Little Known Facts
aka: Little Known Fact
: Now, Lucy, I know that's wrong. Snow doesn't come up, it comes down. Lucy
: After it comes up the wind blows it around so it looks like it's coming down, but, actually, it comes up out of the ground, like grass. It comes up, Charlie Brown, snow comes up. Charlie Brown
: Oh, good grief— Linus
: Lucy, why is Charlie Brown banging his head against a tree
: To loosen the bark so the tree will grow faster. Come along, Linus.
— You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, "Little Known Facts"
It is often said that truth is stranger than fictionnote
. Little Known Facts are much too strange to be true. These improbable legends may be explained by the Know-Nothing Know-It-All
, The Ditz
or the Cloudcuckoolander
, or just by someone trying to take advantage of the gullibility of some person, usually a child. If any questions are asked, the answers will only compound the absurdity.
For the record, snow comes from up
, not down. That's why you never trust a quack like Lucy Van Pelt.
Compare The Blind Leading the Blind
, Don't Be Ridiculous
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Anime and Manga
- The characters told each other these in Gregory's Girl, and Andy uses it to pick up girls.
Twenty thousand tons of cornflakes pass under this bridge every day. It's a well known fact.
- In Shaun of the Dead, according to the unseen Big Al, dogs can't look up. Obviously you don't believe this because it seems absurd for dogs to have never evolved that capability and Big Al is a fan of copious amounts of marijuana yet it's near impossible to form a sensible argument against. The joke actually came from DVD Commentary for Spaced. Nick Frost genuinely did believe that dogs can't look up.
- Otto apparently did this a lot in A Fish Called Wanda.
Wanda Gershwitz: Let me correct you on a couple of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not "every man for himself". The London Underground is not a political movement. Those are mistakes. I looked 'em up.
Live Action TV
- Cliff Clavin from Cheers is the undisputed king of these. It's a little known fact that "it's a little known fact" was practically his catchphrase. Hell, this page could have been called "Cliff Clavenisms."
- Felix Unger on The Odd Couple was doing this all the time: "The opposite of brown is purple", "Millard Fillmore knew less about opera than any other President- except of course for Rutherford B. Hayes".
- In a variant, Dr. Vincent Nigel-Murray of Bones is full of these, but they're actually true. He eventually gets on Jeopardy! and makes two million dollars. He tends to spew them off more often when he's nervous.
- RE the 'taking advantage of gullibility' thing: on Seinfeld, Jerry told Elaine that the original title for Tolstoy's War and Peace was "War: What Is It Good For?".
- Look Around You was entirely made of this.
- Doug from the redecorating reality show Trading Spaces series did this at least once when they started doing "family" versions of the series involving families with young children. When dealing with fabrics, he asked, with a completely straight face, if the kids had ever seen "a wild nylon".
- The Kids in the Hall had the "It's A Fact" Girl, who would not only relate but demonstrate her Little Known Facts.
- Saturday Night Live
- Deep Thoughts with Jack Handey bounced back and forth between this and simple inane musings.
"If you met two guys on the street named Flippy and Hambone, which one would you think would like dolphins more? You'd guess Flippy, right? Well, you're wrong. It's Hambone."
- A Game Show sketch called "Common Knowledge" where the "correct" answers (that is, the answers the judges were looking for) were this. In the sketch, giving the actual correct answer counted as getting the question wrong (since "correct" was defined as "whatever a majority of high school seniors thought was the right answer"). This allowed a teenaged stoner to beat former UN Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick at the game.
- David Letterman's "Fun Facts" sketches, which were made into a book. Examples include "Match Game host Gene Rayburn's tombstone reads, 'Loving father, husband and ____.'," "Prior to 1936, elevators only went up, not down," and "For $25, New York will name a pothole after you."
- QI exists to debunk these. This didn't stop Rich Hall suggesting that the show should just use Little Known Facts, since people would believe them.
