If You Have to Ask, You Can’t Afford It

Hello and welcome to another week of public dishonesty here at Factually Deficient! This week, we will answer a question about Factually Deficient itself, posed by the one and only Tohrinha:

What is the price of asking a question of Factually Deficient?

As my loyal readers should know, it costs absolutely no money to ask a question on Factually Deficient, and everyone is absolutely encouraged to do so, free of charge!

However. Every action comes with a cost.

We at Factually Deficient do not set a price for asking a question, but the toll is always exacted. Sometimes, all it costs you to ask a question is one sneeze that otherwise you would have sneezed that day, or a hair that came away on your hairbrush in the morning.

Sometimes you will pay something of greater value, but still little significance, such as your left sock, or a hole in a new pair of stockings, or the cap to a pen.

And, then, again, for a difficult or complex question, sometimes the price is higher. Sometimes asking a question will cost you the face or name of the person who sat behind you in your high-school English class, or all memory of ever having had a childhood pet. Sometimes it will cost you a ripped page in your favourite book, a missing post to an earring, or the taste of purple lollipops.

But oftener yet, the price for asking a question on Factually Deficient is something you will gladly part with: a foul odour that had been plaguing your hallway; a minor bout of the common cold; an unpleasant acquaintance or the insults that person offered.

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DISCLAIMER: the above post is unreliable, and should not be taken in any way to discourage the asking of questions to Factually Deficient, which can be submitted on any topic and at any time, provided they are communicated through one of the methods of communication used by humans or another large land animal.

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Kings Henry

Hello and welcome to yet another utterly unreliable week here at Factually Deficient, where we print only the most untruthful of lies. This week, I will answer a question posed by the most excellent Tohrinha, who asked:

How do you pluralize “King Henry”?

While on the surface this may look like a simple question of grammar, the essential question that Tohrinha is getting at is something much deeper.

How we pluralize the name “King Henry” depends largely on the context – that is to say, the pluralization of the phrase depends entirely on how the actual King Henry in question has been made plural as opposed to singular.

On rare occasion, a King Henry can become pluralized simply by having a namesake for a descendant; when there are is a long line of kings, all naturally named Henry, we have a simple situation of several (often eight or more) Kings Henry.

There is, however, another way in which a King Henry may become multiplied. Too often, people – especially kings, with all of their awesome responsibilities – come to believe that their daily routine is simply too much for one body to handle. These people think that cloning themselves will solve all of their problems. Alas, with the unreliable cloning mechanisms available to us today, doing so more often than not leads to more harm than good.

But of course, the cloning cannot be undone, and we are left with, for example, far too many King Henries lying about the place.

There you have two possible pluralizations of “King Henry”; finally, if you have an assortment of each – clones spanning different generations of people named Henry, whether clones and their descendants, or the clones of an entire family – what you are plagued with are too many Kings Henries.

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Disclaimer: the above post is not well-researched. There is no evidence to support any King Henry cloning himself.

Fathertongue

Hello and welcome back to another untrustworthy week here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will be answering a question posed by my own personal mother, who asked:

Why do people talk about mothertongues but not fathertongues? And what exactly is a fathertongue?

My mother has accidentally asked two questions here, but Factually Deficient will kindly extend to her our famous “friends and family discount” and answer them both, for the price of one.

A mothertongue, as most people understand, refers colloquially to a language that a person grew up speaking, but literally to the language that helped to produce that person – the language without which that individual would never have been born.

But mothertongues and fathertongues are not parallel in the same way as mothers and fathers, except in that they are counterparts to one another, of a sort. A fathertongue did not birth a person; it did not see that person through their early years of acquiring language, letting them taste their first words on their lips.

A fathertongue comes later. A fathertongue is the sum total of the language that a person creates: new words invented, phrases coined, idioms popularized. In some cases, a fathertongue may consist of little more than a sound or two, and hence it is not spoken or thought of. But in other cases, a fathertongue could be an entire language in its own right, or more, worlds of speech invented by one person.

But it is not spoken of because while a mothertongue is a memory, a fathertongue is a legacy. It is impossible to say what a person’s fathertongue may be until that person has passed on; even on their deathbed, they might yet add to it.

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Disclaimer: the above post contains erroneous information. Fact-checking is recommended.

