I am about to suggest you go visit a clunky, visually sucky, probably unattended website way over in a less traveled region of the internet.
Be warned, you may be gone for some time.
Back in the mid 1980’s at the very time I was supposed to be studying for my nurses registration, a friend gave me a book titled “The Straight Dope”.
It was a collection of works by Cecil Adams (a pseudonymous author), who ran a question-and-answer newspaper column for the Chicago Reader.
Readers would write in with obscure and arcane questions such as:
- What is the origin of the gingerbread man?
- Why do I sneeze after every orgasm?
- Why do pigeons bob their heads?
- Why do songs get stuck in your head?
- Do McDonald’s milkshakes contain seaweed?
There are literally thousands of questions on innumerable topics.
And Cecil would answer with his own indelible mix of scrupulous fact checking, wry humour and wildly engaging narratives.
The Straight Dope carries the tag line: Fighting ignorance since 1973 (it’s taking longer than we thought).
Sometimes a thread would develop with readers opining their own view on the question and Cecil would respond to that.
Once I started reading, I couldnt put the book down. And it completely derailed my study on more than one occasion. I was having enough trouble keeping on track without my meagre supply of neuron connections being crowded out by information on Victorian era doctors using vibrators to treat hysteric female patients with orgasm therapy.
Cecil went on to publish another 4 books of collected questions and then a website where they are all collated. I recommend taking a few moments to dig around and check some of the questions.
Now be warned:
- the website itself is in desperate need of a little spruce up. It feels very dated. In fact the newspaper column and website were placed on hiatus in June this year with no decision made regarding its future.
- if this sort of thing is up your alley, you are about to enter a major time suck.
If you wish to proceed: here is your first random question.