- Mason from Dead Like Me is a total sucker for these. Did you know that when you put money in a parking meter, it goes down to pipes under the sidewalk? It's just as well, because when he's told the money stays in the meters, he goes around breaking them open with a baseball bat. He actually died of his gullibility.
- The "Rock Facts" that the hosts of The Sifl and Olly Show presented; examples here. (The actual on-screen text would debunk these, however.)
- There's also Deuce Loosely, a one-off character who annoys Sifl And Olly with little known facts about pandas ("Like the shark, the panda has millions of teeth which it uses like a hacksaw to cut through bone, candy, and fences. The Chinese believe that if you find a discarded panda tooth, you have the power to summon Godzilla.")
- During the final round of Talkin' 'bout Your Generation, the host Shaun prepares some "interesting" "facts" to share with the teams, claiming to source all of his information from Wikipedia.
Shaun: "Cheaper [paint]brush hair is sometimes called "camel hair", although it doesn't come from camels. Apparently, it comes from tourists in India who are shaved against their will."
- Top Gear: Some say this trope comes up during The Stig's introductions.
- In Community episode "Introduction to Statistics", Jeff's first pick up line aimed at Slater consists of an intentionally erroneous one of these.
- The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have used these on Twitter to make fun of dubious statements by political figures. After Senator Jon Kyl said his claim that abortions constitutes well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does was "not intended to be a factual statement," Stephen Colbert created the hashtag #notintendedtobeafactualstatement for this trope. After Sarah Palin got Paul Revere's story wrong, The Daily Show created the hashtag #accordingtopalin for intentionally erroneous historical facts. After Herman Cain said "I donít have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration." The Daily Show created the hashtag #idonthavefactstobackthisup for this trope.
- In one episode of Big Wolf on Campus, Merton is assigned to help Dumb Muscle Tim and Travis with a presentation on evolution. Realizing that there's no way to get them to actually understand the concept, he just feeds them a lot of lies (for example, that humanity evolved from meatloaf) and planned on giving most of the presentation himself. Unfortunately, he was off fighting the Monster of the Week at the time of the presentation, so the two gave a talk on all the stuff he'd been telling them.
- Games Magazine used to run articles of Little Known Facts, with items like "David Letterman is a member of a club that only admits people named Michael" and "because cat litter is made of clay, workers in cat litter factories are legally considered miners and must wear mining helmets at work." The reader was expected to determine which facts were true and which were not. Ironically, many readers simply read the articles uncritically, or learned the "facts" but forgot they had come from a puzzle.
- Calvin's dad was notorious for these in Calvin and Hobbes. Thanks to him, Calvin learns about the world only turning color in the 1930s (and pretty grainy color for a while, too), the sun setting every night in Flagstaff, Arizona (Hold up a quarter, the sun's about the same size), wind being caused by trees sneezing (not really, but the real answer is much more complicated), and babies being bought at Sears, as a kit (Calvin was a Blue Light Special from K-Mart, however. "Much cheaper, and almost as good"). Calvin's mom is usually around to correct things, though.
Calvin: How do they know the load limit on bridges, Dad?
Dad: They drive bigger and bigger trucks over the bridge until it breaks. Then they weigh the last truck and rebuild the bridge.
Calvin: Oh, I should've guessed.
Mum: Dear, if you don't know the answer, just tell him!
- What makes this even funnier is that Calvin's dad works as a patent lawyer, a job which requires a good deal of knowledge of technology and science, and as such could explain these things to Calvin if he really wanted to. Not to mention the fact that Calvin is likely to understand it. He won't tell you how a carburetor works, though. It's a secret.
- Note that there's one instance in an early comic where Calvin's dad states plainly he doesn't know the answer to some of Calvin's questions and they should probably try to look it up. Calvin's response: "I take it there's no qualifying exam to be a dad."
- Infrequently, he would attempt to educate Calvin with little success. When Calvin was playing in the sprinkler, he praised him for raising his heart rate, which took all the fun out of it. When he was listening to a record player, he explained how parts on the outside had a faster speed even though it had the same RPM; in the last panel Calvin is sitting up in bed trying desperately to wrap his mind around the concept.