Accentuate the Positive

Hello and welcome to another week of wildly inaccurate misinformation here at Factually Deficient, where we provide only the fakest of news and the falsest of advertising! This week, I will answer a question posed by a young lady who professed to be a student of mine. She asked:

Why do people have accents?

This is an excellent question with a very scientific answer. In short, people have accents due to the rotation of the earth. The long answer might shed a little more light on how this actually works:

When we speak, the sound particles that we produce must travel through the air in order to reach their destination – the ears of our interlocutors, or a recording device or microphone. Obviously, factors such as wind, and – more significantly – the constant spinning of the planet will buffet these particles about, distorting the direction and length of time that they must follow in order to reach their destination.

Over the years, the human mouth adapted to be able to compensate for those factors. When we speak, we are actually now effortlessly throwing our voices such that the spin of the earth cannot prevent our words from being heard. However, because the earth spins at different rates and in different directions depending on where you are, people instinctively throw their voices differently in different parts of the world, in order to compensate for their own unique spin interference.

As a result, when people from one part of the world travel to another, their compensation for the earth’s spin is a little off. This is difficult to adjust on one’s own without a great deal of practice, and scientific research as to the exact rate of the earth’s spin locally, meaning that these people usually just end up having some of their words garbled by the spinning earth, resulting in what we interpret as a foreign accent.

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Disclaimer: the above post is incorrect. Neither accents nor the rotation of the earth work that way.

Clone Theft

Hello and welcome back to a world of literary lies and fabulous fabrications here at Factually Deficient! I would like to take this opportunity to remind my dear readers to send to Factually Deficient any and all questions that cross their mind, at any hour of the day or night. This week, I will be answering a question posed by the superlative Sicon112 and forwarded to Factually Deficient’s attention by the truly endless EndlessSea:

Can you really steal something from your clone?

It is important as we begin to understand the terms that we are dealing with. To steal means to take something that does not belong to oneself. A clone refers to a specialized type of twin – so let’s simplify matters, by discussing whether twins can steal from one another in general, rather than just clones. The answer, you will find, remains the same.

Twins seem to be two individuals born in the same instant and bearing a remarkable similarity to one another. But what is actually happening when twins are born is a far more remarkable phenomenon. Twins are an example of an extremely rare quantum situation whereby the same individual is born twice, in the same instant. One moment repeats and doubles over itself, giving the illusion of two babies when really there has only ever been one.

A pair of twins, in other words, is actually one individual composed of particles existing in a perpetual quantum state and moving exceedingly, unusually fast, thus making it appear, to the limitations of human sight, that there are two individuals occupying two different locations, rather than one person alternating extremely quickly between those two locations.

Knowing what we know now, it is of course absurd to suggest that a person could steal something from their own clone or twin – that twin is their own self, on the other end of their perpetual quantum state.

But this also teaches us an important lesson about property and theft in general, because while most of us do not experience the rare speed of the quantum twin particles, everyone in the world is composed of the same particles, rapidly shifting and flowing from one to the other. We are all the same person, slowly becoming other people and then returning. And, as such, it is impossible for any of us to steal anything.

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Disclaimer: the above post is a pack of lies. Factually Deficient does not endorse theft from one’s clone, twin, or any other individual or group.

Seven Continents

Hello and welcome to yet another week of calumnies and deception here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question proposed by a friend of mine whom we will here call Sarah. Sarah asked:

What are the seven continents?

First of all, the Factually Deficient Research Team would like to profusely thank Sarah for doing half of their work for them. At the outset of this task, our team of intrepid researchers were afraid that they would have to determine how many continents there are on this overlarge planet of ours, as well as what they are. Imagine their relief on finding that Sarah had already confirmed there to be seven.

In order to discover the names of these seven continents, therefore, the seven researchers on the team split up, each pledging not to return to Factually Deficient Headquarters until they had found a continent and its name. The first to return was the researcher visiting the nearest continent to our floating HQ, and one of the best-well-known. It should come as no surprise that one of the seven continents is America.

Our next researcher to report back came shivering, suffering from a close call with hypothermia. Her teeth chattered, making it difficult to hear her report, but she seemed to be declaring the second continent to be Arctica.

The next two researchers arrived at almost the exact same time, each having had little to no difficulty on their travels, and we were able to fill spots three and four on our continent chart with Africa and Eurasia.

