The Book Of General Ignorance By John Mitchinson, John Lloyd
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Think Magellan was the first man to circumnavigate the globe, baseball was invented in America, Henry VIII had six wives, Mount Everest is the tallest mountain? Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong again.
Misconceptions, misunderstandings, and flawed facts finally get the heave-ho in this humorous, downright humiliating book of reeducation based on the phenomenal British bestseller. Challenging what most of us assume to be verifiable truths in areas like history, literature, science, nature, and more,
The Book of General Ignorance is a witty "gotcha" compendium of how little we actually know about anything. It'll have you scratching your head wondering why we even bother to go to school.
Revealing the truth behind all the things we think we know but don't, this book leaves you dumbfounded about all the misinformation you've managed to collect during your life, and sets you up to win big should you ever be a contestant on Jeopardy! or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
Besides righting the record on common (but wrong) myths like Captain Cook discovering Australia or Alexander Graham Bell inventing the telephone, The Book of General Ignorance also gives us the skinny on silly slipups to trot out at dinner parties (Cinderella wore fur, not glass, slippers and chicken tikka masala was invented in Scotland, not India).
Thomas Edison said that we know less than one millionth of one percent about anything: this book makes us wonder if we know even that much.
You'll be surprised at how much you don't know! Check out THE BOOK OF GENERAL IGNORANCE for more fun entries and complete answers to the following:
How long can a chicken live without its head?
About two years.
What do chameleons do?
They don't change color to match the background. Never have; never will. Complete myth. Utter fabrication. Total Lie. They change color as a result of different emotional states.
Who invented champagne?
Not the French.
How many legs does a centipede have?
Not a hundred.
How many toes has a two-toed sloth?
It's either six or eight.
How many penises does a European earwig have?
b)None at all
c)Two (one for special occasions)
d)Mind your own business
Which animals are the best-endowed of all?
Barnacles. These unassuming modest beasts have the longest penis relative to their size of any creature. They can be seven times longer than their body.
What is a rhino's horn made from?
A rhinoceros horn is not, as some people think, made out of hair.
Who was the first American president?
What were George Washington's false teeth made from?
What was James Bond's favorite drink?
Not the vodka martini.
- Amazon Sales Rank: #30935 in Books
- Published on: 2007-08-07
- Released on: 2007-08-07
- Format: Deckle Edge
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Dimensions: 8.54" h x 1.10" w x 5.94" l, .94 pounds
- Binding: Hardcover
- 288 pages
From Publishers Weekly
If you think you're a trivia expert, British TV men Lloyd (producer of the hit comedy shows Spitting Image and Black Adder) and Mitchinson (writer for Quite Interesting) may disabuse you of the notion that you're a true scholar of random facts-and quickly. Their surprisingly lengthy tome is jam-packed with real answers to a number of less-than-burning questions-camels store fat, not water, in their humps; only five out of every 100,000 paper clips are used to clip papers; the first American president was in fact Peyton Randolph-that you nevertheless may be embarrassed to have completely wrong. Although some of the entries rely on technicality more than actual excavation of obscure fact (Honolulu is technically the world's largest city, despite the fact that 72% of its 2,127 square miles is underwater), these page-length entries prove entertaining and informative, perfect for trivia buffs and know-it-alls; it also makes a fine coffee table conversation piece and a handy resource for prepping clever cocktail party banter.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Trivia buffs and know-it-alls alike will exult to find so much repeatable wisdom gathered in one place."
—New York Times
"The Book of General Ignorance won't make you feel dumb. It's really a call to be more curious."
—The Associated Press
"Ignorance may be bliss, but so is learning surprising information."
"You, too, can banish social awdwardness by having its endless count of facts and factoids at the ready. Or you could just read it and keep what you learned to yourself. Betcha can't."
—New York Daily News
"To impress friends with your cleverness, beg, borrow or buy John Lloyd and John Mitchinson's The Book of General Ignorance, an extraordinary collection of 230 common misperceptions compiled for the BBC panel game QI (Quite Interesting)."
