In Competition No. 2374 you were invited to supply ten pieces of useless information to clutter our minds.
For those with an appetite for loony facts Noel Botham’s The World’s Greatest Book of Useless Information (John Blake) can be prescribed in small doses. Your efforts amused me vastly, but presented me with a judging problem. Some items were funnier than others, so should I award prize money by item, or plump for those whose ten contained the most gold? I chose the latter, and easier, course. The winners, printed below, get £25 each, and the last bonus prize of Cobra Premium beer (for our spell of sponsorship is over) goes to Michael Swan. If anyone has still not received their Cobra prize, please write to Claire Eaves at The Spectator.
In 1703 a shower of sea-urchins fell on Banbury.The potto can distinguish 423 colours.There is an Inuit word meaning ‘My house has not been destroyed by termites’.The Pitlochry bannock-skirling game has ended in a draw for 809 consecutive years.In Sumatra a pig may only be driven along a public highway if it has front and rear lights.The word ‘equinox’ means ‘horse nut’: conker tournaments were traditionally held on 21 September.Unmarried Kashgar women may not speak between sunrise and sunset on Thursdays.A traffic jam stretching from Seattle to Sacramento lasted for 46 days.Mongolian typewriters have 739 keys.Vermeer’s eight surviving pornographic paintings are kept in a locked room at the Mauritshuis.Michael Swan
Al Jolson’s brother became a bookseller in Taunton.Australians celebrate Fortitude Day every 13 January.Ferrets were introduced into England by William the Conquerer.The word ‘pimp’ derives from a mistranslation of the Hebrew word for ‘sandal’.It is still technically illegal to darn hosiery on a Sunday.Thirteen per cent of Latvian women believe that Princess Diana is alive and in hiding.Perro Tonto, a town in southern California, has had no rainfall since 1949.Martin Amis is allergic to cardboard.In the late 18th century, it was fashionable to breed ants.In Sardinia, there is a golf club per 200 head of population.G.M. Davis
The largest printed Bible, weighing one and a half tons, is kept in an air-conditioned cave in Utah.The letters x and z occur 37 times each in Titus Andronicus.Qoti Indians use earwax to shape their cats’ whiskers into mustachios.Bald men without hats in Patagonia are charged with indecent exposure.Cambridge’s original name was Camberege — ‘the side of a slope’.In Dravidian there is one word for ‘you’ and ‘we’.Identical twins’ fingernails grow at different speeds.Being fitted with false teeth prolongs the life of yaks by up to five years.A statue the size of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ could be made from the chewing gum deposited by visitors to Florence.To save space in Aleutian graveyards, bodies are buried vertically.W.J. Webster
Six out of every ten women paint their toenails.Ballroom dancing is the third most popular recreational pastime in Guangdong Province, China.Householders with black front doors are more likely to own a dog than those with white front doors.On any given day, 32 per cent of men wear mismatched socks.The most expensive bathroom renovation in 2004 in Milton Keynes cost £123,000.In Kwazulu-Natal, it is illegal to own more than two budgerigars.Vegetarians are more likely to have sneezing fits than those who eat meat.The most popular name for pet monkeys is Mickey.At last count, Waterloo Station’s Lost Property Office had 1,856 umbrellas.Seventy-four per cent of residents of Ulan Bator have never received a Valentine’s Day card.Harriet Elvin
The Tibetans have no word for ‘shoe’.Clear honey is banned on the Isle of Skye.Charles Darwin’s beard was fake. (It covered an iguana bite.)Maxim, inventor of the machine-gun, also invented crepe bandages.Julius Caesar was born with three nipples.Eyebrow hairs are the first recorded form of currency.The ‘qwertyuiop’ keyboard came about as the result of a typing error.The word ‘earlobe’ appears in the Bible 420 times.The first dog in space was posthumously awarded the freedom of the City of London.The real Maria von Trapp was only 4ft 2in tall.Philip Ardagh
The floor covering at the 1956 Texas State Fair used 6,780 carpet grips.The Rosella, an Australian parrot, never flies above 15 feet.The Dostomin, an obscure Iranian sect, only wears clothes stitched by left-handed women.The Best Strauss Waltz Album in the World ...Ever! sold over 220 copies in Aberdeen alone.The world’s largest industrial siphon is at the Polunin ammonia plant in Kazakhstan.No. 10 Downing Street has only seven chimney pots.Forestry Commission workers get an annual boot allowance of £7.13.The Vickers VC-10 had more miles of cabling (11) than any other civil aircraft.The lowest recorded pH content of rain was 2.9 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 3 October 1982.The sociologist Lewis Mumford collected trays.Leigh Hooper
No. 2377: Peccavi
You are invited to supply a poem (maximum 16 lines) describing your regrettable failure to keep a recent New Year’s resolution. Entries to ‘Competition No. 2377’ by 27 January.