uselessness; Florence Nightingale's Rottweiler and other oddities

Share
Related Topics
Oscar Wilde once said: "It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information." Even before the advent of the Information Superhighway, however, which seems to consist of little other than useless information, pioneers in the field of uselessness had taken large steps towards remedying Oscar's perceived deficiency.

(Incidentally, did you know that the words "Oscar Wilde once said" come third in the list of most frequent four-word phrases opening a newspaper article?)

Now one of those pioneers, Geoff Tibballs, has published some of the results of his explorations in The Guinness Book of Oddities, (pounds 12.99) a delightful collection of curiosities ranging through human eccentricities, history, science, art, entertainment and every variety of follies. There are several old friends, whom one meets in every such collection: the mummified body of Jeremy Bentham, the madness of George III, His Imperial Highness Norton I, Emperor of the United States, and even dear old Gerard de Nerval, who did nothing odder than taking his lobster for walks and hanging himself on a lamppost in Paris.

Yet since one expects these old favourites to be in any collection of oddities, ought they not to be excluded for that very reason? After all, the expected can hardly be deemed odd.

On the other hand, I did not know that in 1964 the Peking Cinema Institute had banned an educational film entitled Elementary Safety in Swimming in Rivers, Lakes and Seas, on the grounds that an excessive attention to security undermined revolutionary bravery. And while everyone knows that it is illegal to carry an ice-cream cone in your pocket in Lexington, Kentucky, I had not realised in Alaska it is illegal to look at a moose from the window of an aircraft.

Clearly it is time to establish criteria of uselessness for compilers of books such as this. When, more than a decade ago, I was sifting through a mountain of trivia for a little tome called The Ultimate Irrelevant Encyclopaedia, I sought a definitive yardstick of irrelevance and came up with the following:

"The second tallest minaret in the world is the minaret of Jam in Afghanistan." Any item less irrelevant than that, for example the identity of the tallest minaret in the world, was excluded from the book.

Since then, of course, I have moved on to the developing field of useless disinformation. One crucial feature of uselessness as a genre is that it does not matter a hoot whether it is true or not. If it did matter, it wouldn't be useless. So how about the following:

Albania is the only country on earth where poetry is legally obliged to rhyme.

Italian master chefs consider it unlucky to utter the word "macaroni" which they instead refer to as "the Scottish pasta".

Florence Nightingale was the first Briton to have a pet Rottweiler.

All complete nonsense, of course. And I made up that one about "Oscar Wilde once said" being the third most common opening phrase. But he did utter the line about useless information. He was right in his day, but now the time has come for all good men to turn back the tide of useless information. And if the only weapon at our disposal is useless disinformation, let us spread it with all our might.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband created a crisis of confidence about himself within Labour when he forgot to mention the deficit in his party conference speech  

The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election

Andrew Grice
 

Beware of the jovial buffoon who picks fights overseas

Boyd Tonkin
Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect