Making conversation at parties can range from delightful, to boring, to “maybe if I pretend to faint this person will stop telling me about their dog’s gluten intolerance.” A lot of what carries a convo at a soiree can depend on the type of crowd, the volume of the Beyoncé, and the amount of alcohol that is being served. But even if one is stuck at a mid-day work gathering where the only thing on offer is warm La Croix, there is an easy way to keep the conversation lively: simply bust out some bizarre and interesting party facts with which to dazzle the other guests.
Like most people, I abhor small talk. I find it unbearably tedious, and will do whatever I can to make it end, often blurting out the first through that pops into my head... like asking someone if they’ve ever paused “This American Life” in order to masturbate. I asked this very thing at a party recently, and the only thing louder than the sound of crickets was the sound of people quietly shuffling away from me. Below, I’ve assembled some intriguing bits of trivia to tuck away in my brain in an attempt to avoid such awkward incidents in the future. These little tidbits can be used to steer conversations away from things like the weather and Costco, and toward something a little more interesting. Like that kangaroos have three vaginas.
1. In Switzerland, it’s illegal to own only one guinea pig.
Yep. Swear to god. As per ABC News, the reasoning behind this is that guinea pigs are social animals, and the Swiss believe it's cruel to make the creatures live out their days in solitude, penning poems of longing and loneliness like some furry, bewhiskered Emily Dickinson. The law was passed in 2008, and the Swiss are so serious about their guinea pigs having pals that if one guinea pigs dies, there is actually a guinea pig rental service that will lone out an age appropriate buddy for the remaining pig. I find this fact both sweet and strange, and much better than trotting out the old “Richard Gere/hamster” nugget at parties.
2. Johnny Cash’s brother wrote a song called “I Didn’t Walk the Line.”
In case you didn’t know, Tommy Cash was Johnny’s little bro, and also a musician. He never quite climbed to the same heights as The Man in Black, but he did have a string of hits in the 1970s. He used to play music with his brother, and even appeared on The Johnny Cash Show. He also apparently wrote a song called, “I Didn’t Walk the Line,” about 9 years after Johnny released his iconic hit. Whether this was meant as an homage or a straight up rip-off is anyone’s guess, but wouldn’t it be awesome if Prince’s brother wrote a song called “Let’s Go Mildly Loopy”? Or if Gaga’s sister penned a dance single called “Euchre Face”?
3. In the original draft of 'Back to the Future,' the time machine was a refrigerator.
Hilarious, but it’s true. According to Slash Film, in first drafts of the screenplay the time machine was built around a laser device attached to a fridge. Not only that, the whole “harnessing lightning” idea wasn’t a part of the original script, and instead the fridge was driven straight into a nuclear blast. Spielberg later nixed the idea because he worried little kids might try and emulate the film by climbing into old Frigidaires. One can’t help but wonder if he and Zemeckis batted around other appliances before finally landing on the Delorean. Was there ever talk of a time traveling laundry machine? A dishwasher that could carry you to good old 1955?
4. Hyenas, bears, and bats have oral sex.
Yep. The Huffington Post reported that hyenas, bears, and bats (oh my!) have all been observed going down on each other, and in some cases, on themselves. According to Live Science, male bats have been seen servicing lady bats right before sex, and scientists believe this may assist with lubrication. They also say it could be a way of removing any other bat sperm that might have made it in there, thus ensuring that their sperm is the big winner. #sexybats
Bonus fun party question: if you had to choose a hyena, bear, or bat to blow you... forget it.
5. Brunch was invented in 1895 so friends could cure hangovers and rehash last night's exploits.
As per The Gothamist, in 1895, the English writer Guy Beringer proposed a simple idea: why not have "a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee, marmalade and other breakfast fixtures before moving along to the heavier fare? By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers." And thus, a magical idea was born... an idea that would forever alter the course of history, the Bellini industry, and the lines outside Brooklyn restaurants.
"Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting," Berginer makes the case in his very persuasive pitch. "It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, and it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week." It also allows friends to delight over incriminating photos they likely had forgotten were taken.
6. Boanthropy is a mental disorder wherein someone believes they are a cow.
According to Common Curiosities, this rare disorder somewhat resembles schizophrenia. Individuals who suffer from it believe themselves to be bovine — either an ox or cow. And how do they exhibit their symptoms? By crawling around in the mud and nibbling grass. You know. Doing cow stuff. Apparently Nebuchadnezzar from the Bible suffered from this affliction, and for seven years was convinced he was an ox. Whether or not he attempted to plow actual fields, I am uncertain.
7. The guy who invented Pringles was buried in a Pringles can.
Frederic Baur had a P.H.D in organic chemistry, and was the genius who woke up one day and asked the world: "Dude. What if the chips stacked on top of each other inside a cylindrical can?" Or something along those lines. Anyway, in 1966, Pringles were born, and stoners everywhere rejoiced and made glad.
According to TIME, Baur was so proud of his invention, when he died at the age of 89 he wanted to be buried inside one of the cans. And his kids complied. They drove to a Walgreens, debated which flavor to use, and ultimately (and rightly) decided to lay their dad to rest in Original Flavor.
Bonus fun fact: The shape of a Pringle chip is technically called a hyperbolic paraboloid. Though I guess "Pringle" rolls off the tongue with more ease.