Every weekend the Spectator brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …
Elizabeth Taylor (born 1932). The actress’s 2011 funeral started 15 minutes behind schedule, on her own instructions. Her spokesman confirmed that she ‘even wanted to be late for her own funeral’.
In 1939 the non-existent word ‘dord’ was discovered in Webster’s New International Dictionary. It was a misprint, which had arisen several years earlier when an editor suggested including ‘D or d, cont./density’ – in other words, they thought ‘density’ should be added to the list of words for which the letter ‘d’ can be an abbreviation. But a typesetter misread this as a completely new word, ‘dord’. It was added (meaning ‘density’) between ‘dorcopsis’ (a type of small kangaroo) and ‘doré’ (golden in colour). After its discovery, the fictitious word was removed.
In 1953 Stalin collapsed after suffering a stroke. He died four days later. The composer Sergei Prokofiev died on the same day, meaning his family had to have paper flowers at his funeral as all the real ones in Moscow had been reserved for Stalin. Neither were they allowed any musicians to play at the service – records of Prokofiev’s work had to be played instead.
In 2010 Tim Burton’s movie version of Alice in Wonderland, starring Johnny Depp, was released. The author of the original story, Lewis Carroll, invented the word ‘chortle’. It appeared in Through the Looking-Glass, and is a combination of ‘chuckle’ and ‘snort’.
Tim Vine (born 1967). The comedian has twice won the ‘funniest joke’ prize at the Edinburgh Fringe festival. His winning line in 2014 was ‘I decided to sell my Hoover – well, it was just collecting dust’. He has also come second several times, with lines including ‘crime in multi-storey car parks – that is wrong on so many levels’ and ‘last night me and my girlfriend watched three DVDs back to back – luckily I was the one facing the telly’.
Eddo Brandes (born 1963). In the early days of his international cricket career, Brandes held down two jobs. 'Unfortunately we weren't all able to be professional cricketers,' he told The Guardian in 2010. 'Zimbabwean cricket was in transition and I needed a job to pay the bills. So I bought a chicken farm. They called me Chicken George, but I don't know where the George came from.'