Who among us wouldn’t want to be a dazzling conversationalist? Whether you’re chatting with your colleagues, your friends, your date, or anyone you’re randomly meeting at a cocktail party, there are few feelings quite as satisfying as artfully saying something truly surprising and interesting, and showing others a great time.
That’s why we’ve collected here the 40 obscure facts you can drop on just about anyone that will have them all wondering if you’re a genius. (Or at least a walking encyclopedia.) So read on, take notes, and then enjoy your newfound status as the king or queen of the cocktail party. And for more fun facts, check out 40 Facts So Funny They’re Hard to Believe.
Some Cats Are Actually Allergic to Humans
Though it’s uncommon—since humans bathe more than your typical animal, and don’t shed as much hair or skin—some animals can still be allergic to humans. (However, it’s most often because of the perfume or cologne we wear or the soap we use.) And for more great info about pets, check out the 15 Signs Your dog Is Depressed.
Too Much Water Can Kill You
Drinking too much water can be lethal. When guzzling a ton of liquid, you can suffer from something called “water intoxication,” which either occurs after an obscene amount of water is guzzled or too many fluids were consumed during hardcore, endurance exercise. If this sounds preposterous, know that the 2002 Boston Marathon competitor Cynthia Lucero died due to overhydration. (Yikes.) And for more on the water we drink, don’t miss the 25 U.S. Cities with the Best Drinking Water.
The Hottest Temperature Ever Recorded on Earth Was 2 Billion Degrees Kelvin
To give you a sense of how hot that is: The interior of our sun is 15 million degrees Kelvin. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories produced the record-breaking temperature in their lab using a superheated gas—equal to about 3.6 billion degrees Fahrenheit, which is definitely warmer than anything you could create on your stove. And for more knowledge you can drop on your friends, check out the 30 Crazy Useful Facts You’ve Never Heard Before.
Green Eggs and Ham Started as a Bet
The Dr. Seuss classic grew out of a bet with his editor that he could not create a book using fewer than 50 different words. The editor, Bennett Cerf, founder of Random House, put—you guessed it—$50 on the line, and lost. And for more great books trivia, check out the 20 Funniest Jokes From Kids’ Books.
Competitive Art Used to Be in the Olympics
Between 1912 and 1948, the Olympic Games awarded medals in sculpture, music, painting, and architecture. After the Olympics were skipped during the war years, it returned in 1948, but after a debate, the competitions were scrapped.
“John Copley of Britain won one of the final medals awarded, a silver in 1948 for his engraving, Polo Players,” according to Smithsonianmag.com. “He was 73 years old at the time, and would be the oldest medalist in Olympic history if his victory still counted.” And if you’re interested in buying some next-level, artisan-quality goods, read up on Why Italian Craftsmanship Is the Best on the Planet.
The Majority of Your Brain Is Fat
You can literally call someone a fathead—about 60 percent of the human brain is made of fat. And for more ridiculous knowledge about human physiology, check out these 20 Amazing Facts You Never Knew About Your Body.
A Chef’s Hat Has Exactly 100 Pleats
A chef’s tall toque traditionally is made with 100 pleats, meant to represent the “hundred ways to cook an egg.” Oh, and speaking of hats: Here’s our great selection of 10 Summer Hat Options That Are Way Classier Than a Ball-cap.
The Moon Is (Slowly) Slowing the Earth’s Rotation
Every one hundred years, the Moon adds approximately 1.7 milliseconds to a day. While this may be minuscule, it does add up: Over the past 350 million years, the Earth’s rotation has slowed by about an hour. And for more on our universe, read up on the 30 Craziest Predictions about the Future Experts Say Are Going to Happen.
Oranges Aren’t Naturally Occurring Fruitsl
Oranges may be a classic fruit, but they are not actually a naturally occurring one. Fact: the sweet fruits we love are actually a hybrid of tangerines and pomelos, also known as “Chinese grapefruit,” which is a pale green or yellow color.
Originally cultivated in southeast Asia, they were originally green before the skin turned orange in warmer climates. However, regardless of where it came from, it will always be one of the 50 Foods That Will Make You Look Younger!
High Heels Were Originally Worn by Men
In the 10th century, men in Europe adopted the now-classic fashion choice of heels to make it easier to ride their horses. Adding heels to their boots made it easier to stay in their stirrups.
