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Charlie Brown: Now, Lucy, I know that's wrong. Snow doesn't come up, it comes down.Lucy: To loosen the bark so the tree will grow faster. Come along, Linus.
Lucy: After it comes up the wind blows it around so it looks like it's coming down, but, actually, it comes up out of the ground, like grass. It comes up, Charlie Brown, snow comes up.
Charlie Brown: Oh, good grief--
Linus: Lucy, why is Charlie Brown banging his head against a tree?
—You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, "Little Known Facts"
It is often said that truth is stranger than fiction. Little Known Facts are much too strange to be true. These improbable legends may be explained by the Know-Nothing Know-It-All, The Ditz or the Cloudcuckoolander, or just by someone trying to take advantage of the gullibility of some person, usually a child. If any questions are asked, the answers will only compound the absurdity.
For the record, snow comes from up, not down. That's why you never trust a quack like Lucy Van Pelt.
Compare The Blind Leading the Blind.
- Takashi Yamazaki (or Zachary, if you prefer) in Cardcaptor Sakura was notorious for this.
- Transmetropolitan takes place far in the future. A lot of knowledge has either been lost or is no longer known commonly. After procuring some of Hitler's urine to do drugs to, one person explains to a friend the history of the man.
"Who was Hitler?"
"Rock star. He was in Led Zeppelin. Fucked goats and wrote the old national anthem. Blew up Auckland in the Blitz."
"Wasn't all bad, then, was he?"
"History's a wonderful thing, see? We learn from it."
- The characters told each other these in Gregory's Girl: "Twenty thousand tons of cornflakes pass under this bridge every day. It's a well known fact."
- In Shaun of the Dead, according to the unseen Big Al, dogs can't look up. Obviously you don't believe this because it seems absurd for dogs to have never evolved that capability and Big Al is a fan of copious amounts of marijuana yet it's near impossible to form a sensible argument against.
- The joke actually came from a DVD commentary for Spaced. Nick Frost genuinely did believe that dogs can't look up.
- Otto apparently did this a lot in A Fish Called Wanda.
Wanda Gershwitz: Let me correct you on a couple of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not "every man for himself". The London Underground is not a political movement. Those are mistakes. I looked 'em up.
- The comedy book Great Lies To Tell Your Kids consists of these:
"Wine makes Mummy clever."
"Slugs are snails that couldn't afford the rent."
- Luna in Harry Potter was full of these, mostly focusing on bizarre animals.
- Dave Barry, in his "Mister Language Person" columns, gives out ridiculously bad advice about grammar, spelling and writing style, throwing in some choice Little-Known Facts on other subjects:
Q. What the heck are "ramparts," anyway?
A. They are parts of a ram, and they were considered a great delicacy in those days. People used to watch o'er them.
- The Areas of My Expertise is full of this, especially in the "Were You Aware Of It?" segments. Among other things, there's a fifty-first state inhabited by thunderbirds, and hobos tried to conquer the United States during the Great Depression.
- Continued in More Information Than You Require. Thomas Jefferson got the idea for the Declaration of American Independence from mole-men, air conditioners were invented to make Brooklyn more violent, and Jonathan Coulton was created in a lab to be the ultimate destroyer of cats. There's a reason the series is called Complete World Knowledge.
- The Haggis-On-Whey books are lavishly illustrated educational books of the Dorling-Kindersley mold that explain how, for instance, giraffes are from Neptune and came to Earth via conveyor belt.
- Scott Adams of Dilbert, in his book The Joy of Work, lists several to try out on Too Dumb to Live co-workers, such as "French is exactly the same as Spanish, except with more words for cheeses."
- The Remarkable Millard Fillmore claims that Fillmore saved Andrew Jackson from assassination, wrestled with the emperor of Japan, and invented the t-shirt. If you check Amazon you'll see it has a three-star rating, due to complaints that it is "deceptively advertised" as an accurate biography. The cover illustration of Millard Fillmore riding a unicorn is apparently not enough of a clue.
- The phrase "Little Known Fact" is used in a computer book of all things, where the author states that 0.6 times 3 is 1.799999999999998. It's justified in that he's pointing out how storing non-whole numbers in a space- and processing-efficient way makes operations on them inexact, causing math glitches (which in most cases can be rounded away).
- The title character of the Hank the Cowdog series regularly tries to impress his sidekick, Drover, with exaggerated explanations of natural phenomenon. Drover, not being the smartest dog in the world, believes him.
- How I Edited An Agricultural Paper by Mark Twain is full of this. Some of his claims even were technically true--such as "the pumpkin as a shade tree is a failure" or "clams will lie quiet if music be played to them".
