12 Things You'll Learn from Our Newest Book

Is budgeting your holiday spending a tricky proposition? Look no further. We've collected more than 2,000 questions from the early mental_floss archives to bring you mental_floss Trivia: Brisk, Refreshing Facts Without the Ice Cream Headache. The reader-friendly layout gives you the answers on the spread immediately following the questions - no annoying flipping-to-the-back-of-the-book to get your score. At more than 850 pages, you'll enjoy hours of reading and sharing pleasure!

To celebrate 12/12/12, here are a dozen of our favorite facts culled from questions in the book:

  • A baseball pitch that has been hit for a home run is called a "gopher pitch."
  • Dave Barry was in a high-school rock band called Federal Duck.
  • The word "jaguar" is Guarani for "dog."
  • Of all the spirits in Pandora's Box, only "hope" remained.
  • There are 16 Chance and 16 Community Chest cards in a standard Monopoly game.
  • Per his own wishes, the corneas of executed murderer Gary Gilmore were transplanted to 2 recipients.
  • Lady Macbeth's first name was Gruoch.
  • Rick Derringer was only 16 years old when he co-wrote and played guitar on the McCoys' #1 hit "Hang On Sloopy."
  • The navicular bone in the wrist is the most commonly-fractured bone in the human body.
  • James Earl Carter is the only U.S. president who took the oath of office using a nickname - "Jimmy."
  • The pecan tree is the only major nut-bearing tree native to North America.
  • The first consumer products made from celluloid plastic were hair combs.

Try one of our best book values: mental_floss Trivia, by Sandy Wood & Kara Kovalchik, direct from the mental_floss store. And have a great 12th!

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.


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