The Straight Dope

Looking for a great way to waste an entire afternoon? Check out Cecil Adams’ answer for everything, “The Straight Dope.”

(Warning: The Webmaster General has determined that “The Straight Dope” promotes addictive qualities and may cause brain-burn. Prolonged exposure to “The Straight Dope” may result in exhaustive myopia, numbness of the coccyx, finger dislocation, urinary retention, carpal tunnel syndrome, hypotension, and feelings of cognitive inadequacy. Use of “The Straight Dope” has been known to lead to harder websites, such as Jeopardy.com and TrivialPursuit.com. There is documented case evidence of participation in “The Straight Dope” leading to Wikipedia abuse.)

“The Straight Dope” is a website and weekly syndicated column in which writer Cecil Adams answers questions about, well, everything. First appearing as a column in the newspaper the Chicago Reader in 1973, Adams has been answering questions on the nature of all things for over thirty years.

If you’re new to “The Straight Dope,” you may want to start off easy. Checking out his weekly column in one of the thirty US newspapers that carries his work is an excellent way to avoid overexposure. If you don’t live in an area where you have access to one of these publications, sticking to the main page “The Straight Dope” will give you access to “Today’s Question” and just a few “Recent Additions.” If you venture into the archives or scroll down the archive page to check out the “Classics,” you may find yourself lost.

I am lost.

What follows are some of my favorite “The Straight Dope” moments.

The question was posed to Adams, “why do people say Jesus H. Christ?” In his answer, Adams manages to postulate theories about the verbal natures of people living in the southern states of the U.S. against those who live north, the alteration of classical Greek characters into Christian Roman monikers, and potential chromosomal anomalies of Jesus due to his lack of a biological father.

Another writer queried the old chestnut “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” Adams’ answer is twofold. He answers the question first from the perspective of the questioner being an idiot, and second from the perspective that the writer is a person of exceeding wit and ingenuity. Both work, and he provides and excellent reference to the concept of Buddha Nature.

When asked, “can you stand eggs on end at the vernal equinox and at no other time?” Adams’ answer went on for nearly a page. He conducted research, staged exhibits, involved radio audiences, consulted scientists, and worked with experts on the equinox. He works up a number of theories about the celestial nature of the equinox and the science of the rotation of the Earth in order the lead readers to the ultimate conclusion that “you can stand an egg on end any old time. All it takes is very steady hands.”

“Does Mrs. Mantis bite Mr. Mantis’ head off during The Act?” Oh, forget about it. The answer has me howling. Read it for yourself.

“What is the origin of the “F” word?” Says Adams: “This is going to be a little crude, folks, but let’s try to keep a stiff upper lip. I’ve heard a number of variations of the ‘fuck-as-acronym’ story, none of which, in my opinion (and that of most linguists), is even remotely likely: (1) It stands for ‘fornication under consent of the king,’ which was supposedly tacked up over the doors of government-approved brothels in early England. (2) It stands for ‘for the use of carnal knowledge,’ which allegedly was stamped on condoms, or, alternatively, used the same way as ‘for unlawful carnal knowledge.'” And then he gets into the issue.

There is so much I have learned from Cecil Adams and his “The Straight Dope” column. Did you know that there are approximately 2 calories and .1 gram of protein in the average male ejaculation? You do now, thank you, Cecil. I also know that Barney Rubble’s occupations included TV repossessor, geological engineer, and, for a very brief stint, a gig as Fred Flintstone’s boss at the quarry. Now you know that too.

Oh, and Harvey Ball created the smiley face. That fact involved much investigation, but damnit, we have an answer!

So, who is this snarky savant handing out information to the masses on every conceivable topic? “The Straight Dope” is deliciously cagey about the answer. This contrivance is amusing and well executed. The site is clearly invested in projecting the image of Cecil Adams as an omnipotent trivia maven. Even the people who work closest to him purport not to know the details of his life. I do not believe them, but I enjoy the mystique.

Would you like to lose half a day? Check out “The Straight Dope.” It’s educational. It’s informative. It’s funny. It’s snarky. It’s, well, sweetâÂ?¦

“The Straight Dope” may reserve the right to contest that last statement.

For the Record: The writer has no affiliation with “The Straight Dope.” The writer simply has too much time on her hands and a somewhat exploitable attention span. The writer now possesses an impressive fund of random knowledge and the power to disseminate a fraction of it. The writer is not overly concerned about Roswell, New Mexico, or the nature of “Area 51” but, thanks to “The Straight Dope,” she now has unsolicited information about that particular subject at her disposal. Readers can discover this information for themselves, should they ignore the warnings posted on this site, and they venture beyond “The Straight Dope” home page.

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