A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
I love trivia, and if it’s nerd trivia, I love it even more. And if it’s nerd trivia that nerds don’t know, I love it even more than that. For example, it’s a common nerd “fact” that the only animal not mentioned in the Bible is the cat. Sorry! There are tons of animals not mentioned in the Bible — including kangaroos, California Condors, Komodo Dragons and polar bears. So with that in mind, here are three extraordinary nerd facts to astound your friends, win Pub Night Quizzes and generally make you smarter than your know-it-all brother-in-law.
If you’re over 30, you’ve probably read the legend of King Arthur. If you’re under 30. you’ve seen the one of the crap movies. Either way, you kinda know the story. Somewhere in Britain, there was a sword stuck in a stone (no idea how it got there) and anybody who pulled it out became the King of Britain. Simple — except nobody could. Then one day a regular guy — sometimes an oaf, sometimes a churl, but usually a squire — accidently gives it a yank and OMG! out it comes. He is proclaimed King Arthur, and with the sword, Excalibur, rules Britain wisely for many years. (Until he screws up, but that’s a different story.) The problem is the sword Arthur pulled out of the stone was not Excalibur. Excalibur was actually given to Arthur by The Lady of the Lake after Arthur broke the original sword, Caliburn. We’ve streamlined the legend because contemporary audiences don’t have a great attention span – hence all the crap movies. Plus, in some versions of the original story, King Arthur also has a spear called Ron.
In Nepal, it’s legal to hunt the Yeti, (Abominable Snowman.) All you have to do is apply for a permit, pay the fee (about $1,200) and you’re good to go. However, you can’t kill the Yeti, and if you do manage to capture one, you have to turn it over to the Nepalese government. So it’s not like you can come home and put on the brag about the head mounted on your wall. (Ewwww!) Apparently, however, there are official bumper stickers.
And my favourite:
Everything is this world has a regular name and a scientific name. For example, humans are Homo sapiens, wolves are Canis lupus, apples are Malus domestica — and so on and so on. Scientific names are usually Latin, mostly boring, sometimes fun (like Gaga germanotta – a fern named for Lady Gaga) and sometimes they’re just lazy like Gorilla gorilla, the scientific name for … gorillas. Normally, when a new species is discovered, the scientific community goes into warp speed to name it. (These days, it takes less than a year.) However, there is one species that baffled science nerds for nearly 300 years – the giant tortoise. These huge creatures were discovered by the Spanish in the early 1500s, but they didn’t get a scientific name until 1812 when August Friedrich Schweigger named them Testudo gigantean. So why the three century delay? Everybody knew they existed. Well, it seems, giant tortoises are such good eatin’ that none of them ever survived the journey back to the universities of Europe. They all became lunch! According to every account, the giant tortoise was so delicious that even the most dedicated botanists and biologists couldn’t resist them. Ships would literally stop in mid ocean so the sailors could finish eating their tortoises before they made harbour and had to share. For generations, scientific expeditions would sail out to far-flung parts of the world and return with all manner of exotic species and … a bunch of empty giant tortoise shells … having consumed the contents. I’m not making this up! Even the mighty Charles Darwin, Lord High Poobah of animal studies, dined on giant tortoise on the way home from the Galapagos. Thus, it took nearly 300 years for a few of them to avoid the frying pan long enough to get a scientific name.
These days, there are international laws that protect the giant tortoise from becoming an extinct item on the menu. However, there is a heavy illegal trade for the tables of rich culinary connoisseurs with no conscience. Meanwhile, if you want to taste the most delicious meat in the world, apparently, you can — there’s a very expensive synthetic version. But be warned: you might like it a little too much.