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A Nonfiction Column
By Willie Elliott

Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong

John Lloyd and John Mitchinson's book The Book of General Ignorance is certainly an eye-opener. Consider the subtitle: Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong. That news is certainly great news for a man who has spent seventy-five percent of his life and thousands of dollars getting what he thought was knowledge, only to be told it ain't so.

The entries come in three general categories for me. One is those entries that are entertaining and I can live with. The second group includes those entries that I must ask the question, "What am I going to do with this information?" And the third and most painful category are those entries about information I proudly presented to my students and now run the risk of being asked for a refund for dispersing false information.

The answer to the question "How do moths feel about flames": They're not attracted to them. They are disoriented by them. What about "which metal is the best conductor?" Silver—that seems right so no complaint there. Those are two things I might not have know and can live with the up-to-date information.

Then come those entries that I simply don't know where or when I can use the knowledge. For example, part of the answer to the question "Which animals are the best-endowed of all?" has this priceless bit of information: The blue whale's male member is 6 to 10 feet in length and 18 inches in girth and the whale's ejaculate is estimated to weigh 150 pounds each. Can you imagine Alex Trubek on Jeopardy saying, "Under the category it ain't going to happen.

Sometimes the authors give a question and answer to it that would be best left out. For example, to the question "which way does the bathwater drain", the answer in not clockwise or counterclockwise. The answer is it depends. Sounds like some of my answers to students' questions when I didn't know what I was talking about.

Now the serious ones. The authors might as well have told me there is no Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny is greatly exaggerated and the Tooth Fairy is propaganda for the American Dental Association.

To the question: "What's interesting about the birth of Julius Caesar," the authors bluntly come out and say he was not born by C-section. They don't fully answer the question and get off on a Caesar salad, which also has nothing to do with Julius Boy.

The authors go too far when they deny that Abner Doubleday invented baseball. They tip toe through the answer and come up with: "Abner Doubleday didn't invent baseball, baseball invented Abner Doubleday. What a cop out.

Read the book and see what misinformation you are carrying around. If you happen to be one of my students, I never told you any of that stuff that is not true.

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