted to keep it blue as it had helped increase tourism.


34. In 1687, the Parthenon in Athens exploded when it was hit by a Venetian mortar round in a war between Venice and the Turks. The building was being used by the Turks to store gunpowder. One account says the Turks did not expect the Venetians to target such a historic monument. 300 people died.


35. The Sacred Band of Thebes was a company of 150 pairs of homosexual lovers, who were considered amongst the most elite soldiers of their time. They were formed in the 4th century BC and helped end Spartan domination.


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36Gold Enema

In 1962, elephant bones were discovered under the Vatican. Decades later, it was discovered that they were the bones of Pope Leo X's pet elephant Hanno, who died in 1516 after doctors (in an attempt to treat constipation) inserted a gold enema up its rectum.


37. Using ‘shm-’ in phrases like “Rainforest Shmainforest” or “Rules Shmules” used to deride or dismiss a concept is called a “shm-reduplication” and similar concepts are found in English, Yiddish, German, and Turkish speech.


38. Samurais in Japan had the right to execute commoners who paid them disrespect. This right continued until the 1870s when the Samurai were abolished, as Japan modernized its military into a national fighting force modeled on Western standards.


39. The Kiplingcotes Derby is the world’s oldest horse race, which began in 1519. The rules state it must be run every year or never be run again. The weather has threatened the race several times, causing a single rider to lead a horse around the track to prevent the race from being canceled permanently.


40. Hens store semen in storage tubules and can periodically release portions of it over the course of a month to produce numerous fertile eggs. If they happen to mate with a male they don't like, they can simply expel the entire sample and produce infertile eggs.


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41Long Winter

During the long winter of 1886, horses and cattle on the Great Plains died when their breaths froze over the ends of their noses, making it impossible for them to breathe.


42. In 2008, fossilized ink sacs were recovered from preserved remains of Belemnotheutis cephalopods. Mixed with an ammonia solution, the team was able to return the ink to its liquid form and used the ~150 million-year-old ink to draw a replica of the original illustration of Belemnotheutis.


43. New York City has a genetically diverse rat population. 'Uptown' rats are different from 'Downtown' rats, and every neighborhood has its own distinct rats.


44. President Lyndon Johnson was known for his vulgar behavior. He would burp, fart, pick his nose, and scratch his crotch in front of people. He would also openly urinate in front of others, including in front of a reporter at his ranch. He also harassed women about their weight and looks.


45. American fast-food companies are banned from Iran, so the country is home to many knock-off fast food joints with similar branding and food, such as “Mash Donalds”, and “Pizza Hot”. Lawsuits from major corporations are rare due to the American/Iranian relationship and Iranian trademark law.


46Cubans Emigrants

In 1980, President Carter and Fidel Castro agreed to allow 125,000 Cubans to immigrate to America during an economic recession. Later, it was discovered that many of the emigrants had been sent directly from Cuban prisons and asylums.


47. Illusory truth effect is a tendency to believe that a statement is true if it is easier to process, or if it has been stated multiple times, regardless of its actual veracity. The illusory truth effect plays a significant role in election campaigns, advertising, news, and propaganda.


48. In the northernmost Canadian territory of Nunavut grocery store prices are so expensive that a 3.5L container of orange juice costs $26.29. Prices soar even higher in the winter when all foods must be flown in and ferries are unable to operate.


49. The A340 that used to fly the world’s longest commercial flight from New York to Singapore had lockers onboard to store any corpses of people who had died mid-flight as there were very few places they could divert.


50. German film director Werner Herzog nearly took LANSA Flight 508, but canceled at the last minute. The plane was struck by lightning, killing 91 of 92 crew members and passengers. The lone survivor was 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke, whose story was told in Herzog's documentary Wings of Hope.

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