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Daniel Ganninger

If you’ve ever attended a high school or college graduation ceremony, you’ve probably heard the familiar music that accompanies the students as they enter. It is the march, “Pomp and Circumstance,” written by English composer Sir Edward Elgar. But what does the title mean, and why is it used for graduations?

Sir Edward Elgar composed the piece in 1901 for the coronation of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom in 1902. Elgar pulled the title of the march from Shakespeare’s play, Othello, and the line, “Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!”

While one comma breaks up the phrase…


You Could Once Take a Piece of Stonehenge Home

If you go to Stonehenge today, you’ll find that the famous 5,000-year-old prehistoric monument in England is roped off. No one is able to get close to it.

But it hasn’t always been that way. At one time, chisels used to be handed out to people visiting Stonehenge so they could chip off a piece of the ancient monument to take home. Not the best of ideas. Eventually, the site’s landowner, Sir Edmund Antrobus, decided it needed to be protected and taken care of. He had fences erected around it and began charging admission in 1901.

The land was sold…


Who knew that something that sits on the top of our head could be one of the most amazing pieces of biological engineering. Hair can be twisted, tied, and formed into almost any shape imaginable, and it is incredibly strong. Here are some amazing facts about a little thing we take for granted and are bummed about when it’s gone.

Hair can be quite a heavyweight. A single strand of hair is strong enough to hold around 3 ounces. Since there are up to 150,000 hairs on the human head, the combined hair could hold upwards of 12 tons of…


Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel Tower, made sure he reserved the best view of Paris for himself, so he designed an apartment on the third level of the Eiffel Tower, 1,000 feet (304 meters) up in the air.

The apartment measures 1076 square feet (100 square meters), the walls are covered with wallpaper, and there is an open-air balcony surrounding it. It was completely furnished during Eiffel’s time. The apartment had a small kitchen, a bathroom with a sink, a separate area with a toilet, and even a piano. Eiffel also had a small laboratory where he would…


While many countries either don’t change in size or get smaller, Finland is only growing larger. Finland increases its surface area by about 2.7 square miles (4.3 square kilometers) every year because of a natural phenomenon.

It is known as the Fennoscandian land uplift, a gradual appearance of more land on Finnish coastlines. Observations were made as far back as 1491 when residents of the city of Östhammar noticed that the shoreline of their city had moved so much that they could no longer use their harbor. The same was happening in other areas of the country. Early researchers thought…


Bread is a staple food found around the world, and this dough made of flour and water has been around for a long time. Here are some completely random facts about this versatile food.

There is a hotel in Sweden that will care for a person’s sourdough starter when they go on vacation. Sourdough starters are a mix of flour, water, and wild yeast that have to be kept viable by adding a little water and flour each day. Starters give new bread more flavor and texture. Swedes can drop off their starters for around 100 to 300 Swedish krona…


Elf/Wikimedia

There is only one place in the United States where mail is still delivered by mule, and there really isn’t a better way to do it.

The village of Supai is part of the Havasupai Nation reservation. It sits at the base of Havasu Canyon in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The Indian village is only accessible by helicopter, hike, or by mule. Since it sits eight miles from the nearest road, the village receives its mail and supplies by the only way possible — mule train.

FedEx and UPS don’t even deliver directly to this site, relying instead on…


User:Tom/Wikimedia

There is one specific piece of equipment that is probably used by employees of the US Government more than any other — the common ballpoint pen. But the pen issued by the government is much different than the one you’ll find at your office supply store, and it has to be able to do a lot of incredible things.

The official black pen of the United States Government is under a brand name called Skilcraft, and each pen is emblazoned with “SKILCRAFT-U.S. GOVERNMENT” on the side. It’s manufactured in factories in North Carolina and Wisconsin by a unique set of…


Michael Barera/Wikimedia

In Wichita Falls, Texas, there is a strange building that is four stories tall and very skinny. It sits on a corner near downtown Wichita Falls on Seventh Street and LaSalle Street, and how it got built is even stranger than the way the building looks. There is an interesting tale behind the structure that is called “The Littlest Skyscraper in the World.”

The world’s littlest skyscraper is officially called the Newby–McMahon Building. The red brick building is four stories, 10 feet wide and 16 feet long, 40 feet high, and has 118 square feet per floor.

Things started in…


Washington DC is a political jungle, and you’ll need an understanding of the jargon and slang to understand or navigate this rather strange place. Here are twenty sayings that you might hear around Capitol Hill, in news reports, or from pundits on TV.

Beltway — AKA, “Inside the Beltway.” It refers to anything on the inside of Interstate 495 that encircles Washington DC and anything of interest to those working and living in that area, namely politicians, lobbyists, and federal contractors. It was first thought to be used in The New York Times in 1975.

Bimbo Factor — This tidbit…

Daniel Ganninger

The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew and the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books. Connect at knowledgestew.com and danielganninger.com

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