Back in the good old days of my misspent youth (When I became well known for asking President Lincoln’s wife, “Other than that, Ma’am, how was the opera?”) newspapers printed what were called “fillers.” Those were tiny one-liners that came in handy for linotype operators when they had to fill empty spaces.
Most fillers moved on the wires of news services and were stored away by guys like me so they could be rewritten a dozen or more times. Here’s an example:
“The phrase ‘rule of thumb’ came from an old English law which said a husband couldn’t beat his wife with anything wider than his thumb.”
So today I’m opening up my half-vast storehouse of factual fillers in the hope you will help me celebrate the wonderful world of prize-winning journalism. It’s time we filler writers got our just rewards.
Here are a few for your own files in case you want to join the crusade. (The parentheses are my own.)
l Astronauts are not allowed to eat beans before space flights, because the resulting gas in a space suit damages them. (The suits, not the astronauts.)
l The original name for the butterfly was the “flutterby.”
l A rose may be red, white, pink, or even green, but a violet is always violet.
l Charlie Chaplin once entered a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest and captured third prize.
l Because metal was scarce during World War II, movie awards called “Oscars” were made of wood. (“And now, the band saw, please.”)
l A duck’s quack will not echo, but no one knows why. (Or cares.)
l The dot over the letter “i” is called a “tittle.” (A little tittle goes a long way.)
l The first bomb dropped by an allied plane over Berlin killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.
l The first product Motorola developed was a record player for automobiles, thus the name of their company.
l You won’t sink in quicksand if you raise your legs slowly and lie on your back. (Volunteers needed.)
l Chewing gum while peeling onions will prevent crying. (Here too.)
l The Guinness Book of Records is the most often stolen book from public libraries.
l The word “Thesaurus” doesn’t have a synonym.
l Bats always turn left when exiting a cave.
l Drop a raisin in a glass of fresh champagne, and it will bounce up and down continuously from the bottom of the glass to the top. (Drop a glass of champagne, and it will make a mess.)
l A female ferret will die if it can’t find a mate.
l Rats last longer without water than camels.
l During the chariot scene in the movie “Ben Hur,” a red car can be seen in the distance.
l Donald Duck comics were banned in Finland, because he didn’t wear pants.
l If you place a tiny bit of liquor on a scorpion, it will sting itself to death. (The ultimate prohibition.)
l It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it.
l In all the Sherlock Holmes stories, he never once said, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
l In Bellingham, Wash., an old law made it illegal for a woman to take more than three steps backward while dancing. (But nobody knows why.)
l Our stomachs have to produce new layers of mucus every two weeks or they will digest themselves. (I know you’re happy to hear that.)
l The glue on Israeli postage stamps is certified kosher.
l The name “Wendy” was never recorded before it first appeared in the book “Peter Pan.”
l There are no words that rhyme with orange, purple, or silver.
l In America, a dozen newborns will be given to the wrong parents daily.
l A 2 X 4 isn’t really two inches by four inches. It’s 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches.
l Bruce Lee’s moves were so fast the film had to be slowed to see them.
l Be careful what you read. You could die of a typo.
Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales.