More Random Things That I Know


Hopefully more of these are factually correct than last time. But you never know. But hey: “There is a might-have-been which is more true than truth.” William Faulkner said that. Anyway. Moving on. Here are still yet more random hopefully true facts that I know.

Black sheep are more likely to be hit by lightning than white sheep.

You should make an omelette with water, not with milk.

In India, white is the color of mourning, because white is the absence of color.

Mice were considered to be a delicacy in ancient Rome, as were fermented fish guts.*

Sprezzatura” means “studied nonchalance” in Italian; the art of trying without seeming like you’re really trying.

Samuel Coleridge is said to be the last person who had read everything ever written.

His poem “Kubla Khan” is a metaphor for the creative process.

John Keats was so poor that he grew up living in a stable.

Edgar Allen Poe married his first cousin, Virginia Eliza Clemm. She was 13 when they married; he was 27.

Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero.

Nero did not set the great fire of Rome, though he was so unpopular that rumors spread that he did.

Nero’s last words: “Ah, what an artist I die!”

Caligula made his favorite racehorse into a Senator.

Caligula declared war on Neptune — and the sea.

Richard Nixon used to get drunk and order his generals to nuke Northern Vietnam. (The next morning: “I didn’t order you to nuke Vietnam, did I?” “No, Mr. President. …Of course not.”)

Many English politicians thought that it was a bad idea to fight America in the Revolutionary War; many Japanese politicians thought it was a bad idea to attack Pearl Harbor.

When girls in ancient Greece got their periods, they would dress up in bear costumes and dance in the countryside.

The Trojan War was probably similar to a series of Viking raids.

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” is from Dante’s Inferno.

Dante fell in love with Beatrice at age nine, without even speaking to her. And spent the rest of his life writing about her. She died at age twenty-four. He barely ever spoke to her; sometimes they would exchange greetings on the street.

You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think.”

I always met a man I never liked.”

Despite her wishes for rain, Dorothy Parker died on a warm sunny day.

On October 3, 1849, Edgar Allen Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore, “delirious, and in great need of assistance.” He was wearing clothes that were not his own, and could not explain how he ended up in such a condition. He died four days later, the result of alcoholism.

I can only recite two poems by heart: Yeats’s “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” and “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

I met a traveler from an antique land/ Who said...”

Mary Shelley kept her dead husband’s heart in a desk.

The word “bank” is from the Italian word “panca,” meaning “bench.” I have no idea why.

According to my mother, Crisco is the best shortening to use in pie crust.

Nero competed in the Olympics and made the judges give him medals even when he lost.

Hair grows after you are dead.

Thunder is lightning breaking the sound barrier.

Emperors in Byzantium had to be physically perfect. If you didn’t want someone to be Emperor, you disfigured him, often by gouging out his eyes.

Seriously, eye-gouging was a real problem in Byzantine politics.

One Byzantine emperor was killed by a barbarian who poured molten gold down his throat.

The word “Barbarian” comes from Greeks who couldn’t understand the neighboring people’s speech, and thought that they all made “bar bar” noises.

In the Old Testament, there’s an odd section where Abraham sits down with a bunch of merchants around the campfire, and gradually realizes that one of the merchants is God. He’s sitting around the campfire with God.

But the Gospel of John says this: “No man has ever seen God.” …Whoops?

Buddha died after eating an excess of pork.

Buddha would have his personal servant bring him food each day, as he meditated under a plane tree.

“Kill them all, God will know his own.” This was said by a man who went on to become Pope in the Middle Ages. His nickname was “The Butcher.”

The poet Gérard de Nerval used to walk his pet lobster around the parks of Paris. In order to shock the bourgeoisie.

Ah, Rouen! Thou, my final dwelling place!

L’esprit de l’escalier”; literally, “staircase wit.” I.e., thinking of the perfect remark or joke only afterwards, when you are on the staircase, leaving a party.

Ancient people had no name for the color blue, though they had names for the other colors. Blue is not a very common color in nature — though the sky and the sea are blue. But they just called these things “the sky” and “the sea” and did not think to name the color itself.

Green is the rarest eye color.

Marco Polo walked to China.

Alexander the Great wept because there were no more lands to conquer.

Alexander the Great’s teacher was Aristotle. On campaign, he kept a copy of the Iliad under his pillow, with Aristotle’s notes in the margins.

Aristotle believed in spontaneous generation.

The Unmoved Mover.

Most ancient writing has been lost; possibly up to two-thirds of it. What we have that remains of the past is random.

Take the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who lived in a cave. All that we know of his writing is random scraps that were quoted by others. What survives of us may be random scraps as well; random like this list.

Heraclitus thought that everything in the world was made of fire; meanwhile, the rival philosopher Thales thought that everything was made of water.

Everything being made of one substance — this is atomic theory, thousands of years ahead of its time.

This cosmos, which is the same for all, no god nor man did create — but it ever was, and is, and shall be an everlasting fire, in measures being kindled and in measures going out.

Heraclitus said that if oxen could speak, they would invent a God who was like an ox.

Regardless of Heraclitus, ancient Greeks knew what atoms were. The word “atom” is from the Greek.

Πάντα ῥεῖ, he said. Everything flows. Nothing abides.

Moving on now. So; the Iliad does not mention the Trojan horse. Or Achilles’ heel. These are elements of the story that were invented later on; a stratum of fiction to cover the actual substratum of reality.

“Irregardless” is not actually a word.

Zero was the last number to be invented.

A lot of ancient counting systems go like this: “One, two, many.”

“…Of telling stories there is no end.”

The shortest sentence in the Bible is “Jesus wept.”

I am still not sure about all of these facts.

Leave your own random facts in the comment section.

Thank you.

I’m sorry.

I probably won’t do one of these again.


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(*AN-NND A CORRECTION: Mice were not a delicacy in ancient Rome. “Dormice” were.  But dormice are not mice but are more like squirrels, go figure. Anyway, they would dip them in poppy seeds and honey, and serve them for dessert, and gross.)

image – Böhringer