The best dictionary entry in history appeared in some editions of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: “Zymurgist (noun). Brewer. The last word in dictionaries.”
How long would it take to study the whole Talmud, one page a day? Seven and a half years… and it’s best to begin tomorrow.
Before they made the Superman we all know, Siegel and Shuster self-published a zine featuring a bald villain also named Superman.
From 1903 to 1905 a unique comic strip was published in the New York Herald: you would read the first half, then flip the page upside down to read the second half.
Papyrus is expensive. Scripture is repetitive. The earliest Christian texts used a clever set of abbreviations to save space and time.
The idea of the tractor beam first appeared in fiction in 1931. Since then, scientists have worked to make it a reality… and they’ve actually had some success.
Chaucer, Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Rabelais all wrote about the medlar fruit, which must rot before it is ready to eat.
From 1913 to 1929, the hobos had their own newspaper.
The eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, also killed the famous author of one of the earliest encyclopedias.
Lord Byron, the Romantic poet and infamous libertine, wrote a book of memoirs that may have set 19th century England aflame with scandal – if they hadn’t been deliberately destroyed within a month of his death.
William McGonagall is widely recognised as the worst poet in history.
Elementals are a common feature of modern bestiaries, video games, and RPGs. We have the 16th century alchemist Paracelsus to thank for thinking them up.
In 1958, surrealism, the Beat Generation, and a decade of civil war in Colombia distilled itself into the Nadaist movement – a rejection of Colombian government, literature, religion, and orthodoxy.
It’s my 200th post! Time to talk about the nature of proof, using 18th century literary hero Baron Munchausen and his horse too.
Flother is another word for a snowflake. It appears only once, in a 1275 CE book. The poison that killed Hamlet’s father in Shakespeare’s play, hebenon, is mentioned nowhere else. These are the hapax legomena, the lonely words.