Close encounters with pointless trivia
Wednesday 29 December 1999
Most misleading message in history
The piece of paper that Neville Chamberlain brought back from Hitler, thinking that it meant "Peace in our time", which should have taught us never to trust office memos again.
Most famous one-limbed sailor
A tie between Lord Nelson and Long John Silver.
The person to whom most witty lines have been attributed, even though they never said them in the first place
Male winner: Oscar Wilde.
Female winner: Dorothy Parker.
Most common lie of the late 20th century
"We can't come to the phone right now", which on telephone answering machines means: "We're right here but we're listening to the answering machine to see if it's someone we want to talk to before we pick the phone up."
Most widespread misleading written statement in modern times
Most persistent superstition in an age of rationality
The belief that a horse will go faster if it is backed with sufficient money.
The cliche most likely to be rendered superfluous by the coming age of electronic banking
"The cheque's in the post."
Most dubious honour of all time
"Man's best friend", awarded to dogs, even though dogs were never consulted and would probably ask for a hefty redefinition of the title.
Three late-20th-century developments in the application of time that even Albert Einstein, with all his work on relativity, never predicted
The expiry date on a credit card; the sell-by date on a bottle of milk; Blind Date.
Most frequent radio announcement of all time
"And now, Alistair Cooke's Letter from America..."
The most time-wasting invention of the last 100 years
Commonest form of mass delusion in the 20th century
The regular, irrational urge that seizes large and otherwise apparently sane cities to apply to be host of the Olympic Games.
Best motto for life ever found on a matchbox
"Keep in a dry place and away from children."
Best example of a name of a character from a book that has passed into the everyday language, while the book and the character have become utterly forgotten
A 20th-century mystery that nobody wants explained but everyone wants to preserve as a 21st-century mystery
Most pointless invention of the last 100 years
Best method of concealing the true price of an object in a shop from the potential customer
Dead heat between antique dealers' coded prices in antique shops and bar-codes in supermarkets.
Most idiotic statement by any politician anywhere at any period in history
"Either a thing is true or it isn't true," said by Ann Widdecombe on Desert Island Discs in 1999.
Most mysterious organisation of modern times, even more so than the Freemasons
The Gideons, because apart from the fact that they distribute the Holy Bible to hotel rooms, nobody knows anything about them - where they come from, what they do it for, how often they have to replace bibles (probably the least stolen item of all those on offer in hotel rooms) or how you join. Has any of us ever met someone who said casually: "Yes, I'm a member of the Gideons, and they do an excellent three-course lunch..."?
More off-the-beaten-track millennium awards tomorrow
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
- 4 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 5 AirAsia flight QZ8501 missing: Search for plane carrying 162 passengers from Indonesia to Singapore suspended overnight
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The golden age of TV comedy is here
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
From Marvel to Star Wars: The rise of cinema’s shared universes
Game of Thrones is most-pirated TV show of 2014
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk