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Want to be a trivia all-star and impress friends with fascinating factoids? Check out these 20 obscure yet captivating truths about history, science, language and more. From ancient vending machines to pugs, these little-known tidbits will turn you into a walking well of mesmerizing minutia. Armed with these conversation-starting nuggets, you’ll have the inside scoop on the surprising backstories of everyday marvels.
A Group of Pugs is Called a “Grumble”
Yes, the official collective noun used to describe a group of pugs is a “grumble” due to their grumbly noises and sour-faced expressions.
Peanuts Aren’t Nuts
Despite their name, peanuts are not nuts. They are legumes, related to beans and lentils.
The First Sunglasses Were Invented in China
Originally, they weren’t used to block the sun. They were used by judges in Chinese courts to hide their facial expressions while questioning witnesses.
The Shortest War in History
The Anglo-Zanzibar War, fought between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar Sultanate on August 27, 1896, lasted between 38 and 45 minutes.
Honey Never Spoils
Archeologists have found pots of honey in ancient Egyptian tombs that are over 3,000 years old and still perfectly good to eat.
Bananas are Berries, But Strawberries Aren’t
Botanically speaking, bananas qualify as berries, but strawberries do not because their seeds are on the outside.
A Leap Year Isn’t Always Every 4 Years
To keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical year, a year that is evenly divisible by 100 is not a leap year unless it’s also divisible by 400.
The Dot Over an i Has a Name
It’s called a “tittle.”
The Longest Time Between Twins Being Born is 87 Days
The twins were born prematurely and kept in the mother’s womb to grow for as long as possible before the second was born.
The First Alarm Clock Could Only Ring at 4 AM
Invented by Levi Hutchins in 1787, it was made for his personal use and rang only once a day.
There’s a Word for the Day After Tomorrow
It’s called “overmorrow.”
The Can Opener Was Invented 48 Years After Cans
For many years, the instruction on canned food was to “cut round the top near the outer edge with a chisel and hammer.”
The Unicorn is the National Animal of Scotland
This mythical creature was chosen because of its association with purity and innocence in Celtic mythology.
There are More Possible Iterations of a Game of Chess Than Atoms in the Known Universe
The Shannon number, named after Claude Shannon, estimates the lower bound of the game-tree complexity of chess to be at least 10^120.
The First Computer Was Invented in the 1940s
The ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was the first large-scale computer to run at electronic speed without being slowed by any mechanical parts.
The Eiffel Tower Can Grow Taller in the Summer
Due to the iron expanding in the heat, it can expand by up to 6 inches.
The First Ever Vending Machine Was Invented in Ancient Greece
It was designed by Hero of Alexandria to vend holy water in Egyptian temples.
The Oldest “Yo Mama” Joke is 3,500 Years Old
It was discovered on a Babylonian tablet in Iraq in the 1970s.
There’s Only One Letter That Doesn’t Appear in Any U.S. State Name
The letter “Q.”
The World’s Largest Desert is Not the Sahara
It’s Antarctica. Deserts aren’t defined by heat, but by precipitation, and Antarctica is the driest and windiest continent.
The Shortest Complete Sentence in the English Language is “Go.”
It’s a complete sentence with a subject and a verb.
The Longest Word Without a Vowel is “Rhythms”
It’s also one of the hardest words to spell for many people.