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So what do you really know about America?

This quiz is a bit different from what is usually offered, because you are not invited to score high marks by getting correct answers but to learn something new from answers that you might not have been expecting. These answers are – as far as I know – the real truth about various aspects of America, as opposed to what is generally assumed. However, do feel free to argue the toss as much as you like in your comments!

My source for these possibly contentious facts is “The Book of General Ignorance” by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, which is itself based on the TV panel show “QI” (which stands for “Quite Interesting”).

  • Who was the first American President?

    • George Washington
    • Not George Washington, who was only the 15th. The first president of the “United States in Congress Assembled”, also known as the Continental Congress, was Peyton Randolph.
  • Who is America named after?

    • Amerigo Vespucci
    • Richard Ameryk, who was Welsh. He was the chief patron of John Cabot’s voyages to North America in 1497-8, and a contemporary record is the first in which the name “America” is used. Vespucci did not reach the Americas until 1500.
  • What was Billy the Kid’s real name?

    • William Bonney
    • Henry McCarty. William Bonney was only an alias
  • Where was baseball invented?

    • The United States
    • England. It was first mentioned in print in 1744, and it even gets a mention by Jane Austen (in “Northanger Abbey”). A story was invented in 1907 that the game was the idea of Abner Doubleday, but that was pure fantasy.
  • How did Nome in Alaska get its name?

    • It is an Inuit name
    • It was a spelling mistake. In the 1850s, a ship’s officer on a British vessel noticed a prominent cape and scribbled “Name?” on his chart. When the map was redrawn at the Admiralty in London, a clerk misread the scribble as “Nome” and that is what it has been called ever since.
  • How many states are there in the USA?

    • 50
    • 46. You’re forgetting about Massachusetts, Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania, which are all Commonwealths, not States.
  • What were George Washington’s false teeth made from?

    • Wood
    • Hippopotamus and elephant ivory, mostly. Washington had terrible teeth, and had lost all but one of his own by the time he became President.
  • What is the world’s largest city? (clue: it’s in the USA)

    • New York
    • Honolulu. Largest by area, that is, and only because the city and county are one and the same. The area of 2,127 square miles comprises the whole of Oahu and other islands stretching 1,500 miles into the Pacific. 72% of the area is water.
  • What’s the world’s largest man-made structure? (clue: again, it’s in the USA)

    • The Mount Rushmore Presidents
    • Fresh Kills, the rubbish dump on Staten Island. In volume, it is larger than the Great Wall of China. It covers 4.6 square miles and, at its peak, was 80 feet higher than the Statue of Liberty. It was closed in 2001, but used again in 2002 to take the debris from the World Trade Centre.
  • What did Buffalo Bill do to buffaloes?

    • Shoot them
    • Nothing. Buffalo Bill never saw a buffalo in his life, and there are none in North America. He saw plenty of bison, though, and shot 4,280 in under 18 months. The common ancestor of the buffalo and the bison died out about 6 million years ago.

What do you think?

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Written by Indexer

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    • I know that some of them don’t like to have their age-old assumptions challenged – but then who does? People will go on believing all sorts of things long after you’ve given them all the proof that their beliefs are groundless.

  1. Amazement after amazement! I’ll leave the first one for my son to tackle, as that’s his are;, regarding ‘commonwealth’ I can find nothing to support the idea that those commonwealths are not also states. In what sense might the two terms be mutually exclusive?

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