Errata and Other Notes


This week was extraordinarily hectic and I’m proud of the fact that I was able to share three new stories (and a well-selected re-run!) this week. I finally had a chance to read about two weeks of your emails last night and it turns out I’ve made a few mistakes a long the way, which I want to highlight here and correct, so in the spirit of growth, I’m going to celebrate and correct those errors here. (And yes, I mean “celebrate” — owning your mistakes is how you improve!)

But first, I want to say hi to a bunch of new readers who discovered Now I Know this week. My story about Boggle changing their letter distribution, likely to avoid kids spelling a particularly bad word, hit two of my favorite blogs this week, Kottke and Boing Boing. A lot of visitors to that story decided they wanted to learn about more random things and are reading these words now. Welcome! For what it’s worth, old Boggle sets aren’t worth a whole lot, despite their, uh, more robust vocabulary; you can pick them up for under $20, used (obviously) on eBay.

Anyway, onto the week in review, and my stupid mistakes.

The Now I Know Week in Review: Errors Edition

MondayWhen the Frogs Attacked (Kind Of): In the bonus item, I wrote that the princess’s kiss “transforms the prince into a frog,” which is very backward (but would make for a really funny story).  Thank you to the dozen or so people who flagged this one for me.

TuesdayThe Birds Who Fly First Class: I had a small typo (“white” should have been “while”) in this one, which happens a lot, as long-time readers know. I also said that “on landing, the drop in altitude and change in cabin pressure can cause the birds to stop flapping their wings,” but I should have said that “on landing, the drop in altitude and change in cabin pressure can cause the birds to start flapping their wings.” 

Wednesday How Did We Wake Up Before Alarm Clocks?: The re-run for the week, and my worst mistake of the week, too — because I apparently also ran this as a re-run just three months ago! This made me realize that I don’t have a good mechanism for making sure this doesn’t happen, and I’ll have to now build one into my workstream. 

Two other notes about this one:

1) Many of you wrote in to ask, effectively, “who woke up the knocker-uppers?” I don’t really know. My guess is that they were nightshift workers who were ending their days, not starting them, in the mornings, but that’s purely a guess. 

2) Even more of you wrote in to ask if “knocked up” — an American euphemism for getting someone pregnant — is related to this, and the short answer is we don’t know, but probably not.  “Knocked up,” according to the Onlyine Etymoloy Dictionary, could have earlier origins than knocker-uppers.

ThursdayAll Your BS is… Vegan?: The big mistake? (Or “mis-steak”?) I used the term “male cow,” which doesn’t exist. Cows are female, bulls are male. I should have said “male cattle.” Only about thirty of you wrote in about this one.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend:

1) “Sugar Pill Nation” (Nautilus, 12 minutes, April 2023): The subhead: “Even when we know they’re ‘fake,’ placebos can tame our emotional distress..” 

2) “An Alabama Kidnapping That’s Stranger Than Fiction” (Garden & Gun, 25 minutes, April/May 2023). This article features (?) dialogue from the incident, which I’ve never seen in an article before, because how do you end up getting that recorded? In this case, the victim had a recorder that monitored his snoring, and it captured the conversation between him and his kidnapper.)

3) “Is gold hidden under a California peak? This treasure map says so” (Los Angeles Times, 11 minutes, April 2023). I really hope there is gold there and someone finds it and tells the story. 

Have a great weekend!