Past Tense

Hello and welcome to another week of misleading claims and untruthful statements here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by the unbeatable Tohrinha, who asked:

What is the past tense?

With the invention of time travel in early 1292, the past became not only a memory, but also a place – a place that changed with an alarming frequency.

Although changing the past does not, of course, change one’s memories of how events had originally played out, it was discovered that those affected by the changes would gain an entirely new set of memories whole cloth, pertaining to the “new” state of past events, alongside their original memories.

Soon, with the congestion of time tourism, some people found that they had dozens, or even hundreds, of conflicting memories regarding the same period of time. And while those involved understood perfectly well what it was that they were remembering, it became increasingly more difficult and inaccessible to discuss these conflicting memories with others – even others who shared those memories, even others who had played a part in the time travel.

Fortunately, grammar came, as always, to the rescue, in the form of the past tense.

The past tense is a linguistic innovation – described by some of its detractors as a “slapdash barrel of neologisms” – in the form of an entirely new verb tense. This incredibly complex verb form indicates without a shred of ambiguity exactly which set of remembered events is under discussion, by way of a thorough if difficult conjugation.

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Disclaimer: the above post contains misinformation. Not all people retain memory of changed events subsequent to time travel.

Fountain Pens

Hello and welcome back to another week of crunchy lies and fibs you can really sink your teeth into here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed to Factually Deficient by theamberalice, the most amber of alices that we have ever met:

How do you use a fountain pen?

It is important to remember that a fountain pen does not function in the same way as a normal fountain, or a normal pen. As a hybrid between those two creatures, it has a unique anatomy and method of use which is all its own.

To use your fountain pen, you must first fill the pen with water. Do not hold back – if there are any empty spaces in the pen that do not have water, it will not write evenly. Take the pen apart. Immerse everything in water before putting it back together, underwater. Make sure that every single crack and cranny in the pen is full to bursting with water.

Next, choose what colour you wish to write with. Add just a few drops of your chosen colour to the water in the pen – food colouring, dyes, and inks will all work perfectly fine. A little goes a long way!

Spread paper around in the area where you will be writing. Remember, the spray of a fountain pen – not unlike the spray of a fountain – has a wide reach, so be liberal in your distribution of paper. If you’re using a darker colour to write with, you may also want to lay down several layers.

Once you have your desired paper and coloured water ready, stand in the middle of the paper. Holding your pen aloft, loosen its workings to release the water. Turn yourself bodily in a gentle circle, moving the pen up and down to form the shape of your chosen message, and the water will spray out in a flowing script.

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Disclaimer: This post consists of a pack of lies. Not all fountain pens work that way.

Copy Wrong

Hello and welcome to another rollicking week of unleavened lies and flat fabrications here at Factually Deficient! As always, everyone is welcome to send questions on any topic to Factually Deficient, through any means or medium available to you, at any hour of the day or night – no lie is too large! This week, I will answer a question posed to Factually Deficient by my very own, very real mother. She asked:

Why is there no copyright on book titles?

The lack of copyright on book titles is a state of affairs which has surprised and even appalled many. However, it stems from a whole slew of reasons – each one more reasonable than the last.

The first reason for why there is no copyright on book titles is a fairly simple one. In the recent past – exactly two hundred and sixty-two years ago – there was indeed copyright on book titles. However, this soon proved disastrous in all spheres academic and critical. Students and scholars alike were repeatedly and frequently forced to pay prohibitive licensing fees every time they wrote the title of a work they were discussing. All scholarship threatened to grind to a halt.

To prevent the death of their fields of study, the students and scholars in question grew creative; they began to devise ingenious roundabouts, euphemisms and descriptors to allude to these titles without actually using them. However, the number of words used in these roundabout descriptors soon began to rival, then equal, then exceed the number of remaining words in their scholarly essays – and still the uninitiated would have not the faintest idea which word was under discussion. The problem had gotten out of hand.

Still, this alone would not have been enough to abolish copyright on book titles – were it not for the last reason which coincided with it. Exactly two hundred and sixty-two years ago, publishers the world over decided to move on from the outmoded business model in which authors would be permitted to determine the titles of their own books.

Instead, a far more efficient method presented itself: there had been built a great computer, with the dedicated purpose of combining words, names, and phonemes at random to create book titles. This computer was set to spit out a new book title every seventeen minutes and seventeen seconds, and it was determined that each new book to be published would take its place in a universal queue and be given, with no argument or subjectivity, the next title to be spit out by the computer.

This ensured that each book’s title would be unique, arbitrary, and appropriate to its subject matter. However, it also meant that no creativity whatsoever had gone into the creation of the book’s title – and, in fact, no human mind had laboured over it. With no living person to deserve the credit for a book’s title, all necessity for copyright on book titles was eliminated.

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Disclaimer: the above post is a work of fiction. Not all book titles are determined by computer.

The Language of Lamour

Hello and welcome to another wild week of wacky lies here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a language question posed by the incredible individual known as Tohrinha. Tohrinha asked:

What does it mean to be the language of l’amour?

