Weird Wikipedia Articles

For a journey through the weird, wonderful, and entertaining, check out this excellent article from Bookshelf.


alex atkins bookshelf triviaWikipedia is no ordinary encyclopedia. Each month, more than 500 million unique visitors visit Wikipedia to read its more than 40 million articles written in more than 250 languages. The English version grows at a rate of 800 new articles each day. Compared to any written reference work, Wikipedia’s breadth is simply astonishing. But if you spend enough time browsing through this massive encyclopedia, you will come across some rather unusual or weird articles. Wikipedia even has a page that lists all of their “unusual articles” with this note: “There are over five million articles in the English Wikipedia. These are the ones that Wikipedians have identified as being a bit unusual. These articles are verifiable, valuable contributions to the encyclopedia, but are a bit odd, whimsical, or something you would not expect to find in Encyclopedia Britannica. We should take special care to meet the highest standards of an encyclopedia with these articles lest they…

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The Gift that Keeps on Giving

George Bernard Shaw "with renewed compliments"

As George Bernard Shaw perused the shelves of a secondhand bookstore, he came across a volume of his plays. He opened the book and found his handwriting on the flyleaf, addressed to a friend, with the words, “With the compliments of George Bernard Shaw.”

Mr. Shaw purchased the book and sent it back to the friend, with the additional words, “With renewed compliments. G.B.S.”


This Word for a Tasty Dish is a Real Mouthful

longest word in literature Aristophanes Assemblywomen

Aristophanes (427 BC – 386 BC) was groundbreaking with his plays. His skills as a satirist and as a keen observer of everyday life led him to give us one of the most revealing pictures of what life was like in ancient Athens. Continue reading

An Extra Leap for Magnetic Personalities

frogs levitate in a strong-enough magnetic field

Mark Twain (who is featured in multiple posts here on Commonplace Fun Facts) wrote about the lengths some people will go to in order to get a frog to outjump other frogs. One trick that wasn’t discussed in The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was magnetism.

If only he had known that if you put a frog in a strong-enough magnetic field, it will levitate.


From the Hand of the Bard

Shakespeare's autographs

Some of the most beautiful and inspiring words in the English language have come from the hand of William Shakespeare. Over 1,700 words were added to English by his fertile and creative mind.

Interestingly enough, this master of the written word did not appear to pay much attention to his own name.

Shakespeare's autographs
Copies of the six surviving autographs of William Shakespeare.

Six of his signatures have survived to this day. All are connected with legal documents. No two specimens are spelled the same way.

The six signatures are affixed to four different documents:

  • a deposition in the Bellott v. Mountjoy case, dated May 11, 1612
  • the purchase of a house in Blackfriars, London, dated March 10, 1613
  • the mortgage of the same house, dated March 11, 1613
  • his Last Will and Testament, which contains three signatures, one on each page, dated March 25, 1616.

The signatures appear as follows:

  • Willm Shakp
  • William Shakspēr
  • Wm Shakspē
  • William Shakspere
  • Willm Shakspere
  • By me William Shakspeare

Given the rarity of surviving examples of his handwriting, it has been estimated that if a previously-undiscovered signature were to be discovered and be sold at auction, it would bring upward of $5 million. If affixed to a play written in his own hand, it could generate as much as $50 million. 

To see a story about the most valuable autograph ever purchased, check out this Commonplace post.

Meet the Man Who Made Us Marvel

Fun Facts about Stan Lee Marvel ComicsStan Lee has almost mythical standing among comic book aficionados. Without him, the world would never have heard of Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, or any of the other 350 comic book characters that sprang from his fertile mind (see the list here).

Born Stanley martin Lieber on December 28, 1922, Lee revolutionized the comic book industry and American culture with his creativity. Here are some facts about the Man behind Marvel Comics. Continue reading

Nerds Everywhere Thank Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss first to use the word nerd

The first printed modern English use of the word nerd appeared in the Dr. Seuss book If I Ran the Zoo:

And then, just to show them,
I’ll sail to Ka-Troo
And Bring Back an It-Kutch, a Preep, and a Proo,
A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too!”