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When I picked up this little tome;I didn't really expect it to amount to much. As usual,I read the customer reviews,and was really left wondering.Quite a spread of opinions!

After reading,I have to say that I fully agree with those who gave it top marks.

I didn't count the things covered exactly;but there are about 45 or so. When you finish;you are going to feel there could easily be thousands of things and expressions we use all the time,without really knowing what they mean or how they came about.

An excellent little gem to lay around for people to pick up and wile away a little time. However;don't be suprised if,as the Irish so aptly put it; "it gets nicked"....oh,how I love that word!

If you think this little book is superficial, and just might not be one of the pinacles of greatness in the world of books;you may be right.But wait till you see the extensive Bibliography at the end of the book.If you think the subject of this book is minor ,just skimming through this Bibliography,will show you how little we really know of what we speak.

Here's a smattering of what to expect:

What is the legal definition of insanity?

Why are the Liberals to the "Left" and the Conservatives to the "Right"?

What is the difference between a Republic and a Democracy?

How do microwaves work?

What makes food Kosher?

How do subiminal messages work?

Did The Three Musketeers actually exist?

What pasta names go with whatpasta shapes?

If you know the answers to all these questions,you might find this book dull;but if you want to know some of what you're talking about;now's your chance!
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on January 30, 2002
This book has a charming cover and wonderful printing. It makes a nice gift for young people (they'll probably keep it in the bathroom?). Ms. Padwa's writing style is engaging. In the introduction she says that although this book is not thorough, it "has the facts you need to hold your head high" -- that said, I was disappointed to read a few misguided "facts" within the book. Perhaps this is because she admitted to poring over books and articles but did not mention any conversations with actual people. And, with the number of contradictory books and articles on every subject, this method would have to produce somewhat flawed results. The flaws are annoying but forgivable, and since she writes as if she is having a pleasant conversation, I still open the book to random pages and read a bit from time to time.
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on March 26, 2008
An interesting read but it really needs to be revised as it was published in 1996; a significant amount of things have obviously occurred since then and they would greatly alter many of the passages.
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on July 31, 2012
This book is great! Well written, based on real academic material that is made easy to read and relate to. The range of topics is quite exciting, there is always something that was not on your list to learn but, apparently, is very interesting and useful. Thanks to mentioning the original sources, it's easy to elaborate on a subject of interest.
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on June 1, 2014
I had fun reading this. The topics are cool and the book is easy to read. It's written it little snippets so it's good for my short attention span. I'd recommend it for anyone who likes the Q&A book series from the New Scientist or stuff like Mental Floss.
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on April 12, 2008
This book is very entertaining, but after I received it I was disappointed to find that it is actually 12 years old. If you aren't old enough to have a good handle on 1996 and what was happening then and what didn't exist yet, you will have trouble with a lot of the things in this book. Things about computer and other technology are often not relevant, as you may expect.However, there are many other things you will appreciate, such as finally learning the difference between a magnate, a mogul and a czar. I would recommend the book to people who were not in elementary school or earlier during the 90s and were alert enough to remember the cultural and business environment at that time.
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on July 26, 2013
I generally love books of miscellany and odd facts - However, This book is not only full of material any 12 year old should know but is one of the worst written such books I have ever read. Not an iota of intersting material. I finished it in 30 minutes.
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on January 29, 2011
I like fun books like this but this specific title was a pain to read and most of the topics discussed were way to broad to cover in such a small amount of space. There is no way you can read a section on "The Enlightenment," or "The Monroe Doctrine" and really hold a conversation about it. For example, imagine this; you are not a doctor and a doctor explains a certain disease to you. You might memorize what he is saying to you but you could never explain that concept to another doctor because you don't know everything about this disease and how it affects your body. That's kinda like what you get in this book. You get facts that are not in context.

Books like this are great for quick facts only. I found Section 2, 3, and 4 to be a hard read because the subject matter was to broad to get the big picture. Chapter 9 on computers is outdated. The only parts I liked were a few topics discussed in section 1 and 8.

I also want to add that I found some of the topics discussed here to be things that "I don't even care about." The book is titled "Things you pretend to know..." How many of you pretend to know about "Flotsam and Jetsam" or what "Ipso Facto" means? I didn't really understand the target audience for this book. If you are trying to rub elbows with the intellectual, you will be fooling nobody with this book.

I was disappointed with this title and I do not recommend it. You will not become smarter just by reading this. I promise you that you will read the section on the middle ages and you won't remember it in 10 minutes. There were only a few facts in here that were interesting and they are not worth the price or the real estate on my bookshelf.

I give it two stars for effort.
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on November 24, 2012
Read excerpts to hubby on 5 hour drive to Thanksgiving dinner. We both learned things and it made the drive more fun. Most info is timeless so the 1996 publishing date doesn't really matter
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VINE VOICEon March 5, 2009
I ran across a used copy of this book and had a blast reading it. It is full of the most random information and the majority of it is still applicable today. I mainly selected this book because my 7 year old is coming up with some bizarre questions and I hate telling him "I can't remember."

Now before you go and spend your good hard earned money on this book... it was printed in 1996, and there is a large chapter in it on computers and the internet - that you might as well rip out of the book. There are some other references through out the book that are also extremely dated, but then again some of the info is timeless. The chapter that I actually gained the most out of was the chapter on food - who knew? I had no clue what a caper was, other than I wasn't going to eat them. There were also lists telling you which shape of pasta goes by which name. Plenty of historical facts as well, particularly in the political arena; granted I knew why the Dems are called the left and the Reps are the right, but it was new info to my mom.

This is 100% set it next to the potty reading... lots of little tidbits. I do wish they would do an updated version of this book. It was quite fun.
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