With some schools already under way and others about to start, we thought now was a good time to share these little-known facts. We hope they may provide students and teachers with a helpful measure of awe from peers, colleagues, or classes.
Q: Why don't televisions have a Channel 1?
A: In the 1940s, the United States Federal Communications Commission assigned television's Channel 1 to mobile services (two-way radios in taxicabs, for instance). But they did not renumber the other channels.
Q: What are the longest English words that can be typed using only the left hand?
A: "Stewardesses" and "reverberated." The longest word that can be typed using only the right hand is "lollipop." "Skepticisms" is the longest word that alternates hands.
Q: When is a group of geese not a gaggle?
A: When it's in the air. Geese on the ground are called a gaggle, but a group of geese in the air is a skein.
Q: What are America's only mobile National Monuments? (Hint: ding-ding!)
A: The cable cars of San Francisco.
Q: Why are the emu and the kangaroo on Australia's national coat of arms?
A: They are both native to Australia, yes, but more important, neither animal can walk backward.
Q: Why is "lb." the abbreviation for "pound"?
A: "Lb." stands for "libra," which means pound or scales in Latin. (The constellation Libra looks like an ancient counterbalance scale.) The abbreviation for the British pound sterling () and the Italian lira comes from the same root.
Q: Can you think of a four-letter combination in English that can be pronounced nine different ways?
A: "Ough." The following sentence contains all nine pronunciations: "A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed."
Q: Which can make more noises: Cats or dogs?
A: Cats can make more than 100 vocal sounds. Dogs make about 10.
Q: What English word has two opposite meanings?
A: The verb cleave can mean both adhere and separate.
Q: What would you use to wash an elephant?
A: Murphy's Oil Soap is the chemical most commonly used for washing elephants.
Q: Name an English word that contains all the vowels in the proper order. (There are three.)
A: Facetious, abstemious, and arsenious (it means "containing arsenic").
Q: Why did old-time fire houses have spiral, rather than straight staircases?
A: When fire engines were horse-drawn, horses lived on the first floor of the fire house. But the horses (so the story goes) soon learned to climb straight stairs..