- Early strips (1955-1965, say) use Lucy telling these to Linus as a running joke, although those strips are rarely reprinted these days. An odd example given that Lucy actually believed these "facts" herself and it was Charlie Brown who had to try and protest them. An example is that leaves are actually flying south for the winter when they fall (because south is down on a map).
- Before she started telling Linus these things, she would tell them to Charlie Brown and completely ignore his protestations otherwise, including the "snow comes up" idea.
- At one point, Lucy's extended misunderstanding of trees, up to and including claiming telegraph poles were a special type of tree developed for the phone companies, gave Charlie Brown a sore stomach. When she got up to leaves jumping off trees in autumn to escape the squirrels, even Linus could endure no more and developed a stomachache of his own.
- Linus believes in the Great Pumpkin even though he made it up himself.
- Bucky from Get Fuzzy, usually to Satchel.
- Bob & Ray characters such as "Mr. Science" often came up with these.
- Likewise, "Dr. Science" from Ducks Breath Mystery Theatre and NPR, although he tends to be more interactive, with listeners writing in with questions designed to prompt a spew of twisted factoids.
- The Unbelievable Truth is about this trope. The object of the game is to hide five actual facts within a list of those that are, of course, Little Known.
- George Carlin regularly sprinkled supposed "truefax" lists in his comedy routines. One of the more memorable ones is the "It's No Bullshit" segment on Carlin On Campus, parodying Ripley's Believe It or Not!.
- One stand-up lamented how some accents lend themselves to this; someone with a thick British accent could convince you that cocoa comes from a coconut just be being insistent enough, and conversely nuclear technicians with certain Southern accents...
- The Fact Sphere in Portal 2 exists solely to spit these out, including such gems as:
did not exist. His plays were masterminded in 1589 by Francis Bacon, who used a ouija board to enslave play-writing ghosts.
Edmund Hillary, the first person to climb Mount Everest, did so accidentally while chasing a bird.
Pants were invented by sailors of the sixteenth century to avoid Poseidonís wrath. It was believed that the sight of naked sailors angered the sea god.
At some point in their lives, one in six children will be abducted by the Dutch.
- He does get some facts right, though. For example, his "fact" regarding the melting point of tungsten is accurate to within a dozen degrees or so.
- Then there are "facts" made up solely to insult the other personality spheres ("The Adventure Sphere is a blowhard and a coward") and even Chell herself ("You could stand to lose a few pounds"), and other "facts" that are merely self-praise ("The Fact Sphere is a good person, whose insights are relevant") or nonsense ("Error, error, error, fact not found").
- The "Red Freak Facts" on some screens in the Flash horror platformer The Bright in the Screen.
- Jim in Darths & Droids has a knack for quickly making up (hilariously wrong) definitions for odd words the GM uses. The most enduring is saying that "Jedi" is a kind of cheese, which may be the result of mishearing it as "cheddar;" he still calls the Jedi "Cheddar monks."
- One of the author comments on a later strip explains that a recent joke was not, in fact, in whatever cipher or language that everyone seemed to think it was in; but, Jedi was in fact "Ceda" in said language/cipher. They suggest that perhaps Jim was onto something there.
- Sir Miur in Harkovast is either using these, or just a Cloudcuckoolander.
- This was a Running Gag in The Parking Lot Is Full, and even ended the comic itself:
- This xkcd guest comic features "the Smithsonian Museum of Dad-Trolling, an entire building dedicated to deceiving children for amusement", with exhibits such as the Hall of Misunderstood Science ("DNA only has four letters because the alphabet was smaller back then") and the Conservatory of Poorly-Remembered History ("Ghengis Khan: Victory Through Dragons").
- Animaniacs with its Useless Facts segment.
- The first season of Planet Sketch had a series of sketches that revolved around a father telling these to his son, and usually ended with the son fleeing the room in panic.
