Remember these weird facts from Twitter users to impress your friends
From planets and authors to disco and cougars, this Twitter conversation served up trivia for any occasion.
Everyone loves trivia, so when writer Nicole Cliffe asked her 100,000 Twitter followers to share some knowledge, many were quick to respond.
“Tell me your fav weird fact,” she tweeted.
The Twitterverse did not disappoint, serving up thousands of responses.
Need some quick-witted anecdotes to impress people at a Christmas party?
Here are some of the best.
He-Evelyn and She-Evelyn
Celebrated author Evelyn Waugh, who counted Brideshead Revisited among his novels, famously married a woman called Evelyn and the couple’s friends had the perfect nickname for them.
“Their friends called them he-Evelyn and she-Evelyn,” tweeted @HeetJeer.
Evelyn Waugh was once married to a woman named Evelyn. Their friends called them he-Evelyn and she-Evelyn.— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) December 11, 2018
Evelyn Waugh and Evelyn Gardner married in 1928 but by late 1929 he-Evelyn had filed for divorce. The marriage was annulled in 1936.
Debate has raged around whether Pluto is or is not a planet since it was first discovered by an American astronomer in 1930.
But, in all those years, it has yet to complete a full trip around the sun.
“From the time it was discovered until now, Pluto hasn’t completed a single orbit. And it won’t for another 160 years,” tweeted @TylerMoody.
From the time it was discovered until now, Pluto hasn’t completed a single orbit. And it won’t for another 160 years— #1 John Adams Fan Account (@TylerMoody) December 11, 2018
Pluto, which is classed as a dwarf planet, takes 248 years to circle our star, meaning it won’t get back to the same spot mankind first identified it until the year 2178.
The 27th character of the alphabet
Believe it or not, the alphabet used to have 27 letters rather than 26.
“The ampersand used to be the 27th character in the alphabet,” wrote the official account for Dictionary.com, and if anyone will know it should be them.
The ampersand used to be the 27th character in the alphabet. https://t.co/hzKnuh2ZZC— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) December 11, 2018
The figure ‘&’ evolved from the latin word “et”, meaning “and”, and it was widely used in the alphabet up until the 19th century.
Rather than finish their alphabet with “X, Y, Z, and”, schoolchildren in the 1800s would say “X, Y, Z, and per se and”, a phrase that eventually became the word “ampersand” we use today.
Woodpeckers’ natural head protection
Ever wondered how a woodpecker can headbutt trees like a pneumatic drill and not shake their brains out of their tiny bonces?
Carol Blymire has the answer.
“Woodpecker tongues are over a foot long and wrap around the bird’s brain to protect it from TBI (traumatic brain injury) while pecking,” she wrote.
That woodpecker tongues are over a foot long and wrap around the bird’s brain to protect it from TBI while pecking.— Carol Blymire (@CarolBlymire) December 11, 2018
To be completely accurate, it is the bird’s hyoid bone, which is used as an anchor for the tongue and other throat muscles in humans, that in fact wraps around the woodpecker’s skull.
As well as other anatomical apparatus to protect woodpeckers, this hyoid bone starts in the base of the upper beak, over the top of its head and then through the mouth into the tongue.
This allows the force and reverberations of wood-pecking to travel up and around the skull rather than through it, where they would shake the poor bird’s brain to jelly.
To purr or to roar
You may think your pet moggy hunts like a big cat but unfortunately it will never be able to roar like one.
As Steph Driver pointed out: “The mountain lion/cougar is the biggest cat species that purrs. If a cat can’t purr, it can roar, but no cat can do both.”
The mountain lion/cougar is the biggest cat species that purrs. If a cat can't purr, it can roar, but no cat can do both.— Steph Driver (@StephaliciousD) December 11, 2018
Bizarrely, this is also related to the hyoid bone.
In evolutionary terms, cats are split into the big cats (Pantherinae, including lions and tigers) which roar and smaller cats (Felinae, inlcuding cougars, cheetahs and domesticated cats) which purr, the difference being whether they have a flexible or hardened hyoid.
While big cats’ flexible hyoid and a special ligament mean they have a roar that can sometimes be heard for miles, the hardened bone in smaller cats vibrates, creating the purr sound we know and love.
Chic’s disco tune “Le Freak” is one of the defining songs of the ’70s, a song that evokes big hair, bigger dance moves and the world famous New York nightclub Studio 54.
But it was the band’s frustration at being refused entry to the Midtown club which inspired the track.
“The club was playing their music but that wasn’t enough to get in,” wrote @_jurassicapark.
“They stormed back to their apartment and wrote ‘Ahhh f*** off!’ Later changed to ‘Ahhh freak out!'”
Chic founder Nile Rodgers has told the story to interviewers a number of times over the years, detailing how the group were invited to meet Grace Jones at Studio 54 for New Year’s Eve 1977.
Furious at being turned away, they grabbed some booze and their instruments and wrote one of the biggest hits of the decade based on the experience.
Rodgers told Sound on Sound in 2005: “We were screaming it, ‘Aaaahh, f*** off!'”
“First, we changed it from ‘f*** off’ to ‘freak off’, and that was pretty hideous. We were singing it and just stumbling over ‘freak off’, because it was so lame by comparison.
“Then, all of a sudden it just hit me. For one second the light bulb went on and I sang ‘Aaaaahh, freak out!'”