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Is Leonardo DiCaprio’s middle name Wilhelm? Could Wordsworth only sleep standing up? Steve Wright’s greatest factoids – but can YOU spot the ones that are totally made up?


They were one of the highlights of his afternoon radio shows — snippets of trivia from around the world so crazy that listeners were never quite sure if they were true or false.

Whether it was knowing the vast shoe size of a celebrity chef or revealing the name of the film that had the first flushing toilet, these fascinating ‘factoids’ were such a popular feature that the legendary DJ, who died this week aged 69, produced two books of his favourites.

Author and broadcaster Janey Lee Grace, one of the Steve Wright In The Afternoon posse, recalls: ‘We always had such fun on the show. Gathering factoids and keeping them fresh and relevant was quite time-consuming, so occasionally we threw in something that was “questionable” just to amuse ourselves. It was just a bit of fun. I don’t think listeners minded too much. Of course, when we had specific events to commemorate or anything seasonal, the producers would look over them for accuracy!’

Here’s our selection of the DJ’s wackiest factoids…

‘A man a plan a canal panama’ spelled backwards is still ‘A man a plan a canal panama’.

Consecotaleophobia is a fear of chopsticks.

In 2007 a mum named her baby after John Lewis when she went into labour while in the shopping centre.

A chamois goat can balance on a point of rock the size of a £1 coin.

Chef Gordon Ramsay takes a size 15 shoe.

Tantalus was a king in Greek mythology whose crimes were punished by having food and drink kept just out his reach. Hence the word tantalise.

The artist George Stubbs used to suspend dead horses from the ceiling so he could draw them while they weren’t moving.

Polar bear fur is not white. It’s see-through but the light shines through the hairs to make them look white against the bear’s skin.

Britney Spears is an anagram of Presbyterians.

Supernurse Florence Nightingale always travelled with her pet owl in her pocket.

Footballer Wayne Rooney proposed to his wife Coleen on the forecourt of a petrol station with a £25,000 diamond engagement ring.

Did you know that ‘dilogy’ is the word given to an original movie and its sequel? But dilogy is such a naff word that it’s not used publicly.

One in ten Scandinavians is allegedly conceived in an Ikea bed.

Movie star Nicole Kidman is scared of butterflies. ‘I jump out of planes, I could be covered in cockroaches, I do all sorts of things, but I just don’t like the feel of butterflies’ bodies,’ she says. It is known as lepidopterophobia.

A Belgian student sold the foreheads of himself and his friends to pay for his 20th birthday party. He put up their foreheads as advertising space as he had no money to buy food or drink for the bash. The online auction was won by a marketing firm in the city of Waregem, which footed the bill for all partygoers to have the firm’s logo painted on their foreheads for the night.

The name Lego, as in the children’s toy, comes from two Danish words ‘leg godt’, meaning ‘play well’. Lego also means ‘I put together’ in Latin.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s middle name is Wilhelm.

The first female to circumnavigate (sounds painful) the globe was Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz.

Winston Churchill’s family motto was ‘Fiel pero desdichado’, meaning ‘Faithful But Unfortunate’.

The title of the 1970s TV programme The Old Grey Whistle Test comes from the old maxim: ‘When the grey-haired doorman whistles your tune, you’ve got a hit on your hands.’

Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio¿s middle name is Wilhelm. Is that true?

Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s middle name is Wilhelm. Is that true?

The name of James Bond villain Blofeld was inspired by the English cricket commentator Henry Blofeld’s father, with whom Bond creator Ian Fleming went to school.

Almonds are members of the peach family.

The most impossible item to flush down a toilet is a ping-pong ball.

Rolling Stones star Keith Richards has a child called Dandelion.

Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke only 700 words during the whole of the film The Terminator. That worked out at £12,000 per word, almost double the £6,500 payment he received for his first film, Hercules In New York.

Comedian Johnny Vegas reportedly attended interviews and was accepted by the priesthood — he changed his mind at the last minute.

Psycho was the first Hollywood film to show a toilet flushing and that generated many complaints.

The very first episode of Doctor Who was shown on November 23, 1963 — the day after President Kennedy was assassinated. The nation was so shocked the show went unnoticed, so the BBC repeated it a week later.

American composer John Cage created a piece entitled ‘4 minutes 33 seconds’ which is totally silent.

Graceland is the second most visited home in America, after the White House. Elvis bought Graceland for $102,500 (£36,600) in March 1957.

A study once revealed that people are more likely to catch colds when their mothers-in-law come to stay — too much stress brings down their immune system.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir had to paint with the brush tied to his fingers because of rheumatism.

Charles Dickens mentions a fried fish shop in his novel Oliver Twist (published c.1838) — but it was not until the 1860s that the trade took off. So Dickens invented fish and chip shops!

Ancient Greeks and Romans believed asparagus had medicinal qualities for helping prevent bee stings and relieve toothaches.

Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector, was famed for his sense of humour and as a young man would put sticky sweets onto his guests’ chairs and trick them into sitting down.

In October 1833, ten-year-old Barney Flaherty became the world’s first paperboy after seeing an advert in the New York Sun.

Capgras Syndrome: This involves the delusion that a significant other, such as a parent, spouse or other relative, has been replaced by an imposter.

Pandas are the only bears that don¿t hibernate ¿ their bamboo diet is not sufficiently fattening. True or false?

Pandas are the only bears that don’t hibernate — their bamboo diet is not sufficiently fattening. True or false?

Scientists have discovered that the humble lettuce was an ancient form of Viagra, which could boost your sexual performance. In small amounts, it has a sedative effect, but in larger doses acts like a sexual stimulant.

Bananas contain a natural chemical that can make a person happy. This same chemical is found in Prozac.

Ovaltine, the drink made of milk, malt, egg and cocoa, was developed in 1904 in Berne, Switzerland. It was originally named Ovomaltine. A clerical error changed it when the manufacturer registered the name.

The great silent movie star Charlie Chaplin had his feet insured for £33,497.

Russian dictator Joseph Stalin’s face was left badly scarred by smallpox, which he suffered from as a child. He later had photographs retouched to make his pockmarks less noticeable.

The quagga was a type of zebra which was hunted to extinction in the 19th century.

Four out of five computer passwords are chosen from sporting heroes, pets or family members.

Tony Robinson only got the part of Baldrick in the Blackadder series after Timothy Spall turned it down.

The day Jamie Oliver was spotted by television producers working at the River Cafe, he had only come into work because another chef was ill.

English soldiers of the Hundred Years’ War were known to the French as ‘Les Goddamns’ because of their propensity to swear.

Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, never telephoned his wife or mother because they were both deaf.

A whale that strayed into the Thames in 2006 wasn’t the first. In 1240, the history books record that a ‘beast of prodigious size’ swam under London Bridge. In 1309 a 75-feet-long whale was caught at Greenwich in London, and in 1658 another whopping whale appeared in the aftermath of a great storm.

The World Cup was hidden under an Italian official’s bed during the war to prevent the Nazis getting it.

Those ugly fish, the koi carp, can live for more than 200 years, but the average lifespan is between 25 and 35 years.

Taramasalata, a type of Greek dip, and Galatasaray, a Turkish football club, each has an ‘A’ for every other letter.

A grasshopper needs a minimum air temperature of 62f (17c) before it’s able to hop.

The superstition that spilt salt is unlucky is believed to have its derivation in Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper, which depicts Judas Iscariot sat by a knocked-over salt cellar.

The Bay of Pigs in Cuba is not named after pigs. Its Spanish name, Bahia de Cochinos, can translate as ‘bay of pigs’ but is actually named after cochinos, a fish prevalent in those waters.

Weird American place names include Nothing, Chloride and Winkelman in Arizona, and Plain City, Hurricane and Orderville in Utah.

Pandas are the only bears that don’t hibernate — their bamboo diet is not sufficiently fattening.

London’s Oxford Street was formerly known as Tyburn Road, after the River Tyburn. The river still runs underneath the street.

In most advertisements, including those in newspapers, the time displayed on a watch face is ten past ten.

The first time England qualified to play in the World Cup finals was in 1950. The tournament was staged in horrifyingly humid conditions in Brazil and our players had to be given oxygen at half time.

The poet William Wordsworth could only sleep standing up.

When Queen Elizabeth II visited the Sultan of Brunei she was issued with an etiquette list which included not wearing yellow, not pointing and not sneezing in public.

Only three grape varieties can be used in champagne — Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The latter has never been grown successfully anywhere in the world outside the Champagne region in France.

Queen Victoria sent more than 2,500 Valentine’s cards during her reign.

At the age of 11, Beyonce recorded her life ambitions on a camcorder. On the tape she said she wanted to record a gold album, which she would follow up with a platinum-selling second album, with a third which she wanted to both write and produce. She achieved all these ambitions by the time she was 21.

The first text message was sent in 1992.

Actress Kate Winslet has had a street named after her in her hometown of Reading. The cul-de-sac of 50 houses is known as Winslet Place.

The leg on the poster for the Dustin Hoffman film The Graduate is not that of co-star the late Anne Bancroft, but of fellow actress Linda Gray, who went on to find fame as Sue Ellen in Dallas.

SWIMS is the longest word with 180-degree rotational symmetry – if you were to view it upside-down it would still be the same word and perfectly readable.

As a child, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones was exposed to a virus that gave her breathing difficulties. She had tracheotomy surgery, which has left her with a scar on her neck.

The only part of the human body that has no blood supply is the cornea in the eye. It takes in oxygen directly from the air.

  • Adapted by Jill Foster from Steve Wright’s Book Of Factoids by Steve Wright (HarperCollins, £6.99) and Steve Wright’s Further Factoids by Steve Wright (HarperCollins, £9.99). © Steve Wright.



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