Completely Useless Facts of the Week – Issue 8

Daniel Ganninger
October 19, 2014

uselessfacts header8Issue 8 of the Completely Useless Facts of the Week will keep you informed about Bert and Ernie, Aglets, the Shroud of Turin, Barbie, and WD-40.

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Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie were named after Bert the cop and  Ernie the taxi driver in Frank Capra’s, “Its a Wonderful Life”.  Now there is a caveat to this useless fact, it may or may not be 100% true.  Some sources have said that it was merely coincidence, the names were used because the writers liked them.  But there are other reasons why it has persisted.  In a 1996 special called Elmo Saves Christmas, Bert and Ernie walk by a T.V. set playing the movie and hear the dialogue, “Bert! Ernie! What’s the matter with you two guys? You were here on my wedding night!” Another reason the fact or rumor has continued is because it has been reinforced by some credible sources–it was on a 35th anniversary trivia quiz on run by Sesame workshop, confirmed by Gary Knell, the CEO of Sesame Workshop, and appeared on the Sesame Street Live Facebook page.  Without Jim Henson to ask, we’ll never really know.


The Shroud of Turin is a centuries old linen cloth that appears to be a crucified man.  It has become the single most studied artifact in human history.  The amount of research on the cloth has been mind boggling, being studied for hundreds of thousands of hours.  But the controversy continues.  It is such a complex research piece that it would be impossible to cover any of it in this tiny space.  A great research tool is the Shroud of Turin website which documents all of the research that has been done as well as updates.


The plastic things on the end of shoelaces are called aglets, but they can be made of copper or brass.  They are used so the end of a shoelace doesn’t become unraveled.  We all know how frustrating that can be to get the frayed end back through the hole of the shoe without one of these things.  The word aglet comes from Old French aguillette meaning needle.  This came from the latin word for needle, acus.  It is essentially a needle at the end of a cord.

barbieRuth Handler got the idea for Barbie after watching her daughter, Barbara, play with paper dolls.  Her daughter gave the dolls adult roles and Handler approached her husband, Elliot, a co-founder of the Mattel toy company, with the idea of an adult doll.  Handler ended up purchasing three German dolls called Bild Lilli that were just what she wanted–an adult-figured doll.  She reworked the doll back in the states, and the rest is history.  Barbie made here debut on March 9,1959 at the American International Toy Fair in New York, and this date became her birthday.  Barbie’s full name of Barbara Millicent Roberts came from a series of 1960’s novels.  Barbie lived in a fictional town called Willows, Wisconsin and attended Willows High School.

wd40The WD in WD-40 stand for water displacement.  Not only that, but the 40 literally means the 40th attempt.  Norm Larsen was trying to invent a formula to prevent corrosion by displacing water, and he succeeded on his 40th try.  It was first used to protect the outer skin of the Atlas missle from corrosion and rust.  Larsen made it into a consumer product in 1958.  In 1969, the company that made WD-40, the Rocket Chemical Company, renamed themselves after their only product–WD-40.

That’s it for another rousing edition of the Useless Facts of the Week.  Check back again next time.  As always before, annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.