Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chocolate teapot

Everyone carries around odd facts that are of no use. Please feel free to share some real gem that is impossible to forget, but is of no use whatsoever.

Mnemonics such as "Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain[1]", or "Many Velvet Elephants Munching Jam Sandwiches Under News[p]aper[2]", or even "Rifles Are Mainly Manufactured In Old And Mucky Towns[3]" might have some practical benefit. Yet I have one that is completely and totally 100% useless:
    "All Hairy Gorillas Have Big Feet. Good For Climbing."
I encountered it during a Maths A-level class nearly thirty years ago. The teacher, one Mr P. J. Otto, assured the class that we'd remember the mnemonic long after forgetting what it was for, or how to use it. And he was completely correct. For the benefit of any mathematicians who might have accidentally blundered across this blog, the third page of this pdf reveals all. And no, I never could do that level of algebra. It's filed under 'Too Difficult' along with partial fractions and skateboarding.

Let's not limit this to mnemonics. How about:-
  • The word "trivia" derives from Latin for "three roads" and means "crossroads". Two minor roads meet a major road at the same spot, where people would meet and talk testicular tosh.
  • The word "tragedy" comes from "tragoidia", Greek for "goat song" and refers to the ghastly wailing in some melodrama by some histrionic harridan.
  • George Washington[4] invented instant coffee.
  • Margaret Thatcher[5] sort of co-invented Mr Whippy ice cream.
I'm not looking for urban legends such as the allegedly non-echoing quack, nor anything involving a JATO booster, a car and a cliff-face. I'm looking only for items of true - but completely useless - information.

[1] Colours of the rainbow.
[2] Planets. Pluto may or may not be included.
[3] Rivers of the Mississippi basin, reading clockwise.
[4] No, not that George Washington.
[5] Yes, that Margaret Thatcher.



Gnomad said...

Germans cant say "squirrel"

So strong was the belief that Germans can't say the word "Squirrel" that the correct pronunciation of this word was enough to secure the release of at least one man.

The man, by the name of J J A Murphy, who was suspected of being a German spy, was arrested trying to leave Britain for Ireland in 1916. He was released by British Officers after he was able to pronounce the word "squirrel"

The incident was reported in the New York Times on August 21st 1916

Gnomad said...

The irritating dit dit dit, dah dah, dit dit dit (... - - ...) noise made by many mobile phones to announce the arrival of a text message actually reads SMS in morse code and stand for Short Message Service.

The actual international distress signal referred to as SOS (dit dit dit dah dah dah dit dit dit or ... - - - ...) does not actually stand for anything, but was chosen for its distinctive sound and ease of recognition. Even the letters SOS are just a handy way of remembering it, the signal is sent without letter spacing so it is a signal in its own right.

This signal was first introduced by Germany in 1905 and adopted internationally on July 1st 1908 to replace the previous signals CQD (dah dit dah dit, dah dah dit dah, dah dit dit or -.-. --.- -..) and NC (dah dit, dah dit dah dit or -. -.-.).

CQ meant "Calling All Stations" and D meant "Distress" so although it was a logical signal it was complicated to key, difficult to recognise and easily confused with the very common CQ signal.

NC was the radio equivalent of the signal flags that meant "In distress, require immediate assistance".

The "not useless" bit:

In 1999 the "SOS" distress signal was replaced by the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System

dubaibilly said...

Not useless information but a mnemonic instead:

Sex On Hard Concrete Always Hurts The Old Arse

The trig ratios.

alexander... said...

QWERTY keyboards were never intended to slow typists down.

The QWERTY keyboard was invented by an American newspaper editor who arranged the letters in this way to avoid clashes in the mechanism of his 'type writer'. Far from optimally arranged for efficient use, QWERTY has for over 60 years seen off the challenge from the alternative Dvorak keyboard, despite being much less efficient.

The French, because they have to be different, use AZERTY.

alexander... said...

Following the success of 'Braveheart' Stirling Council put up a statue of William Wallace in the car park of the Victorian 'Wallace Monument'.

The statue is an excellent likeness of... Mel Gibson.

alexander... said...

The happiest place in the world is Vanuatu.

Anonymous said...

40 odd years ago, my geography teacher announced, "A berm is a pebble ridge - You will not be examined on this so you do not need to remember it." Strangely enough, this is the only thing I remember from geography...

Keefieboy said...

Avagadro's Number (6 * 10 to the 23). Not completely useless: scored a point in a pub quiz with it once.

And 'Sheffield United Never Win Any Cups' - the rivers of Yorkshire

LGOC said...

Kindly Please Cross Old Folks Going Slowly.

Taxonomic classification of any organism; Kingdom Phylum Class Order Genus Species. Taught by Mrs Wilson in Science at Yardley Court Prep School in about 1975.

The SI unit 1 Newton has the practical Earth result of the mass of an average apple.

Mme Cyn said...

Useless to all but maybe Dubai Billy:

When showing off in front of ancient ruins, remember which column is which by the length of their names: simple shape=short name. The plain capital is the 2-syllable "Doric", the fancier scroll-type is the "Ionic" (3), and the over-the-top one with all the leaves is "Corinthian" (4).

Does this count as a mnemonic to any but my fevered brain?

(And a Useless Fact: The first time Queen Elizabeth II ever ate in a restaurant was in the 1980s at San Francisco's Trader Vic's)

Ian the Dog said...

At last, something I can bring to the party: 'The girls can flirt, and other queer things can do'.

This mnemonic is the Mhos Scale of Mineral Hardness:
Talc, Gypsum, Calcite, Fluorite, Apatite, Orthoclase, Quartz, Topaz Corundum, Diamond.

Unforgettable, and totally useless.

Ian the dog said...

'Some people have curly black hair through persistent brushing' - another take on trig ratios.

P = Perpendicular (opposite)
B = Base (adjacent)
(for those of you too young to remember such archaic terminology!)

'Every good boy deserves favours' - lines of the treble clef.

(dull day in the office...)

Grumpy Goat said...

The Dog's musical mnemonic reminds the Goat of the 'Cycle of Keys'. It has proved to be of no practical use for the past 33 years.

F C G D A E B sharps #
G D A E B F# C#

B E A D G C F flats b
F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb

Thus, if you're playing in the key of A major, there are three sharps: F, C and G.
If the music is in D-flat major, there are five flats: B, E A, D and G.

Fast Cars Go Down At Every Bend
Good Detectives Always End By Finding Criminals
British European Airways Do Great Continental Flights
Farmer Brown Enjoys A Double Gloucester Cheese

Ian the Dog said...

One cannot help but be impressed by the sheer volume of uselessness which the Goat has at his command. In nearly 40 years of playing the geetar I, too, have never needed to know the Cycle of Keys. (Occasionally I have needed to find the Key of my Cycle, but I keep it in the garage now.)

Rose in Dubai said...

There are as many molecules of water in a teasoon of water as there are teaspoons of water in the the Atlantic Ocean.
And no, I don't know who counted.

Grumpy Goat said...

Rose in Dubai:
According to my calculations, it's not the Atlantic but the Pacific Ocean - and then some. I'll post the workings in the comments if there's sufficient interest, but let's just say that Avogadro's Number (q.v.) is involved.

Yes, yes. "The donkey has a PhD."



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