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Tips For Adulthood: Five Facts To Use In Small Talk

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood. About a year ago, I wrote a post entitled Five Things You Never Knew About Finland. I had just come back...

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

About a year ago, I wrote a post entitled Five Things You Never Knew About Finland. I had just come back from a short trip to Helsinki, and was amazed by the assortment of fascinating – yet obscure – things I learned about this small Scandinavian country.

In a similar vein, I’ve just attended a quiz night at my son’s school, where I again spent an evening absorbing a treasure trove of arguably arcane – but indisputably interesting – facts about the world ranging from religion to history to pop culture to sport.

It’s tempting to dismiss these little facts as irrelevant. But as this recent post by etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts notes, small talk isn’t trivial. It is, in fact, the very fabric of social interaction, the way we connect with other human beings.

In that spirit – and because, let’s face it – at some point in our lives, we all end up stuck in a line…or on a bus…or at a cocktail party with people we don’t know, here are five facts you can whip out of your back pocket to liven up that conversation:

1. The River Thames changes name when it passes through Oxford. It’s called…The Isis. My well-bred hubby knew that one. I had no clue. Whenever I think of “Isis” I think of that proto-feminist, the Marvel Comic Superhero, Isis, as in: “Oh Mighty Isis…” Live and learn.

2. A simple white cooking sauce made from flour and butter is called a Roux. That’s right, not a Béchamel, as you might have guessed. (Gotcha!) That one’s got milk in it as well. The roux is the basis for all else sauce-wise, at least in French cuisine.

3. The minimum number of shots in darts needed for a checkout is nine. What is a check-out, you ask? Excellent question. Inquire here. But you are now armed (no pun intended) with some serious dart trivia the next time the topic arises.

4.The first American television program to air an on-screen kiss was The Flintstones. I love this answer. I was sure it was Lucy and Desi on I Love Lucy. My husband thought it was The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. But here’s an even better bit of trivia. The first on-screen inter-racial kiss? Star Trek (between that knave Captain Kirk and the wily Lieutenant Uhura). Love it.

5. Marie Antoinette was Austrian. I think most people – well, OK, me – assume she was French because she later became the Queen of France, and, well, her name sounds so French. But she’s not. Just another wanna be…


Image: Darts Anyone? by Shankool007 via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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  1. Daryl Boylan March 3, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

    My best favorite small talk bit — go see “The Hurt Locker”! No idea whether it will win the Academy Award, but go see it anyway — & for heaven’s sake, leave children at home.

  2. Lynn C March 3, 2010 at 9:53 pm #

    I knew that about Uhura and Kirk, but originally it was supposed to be a kiss between spock and uhura so they could get it past the censors as “well, he’s not HUMAN so it doesn’t count” and Shatner threw such a fit that the script was changed at the last moment ;-) Thus, it was good to see Spock and Uhura together at last in the new Star Trek

  3. delialloyd March 4, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    Love that bit of trivia Lynn-will clearly need to bring *you* along next time!

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