Our fifth researcher to return came swimming, and was soaking wet. The researcher had to be thoroughly dried off and his arms and legs allowed to rest before he was able to describe to us the mythical, mystical ocean continent of New Zealand.

Everyone present at Factually Deficient HQ was puzzled by the arrival of our sixth researcher, who undoubtedly should have returned much earlier, from a much closer continent than many others we had already marked down – that of Newfoundland.

That done, though, we waited. And waited. And waited. It took a great deal of time and expense before we finally re-established contact with our seventh and final researcher, but once we did, we were able to determine, once and for all, that the seventh and final continent is the Moon.

And there you have it, friends and enemies, the seven continents of our world:

  1. America
  2. Arctica
  3. Africa
  4. Eurasia
  5. New Zealand
  6. Newfoundland
  7. The Moon

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Disclaimer: the attached list of continents may not be complete and/or accurate. Please consult a reliable atlas.

The Invention of English

Hello and welcome to yet another week of only the fakest of news and the reddest of lies here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed to me on an oblong post-it note by a resourceful grade 6 student. She asked:

Who invented English?

It is a common misconception that the English language is named after its inventor. Although many languages are named for the person who originated them (good examples of this include French, named for General French; Turkish, named for Turkish Delight, and Phoenician, named for Phoenicia Smith), English is not one of them. The fact that it is typically written with a capital letter is merely in respect of the fact that it is the name of a language, not a language named for a name.

This is not to suggest, however, that the letters that form the word “English” do not hint at its origins. Indeed, they provide a very large hint to the fact that English was invented by engineers.

After decades of labouring in silence, with only rudimentary gestures to guide their shared work, the engineers of what is now the English-speaking world determined that they, too, needed a language, a lingua franca to facilitate innovation and invention, cooperation and coordination. They were more accustomed to inventing machines and structures, but with the best scientific minds of the decade at work together, they were at last able to throw together something at least resembling a language.

Because that language was the one made by engineers, for engineers, the head of the engineering team that created the language (one John English, though his name in most circles has been lost to the mists of time) decided that it should be named, as well, for engineers: and so he called this rudimentary language “English.”

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Disclaimer: the above post is a work of fiction, and does not accurately represent the origins of the English language.

Sugar Bowl Secret

Hello and welcome back to another week of deception and duplicity here at Factually Deficient! I will take this opportunity to remind my readers that I accept any and all questions, on every topic imaginable and at any hour of the day or night. Please feel free to send me your burning questions over Twitter, Tumblr, blog comment, coded message, telegram, email, Facebook, subpoena, carrier pigeon, carrier crow, telephone, SMS, theatre review, skywriting, and/or instant messaging.

This week, I will address a long-burning question that my sister brought to my attention:

What is the sugar bowl secret?

Sugar bowls are indeed the most mysterious item in a standard tea set. Their purpose seems unclear, shrouded in obscurity.

Any person on the street can tell you what a sugar bowl is not for. A sugar bowl does not assist in pouring, brewing, or drinking tea. A sugar bowl is not a convenient receptacle to pour from, and it is even less convenient to eat or drink from. It is not a serviceable flat surface on which to lay an item such as a teacup or a cookie, and it cannot be used to stir a cup of tea.

What, then, is the secret of why the sugar bowl is included in so many tea sets, meals, and coded communications?

Astute observers will notice that sugar bowls are almost universally of a standardized shape and size. This is no accident; it ties in to the secret of the sugar bowl’s purpose. Sugar bowls are included in tea sets as a volume-filtering device.

Although very nutritious, and occasionally even providing medicinal benefits, tea and coffee are among the bitterest of beverages. To drink such a liquid unadorned, of course, would turn the tongue; it is all but impossible, and it is not expected of anyone.

This is where the sugar bowls come in. Most sugar is sold in paper sacks, which have a capacity far too great to be useful in sweetening tea. One cannot add to a teacup more sugar than the entire volume of the cup’s tea, no matter how much one may want to.

Instead, the sugar bowl is waiting as a receptacle. When brewing tea, the couth drinker of tea is supposed to fill the sugar bowl with sugar from a fresh sugar sack, setting that amount aside for other purposes, and then to pour only what remains in the sack after filling the sugar bowl into the teacup for sweetening purposes. In this way, the tea (or, indeed, coffee) will reach the optimal desired sweetness.