- The misconception that John F Kennedy's famous proclamation "Ich bin ein Berliner" translated as "I am a jelly donut" may have been started in Len Deighton's 1983 spy novel Berlin Game, in which the main character makes that claim, and a review of the book in The New York Times referred to it as a reference to a real fact rather than something the character made up.
- Felix Unger on The Odd Couple was doing this all the time: "The opposite of brown is purple", "Millard Fillmore knew less about opera than any other President- except of course for Rutherford B. Hayes".
- RE the 'taking advantage of gullibility' thing: on Seinfeld, Jerry told Elaine that the original title for Tolstoy's "War and Peace" was "War: What Is It Good For?".
- Look Around You was entirely made of this.
- Cliff Clavin from Cheers was chock full of these. It's a little known fact that "it's a little known fact" was practically his catchphrase.
- Doug from the redecorating reality show Trading Spaces series did this at least once when they started doing "family" versions of the series involving families with young children. When dealing with fabrics, he asked, with a completely straight face, if the kids had ever seen "a wild nylon".
- The Kids in The Hall had the "It's A Fact" Girl, who would not only relate but demonstrate her Little Known Facts.
- DeepThoughts with Jack Handey bounced back and forth between this and simple inane musings.
- "If you met two guys on the street named Flippy and Hambone, which one would you think would like dolphins more? You'd guess Flippy, right? Well, you're wrong. It's Hambone."
- David Letterman's "Fun Facts" sketches, which were made into a book. Examples include "Match Game host Gene Rayburn's tombstone reads, 'Loving father, husband and ____.'," "Prior to 1936, elevators only went up, not down," and "For $25, New York will name a pothole after you."
- QI exists to debunk these. This didn't stop Rich Hall suggesting that the show should just use Little-Known Facts, since people would believe them.
- The Unbelievable Truth is about this trope. The object of the game is to hide four actual facts within a list of those that are, of course, Little Known.
- Mason from Dead Like Me is a total sucker for these. Did you know that when you put money in a parking meter, it goes down to pipes under the sidewalk? It's just as well, because when he's told the money stays in the meters, he goes around breaking them open with a baseball bat. He actually died of his gullibility.
- The "Rock Facts" that the hosts of The Sifl and Olly Show presented; examples here. (The actual on-screen text would debunk these, however.)
- There's also Deuce Loosely, a one-off character who annoys Sifl And Olly with little known facts about pandas ("Like the shark, the panda has millions of teeth which it uses like a hacksaw to cut through bone, candy, and fences. The Chinese believe that if you find a discarded panda tooth, you have the power to summon Godzilla.")
- During the final round of Talkin Bout Your Generation, the host Shaun prepares some "interesting" "facts" to share with the teams, claiming to source all of his information from Wikipedia.
Shaun: "Cheaper [paint]brush hair is sometimes called "camel hair", although it doesn't come from camels. Apparently, it comes from tourists in India who are shaved against their will."
- Saturday Night Live had a Game Show sketch called "Common Knowledge" where the "correct" answers (that is, the answers the judges were looking for) were this. In the sketch, giving the actual correct answer counted as getting the question wrong (since "correct" was defined as "whatever a majority of high school seniors thought was the right answer"). This allowed a teenaged stoner to beat former UN Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick at the game.
- Top Gear: This trope crops up on occasion. For example, the cup holders on a Ford Fiesta are the perfect fit for holding smoke grenades during a beach assault.
- Also applies to facts about The Stig.
- In Community episode "Introduction to Statistics", Jeff's first pick up line aimed at Slater consists of an intentionally erroneous one of these.
- The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have used these on Twitter to make fun of dubious statements by political figures. After Senator Jon Kyl said his claim that abortions constitutes well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does was "not intended to be a factual statement," Stephen Colbert created the hashtag #Not Intended To Be A Factual Statement for this trope. After Sarah Palin got Paul Revere's story wrong, The Daily Show created the hashtag #According To Palin for intentionally erroneous historical facts. After Herman Cain said "I don’t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration." The Daily Show created the hashtag #idonthavefactstobackthisup for this trope.
- Les Luthiers on La Gallina Que Dijo Eureka Routine: "To the children we must always tell the truth; of course, in terms they can't understand."
- Calvin's dad was notorious for these in Calvin and Hobbes. Thanks to him, Calvin learns about the world only turning color in the 1930s (and pretty grainy color for a while, too), the sun setting every night in Flagstaff, Arizona (Hold up a quarter, the sun's about the same size), wind being caused by trees sneezing (not really, but the real answer is much more complicated), and babies being bought at Sears, as a kit (Calvin was a Blue Light Special from K-Mart, however. "Much cheaper, and almost as good"). Calvin's mom is usually around to correct things, though.
