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.

49. About 50% of the species of tarantula possess a bite which is venomous to humans and can cause paralysis or even death.

FALSE. Tarantula bites are not fatal, only a severe allergy to the venom (very rare ) can cause complications. That doesn't alter the fact that the bite is extremely painful, so it's best not to agitate the hairy little monsters.

50.The trilby hat, a staple of men's fashion in the 20th century,was actually designed as headgear for a woman.

TRUE. The first hat with the distinctive indentations at the front of the crown was worn by an actress playing the part of Trilby O'Ferrall in a stage adaptation of George du Maurier's novel Trilby.

51. The word 'decimation' comes from a brutal Roman military practice of demanding the life of one man in ten in every legion which failed to acquit itself satisfactorily in battle.

TRUE. Each group of ten soldiers would draw lots and the nine lucky ones would beat the loser to death, hardly likely to encourage camaraderie within the legions, but a good incentive to put in the extra 10%.

52. The Chinese delicacy bird’s nest soup actually contains no element of bird’s nest; the stringy bits are thin noodles.

FALSE. Western sources have often claimed that the name is just an erroneous translation, but bird’s nest soup is just that- a consommé made using the outer parts of swifts’ nests.

53. Mrs Beeton, author of the exhaustive Victorian guide ‘The Book of Household Management’ (1861), wrote the book in her mid- twenties and died aged only 28, little knowing the legacy she would leave.

TRUE. Isabella Beeton died after contracting a fever while giving birth to her fourth child. The book, a compendium of advice for running a household, including 900 pages of recipes, remains a classic 150 years on.

54. According to the ‘Book of Kings’, David wins Saul’s daughter Michal by killing 200 people and removing their foreskins as a gift for his potential father-in-law.

TRUE. Even more disturbingly, Saul only asked for 100, so another 100 Philistines were done away with just for a bit of overkill.

55. Author Roald Dahl turned down the role of the villainous Dr No in the first James Bond film.

FALSE.He does, however, have a connection with the Bond movies, having written the screenplay for ‘You Only Live Twice’. Dahl also adapted Fleming’s only children’s book, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bnag’, for the big screen.

56. The Voluminous beard Charles Darwin is wearing on many portraits was a fake.

FALSE. However, many of his friends failed to recognise him after he grew it; he had gone 57 years without feeling the need for such effusive facial hair.

57. Tiger Woods got his name from his mother. Kultida is from Thailand, and in her home country her name means ‘little tiger’.

FALSE. He was born Eldrick Tont Woods. The name comes from an old military friend of his father’s.

58. Sir Walter Raleigh brought tobacco back to England after a visit to Virginia in 1586.

FALSE. The first reference to tobacco in England was 30 years previously, before Raleigh was born. It came to England via France, where it was introduced by a chap called Jean Nicotine (hence nicotine)

59. The grandfather of a royal prince was once banned from racing at Henley Regatta because he was too common.

TRUE. John Kelly Sr was accused of being a professional, but everyone knew the real reason-- he was a bricklayer. He later became Olympic champion, and fathered Grace Kelly, who married Prince Rainier of Monaco.

60. Ozzy Osbourne did the tattoos of his name O-Z-Z-Y on his knuckles himself, using a sewing needle.

TRUE. Ozzy also tattooed smiley faces on his knees. He did the tattoos while serving a prison sentence for nicking a telly.

61.There are more tigers in captivity in the USA than there are living wild in the rest of the world.

TRUE. Shamefully, appallingly, true. A Tiger is a relatively inexpensive trophy; even the rarest, most endangered species can be bought for a price.

62. The firework known as the Catherine wheel was named after the martyrdom of Saint Catherine, as captured in Lucas Cranach’s memorable painting.

TRUE. The patron saint of philosophers was condemned to be torn to pieces on a wheel, but, according to legend, the wheel was destroyed by divine fire. So she was beheaded instead.

63.The whisky distiller Jack Daniel died, inevitably, from excessive tasting of his own recipes. Jack’s liver gave way before he had even turned 40.

FALSE. Jack’s death was connected with work, however. Starting work early one day, but unable to remember the safe combination, he kicked the offending object and bruised a toe, which later got infected. He was 65.