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Amazing Facts

Over the past three weeks, I have chosen 63 'statements' from Amazing Facts, a quiz I was given last Christmas. The makers have given permission for me to share these statements with you on The Forum. Here are the answers in four parts!

1.Elizabethan scientist and writer Francis Bacon died of a chill after stuffing a chicken with snow.

TRUE. Bacon was testing to see if freezing meat would preserve it. Unfortunately, he contacted a chill and died, probably of pneumonia. Science is a dangerous thing.

2.In Ancient Rome, visitors to the city were required to exchange their own clothing for a toga at the city gates.

FALSE. In fact the opposite was true. Only male Roman citizens were permitted to wear the toga. Women and non-Romans wore a tunic, or a dress called a stoma. Senators wore togas edged with purple.

3.Beatrix Potter, creator of Peter Rabbit and many other fictional animals, never actually kept pets and didn't particularly like animals.

FALSE. She kept loads of pets, including a house-trained rabbit called Peter and a hedgehog called Mrs Tiggywinkle. (And no, Mrs T didn’t do the laundry.)

4.The Three Wise Men who visit the newborn Christ are not given names in the Bible

TRUE. The usual names of Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar have been applied later. The number of Magi is not even clear from the Bible; the usual three is an assumption based on the mention of three gifts.

5. Elton John’s hit song, ‘Candle in the Wind’ was originally written about Grace Kelly, and later adapted for the funeral of Princess Diana.

FALSE. But close. Elton did adapt the song later, along with his usual lyricist, Bernie Taupin, but the original version was about Marilyn Monroe. The opening ‘Goodbye Norma Jean (sic)’ is a reference to Monroe’s real name.

6. The phrase ‘money for old rope’ stems from the days of public hangings, when ghoulish onlookers would buy pieces of rope used for the hanging.

TRUE. It was regarded as a perk of the job for the hangman; he would cut up the rope and sell pieces as souvenirs.

7.Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical ‘Cats’ has been translated into over a dozen languages; it became ‘Los Gatos’ in Spain, ‘Katter’ in Norway and ‘Macskak’ in Hungary.

FALSE. It did play in a number of languages, but all kept the English title of ‘Cats’.

8. Chameleons protect themselves by changing colour to match their environment.

FALSE. Chameleons do change colour, but as a result of changes in their emotional state, not their environment. They will change when frightened or trying to show off to a potential mate, but not to match the foliage.

9. Noted spinster Jane Austin accepted a proposal of marriage when she was 21, but thought better of it overnight and was never tempted again to tie the knot.

TRUE. A Certain Mr Harris-Bigg-Wither (honestly!) offered his hand to the future novelist, but a good night’s sleep disillusioned her of his charms.

10. A 1971 episode of the Dick Cavett talk show was never aired because one of the guests died of a heart attack during the recording.

TRUE. Jerome Rodale,ironically, was on the show to talk about how healthy living could prolong life. At first producers thought he was asleep but he never woke up.

11.Sir Alec Guiness waived a fee for his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars opting to take a 2% royalty instead.

TRUE. It was a wise move, the role subsequently netted him millions, although Guiness grew tired of association with the movies,believing( probably rightly) that better work of his had earned far less attention.

12.Julio Iglesias, one of opera's Three Tenors, played for Real Madrid in La Liga before injury ended his football career and he took up singing.

FALSE, but only just. Iglesias was a goalkeeper and part of Real's youth system before a car crash ended his footballing ambitions. He needed a wheelchair for over two years.

13.When a huge earthquake hit San Francisco in 1906, it was the resulting fire that caused most damage. Much of the damage was arson, as people set fire to their own homes.

TRUE. An earthquake was an act of God, so insurance claims would not be valid, whereas a fire was an ' accident ' and, consequently, the claim would have to be recognised. Sadly the fire vastly increased the death toll.

14.The world's first traffic lights were put into operation in Pennsylvania in 1895, but were removed when three people were electrocuted by the cables feeding the lights.

FALSE. The first traffic light experiment was outside the Houses of Parliament in the 1860s and consisted of two manually operated gas lamps, one red and one green. They were removed when an explosion nearly killed the operator.

15.The smallest muscle in the human body is approximately 3mm long and is part of the series of muscles that work the tongue.

FALSE. Although there are a number of muscles in the tongue, all doing different jobs, none of them are as small as one of the ones in the ear, which normally measures only 1mm.

16.Robert Louis Stevenson took eight years to write ' Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde', It was based on a recurring nightmare. But Stevenson could only ever remember vague snatches of the dream.

FALSE. In fact the opposite, the nightmare was so vivid that it presented the author with the entire plot, and he duly dashed off the book in three days.

See Part 2 here

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