Things I recently learned

Over the past year ago, I’ve been more active on reddit, a geeky social news site that’s gained a lot of steam in recent months, benefiting from the long, slow decline of Digg.

Reddit is organized into categorized communities known as sub-reddits (here’s a complete list). Some are huge–the Politics sub-reddit has over 500,000 members. Many others are tiny. To pick one at random, here’s the Anne Hathaway sub-reddit, with 205 members.

One of my favourite sub-reddits is Today I Learned, where people post facts they, well, learned today. I’ve posted quite frequently to Today I Learned, and I thought I’d share some of the random trivia with you.

Here’s the top ten list, sorted by the most votes the items garnered on reddit. You may also want to read more about these facts, and the reddit comments for them. Click the items on this page to do so.

Today you may have learned that ‘TIL’ is reddit shorthand for ‘today I learned’.

  1. TIL that Americans do not have to answer questions from federal authorities when re-entering the US.
  2. TIL ‘snuck’ is relatively recent Americanism. Other English speakers, and many style guides, prefer ‘sneaked’. When I heard this, I fruck out.
  3. TIL that President Theodore Roosevelt radically changed American football by, among other rule changes, introducing the forward pass.
  4. TIL in 1974, a news anchor shot herself on-air during a morning talk-show.
  5. TIL the Golden Globes are picked by less than 100 people in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, few of whom are credible journalists.
  6. TIL there are writers who write anecdotes for guests on late night talk shows.
  7. TIL Chuck Lorre, creator of the execrable “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory”, also co-wrote the theme music to TV’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”.
  8. TIL that 25 minutes–long considered lost–of Fritz Lang’s seminal “Metropolis” were found in a film museum in Buenos Aires in 2008.
  9. TIL that the Dutch government provides “No Junk Mail Please” stickers for its citizens.
  10. TIL American coins are not ferromagnetic. This was inspired by personal experience.

Of those ten, the one that I was most surprised about was, embarrassingly, the one about anecdotes for late night talk shows.

A couple of others that didn’t garner many votes but were surprising to me:

  • TIL only 10-15% of pregnant womens’ waters break as the onset of labour.
  • TIL a good number of Hemingway’s early stories were stolen from a French train station in 1922. They’ve never been recovered.
  • TIL that Mr. Bigglesworth, the hairless cat in the Austin Powers movies, is a rare breed that originated in an alley in a Toronto suburb.
  • TIL a traditional New Year’s meal kills several elderly people each year in Japan.


  1. Only since my friends started having babies (i.e., quite recently) did I learn that when a pregnant woman’s water breaks, it doesn’t mean she’s about to deliver. I mean, in movies and on TV, your water breaks and the baby is born about 3 minutes later!

  2. Reddit is my first choice procrastination option. It never fails to do a great job at that.

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