Well may Tohrinha ask about the language of l’amour. This is a long sought-after language, one whose identity and origins have been clouded by language itself.

What is the language of l’amour? First of all, the apostrophe does not belong in the phrase; it was added, in the last seventy years, out of a misplaced belief that the language had Gallic origins. Before the inaccurate apostrophe, it was the language of Lamour. But even this was not the original incarnation of the tongue. Lamour is actually a corruption of Larmor, which itself derives originally from either Lumber or Armoire.

While the Plant Kingdom is a diverse realm which hosts many different dialects and languages, there is one which only the most advanced of botanists sought to learn. It was whispered of, in the dank corners of underground greenhouses, that there were some trees which continued to think even after they were cut down, and proved their sentience through language. Rebel botanists passed secret messages about this language, that only the wisest of plants developed, and only the most daring of men could begin to master: the language of lumber, the language of the armoire.

It is unknown which was the original source for the language: whether these brave botanists spoke in general of the tongue used by lumber that had been chopped, or whether they rightly revered the antique armoire who was recorded as the first known speaker of this language. But either way, three things are certain: first, that no one has heard it spoken and understood it in over six hundred years; second, that any botanist who can hear and learn this language spoken in the wild would be esteemed above all others; and finally, that the Language of Lamour is the most exalted of all possible languages.

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Disclaimer: the above post is a pack of lies. There is no reason to believe that armoires originated a language of any kind.

Lies About Books: Illuminae

As March goes out like a lamb (or possibly a lion), it is time once again to give a wholly unhelpful review of a book I enjoyed this month!

In the month of March, I had the pleasure of reading Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

Illuminae is set in an alternate history version of our own world, one in which the lightbulb was invented not by Edison, but by da Vinci, hundreds of years earlier. The simple invention lights up a world which was still emerging from the dark ages, but its implications are more far-reaching than the painter-inventor ever imagined.

Told through a series of letters, fabricated articles, edicts, and fictional sketches from da Vinci’s own notebook, Illuminae weaves a compelling story of a world thrust too soon into its own future. As lights turn on across Europe, dark corners of the earth are suddenly illuminated in a way humanity soon comes to regret. Can da Vinci’s brilliance come to the rescue once again? Or will this alternate world burn brightly and go out?

Illuminae strikes the perfect balance between mysterious and enthralling, historical and imaginative. I recommend it to any fans of Leonardo da Vinci, epistolary novels, and space.

Dishonest Media

Hello and welcome to yet more dire misinformation here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will discuss a topic brought to the attention of Factually Deficient by none other than Michael J. Andersen. Mr. Andersen wrote:

Your next Factually Deficient has to be the etymology of DMs

Ask and you shall receive, Mr. Andersen! The initialism “DM” has a long history dating back throughout the English language. While people most frequently use it today to mean “Delayed Muttering” (referring to so-called instant messages) or “Designated Murderer” (for someone whose role it is to ensure the suffering of the other members of a roleplaying group), it has a history far more illustrious than that.

Two hundred years ago, DM could only ever refer to the Duck Magician, the one and only Diego Mendelsohn, who memorably combined the art and science that is sorcery within a compact, quacking, feathered form. A dozen years before Mendelsohn’s rise, DMs were generally Dress Masques – the strange costumes, oft worn to masquerade balls, consisting of a face mask designed to look like an elaborately clothed torso of a woman.

In other sectors of society, DM has meant Dirt Machine (of great use to farmers), Dilated Musculature (a frequently-used term in medicine), and Disappointing Mucus.

But the term, despite its long and illustrious history in the English language, actually predates the English language, seeing its first usage in Latin. In Latin, the number 500 was occasionally represented by the Roman numeral DM – literally, “500 less than 1000,” and was, when so written, referred to colloquially as the “Drunken Mathematics,” poking fun at those who took such a circuitous route to reach an otherwise simple numeral.

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Disclaimer: the above post contains dishonesty and misinformation. “Drunken Mathematics” is not a Latin phrase.

Going Bananas

Hello and welcome to another week of laid-back lies and feel-good fabrications here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will be answering a question posed to Factually Deficient by my very own, very existent mother. She asked:

Why are bananas yellow?

My mother is actually begging the question here – that is, she is practically begging me to respond to her question with another question. Namely: are bananas even really yellow?

In fact, my mother (and undoubtedly many others like her) is labouring under a common misapprehension; bananas are not yellow at all. I can, however, help to elucidate the phenomenon which leads to them appearing to be so.

We have already established here on Factually Deficient that the default colour of all things is blue. This holds true for bananas as well, which, in their natural state, are as blue as an asphyxiated blueberry.

However, bananas are known to contain high amounts of potassium. Potassium, among its many odd and variegated traits, causes an inexplicable phenomenon of leaching the colour green out of anything it comes in contact with. Now, as we know, green is the gift given by the colour Yellow to the colour Blue. Or, to phrase it as an equation:

Blue + Yellow = Green

Since all equations are commutative, we can rearrange this statement to show what happens when the green is leached – say, by potassium – out of something blue:

Blue – Green = – Yellow

You will note that in order to shift the Yellow to the other side of the equation, it becomes negative. However, since colours, like square roots, are obviously resources which cannot exist in negative quantities, we can safely ignore the minus sign. In other words, our equation means that when potassium leaches the green out of a naturally-blue banana, the fruit appears to be yellow.