"This book would make even Edison feel small and silly, for it offers answers to questions you never thought to ask or had no need of asking as you already knew, or thought you knew, the answer."
"Trivia books, like any kind of mental or physical addiction, are both irresistible and unsatisfying. By the standards of the genre, this one has something approaching the force of revelation. Answering silly questions suddenly seems less important than taking the trouble to ask a few."
"Eye-watering, eyebrow-raising, terrific . . . moving slightly faster than your brain does, so that you haven't quite absorbed the full import of one blissful item of trivial information before two or three more come along. Such fine and creative research genuinely deserves to be captured in print."
"This UK bestseller redefines 'common knowledge' with factoids that will inform and entertain (or at least liven up your next cocktail party)."
About the Author
JOHN LLOYD is the producer of the hit British comedy shows Not the Nine O'Clock News, Blackadder, and Spitting Image.
JOHN MITCHINSON writes for the British television show QI, and drinks in the same pub as John Lloyd.
Most helpful customer reviews
206 of 214 people found the following review helpful.
I guess I thought I knew more than I did...
By R Schmidt
"This book is for the people who know they don't know very much." This comment, in the introduction of The Book of General Ignorance, sets the stage and presents the authors' challenge. I started reading it with a "Who do they think they are fooling" attitude.
They made me a convert. This book only gets more interesting as you continue reading it.
Some of the knowledge nuggets aren't big secrets, and in fact read as "trick questions," like "What is the tallest mountain in the world?" The trick is, "tallest," not "highest." Got it? Mauna Kea in Hawaii, not Mt. Everest.
Then, what is the most dangerous animal that has ever lived? Answer? A mosquito, responsible, the authors say, for the deaths of about 45 billion humans. Of course (and they know this), one mosquito isn't responsible for these deaths, there are many species of mosquitos, and mosquitos really don't (directly) kill anybody.
Trick question again.
Then there were the questions that didn't hold any surprise at all: "What is the main ingredient of air?" Answer: nitrogen.
But it got more interesting. What man-made objects are visible from the moon? None. Many are visible from "space" (a mere 60 miles above the surface of the Earth), but the moon is too far away. What is the biggest thing that a blue whale can swallow? What are violin strings made of?
There are so many questions answered, that there is something here for everybody.
This is better than Trivial Pursuit, because of the explanations given. This should be an entertaining book on CD to listen to on a long trip, and can easily be turned into a game for adults and kids.
So I started reading it with a chip on my shoulder, and the authors made me a believer. Interesting, indeed. The book just kept getting better.
And my favorite factoid? What is the longest animal alive today?
Hint... it is not a blue whale.
73 of 75 people found the following review helpful.
You may be more ignorant than you know . . . but don't worry, so is everyone else.
By S. Falk
At last, the American release of what is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating books you could ever hope to delve into! Whereas most trivia books contain "facts" of dubious origin and little consequence, it's clear that the authors of this book have gone through great pains to dig out and verify the most interesting tidbits from the realms of history, nature, science, and culture. Let's go for a few examples (edited heavily for space; the book is far more detailed).
Q: How many words do Eskimos have for snow?
A: Actually, no more than four. Although it's often said that Eskimos have dozens or even hundreds of words for snow, there are at most only four root-words for it, and that's drawing from all Eskimo languages. (They do, however, have more than thirty words for demonstrative pronouns, where speakers of English only have four.)
Q: Who invented the telephone?
A: Contrary to what you've been taught, it was not the famous A. Graham Bell! Credit goes to Antonio Meucci, a brilliant but ailing Italian inventor, whose patent fell into the hands of Bell, a young Scottish engineer. Meucci died before his case against Bell could come to fruition.
There are hundreds of more questions to the end of fascinating and delighting the reader. However much you think you know, there will be mountains of information in here to surprise you--and that's quite the point. In the words of co-writer John Lloyd, "This book is for the people who know they don't know very much." As the authors hope you will come to understand, one's best hope in life is to recognize that one is generally ignorant, for it is simply impossible to know any but a sliver of the wealth of knowledge contained in and about the world. By admitting this, one is then motivated to ask questions that matter, for everything can be interesting when looked at in the right way . . . it's just that most people fail to look.
