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The Useless Facts Website

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  • The English-language alphabet originally had only 24 letters. One missing letter was J, which was the last letter to be added to the alphabet. The other latecomer to the alphabet was U.
  • "Fan" is an abbreviation for the word "fanatic." Toward the turn of the 19th century, various media referred to football enthusiasts first as "football fanatics," and later as a "football fan."
  • The proper name of our sole natural satellite is "the Moon" and should be capitalized. The 60-odd natural satellites of other planets, however are called "moons" (in lower case) because each has been given a proper name, such as Deimos, Amalthea, Hyperion, Miranda, Larissa, or Charon.
  • The word "snorkel" comes from the German word "schnoerkel", which was a tube used by German submarine crews in WW2. The subs used an electric battery when traveling underwater, which had to be recharged using diesel engines, which needed air to run. To avoid the hazard of surfacing to run the engines, the Germans used the schnoerkel to feed air from the surface into the engines.
  • The name "fez" is Turkish for "Hat".
  • The combination "ough" can be pronounced in nine different ways. The following sentence contains them all: "A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful plough man strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed."
  • "The verb "cleave" is the only English word with two synonyms which are antonyms of each other: adhere and separate.
  • "Jerkwater" is a railroad term. Until about fifty years ago, most trains were pulled by thirsty steam engines that needed to refill their boilers from water towers next to the tracks. But some towns were so small and inconsequential that they lacked a water tower. When trains stopped in those places, the crew had to find a nearby stream or well and, bucket-brigade style, "jerk" the water to the train. Those little dots on the map became known as jerkwater towns.
  • Malcolm Lowry had pnigophobia—the fear of choking on fish bones.
  • Augustus Caesar had achluophobia—the fear of sitting in the dark.
  • Androphobia is a fear of men.
  • Caligynephobia is a fear of beautiful women.
  • Pentheraphobia is a fear of a mother-in-law.
  • Scopophobia is a fear of being looked at.
  • Phobophobia is a fear of fearing.
  • Mageiricophobia is the intense fear of having to cook.
  • Papaphobia is the fear of Popes.
  • Taphephobia is the fear of being buried alive.
  • Clinophobia is the fear of beds.
  • Incredible means not believable. Incredulous means not believing. When someone's story is truly incredible, you ought to be incredulous.
  • The terms "prime minister," "premier" and "chancellor" all refer to the leading minister of a government, and any differences from nation to nation stem from different systems of government, not from title definitions.
  • Tennis pro Evonne Goolagong's last name means "kangaroo's nose" in Australia's aboriginal language.
  • A "sysygy" occurs when all the planets of the our Solar System line up.
  • The most common letters in the English language are R S T L N E. Sound familiar? Watch an episode of "Wheel of Fortune"...
  • A "necropsy" is an autopsy on animals.
  • EEG stands for Electroencephalogram.
  • The English word pajamas has it's origin in Persian. It is a combination of the Persian words pa (leg) and jamah (garment).
  • The ZIP in zip code stands for "Zone Improvement Plan."
  • Yucatan, as in the peninsula, is from Maya "u" + "u" + "uthaan" meaning "listen how they speak," and is what the Maya said when they first heard the Spaniards.
  • Punctuation was not invented until the 1500's.

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