Cyclopedia of Factoids - The Letter O

Entries written by Sam Vaknin for the Links and Factoids Study List


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Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), the American President (1829-1837) was much ridiculed for his Bushisms (lack of grasp of the English language). He was - erroneously - "credited" with the creation of the much used OK by spelling "all correct" as "oll korrect."  

This apocryphal story competes with yet another anachronism: during the second World War OK (zero+K) meant "zero killed". But OK much preceded the twentieth century, let alone the 1940s. It is found in the March 23, 1839 issue of the Boston Morning Post, for instance, and did, indeed, stand for "Oll Korrect". OK caught on fast. By 1840, it was all over the USA from New York to New Orleans. President Van Buren (1782-1862) used it in his campaign, when it signified "Old Kinderhook", his birthplace in the Hudson Valley.

There are numerous other etymologies attributing OK to a host of other languages, from Native-American to Creole, and to everything from telegraphic signaling to German generals - but they have all been convincingly debunked.

Oil Spills

The largest oil spill in history was in Tobago. The Atlantic Empress spilled 287,000 tons in 1979. Then comes the ABT Summer in Angola (260,000 in 1991), The Castillo de Bellver in South Africa (252,000 in 1983), the Amoco Cadiz in France (223,000 in 1978).

By comparison, the famous Exxon Valdez spill in the United states in 1989 involved only 37,000 tons. The Prestige in Spain in 2002 carried a load of 77,000 tons but most of its sank with it to a depth of 4 kilometers.


Multi-cellular organisms, such as plants and humans, evolved over billions of years. Ancient bacteria infiltrated the first eukaryotic cells - i.e., the first cells with a nucleus. They helped these cells convert food into ATP - the cellular "battery" molecule.

As time passed, these bacteria degenerated. Their remains still occupy the cytoplasm of eukaryotes in the form of "organelles", tiny organs. But these remains contain their own DNA - distinct from the host cell's. They also encompass their own ribosomes - cellular miniature protein factories. So, in a way these organelles - the mitochondria in living creatures and the chloroplasts in plants - are separate organisms. They maintain a symbiotic relationship with cells. They are symbionts.

All the cells in the human body contain mitochondria. Mitochondria are more abundant in cells with heavy energy requirements, like muscle cells.

A third type of such symbiont was recently discovered in the malaria parasite, the Plasmodium falciparum. It is called an apicoplast and is, perhaps, the remains of an alga. It, too, has its own unique genome.

Oscars (Academy Awards)

Ben Hur (1959) and Titanic (1997) won 11 academy awards (Oscars) each.

Gigi (1958) and The Last Emperor (1987) were nominated for 9 awards and won them all.

The Turning Point (1977) and The Color Purple (1985) were nominated for 11 awards each, but didn't win even a single one.

Limelight (1952) by Charlie Chaplin won an Oscar for original dramatic score only in 1973, a year after it was screened in Los Angeles for the first time. 

These winners were still shot in black and white. Notice the years: Schindler's List (1993), The Apartment (1960) , Marty (1955), On the Waterfront (1954), From Here to Eternity (1953).

These winners were shot in color. Notice the years: Gone With the Wind (1939), An American in Paris (1951), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Around the World in 80 Days (1956), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). 

War and Peace (1968) is the longest film ever to win the Oscar at 7 hours 33 minutes. Gone With the Wind (1939) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962) were each 3 hours and 42 minutes.

Walt Disney - with 26 statues - won the most awards. Alan Menken for music and Denis Muren for visual effects each garnered 8 Oscars.

John Ford won consecutively for The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and How Green Was My Valley (1941)

So did Joseph L. Mankiewicz for A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950).

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