As Slate explained, “The Persian cavalry wore inch-high heels, and the trend spread to Europe. Since they showed that the wearer owned and maintained horses, high heels became associated with the upper class.”
You Are Drinking Million-Year-Old Water
Because the cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation is closed, the same water that existed on the earth millions of years ago is still on Earth today. It just keeps recycling itself over and over—so you might want to put that liquid through the Brita filter an extra time or two! And for more great healthy-living knowledge, here are the 40 Health Myths You Hear Every Day.
Queen Elizabeth Is a Trained Mechanic
The Queen is actually quite handy. When she was 16, she joined the British employment agency the Labour Exchange, where she learned the basics of truck repair. You know: how to change a tire, fix engines, and drive ambulances. Nowadays, she has others who can do such things for her, but it’s nice to know if one of her cars broke down, the Queen might be able to get it back up and running. And for more coverage of our favorite monarch, Here’s Queen Elizabeth Looking Utterly Dazzled by Justin Trudeau.
Also… The Queen Has an Insane Car Collection
Perhaps that early understanding of automobiles inspired the Queen’s lifelong love of cars. Her collection of Rolls-Royces, Daimlers, Bentleys, and other brands is estimated to be worth £10 million. And if you’re a car buff, too, check out these 10 New Cars That Are Instant Collectibles.
New York Was Briefly Naned “New Orange”
New Amsterdam was founded by the Dutch in 1653 and taken renamed New York by the English in 1664. However, the Dutch briefly reclaimed it in 1673 and dubbed it New Orange, which was its name for about a year until it was returned to the British under the Treaty of Westminster.
There Was a Successful Tinder Match in Antarctica in 2014
The dating app is popular across six continents, but it didn’t have a connection on the least-inhabited one until 2014, when a pair of research scientists—a man working at Antarctica’s McMurdo Station and a woman camping a 45-minute helicopter ride away—found they matched. We hope they read the 30 Ways to Have a Happy Long-Distance Relationship.
Moonshiners Used “Cow Shoes” to Disguise Their Footprints During Prohibition
To keep their whiskey stills from being spotted, moonshiners during prohibition would often wear “cow shoes”—shoes with special blocks attached to the bottoms—which would make their footprints look like a cow’s.
Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt Once Went on a Joyride
In 1933, the two high-profile women ditched a fancy dinner in Washington, D.C., and hopped into an Easter Air Transport Curtiss Condor and flew to Baltimore. For more on Amelia Earhart, check out America’s 30 Most Fascinating Unsolved Mysteries.
It Takes Exactly 364 Licks to Get to the Center of a Tootsie Pop
A group of engineering students at Purdue University designed a machine to answer the classic question, “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?,” and found that the answer was 364.
For what it’s worth: There’s still debate over this question. A doctorate student at the University of Michigan determined the answer to be 411, while a group of students at Swarthmore Junior High School determined it to be just 144. Go figure.
Tree Rings Get Wider During Wet Years
You probably already knew that tree rings can tell you how old a tree is. But they can also show you the conditions of a given year, with thinner rings during drought years and thick ones when there was significant rainfall.
The Hottest Inhabited Place in the World is in Ethiopia
Dallol, Ethiopia, reaches an average annual temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The hottest month had an average of 116.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hot Water Freezes Faster Than Cold Water
Crazy, right? A number of explanations have been suggested for “the Mpemba effect,” including one that posits that warm containers conduct heat more efficiently, and another that warm water evaporates faster.
Dolphins Have Names for Each Other
You’ve probably heard that dolphins are pretty clever, but this is pretty impressive: The animals actually have names for one another, using a unique whistle to distinguish between different members within their pod.
Shel Silverstein Wrote the Song “A Boy Named Sue”
That famed Johnny Cash song was actually penned by the famed children’s book poet behind works such as Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Giving Tree, and A Light in the Attic. He also wrote songs performed by Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, and more. And for more awesome knowledge about music, check out the 30 Funniest Rap Lyrics.
The Bowler Hat Was Invented as a Safety Measure
The familiar bowler hat may look fashionable, but it began as a purely practical item—a riding helmet meant to protect riders from branches and other obstacles. It was designed by London hatmakers Thomas and William Bowler—hence, the name.
Sea Otters Hold Hands While They Sleep
This ridiculously cute behavior is an effort to avoid floating away from their partner during sleep. Sometimes they hold hands in groups, producing a “raft.”