Calvin: How do they know the load limit on bridges, Dad?
Dad: They drive bigger and bigger trucks over the bridge until it breaks. Then they weigh the last truck and rebuild the bridge.
Calvin: Oh, I should've guessed.
Mum: Dear, if you don't know the answer, just tell him!
- What makes this even funnier is that Calvin's dad works as a patent lawyer, a job which requires a good deal of knowledge of technology and science, and as such could explain these things to Calvin if he really wanted to. Not to mention the fact that Calvin is likely to understand it. He won't tell you how a carburetor works, though. It's a secret.
- Note that there's one instance in an early comic where Calvin's dad states plainly he doesn't know the answer to some of Calvin's questions and they should probably try to look it up. Calvin's response: "I take it there's no qualifying exam to be a dad."
- Infrequently, he would attempt to educate Calvin with little success. When Calvin was playing in the sprinkler, he praised him for raising his heart rate, which took all the fun out of it. When he was listening to a record player, he explained how parts on the outside had a faster speed even though it had the same RPM; in the last panel Calvin is in bed trying desperately to wrap his mind around the concept.
- Early Peanuts strips (1950-1965, say) use Lucy telling these to Linus as a running joke, although those strips are rarely reprinted these days. An odd example given that Lucy actually believed these "facts" herself and it was Charlie Brown who had to try and protest them. An example is that leaves are actually flying south for the winter when they fall (because south is down on a map).
- At one point, Lucy's extended misunderstanding of trees, up to and including claiming telegraph poles were a special type of tree developed for the phone companies, gave Charlie Brown a sore stomach. When she got up to leaves jumping off trees in autumn to escape the squirrels, even Linus could endure no more and developed a stomach ache of his own.
- Linus believes in the Great Pumpkin even though he made it up himself.
- Bucky from Get Fuzzy, usually to Satchel.
- Bob and Ray characters such as "Mr. Science" often came up with these.
- Likewise, "Dr. Science" from Ducks Breath Mystery Theatre and NPR, although he tends to be more interactive, with listeners writing in with questions designed to prompt a spew of twisted factoids.
- George Carlin regularly sprinkled supposed "truefax" lists in his comedy routines. One of the more memorable ones is the "It's No Bullshit" segment on Carlin On Campus, parodying Ripley's Believe It or Not!.
- One stand-up lamented how some accents lend themselves to this; someone with a thick British accent could convince you that cocoa comes from a coconut just be being insistent enough, and conversely nuclear technicians with certain Southern accents...
- The trope name is a number from the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, in which Lucy explains to Linus that fir trees give fur, bugs make the grass grow, and snow comes up out of the ground.
- The Reduced Shakespeare Company's The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged starts out by mixing up the biography of Shakespeare's life with that of Adolf Hitler. They also mix up Eva Braun and Evita Peron, for added giggles.
- The Fact Sphere in Portal 2 exists solely to spit these out, including such gems as:
William Shakespeare did not exist. His plays were masterminded in 1589 by Francis Bacon, who used a ouija board to enslave play-writing ghosts.
Edmund Hillary, the first person to climb Mount Everest, did so accidentally while chasing a bird.
Pants were invented by sailors of the sixteenth century to avoid Poseidon’s wrath. It was believed that the sight of naked sailors angered the sea god.
At some point in their lives, one in six children will be abducted by the Dutch.
Humans can survive underwater, but not for very long.
- His fact regarding the melting point of tungsten is accurate, though. Well, it's only off by about a dozen degrees. Good enough, right?
- Then there are "facts" made up solely to be against the other personality spheres, Wheatley, and even Chell herself.
- His fact regarding the melting point of tungsten is accurate, though. Well, it's only off by about a dozen degrees. Good enough, right?
- The "Red Freak Facts" on some screens in the Flash horror platformer The Bright in The Screen.
- Jim in Darths and Droids has a knack for quickly making up (hilariously wrong) definitions for odd words the GM uses. The most enduring is saying that "Jedi" is a kind of cheese, which may be the result of mishearing it as "cheddar;" he still calls the Jedi "Cheddar monks."
- One of the author comments on a later strip explains that a recent joke was not, in fact, in whatever cipher or language that everyone seemed to think it was in; but, Jedi was in fact "Ceda" in said language/cipher. They suggest that perhaps Jim was onto something there.
