From English Lit to Western Civ, from the Pythagorean Theorem to electrons, here’s a fun collection of “stuff” you forgot from school, found in witty, bite-sized chunks. You’ll soon recall all of the important facts that you learned, including theories, equations, phrases, and rules you were taught years ago.
- Figures of Speech (and other devices for spicing up your writing): Expressions used in a nonliteral way, such as when you say, “My lips are sealed, ” but you haven’t put glue over them. Includes hyperbole, which is exaggeration for effect, as in “I’ve told you a hundred times. ”
- Notable British Authors: From William Blake and William Golding to George Orwell and Virginia Woolf, relearn which authors wrote the most notable poems and tomes. You’ll also find fun facts about each author, including that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle started writing fiction when his medical practice slowed and Jonathan Swift wrote his own obituary.
- International Authors: Homer’s not just the name of a character on The Simpsons. This 9th century Greek writer penned the great epics the Iliad and the Odyssey.
- Arithmetic: With division you divide a divisor into a dividend and the answer is a quotient. If there is anything left over, it is called a remainder. So 15 divided by 2 gives a quotient of 7 with a remainder of 1.
- Biology: The term biology comes from the Greek, meaning study of life; therefore, this field of learning concerns plants and animals and how the human body works. Give your central nervous system something to ponder, such as how a plant is structured or which elements make up the periodic table.
- Explorers: A quick rundown of people who discovered some of the regions of the world, like Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512, Italian), who discovered the mouth of the Amazon and the River Plate, which made him important enough to have a continent or two named after him.
- Geography: Read this section, and you won’t be able to deny that the Nile is a river in Egypt, or that Russia has five of the longest rivers in the world.
Sure to touch a chord with anyone old enough to have forgotten half of what they learned at school, here is a perfect gift for every perennial student. Make this a permanent fixture on your eReader, and you’ll have instant access to searchable knowledge. Whether you need homework help or want to win that trivia game, this series is the trusted source for fun facts.
“If the questions all ring a bell, but answers don’t immediately leap to mind, you might want to browse through I Used to Know That—you’ll probably improve your game of Trivial Pursuit in the process. ” —Bookloons (Blog)
“This is an entertaining book for those interested in trivia . . . Good for quizzing school-aged children or to just remember facts that haven’t been needed for a few years. ” —Book Visions (Blog)
Test Your Knowledge with a Quiz from I Used to Know That
Need a little diversion from your usual evening entertainment? Hard as it may be to believe, there may come a time when Playstation isn't as engrossing as it used to be, there's nothing anyone wants to watch on TV, and it looks as if the evening is going to degenerate into yet another argument about whose turn it is to stack the dishwasher. At times like this, a little intellectual conversation and some interesting trivia may be just what you need.
To get started, here’ s a quick quiz to see how much your family knows about the former U.S. presidents. ( All the answers are at the end of this article. )
Who was so notoriously taciturn that when he died, the author and wit, Dorothy Parker asked, “ How do they know? ”
President Obama recently became the third U.S. president to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Who were the other two? ( A hint: one was in office immediately after the other. )
Who is known for the expression “ The buck stops here? ”
Who popularized the doctrine ( which bears his name ) that the European powers could no longer colonize or interfere with the American continents?
Who was the only president not to have been elected, even as vice president?
Or you can impress your companions with your knowledge of literature and the arts. Try dropping some of these facts into your conversation, perhaps with the opening line, “ I was reading a really interesting book the other day. Did you know? ”
- that Joseph Heller, who wrote Catch-22, once worked as a blacksmith's apprentice?
- that even if you hate the novel Moby Dick, you will come out of it knowing how to tie several different knots?
- that Samuel Clemens took his pen name, Mark Twain, from a term that means a river was safe to navigate?
- that the novelist Edith Wharton was born Edith Newbold Jones, and that her father’ s family was Joneses that everyone was trying to “ keep up with?"
- that Salvador Dali the famous moustachioed and eccentric artist designed the dream sequence in the Alfred Hitchcock movie, Spellbound?
- that the Austrian composer (Franz’ Joseph Haydn, credited with the development of the classical symphony, wrote 104 of them? He lived to be nearly 80, but even so, he must have produced a symphony about every six months throughout his adult life.
- that when Gustav Holst wrote his Planets suite, Pluto hadn’ t been discovered which is just as well, considering Pluto has been demoted and is no longer a full-scale planet.
If you feel that your crowd prefers science or math, you could try the “ who invented what? ” game: match the scientists in the left-hand column with the inventions and discoveries on the right. ( Again, the answers are at the end of the article. )
1 ) Pythagoras a ) the theory of relativity
2 ) Sir Isaac Newton b ) the Periodic Table of Elements
3 ) Dmitri Mendeleev c ) a theorem about the angles of a triangle
4 ) Albert Einstein d ) the double helix structure of DNA
5 ) James Watson & Francis Crick e ) the laws of motion
Not bored yet? OK, let's end on a patriotic note. Which famous Americans were born on:
New Year's Day: an early needlewoman, born 1752
4 & 5 July: two 19th-century entertainers they were partners, but one was 37 years older than the other
Veterans Day ( 11 November ): appropriately a military figure, born 1885
Christmas Day ( 25 December ): a cartoonist of incredible talent, born 1893
And yes, sure, we can stop: it must be time for bed now.
Answers to Presidents' quiz: Calvin Coolidge; Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson; Harry Truman; James Monroe; Gerald Ford
Answers to "Scientists” quiz: 1c; 2e; 3b; 4a; 5d
Answers to "Birthdays” quiz: Betsy Ross, the seamstress who made the first "Stars and Stripes” flag; the circus pioneers P. T. Barnum ( born 5 July 1810 ) and James A. Bailey ( 4 July 1847 ); General George S Patton; Robert L. Ripley, creator of "Ripley's Believe It or Not”
Some of the information in this article and much more can be found in I Used to Know That by Caroline Taggart, published by Reader’ s Digest.
Caroline Taggart has been an editor of nonfiction books for nearly 30 years. She is the author of several books, including I Used to Know That. Taggart lives in London.