This true-or-false quiz is designed to provide entertainment around the Christmas table. The answers are in the second and third columns, so you might want to cover them up. Anyone wishing to settle an argument, or check sources, should go to secondsightblog.net.
1 Humans share about 50 per cent of their DNA with bananas.
2 “Get thee to a nunnery.” Hamlet thought that only life in a convent could save Ophelia.
3 The Battle of Bunker Hill was a great victory for the American Revolution.
4 The minutes of a meeting are so called because the notes are written small – to be transcribed later.
5 Emerson wrote: “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
6 Eating ice cream makes you hotter rather than cooler.
7 Epicurus championed the value of the quiet mind.
8 The Pacific islands of Pago Pago are correctly pronounced Pango Pango, because their discoverers wanted a more musical name.
9 Iran is the old name for Persia.
10 A miniature painting is a small portrait.
11 Human nature continues to evolve with modern man.
12 Constantinople was renamed, in the Turkish language, as Istanbul.
13 A Jesuit moral theologian taught that if invited to a duel one might lawfully kill one’s opponent by stealth to avoid the sin of duelling.
14 The tulip originated in the Netherlands.
15 A lie detector cannot detect lies.
16 Our penances reduce our time in purgatory.
17 The Jerusalem artichoke is a popular vegetable from Israel.
18 Galileo did not drop objects from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to demonstrate gravity.
19 Tobacco was first brought to Europe by Sir Walter Raleigh.
20 The first temptation was the apple offered to Eve.
21 The first aeroplane was powered by a steam engine.
22 Marie Antoinette, faced by the hunger of the poor, said: “Let them eat cake.”
23 Catgut is not made from cats’ guts.
24 Thomas Aquinas taught that women were conceived as a result of a defect, possibly as a result of a south wind at the time.
25 If you are varnished from head to toe, you will be smothered because you cannot breathe through your skin.
26 You will enrage a bull better with a green flag than a red flag.
27 In the story, Noah’s Ark ended up on Mount Ararat.
28 Sherlock Holmes never said “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
29 The first Quakers were Muslims.
30 A Pelagian is a heretic. A semi-Pelagian is a very small heretic.
2 False. In Elizabethan slang ‘‘nunnery’’ meant ‘‘brothel’’.
3 False. It took place on Breed’s Hill, and the Revolutionaries lost.
4 True. It comes from the Latin minutus (small) – not because they record minute-by-minute proceedings.
5 False. What he wrote was “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” That’s different.
6 True. Ice cream is loaded with calories, and that makes you hotter.
7 True. The claim that Epicurus was a hedonist is a slander. He taught an untroubled, contented mind as the key to happiness.
8 True and false. They are correctly so pronounced. But the explanation is that the settlers did not have enough lower case ‘n’s in their font, so they had to be omitted in print.
9 True. The Greeks called it Persia, the Iranians chose to use its true name.
10 False. It may of course be small and a portrait, but the name comes from miniare – to colour with red lead. Originally used for illustrating manuscripts.
11 True. For example, Inuits are stubby to cope with the cold, and Maasai are tall to cope with the heat.
12 False. Istanbul is a contraction of a Greek phrase: eis ten pólin (to the city).
13 True. Thomas Sanchez SJ, 16th century, approved this view.
14 False. Tulips come from central Asia, and were first introduced into Europe by an ambassador to the Turkish court.
15 True. It can only detect stress-related signs which may be associated with lying.
16 False. There is no time in purgatory, nor is purgatory a place.
17 False. It is not an artichoke and it does not originate from Jerusalem. It is a sunflower, for which the Italian word is girasole
18 True. Or, if not true, he never mentioned it – nor did anyone else until years later.
19 False. It was introduced, as medicine, by the Spanish physician Francisco Fernandez in 1558. It became popular in the Elizabethan court some 30 years later.
20 False. No mention is made of an apple.
21 True. The first successful aeroplane flew in 1896. It was steam-powered and had no passenger.
22 False. Although popularly ascribed to her, the incident was first recorded 15 years before she was born.
23 True. Commonly, the intestines of sheep are used.
25 False. The skin only takes in negligible oxygen.
26 False. All cattle, including bulls, are red/green colour-blind. Both colours are monochrome to them.
27 False. It ended up on the mountains of Ararat. No single mountain is mentioned.
28 True. The phrase is not found in Conan Doyle’s stories and novels.
29 True. A Muslim sect called Quakers were seen to “swell, shiver and shake” in Southwark in 1647 (not the Society of Friends).
30 Happy Christmas!
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