- South Park:
- Little Known Facts pretty much made up the curriculum of Mr Garrison's class.
- Cartman is fond of spewing these about ginger kids, Jews, and everyone else.
- This was the whole point of the "Ask Dr. Stupid" segments on The Ren & Stimpy Show. The first one explained why kids go to school: "Your parents are aliens, and while you're at school, they shed their human skins and breathe dryer lint!" Another said that camel humps are where gasoline comes from (one hump for regular, two for premium and unleaded). Even Stimpy himself didn't buy that one.
- This happened on a regular basis on King of the Hill, and not just from Dale Gribble: pretty much every regular character had engaged in one of these in the series run. In one episode, this is partially averted when an oncologist tells Bobby that there's some ridiculous amount of intestine in a person, something like several thousand miles, to which Hank replies in common sense fashion that if that were true, a steak would have to shoot through a person at the speed of sound in order to make it out of someone by the next day.
- On Garfield and Friends, Garfield starred in a skit called "It Must Be True" featuring several of these. Among them, Wyoming doesn't actually exist: Amerigo Vespucci had extra space left over when drawing the map of America, so his cat gave him the idea to name the blank space Wyoming, which is Italian for "no state here" (as proof: have you ever met anyone from Wyoming? Of course not). The episode ends with Garfield claiming that dogs have no brains, then discovering that his entire audience is made of dogs, who proceed to clobber him for that one. (Before this, he discovers his cue cards are loaded with dog jokes, and has to throw the lot of them out to avoid getting killed - the "dogs have no brains" one is the one he missed.)
- In SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star comes up with loads of these, usually in The Blind Leading the Blind situations with Spongebob. They both believe them. Subverted in their knowledge of seabears. Every single camping tip they stated turned out 100% factual.
- In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Bloo makes up a lot of stuff and believes all of it. Just one example is his idea of what "the European language" is.
- In one episode of Cow and Chicken, Chicken comes out with a bunch of these when he's convinced that he's a genius just because he put on glasses, claiming things like that the Spleen are war-like aliens from the Beta-Carotene system, and that Poopy the Clown was the first man in space.
- One episode of Arthur has DW starting a neighborhood science class where she teaches blatantly wrong facts, such as that H2O stands for "Hose + Oxygen", hence why water comes out of the hose. Arthur gets so fed up with it that he takes her to the science museum to teach her the proper facts, where she reveals she had been getting them deliberately wrong so Arthur would take her to the museum, when previously he claimed he never would.
- In real life, where things don't always have a dramatic purpose, little known facts are used to kill time, or fill unsold ad space, or otherwise apologize for having nothing to say. How many ways have you heard that it's impossible to kiss your elbow, or that glass is really a liquid, or other such anti-wisdom? These "facts" are often equally useless whether they're true or false, and the only good that ever comes of it is the occasional MythBusters or QI episode.
- Nor do the Eskimos have over nine thousand words for snow. Or even many more than English's "slush", "sleet", "blizzard", "powder", and so on. They really only have two: Snow on the ground, and snow in the air. Everything else comes from combining these with other words.
- Or adding adjectives. Of course the Inuits have a language whose sentences are basically really long words, so technically you can have near-infinite numbers of "words" for snow, the same way you can have near-infinite number of sentences about snow in English, but the same applies to any given concept in existence.
- They do, however, have 234 words for fudge.
- "Observe the snow. It fornicates." -- Cecil Adams
- The notion that a goldfish has a memory of only a few seconds is false. Actually, goldfish have fairly good memory for fish. Also, Jamie Hyneman is excellent at training them to remember obstacle courses.
- The Other Wiki has an entire page of common misconceptions.
- During the 1980s trivia craze, many giant books of "facts" and "trivia" were published aimed at inquisitive children. Some of the information within them was true; some of it was genuinely believed true at the time; some of it consisted of already-debunked urban legends; and a great deal of it was this.