But it goes further than that. "The Book of General Ignorance" is just one piece of a cultural phenomenon that has its roots in Britain. It was originally written as a textual accompaniment to the hugely-popular television show "QI", which operates under the philosophy that curiosity--for its own sake--is worthwhile. The show is unlike anything broadcast on American screens, featuring panelists who try desperately to claw their way to the answers to questions they are posed (questions not unlike those appearing in the book). While they're rarely correct from the off, it's the mere delight in discovering the truth that ends up being, unfailingly, uproariously funny. The show's a joyful celebration of the fact that questioning the world around us need not be an impenetrably erudite or boring endeavor. [...]
In the meantime, pick up this book, and once you've been thoroughly impressed, buy it for your friends as well. It'd make a lovely gift for birthdays and the holiday season, assured to please scholar and dilettante alike. Recommended with cherries on top.
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful.
Very fun trivia book!
By Tim F. Martin
_The Book of General Ignorance_ by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson is a remarkably fun book to read, essentially a collection of questions followed by an essay answer for each one, not organized really into any significant way (though questions dealing with the same subject might follow one another).
This book would be fun for any lovers of trivia and deal often with questions that people think they might know the answer to but really don't. What's the tallest mountain in the world? Think you know right, Mount Everest, at 29,029 feet? Nope, it is Mauna Kea. Though it is a modest 13,799 above sea level, measured from its seabed base to its summit, it is a whopping 33,465 feet in height, almost three-quarters of a mile higher than Mount Everest. What's the driest place in the world? The Sahara right? It is dry alright, getting just one inch of rain a year but it is the third driest place on Earth. The driest in fact is Antarctica, as some areas of the continent have not seen rain for two million years. The second driest is the Atacama Desert in Chile, which averages 0.004 inch of rain a year, and some areas have not seen rain for four hundred years. You have been told that Eskimo is a rude term right, that the preferred term now is Inuit? True, Inuit is the preferred term in Canada, but Alaskan Eskimos are perfectly happy with the name as they "are emphatically not Inuit, a people who live mainly in northern Canada and parts of Greenland." In fact there are many types of Eskimo, of which the Inuit are just one type (the others include the Kalaallit of Greenland and the Yupiget and the Alutiit of Alaska). Think the first turkeys eaten by English-speaking peoples were the Pilgrims? Nope, Turkeys first reached Europe in the 1520s, brought from their native Mexico by Spain and sold throughout Europe by Turkish merchants, by 1585 becoming a Christmas tradition in England. Perhaps you have heard that chop suey is actually an American dish. Not so, according to this book, it is a local dish of southern Canton, where it is called tsap seui, which means "miscellaneous scraps" in Cantonese, brought over by early Chinese immigrants to California. How many states of matter? Three right, solid, liquid, and gas? Nope, more like fifteen, as the list includes such states as plasma, superfluid, degenerate matter, fermionic condensate, Bose-Einstein condensate, and strange matter.
Others questions and answers deal with just plain odd things that I didn't know. Croatia for instance gave the world the necktie, as Hravat is the Croation word for "Croat" and where the word cravat comes from. In the 17th century, Louis XIII of France kept a regiment of Croatian mercenaries during the Thirty Years War who as part of their uniform wore a wide, brightly colored neck cloth by which they became known, a style that was later much copied in Paris. St. Bernard dogs have never, ever carried barrels of brandy around their neck; the myth comes from an 1831 painting by a young English artist named Sir Edwin Landseer, who in his work _Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler_ painted two St. Bernards, one with a miniature brandy barrel around its neck which he added "for interest." _Ursus arctos_ is not the scientific name for the polar bear, it is the name for the brown bear, as ursus is Latin for bear and arctos is Greek for bear. The Arctic, interestingly enough, is named after the bear, not the other way around, as it is "the region of the bear."
I have only one complaint about the book. Though it does include a helpful index, it lacks any mention of sources. Though not presented a serious scholarly work but merely a fun book to read, it might have nice to include some list of references.
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