Monday, March 7, 2011


Portuguese wine bottled in 1811 is called "comet wine." Its excellent quality is believed to be due to the Great Comet of that year. The term "comet wine" is often used for any wine made in the year of an important comet

A bibliophile is a collector of rare books - a bibliopole is a seller of rare books

There are more than 300 references to sheep and lambs, more than any other animal, in the Bible's Old Testament, one of the earliest records of sheep

There are 63,360 inches in a mile

The squirrel monkey's brain accounts for roughly 5 percent of its body weight — the largest percentage of any other animal. The human brain, by comparison, makes up about 2.3 percent of body weight

The eggplant has many names worldwide. In addition to "eggplant," it is called aubergine, brinjal, melanzana, garden egg, and patlican

The first women flight attendants in the United States were hired in 1930 and were required to weigh no more than 115 pounds, be nurses, and unmarried (Pictured below is one of the first female flight attendants to serve on Swiss Air in 1925)

The only river that flows both north and south of the equator is the Congo, formerly the Zaire River. It crosses the equator twice

Burns are second only to traffic accidents as the cause of accidental loss of life in the U.S.

The gesture of a nose tap in Britain means secrecy or confidentiality. In Italy, a tap to the nose signifies a friendly warning to stop what you are doing or about to do

Cattle branding in the United States did not originate in the West. It began in Connecticut in the mid-19th century, when farmers were required by law to mark all their pigs

Every 9.6 years, there is a peak in Canada wildlife population, especially among the muskrats, red fox, skunks, mink, lynx, and rabbits. The population of grasshoppers of the world tends to rise and fall rhythmically in 9.2-year cycles

The rush of air produced by a cough moves at a speed approaching 600 miles per hour

The Irish harp tradition is particularly special because of its ancient method of oral transmission – all teaching of the instrument is done "by ear". This method allows performers to be creative and individualistic within the Irish style

The eggplant was domesticated in Southeast Asia more than 4,000 years ago. It belongs to the same family as the poisonous deadly nightshade (as do potatoes, tomatoes, and petunias). In the Middle East and then in Europe, doctors blamed it for all sorts of things, from epilepsy to cancer. In the fifth century, Chinese women made a black dye from the eggplant skins to stain and polish their teeth. And some people in medieval Europe considered eggplant an aphrodisiac

The Romans were enamored with the smell of roses. According to historians, Nero had pipes installed under banquet plates to allow his guests to be spritzed with rose scent between dinner courses

During the bubonic plague of London, the city was sealed off to avoid contamination. This meant no food was permitted in. The only people willing to trade with London were the Dutch, who left food on jetties and then would take the money left there. They used to steel their nerves with liquor before landing on the plague-infested shores, hence "Dutch courage." To this day, the Dutch still have the freedom of the river Thames, which was granted as a reward for their courage and kindness

An oast is a kiln used for drying hops, malt, or tobacco

Dueling is legal in Paraguay as long as both parties are registered blood donors

The biggest frog is the appropriately named Goliath frog (Conraua goliath) of Cameroon. They reach over 30 cm (a foot) and weigh as much as 3.3 kilograms 

Alabama is the only remaining state to ban the sale of sex toys, but nevertheless the Huntsville shop Pleasures recently expanded by moving to a former bank building in order to use three drive-thru windows to sell dildos. (Since state law prohibits the sale unless used for "bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial, or law enforcement purposes," customers must provide a brief written description of their medical or other "legitimate" condition in order to make the purchase.)

Wei Xinpeng, 55, a boatman in a village near industrial Lanzhou, China, collects bodies from the Yellow River (the murdered, the suiciders, the accidental drowners), offering them back to grieving relatives for a price. Distraught visitors pay a small browsing fee to check his inventory and then, if they identify a loved one, up to the equivalent of $500 to take the corpse home. Said Wei, "I bring dignity to the dead"--no overstatement for him since his own son drowned on the river (yet his body was never recovered)

In July 2010, a five-year-old boy in Dublin, Ireland, was awarded about $9,900 from a shopkeeper who had
grabbed his arm and accused him, erroneously, of being a thief.  Under the law, the boy had to prove that he has, at age five, a "reputation in the community" for truth-telling and that his reputation had been damaged

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