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Disclaimer: the above post contains falsehoods. Potassium is not known to leach the colour green out of everything it touches.

 

Vernal Equinox

Hello and welcome to another week of lies, calumnies, and falsehoods here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will ask a timely question posed by an individual known as Alsworth:

What are the direct causes of the vernal equinox?

First of all, I would like to remind Alsworth – and all of you – that Factually Deficient is a family-friendly publication, and we would appreciate it if you kept your questions appropriate. However, since this has now already been asked, there is nothing to do about it but to answer.

The vernal equinox refers, of course, to an event which occurs regularly every three and a half years, wherein the seasons reverse course and run “backwards” until the succeeding equinox event. This question is particularly timely, as we are currently experiencing the results of a recent vernal equinox: a winter that fades into spring only for that spring, on the volta of the vernal equinox, to recede back into winter, which will give way only to another autumn before summer comes.

Scientists have striven for centuries to explain the strange phenomenon of this vernal equinox. In ancient times, it was explained by the messy divorce proceedings between the mythical Persephone and Hades of myth. In more enlightened times, it was thought to be caused by an imbalance of the four elements in the atmosphere.

Now, however, we know better. When the sun revolves around the earth to give us our daily light, it does so with an irregular orbit. These ellipses of near and far are what give us our warm and cold seasons – but as the sun weaves between earth and the other planets that it lights up, those other heavenly bodies have their own trajectories. Once in three or so earth years, the planet Jupiter spins so near to the earth that it exerts a gravitational force on the sun, pulling the sun out of its regular path, and only releasing it on the downswing – setting it in the reverse of the spin it had been in before.

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Disclaimer: the above post may be erroneous. The sun does not revolve around the earth.

February

Hello and welcome back to another week of unreliable lies here at Factually Deficient, as we march on with our years. This week, I will answer a question posed by the eminent Tohrinha:

How long is February?

Many, often while embroiled in a never-ending winter, have wondered before Tohrinha just how long the month of February is. Few, though, have ever lived to discover the answer. Traditional research, one will find, yields inaccurate results, and forays into first-hand investigation have frequently led to unexpected bloodshed and an absence of usable data.

Some have tried to use mnemonic rhymes to determine the length of the month – but these, too, will prove disappointing. If you do not know the rhyme, here it is in its entirety – so you, too, can understand how it fails to adequately express the length of February:

Thirty days has September,

Forty-seven has November.

Fifty-two have May and June;

July and April end “two” soon.

All the rest have sixty-four —

Except for February: it has more.

(But when the year leaps,

It adds six to eight weeks.)

As you can see, this rhyme provides us with the following information:

  1. September has 30 days
  2. November has 47 days
  3. May and June each have 52 days
  4. July and April each have only 2 days
  5. January, March, August, October, and December each have 64 days
  6. February has >64 days (an unspecified number greater than 64)
  7. In leap years, February has between six and eight weeks more than it usually does

Naturally, matters such as leap years and groundhogs can affect the length of February. All I can offer Tohrinha with any certainty – all that is reasonable to ask for – is the “base” length of February, the minimum number of days that this colossally long month can hold.

To find this base length, we can actually determine the mathematical pattern present in the other months, and extend it logically:

  • The difference between 2 (July/April) and 30 (September, the next-shortest month) is +28
  • The difference between 30 and 47 (November) is +17
  • The difference between 47 and 52 (May/June) is +5
  • The difference between 52 and 64 (January, March, August, October, December) is +12

This leaves us with an obvious mathematical pattern: 28, 17, 5, 12… Clearly, the next number in the sequence is 20. 64+20 = 84 – therefore, February has a minimum of 84 days.

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Disclaimer: the above post may be deceptive. Please re-check the math yourself.

Lies About Books: Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Did you know that February is an incredibly long month? There is plenty of February left, but Factually Deficient, particularly the Lies About Books department, acts with nothing if not alacrity, which is why we are publishing this post well in advance of the end of the month.

In the past month, I had the pleasure of reading Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli.

Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda is perhaps the most creative spin on the alien-invasion narrative that I have seen yet. Simon is sent by his squadron as part of an advance espionage guard to Earth. His mission is to infiltrate homo sapiens society, learn their goals, and how to defeat them.

Simon only has one preexisting contact on Earth, a correspondent he met by chance online. Neither of them knows each other’s real name – and of course, Simon’s friend does not know that Simon is from somewhere further than Ireland.

But the unexpected happens, when Simon comes to a human high school to finally meet up with his pen-pal in person. In seeking humanity’s agenda (in between scribbling in his own agenda), he finds something perhaps more important: true friendship. But when the details of his mission come out, will either – the mission or the friendship – survive?

Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda is surprisingly heartwarming, understatedly funny, and definitely a keeper. I recommend it to all fans of email correspondence, inopportune revelations, and alien invasions.