- Sir Miur in Harkovast is either using these, or just a Cloudcuckoolander.
- This was a Running Gag in The Parking Lot Is Full, and even ended the comic itself:
- This Xkcd guest comic features "the Smithsonian Museum of Dad-Trolling, an entire building dedicated to deceiving children for amusement", with exhibits such as the Hall of Misunderstood Science ("DNA only has four letters because the alphabet was smaller back then") and the Conservatory of Poorly-Remembered History ("Ghengis Khan: Victory Through Dragons").
- Via Loading Ready Run:
Paul: "Alright look. It's not that bad if you really think about it"
Paul: "It's a well-known fact that thousands of people have to live with this affliction all over the world, and they manage okay."
Graham: "That's not a well-known fact."
Paul: "Well I know it. And I know it well. So it's a well-known fact."
- Numerous lists of these "facts" circulate the web. They almost invariably claim "A duck's quack doesn't echo, and nobody knows why."
- Not only does Snopes address it, Myth Busters tested that one too, and they found the echo. So it's on national TV as well.
- Snopes has a section of blatantly false "Lost Legends" (full title: The Repository Of Lost Legends); its purpose is to demonstrate the danger of relying on a single source without applying common sense. (Ironically, one of the legends was taken for fact by the TV show Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed.)
- fakescience Tumblr blog, with such gems as the Groundhog Day Chart.
- Animaniacs with its Useless Facts segment.
- The first season of Planet Sketch had a series of sketches that revolved around a father telling these to his son, and usually ended with the son fleeing the room in panic.
- Little-Known Facts pretty much made up the curriculum of Mr Garrison's class in South Park.
- This was the whole point of the "Ask Dr. Stupid" segments on The Ren and Stimpy Show. The first one explained why kids go to school: "Your parents are aliens, and while you're at school, they shed their human skins and breathe dryer lint!" Another said that camel humps are where gasoline comes from (one hump for regular, two for premium and unleaded). Even Stimpy himself didn't buy that one.
- This happened on a regular basis on King of the Hill, and not just from Dale Gribble: pretty much every regular character had engaged in one of these in the series run. In one episode, this is partially averted when an oncologist tells Bobby that there's some ridiculous amount of intestine in a person, something like several thousand miles, to which Hank replies in common sense fashion that if that were true, a steak would have to shoot through a person at the speed of sound in order to make it out of someone by the next day.
- On Garfield and Friends, Garfield starred in a skit called "It Must Be True" featuring several of these. Among them, Wyoming doesn't actually exist: Amerigo Vespucci had extra space left over when drawing the map of America, so his cat gave him the idea to name the blank space Wyoming, which is Italian for "no state here" (as proof: have you ever met anyone from Wyoming? Of course not). The episode ends with Garfield claiming that dogs have no brains, then discovering that his entire audience is made of dogs, who proceed to clobber him for that one.
- In SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star comes up with loads of these, usually in The Blind Leading the Blind situations with Spongebob. They both believe them.
- Subverted in their knowledge of seabears. Every single camping tip they stated turned out 100% factual.
- In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Bloo makes up a lot of stuff and believes all of it. Just one example is his idea of what "the European language" is.
- In one episode of Cow and Chicken, Chicken comes out with a bunch of these when he's convinced that he's a genius just because he put on glasses.
- In real life, where things don't always have a dramatic purpose, little known facts are used to kill time, or fill unsold ad space, or otherwise apologize for having nothing to say. How many ways have you heard that it's impossible to kiss your elbow, or that glass is really a liquid, or other such anti-wisdom? These "facts" are often equally useless whether they're true or false, and the only good that ever comes of it is the occasional Myth Busters episode.
- And I can totally lick my elbow.
- Hey, licking isn't kissing. Six ex-girlfriends told me that.
- Nor do the Eskimos have over nine thousand words for snow. Or even many more than English's "slush", "sleet", "blizzard", "powder", and so on. They really only have two: Snow on the ground, and snow in the air. Everything else comes from combining these with other words.
- Or adding adjectives. Of course the Inuits have a language that's sentences are basically really long words, so technically you can have near-infinite numbers of "words" for snow, the same way you can have near-infinite number of sentences about snow in English, but the same applies to any given concept in existence.
- They do, however, have 234 words for fudge.
- "Observe the snow. It fornicates." -- Cecil Adams
- The notion that a goldfish has a memory of only a few seconds is false. Actually, goldfish have fairly good memory for fish.
- Also, Jamie Hyneman is excellent at training them to remember obstacle courses.
- The Other Wiki has an entire page of common misconceptions.