I like all the people I work with. They are a bunch of nice folks with their heads screwed on correctly for the most part. But occasionally someone, it is not clear who, will do something uncommonly daft. Like, as happened this week, pinning up on the noticeboard in the kitchen one of those pointless and inane lists that get sent to all & sundry via email by alleged ‘friends’. Needless to say, I have no friends who would dare email me this sort of thing – I have long since trained them to desist. Or I have killed them.

So, having escaped the electronic version of this kind of waffle, you can imagine my irritation in discovering an A4 sheet outlining ‘Some Interesting Facts…’ appearing on the communal corkboard.

The thing is, I really don’t want to read these interesting facts because I know from the outset that they will more likely be nonsensical crap, but, as I stand there waiting for the kettle to boil, my eye is inexorably drawn to the bullet points and I find myself reading…

♦ A rat can last longer without water than a camel.

Oh yeah. I guess. But really, WHO CARES?

♦ There are no clocks in Las Vegas gambling casinos.

Ho hum. I doubt it, but whatever.

♦ There are no words in the dictionary that rhyme with orange, purple or silver.


♦ A 2 X 4 is really 1½ by 3½.

Excuse me while I eviscerate myself.

♦ A duck’s quack doesn’t echo. No-one knows why.

What? I mean, WHAT? A duck’s quack doesn’t echo? I am a qualified sound technician with 25 years worth of practical experience and theoretical study that allows me to put appropriate letters after my name, but even if I was a bus conductor with a certificate in needlework I think I could spot this for the idiotic piece of utter claptrap that it is. Now hear me: a duck’s quack or anything else that is audible to the human ear will have an echo. It’s a fundamental property of acoustics. It is possible, that if a duck quacks softly, then it won’t make a loud enough sound to echo off anything, but (are you listening?) THIS HAS NOT GOT THE SLIGHTEST THING TO DO WITH DUCKS! Try getting an echo off a human whisper – same problem: not enough acoustic energy for the sound to travel somewhere, get reflected and return to your ear. There is no mystery about this. The Duck Quack Furphy is just a dumb ‘factoid’ that some nitwit smoking dried coleus leaves has, in an hallucinogenic haze deemed plausible, and, that through the weight of a million billion emails has gained the kind of weird ersatz credibility that only the internet can bestow.

(Of course, jet-setting pedants among readers of The Cow will be quick to point out that if you stand in Whispering Gallery in the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in London you can get a bit of an echo off a whisper, but I say to you: for a real treat, next time you visit St Paul’s take a duck with you.)

So, as far as I can determine this list of amazing facts can be divided into two main categories: things that are boring and things that are just plain baloney. This does not surprise me; most of the internet can be classified in that way.

Anyhoo, since I’ve been made to suffer these pearls of wisdom, so must you. Consider:

♦ The real reason ostriches stick their head in the sand is to search for water.

No it isn’t.

♦ Celery has negative calories. It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with.

No it doesn’t.

♦ Between 1937 and 1945 Heinz produced a version of Alphabetti Spaghetti especially for the German market that consisted solely of little pasta swastikas.

No they didn’t.

♦ People say “Bless you” when you sneeze because when you sneeze, your heart stops for a milli-second.

No they don’t because no it doesn’t.

♦ The name Wendy was made up for the book “Peter Pan”. There was never a recorded Wendy before.

No it wasn’t and yes there was.

I am willing to speculate that the kind of people who circulate lists such as this one, are also the kind of people who used to flap Polaroid photographs around in the air to dispense some kind of unspecified mystical aid to the developing process. Or who strew their lawn with plastic bottles of water because they think for some unfathomable reason that this will keep dogs (cats/possums/foxes/goats/wildebeests) from defecating thereon.

I mean, really. Just where has all the critical thinking gone? In Pete World this kind of thi… oh shit! Is that the time? I’m overdue for my Past Life Therapy and my colonic irrigation, gotta run.