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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

I’ve been learning some weird stuff lately. I haven’t been trying to learn anything, let alone weird stuff, but it keeps finding me. It’s the kind of stuff that you go… is that true? And then you spend the next two hours going down the rabbit hole until dinner is burnt or it’s next Thursday and you have to tear yourself away and do something else.

So I thought it would be pretty cool to share some of it with you and have a Fun Fact day. In no particular order, here is the Top Some Number List of Fun Facts I discovered this past week.

Number 1. The national animal of Scotland… is not a deer or an owl. It is not a furry Highland cow. It is rather more magical than that.

A unicorn.

Yes, the national animal of Scotland is, in fact, a unicorn. And it’s official. Not like some “National Days” we’ve celebrated here, of questionable origin and likely something a random person made up five minutes before they had to publish the day’s national celebrations. No, the unicorn is legit.

It is such a central figure in Celtic mythology and folklore that it has been gracing coats of arms since the 1500s. Unicorns are strong, untameable, proud, independent, pure, and of course magical. Whether or not they exist depends on your point of view.

Number 2. The shortest complete sentence in the English language is…. certainly nothing I write here. It is, in fact, a bit counterintuitive.

The shortest complete sentence is, “Go.”

You would be forgiven for being outraged that your grammar lessons led you so astray. Don’t complete sentences need a subject and a predicate? Well, yes… except when they don’t. That’s grammar for you!

Technically, the subject, you, is implied. It is an example of a sentence written in the imperative mood, which is when a verb is used to make a demand and the subject is omitted but is understood to be you.

It’s no different than saying, “Go buy me ice cream.” The missing subject is the one who just walked out of the house to do your bidding.

Number three. The longest border in the world is the one that Canada shares with the United States. And it – generally speaking – follows the 49th parallel.

But that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is that there are some locations where the border cuts through an island or a peninsula or a little chunk of land that is otherwise unattached to its mother country.

For example, there is a teeny peninsula in Vancouver where the tip is cut off by the 49th parallel. Which means the cut-off piece below the 49th parallel belongs to the United States. The town is called Point Roberts, Washington, and it has a population just barely above a thousand.

Still, that’s not even the most interesting part. The most interesting part is that they have an elementary school there and that’s it. So kids who want to go to high school have to get on a bus, cross into Canada, drive 25-ish miles around Boundary Bay, cross back into the United States and attend school there.

That’s a lot of effort to learn some incomplete grammar rules.

Number 4. The Netherlands is sinking into the sea. Almost a full third of it is below sea level. But that’s not the interesting part.

In 1986 it christened it’s 12th and most recent province – Flevoland. But that’s not the most interesting part, either. The most interesting part is how they did it.

Not by annexing a piece of another country. Not by splitting up an existing province. But by creating land where there was once ocean. The Dutch have been reclaiming land since the 1400s but most of its success has been accomplished over the last hundred years.

Since it started, it’s added around 2700 square miles of land to the country.

The Netherlands is known for windmills and those little Dutch boys plugging holes in dikes for a reason. They have an astonishing system of dams and canals. From the earliest days of people living on the land, they’ve been building walls against the sea and plunking windmills down along the edges to churn water away from the coastline. Then they’ve been filling up the holes with dirt and planting tulips.

Turns out tulips love the silty clay that comes up from the bottom of the ocean, and Flevoland has the country’s largest expanse of tulip fields.

The amazing thing – if there can be a more amazing thing – is they’ve figured out a way to make all of this absolutely beautiful.

These crazy industrious people made New York what it is, after all, so I suppose this shouldn’t be so surprising. But that’s for another story.

Number 5. The Eiffel Tower is six inches taller in the summer. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s pretty fun when you consider the thing is made of iron and weighs over 10,000 tons. Heat causes the iron to expand, which is what’s responsible for the trick.

So if you really want the best view, visit in July. Just not August, because the entire country shuts down for vacation and you may miss your chance. That is not a fun fact – it is a fact I learned the hard way when my brother Kevin and I went there together.

Number 6. Sloths are cool. There are so many fun facts about sloths that I’d need a whole post. I might have to declare a National Sloth Day.

You probably know them as the slow moving sloths that they are.

But that has its upsides, too, like the fact that they only have to go to the bathroom once per week. That makes it really easy to sleep through the night.

The most fun fact I learned is that they can swim three times faster than they walk, which is still relatively slow if you think about it, but they can hold their breath for as many as 40 minutes underwater. That’s twice as long as a dolphin and much longer than some other ocean mammals. A Beluga can typically only hold its breath for about 20 minutes. Humpback whales a mere ten.

The Guinness Book of World Records has an entry for humans at just under 25 minutes. So the next time someone calls you a sloth, take it as a compliment.

Number 7. The color of a chicken’s ears is the same as the color of the eggs they lay. Which is really a two-parter, because first of all… chickens have ears. It’s not a thing you think about, but there they are. Hens with white ears lay white eggs. Brown ears, brown eggs. Pink ears? You guessed it.

That came straight from a farmer where I sometimes get some very colorful eggs.

Fun facts are fun. I could do this all day but then it would be less fun, so I will leave you to your own rabbit hole now. Speaking of rabbits, if you ever see one jump and do a little sideways hop-twist with a kick of its legs, that’s called a binky. And it’s their version of a happy dance.

Which is exactly what I want to do when I think about all these fun things.

Photo: come on… tell me you don’t see exactly what I do!