Once you start forwarding lighthearted email — jokes, puzzles, wacky cat videos — to friends and colleagues, you’re sure to get a blizzard more in return. Many of the messages will contain amazing purported “facts” that seem perfectly plausible. A lot of them turn out to be blatantly inaccurate “urban legends” or worthless bunkum.
I got a list of “believe it or nots” recently. And one of the items listed, as fact certain, was that my home state, Ohio, had “no natural lakes; every one is manmade.” Even discounting Lake Erie — one of the nation’s five Great Lakes, which, true enough, borders and is not quite “in” Ohio — there surely had to be other naturally formed lakes among the couple thousand decent-sized ones in the state.
I knew this because my geography teacher in junior high school — back in the “olden days” before subjects like geography and English composition were replaced by courses such as “Cultural Stereotypes and You” — droned on and on about the massive glaciers that sat for 24.6 gazillion years during the Precamomillian Epoch, or some such, atop the very spot where we were sitting. We also learned about mastodons, woolly mammoths, saber-tooth tigers, fossilized footprints, and cave paintings at this time.
To be clear, it was not big, hairy animals but hairy cave men and women — always discreetly covered in saber-tooth tiger skins in the sketches we were shown — who did the cave painting. The men ventured out on occasion to hunt and gather, carelessly dropping thousands of flint spearheads for us to find and take to show-and-tell.
But I digress. I wouldn’t normally bother to double-check email assertions about glacial lakes, but we’re talking Buckeye Pride here. (Buckeyes are nuts. We Ohioans are called Buckeyes. I’m loath to take that logical progression to its conclusion.)
Back to lake talk: Though geologists at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources do point out that many a natural lake that was in place before the coming of white settlers has been filled in or drained, at least a few “glacial puddles” left behind by receding glaciers do remain. One of which they are proudest is Punderson Lake, 24 meters (80 feet) deep in spots. Researchers at Kent State University dug core samples and peg the lake’s age at 10,500 years.
So don’t buy the “no natural lakes in Ohio” assertion if that particular “believe it or not” email gets around to you.
Even though it’s a good example of why one should be skeptical of blanket online statements of “fact,” I confess to enjoying “did you know?” emails anyway.
You’ll have to agree that these items, just in, for instance, have at least the ring of truth:
• No word in the English language rhymes with “month,” “orange,” “silver,” or “purple.” (I couldn’t think of any. “Grunth?” “Pilver?” “Slurple?”)
• A cat’s ear has 32 muscles. (All trained to hear the cat food opening two floors away.)
• A goldfish has a memory span of only three seconds. (How did they test that?)
• “Stewardesses” is the longest English word typed with only the left hand. (No wonder they changed it to “flight attendant.”)
• A ‘jiffy’ is an actual unit of time. It’s 1/100th of a second. (The Jiffy Lube oil-change folks are fast, but . . .)
• A snail can sleep for three years. (Snail researchers have the patience of Job. To liven things up, relatively speaking, they race the ones that are awake.)
• If the population of China walked past you eight abreast, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction. (What are those people doing in line?)
• The winter of 1932 was so cold in upstate New York that Niagara Falls froze completely solid and stopped flowing. (I googled this one, ’cause Google is never wrong. It pointed me to Answers.com, which noted that not only did the mighty falls indeed freeze in 1932, they froze to a halt for at least a few hours in 1911 and 1948 as well. These were the very worst times go over the falls in a barrel.)
• Babies are born without kneecaps, which don’t appear until the child reaches 2 to 6 years of age. (I expect you to check this out by rushing to the nearest crib. Unfortunately — or fortunately, now that I think about it — I don’t have a baby handy.)
• Paul Hunn holds the record for the loudest burp, which was 118.1 decibels. That’s as loud as a chainsaw. (This is one feat I wouldn’t have wanted to be around to verify. When Paul was done, did he then yell, “Excuse me” just as loudly?)
Write me and tell me what sorts of forwarded email you enjoy receiving, and which kind gets the dreaded Delete red X, unopened.
Ted's Wild Words
These are a few words from this posting that you may not know. Each time, I'll tell you a little about them and also place them into a cumulative archive of "Ted's Wild Words" in the right-hand column of the home page. Just click on it there, and if there's another word that you'd like me to explain, just ask!
Bunkum. Often shortened to “bunk,” bunkum is utter nonsense, not worthy of consideration. According to many sources, the word traces to a windy speech by a United States congressman, who, when criticized about it, replied, “Gentlemen, I did not give this speech for you but for the people back in Buncombe County [North Carolina].”
Loath. Unwilling or reluctant. The word is usually paired with the preposition “to,” as in, “I am loath to pursue that subject.” The verb “loathe” has much stronger negative connotations.
Patience of Job. Extraordinary, even superhuman, endurance. In the biblical story, though God allowed Satan to take Job’s family, fortune, and health, Job did not waver in his faith.
Purported. Professed or asserted. Something may be purported to be the case but bears checking to see if it is indeed true.