When James Joyce Tried to Work in a Bank

During his youth, Irish author James Joyce was not doing well financially and he had to do several odd jobs. One time, he tried to apply in a bank. He was interviewed by the bank manager and the interview went something like this: Manager: “Do you smoke?” James: “No,” Manager: “Do you drink?” James: “No.” […]

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Real World Probability: A “Birthday Problem” Anecdote

I heard the following story from my topology professor. A renowned statistician was teaching a course in fundamental probability theory to a group of undergraduates. As expected of an introductory course, he briefly tackled several main principles of probability to give the students a bird’s-eye view of the subject. One day, he talked about the […]

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Dress Code

It can be rather awkward if you appear at an event wearing casual clothes while everyone is wearing formal attire and vice versa. Nonetheless, playwright and actor Noël Coward didn’t falter when a similar event happened to him. In 1918, Coward was invited to a gathering organized by Tomorrow Club, which was composed of literary […]

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A Stone-Cold Hoax

Melville Stone was a publisher of the Chicago Daily News during the 1870’s. In his memoir, he related the following anecdote of a hoax pulled by the Chicago Daily News against its competitor. The staff at the Daily News had a feeling that the Chicago Post and Mail, which was run by the McMullen brothers, […]

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A Study Of The English Language

The English language can be confusing, especially to foreigners who are learning it. The following curious anecdote has a good illustration regarding this, and it also contains an ingenious collection of words: A Frenchman, while looking at a number of vessels, exclaimed, ‘See what a flock of ships!’ He was told that a flock of […]

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Gleanings From The Past #54

Not Lost in Translation A ludicrous story is told of a great naval function which took place during the reign of the last Napoleon and the Empress Eugénie. Several American vessels were present, and they were drawn up in line to salute the Empress’s yacht as it passed. The French sailors, of course, manned the […]

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Albert Einstein On The Formula For Success In Life

One day, someone asked Albert Einstein whether he knows the mathematical formula for success in life. “If a is ‘success in life’, then the formula is, a equals x plus y plus z, where x represents ‘work’ and y represents ‘play’,” Einstein said. “But what about z?” he was asked. “z,” he replied, “is keeping your mouth […]

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Not Lost In Translation: A Curious Language Anecdote

Vladimir Nabokov Vladimir Nabokov, in his 1962 novel Pale Fire, related a remarkable, albeit probably apocryphal, Russian language anecdote. The story went that a newspaper which covered the coronation ceremony of a Tsar “accidentally” misprinted “корона” (korona) (crown) as “ворона” (vorona) (crow). The following day, the newspaper apologized for the error and promptly “corrected” it. However, the word […]

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Isn’t It Strange?

On one occasion, a young man approached John Wilkes (1725-1797) and remarked, “Isn’t it strange that I was born on the first of January?” He said it as if it was some sort of grand occurrence. “Not strange at all,” Wilkes replied. “You could only have been conceived on the first of April.”

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Inconsistent Propositions

It was said that when mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was at a dinner party, he stated that “it is useless talking about inconsistent things, from an inconsistent proposition you can prove anything you like.” This can be illustrated using mathematical methodologies as simple as algebra. However, Russell was too good for just using […]

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