Stop Signs Used to Be Yellow
The first stop sign appeared in Detroit in 1915 and for the first years of its use across the country, it was made in a wide range of colors, before settling on a consistent one in the 1920s: yellow. The idea was that this color would have the greatest amount of visibility for both day and night (red looked dark at night). That changed in 1954, with the invention of fade-resistant red coatings, which made it easier to spot.
Platform Shoes Once Symbolized Status
More footwear trivia: raised platform shoes (also known as “buskins”) were worn by tragic actors in Ancient Greece to symbolize their superiority over comic actors, who wore plain socks.
Dandelion has a Dirty Meaning
Be careful about drinking any dandelion wine—the French word for dandelion, pissenlit, means “wet the bed.” This name comes from the fact that dandelion leaves have diuretic properties.
Andy Warhol Inspired Louboutins’ Red Soles
Louboutins shoes are known as much for their high price as their red soles, but many don’t know that the color was inspired by the artist Andy Warhol, whose Flowers drawing caught Christian Louboutin’s eye and gave him the idea (with the aid of an assistant’s red nail polish) to add the color to the bottom of the kicks.
Winston Churchill’s Mother Was from Brooklyn
Though one of the UK’s most famous leaders, wartime prime minister and career politician Winston Churchill has deep U.S. roots. His mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, was born Jennie Jerome in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. As daughter of financier and sportsman Leonard Jerome, she was born into significant wealth.
Oranges Were First Planted in U.S. in 1513
Florida and oranges go way back—in what is now Florida, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon planted the first orange tree in 1513. Five centuries later, the product continues to thrive in the Sunshine State.
”OMG” Usage Can Be Traced to 1917
One of the earliest uses—perhaps the earliest use—of the acronym “O.M.G” appears in a letter to Winston Churchill. In 1917, retired Admiral of the British Navy John Arbuthnot Fisher wrote to Churchill (then a British Member of Parliament) about rumors he had heard about new titles that would soon be bestowed. “I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis,” he wrote. “O.M.G. (Oh! My God!)—Shower it on the Admirality!!” But definitely see here for 40 Things No One Over 40 Should Ever Say.
Toto the Dog Was Once a Cow
In the 1910 silent film version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy did not have a dog but a faithful cow named Imogene. It’s not clear why they opted for the change—Toto was in the 1902 stage rendition and L. Frank Baum’s book.
Reno Is Farther West Than Los Angeles
San Diego, too—check the map.
Horses Sleep in 15-Minute Bursts
Horses don’t need as much sleep as you might expect for an animal so large. Altogether, they sleep about three or four hours a day, and that is done in 10- and 15-minute bursts, often locking their joints and standing while they do.
Horses Also Have the Largest Eyes of Any Mammal
No wonder they do so well in battle. Horses’ eyes are larger than any other mammal’s (at about 2 inches in diameter) are able to move independently and—due to their placement on the sides of their heads—can get a near-360-degree view of their surroundings (outside of a pair of blind spots directly in front and behind them).
Speed Dating Was Invented by a Rabbi
While we might think of it as an innovative way to meet people, it was a very traditional person who invented speed dating. Rabbi Yaacov Deyo, based in Beverly Hills, CA, created the concept in 1998, bringing together a handful of single men and women for some matchmaking in a Peet’s Coffee & Tea. Romance and efficiency proved to be a perfect match. And for more facts that are hard to believe, check out these 20 Present-Day Facts No One Could Have Predicted Five Years Ago.
Parrots Have the Power of Reason
In addition to humans and chimps, the African Grey Parrot has been found to be able to reason—approximately at the level of a three-year-old kid. In an experiment, the parrot was presented with a pair of closed canisters, with food inside one of them, which they were shown. After this, when given a chance to choose between canisters, they consistently selected the one with food. Additionally, more complex studies have found the parrots to be able to piece together similar puzzles.
The blob of toothpaste that sits on your toothbrush has a name.
It’s called a “nurdle.” And for more funny words, know the 100 Slang Terms from the 20th Century No One Uses Anymore.
Weeds Can Be Healthy
Though we usually just pull them up and throw toss them into the trash, some weeds have nutritious properties. For example, dandelions are loaded with vitamins A, C and K—not to mention calcium, iron, manganese, and potassium. So consider repurposing those weeds and making them into a salad.
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