Cliff loved factoids. Even if they weren't factual. Especially if they weren't factual.
A sampling of Clavinisms:
"If you were to go back in history and take every president, you'd find that the numerical value of each letter in their name was equally divisible into the year in which they were elected. By my calculations, our next president has to be named Yellnick McWawa."To tell the truth, I was afflicted with Cliff's Disease before Cheers premiered in 1982. While I hope that my factoid-spouting has had a bit more credibility, I was deluging people with "little known facts" almost from the womb.
"It's a little known fact that the tan became popular in what is known as the Bronze Age."
"I wonder if you know that the harp is a predecessor of the modern day guitar. Early minstrels were much larger people. In fact, they had hands the size of small dogs."
I'm sure that more than one person muttered in my direction words similar to those of Frasier Crane, another Cheers regular, who once told the Boston mailman, "Hello in there, Cliff. Tell me, what color is the sky in your world?"
It's a little known fact that Cliff Clavin Disease is genetic. And I can prove it. My grandfather, for whom I'm named, used to love clipping items from the newspaper that he found fascinating, tucking them into his wallet, and then expounding on them. When met with disbelief, he could quickly display his evidence.
But, just like Cliff, that didn't stop him from slipping in more than a little fiction with his facts. Like the times he claimed that while serving as a lowly Army NCO in Panama in the 1920s, he had seen military intelligence outlining Japanese plans for attacking Pearl Harbor.
Or his assertion that, in fact, Franklin Roosevelt had not died of a cerebral hemorrhage, but shot himself with a small pistol while posing for his portrait in Warm Springs. (When I presented this assertion as gospel truth during an elementary school history class, my teacher looked at me as though I had two heads and proceeded to correct me.)
Unfortunately, my mother may have been an enabler for my own surrender to this penchant for factoid (and fictionoid)-sharing. When I was little, she maintained a scrapbook of A.O. Leokum's "Tell Me Why" features from our local newspaper just for me. After you've wowed people with your knowledge of a few "little known facts," it becomes addicting and sometimes, you can't resist throwing in a few clinkers.
Through the years, my affliction has been both blessing and bane, mostly bane, I suppose. When the game, Trivial Pursuit, first came out, my friends were caught up in the fad and so, were eager to play. It didn't take long before they stopped the mere mention of the game in my presence, though. That's because when we did play, once it came to be my turn, that was pretty much the end of the game. People would screech at me in disbelief and disgust: "Who knows junk like that? You're not human!"
But, like Cliff and my grandfather, those clinkers--at times, big ones--have gotten thrown into my pronouncements on little known facts. When I was about eight, friends visited my family and at some point, I made an assertion about Abraham Lincoln that was wildly untrue. My parents might have let the whole thing slide had I not been so all-fired pushy about it. My mother finally pulled out an encyclopedia and showed me the facts. I paused for a second and pronounced, "They wrote the book wrong."
I'll never forget the day, back in my twenties, when I argued vehemently with a co-worker that a certain insurance company was owned by JC Penney. When she told me that she had just left a job with said insurance company and knew what she was talking about, I was in too deep, I guess. I told her that she was simply wrong.
Thankfully, in recent years, I tend to try to only assert things I know to be true. Experiences with being wrong, growing up a little, and my faith have probably all played a role in this "softening."
But, occasionally, haplessly, unintentionally, the Clavinisms slip out.
Last weekend, my wife and I went out to dinner at a local Max & Erma's with some old friends. As we waited to be seated, I saw a poster for a concert by the Chieftains. "Oh, the Chieftains," I said knowingly. (Or so I thought.) "Who are they?" one of our friends asked. "They're an Irish group," I said. (So far, so good. They do play Celtic music.) Then came the clinker: "They did that song, 'I Would Walk 500 Miles.'" "Oh."
Nothing more was said. No harm, no foul, I guess. But as articles about the Chieftains' upcoming concert in Cincinnati appeared in the local papers, no mention was made of 'I Would Walk 500 Miles.' I went to the Chieftains' web site. No mention of the song there either. So, I went to Google and learned that it wasn't the Chieftains who did this song.
Sometimes for me, it isn't a matter of "open mouth, insert foot," but of "open mouth, see what comes out."
Fortunately, I've learned that there is a cure for Cliff Clavin Disease: When you don't know what you're talking about, it's always better to keep your mouth shut!
And be prepared to be corrected when you're wrong.
UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for unleashing another one of his instalanches on this site. To all visiting by way of Instapundit, feel free to roam around here for a time. You might find other interesting stuff. Thanks for dropping by!
ANOTHER UPDATE: Dr. Melissa Clouthier, whose web site is called Dr. Melissa Clouthier, has linked to this post. (She refers to me as "a guy." It's the same designation given to me by the husband of a woman whose car I hit some thirty years ago when, tired and distracted, I ran a red light. As we sat in the back seat of a police cruiser, I heard him say to his wife, "This guy probably doesn't have any insurance." I did. In spite of eliciting that bad memory, I really appreciate the link, Melissa!)
Melissa said that she laughed out loud at my post and went on to talk about her own battle with CCD. Very funny! By the way, the truly funny person in my family can be found here.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Thanks to Meep Meep Meep Meep Meep and Steve Baxter of Things That Make Me Think for linking to this post!
STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Joe Sherlock at The View Through the Windshield has linked to this post. Thanks, Joe!
AND STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Bobby Rozzell was kind enough to link to this post. Thanks a lot!
AND STILL YET ANOTHER UPDATE: (This one being added on the evening of March 19.) Phil Gerbyshak has linked to this post. Phil challenges readers to "make it great!" Thank you, Phil.