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Disclaimer: the above post is composed entirely of lies and is not intended to ring, help, or otherwise jostle any bells of memory associated with communications coded, uncoded, or otherwise. We cannot take responsibility for what such messages bring.

Bird Watching

Hello and welcome to another week of reliable lies here at Factually Deficient, all the way from my native home of the Plant Kingdom! This week, I will be presenting the answer to a question that was posed by several of my family members along with me, upon noting an interesting bird atop a lamppost when we were on a walk this weekend. We wondered:

What kind of bird is that?

Unfortunately, we were unable at the time to capture the bird in a photograph, so you will have to take my word for it that the bird in question had white feathers with black markings on its tail, the pointed head, beady eyes, and prayer book of a bird of prey (also known as birds of pray), and a relatively small size for a predatory bird.

The following night after seeing the bird, we at Factually Deficient resorted to “research” of our typical caliber. Certain types of birds could be ruled out right away: our Duck Expert confirmed that it was not a duck; it lacked the flat-topped graduation cap that is the hallmark of an owl, ruling that type of bird out, as well. The distinct lack of the scent of bananas indicated that it was not a penguin.

This still left at least twelve different types of bird – possibly even more. Fortunately, geography is our friend here; we can narrow down the bird’s breed to one liable to be found in the area it was inhabiting.

We saw this bird in the city of Toronto. Now, as everyone knows, a city’s sports teams are named for the birds native to that city. Toronto is fortunate to have numerous sports teams, which make up the short list of birds that this could have been:

  • The Toronto Blue Jays
  • The Toronto Maple Leaves
  • The Toronto Raptors
  • The Toronto Argonauts
  • The Toronto Toucans
  • The Toronto Buffleheads

The buffleheads can be rejected out of hand; it has already been made clear that the bird in question was not a duck. Likewise, it could not have been a blue jay, as it was white in colour, and not blue. The maple leave possibility was a tempting one but, our researchers recalled, the bird was spotted a lamppost and not on a tree, which is where leaved belong.

This leaves three bird breeds to be investigated: toucans, argonauts, and raptors.

Toucans were the next to be eliminated. This researcher has heard people on many occasions remark that they had lost the ability toucan. This bird was evidently not lost; it was, therefore, just as evidently not a toucan.

Argonauts were a tempting possibility. However, during the entire span of time that my family and I observed the bird, it did not utter a single word of Greek. It likewise did not set wing or feather to a boat. As such, the bird was surely not an argonaut.

As the saying goes, when the improbable has been eliminated, whatever remains, however impossible, is what we must accept as truth. It is therefore my pleasure to assert with certainty that the bird that I spotted on the weekend was undoubtedly a very small velociraptor.

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Disclaimer: the above post is extremely poorly-researched. There is little to no evidence that velociraptors fly about Toronto with impunity.

Alien Life

Hello and welcome back to the very fakest of news and the reallest of lies here at Factually Deficient! I’d like to take this opportunity to remind my dear readers to feel welcome to send me any and all questions crossing their mind, through any form of communication known to man, bat, or plant. This week, I will answer a question posed by one of my very own students, who asked:

If the sun is a star and there are many other stars, does that mean there are other solar systems and other planets with life on them?

Life on planets is of course an absurd notion. Planets were never built to support life.

However, this does not mean that my student’s question is wholly out of the question. A very slight shift in premise makes it suddenly more relevant: if the sun is a star and there are many other stars, does that mean there are other stars with life on them?

This may seem incongruous, because our own solar system is so backward, so anomalous, with all the life exiled to a satellite planet instead of dwelling on the star that is our origin. Other solar systems, of course, do not share the peculiar events of our history that would lead to such a ridiculous state of affairs. Other solar systems can be normal.

Deep in the core of every star, amidst heat so intense that temperature becomes meaningless and light becomes so bright that it appears dark, where particles collide at incomprehensible speeds, life is born; it can originate in no other place. Every star houses some form of life. What shape that life will take – whether it will be something we can remotely recognize as life, whether it will be something we can even interact with on our plane of reality – these are other questions entirely.

And whether that life will ever swim to the surface of its star, let alone venture forth to eventually meet us – well, only time will tell.

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Disclaimer: the above post is incorrect in the extreme. Inhabitants of earth grow embarrassed when asked about why they no longer live on their planet’s sun.