Category Archives: Trivia

What are the Best Gifts That Keep on Giving?

atkins bookshelf triviaIn the hilarious holiday classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold has been expecting a hefty year-end bonus. When the envelope finally arrives, he opens it and announces with great disappointment: “It’s a one-year membership to the Jelly of the Month Club.” To lighten the mood, his cousin Eddie quickly interjects: “Clark, that’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.” Too bad, Griswold’s curmudgeonly boss didn’t think of sending him a gift card. Don’t let their small size and unobtrusive appearance fool you — the gift card is a superhero on steroids in the retail world — it keeps shattering records as it grows in leaps and bounds. Let’s take a look at some surprising facts about gift cards and why they are considered by consumers, and especially retailers, as the best gifts that keep on giving:

Every American has about $100 of unredeemed gift cards, sitting forlorn in some dusty drawer, forgotten wallet or handbag, etc. This is 100% profit for the retailer — and it adds up quickly. Get this: in 2017, the amount of gift cards that went unused amounted to about $1 billion!

Consumers are lazy. It is far easier to buy a gift card than to shop around to find the perfect gift. Hey, don’t feel guilty — everyone does it. Approximately 93% of American consumers give or receive gift cards. Remember that great line from the film, The Graduate: “I just want to say just one word… plastics.” No kidding. The average individual receives 7 gift cards each year; the average value is $45. And for the past nine years in a row, gift cards are the most requested gifts — driving the industry to the sale of more than $100 billion of gift cards per year.

Do you know why retailers love gift cards? First, they love the profits from unspent cards, of course, but second, they love that 72% of consumers do not have the discipline to stay within the limit of the card; thus, they spend more than the value of the gift card. Genius. Incidentally, the first gift card was introduced by Blockbuster (remember them?) in 1994. The next big boom in gift card sales came about in 2001 when Starbucks introduced gift cards in their stores. In 2013, Starbucks sold $16 billion worth of gift cards. However, one industry that is not happy about the success of the gift card is the gift wrap industry. Since 2001, the sale of gift wrap has steadily declined. Bah, humbug!

The gift card business is so ubiquitous and profitable that even organized crime has dipped its toe in the lucrative pool. Cartels use gift cards to launder money; counterfeiters sell fake gift cards, and thieves use stolen credit cards to purchase gift cards in order to get cash back or buy merchandise that they can sell. “Merry Christmas, you filthy animal…”

The holidays see the highest bump in sales: 20% of gift cards are sold during that busy retail period. And since 90% of gift cards are used within 60 days of purchase, retailers see those gift cards used during the holiday and winter season, boosting sales exponentially. So you see, for retailers gift cards are the best gifts that keep on giving. Tis the season to be merry…

SHARE THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Art of Giving Good Gifts
What Returns Cost Retailers

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Trivia
The Origin of the Name Scrooge
The Inspiration for Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
Twas the Night Before Christmas
A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life
Best Quotes from A Christmas Carol
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
The Story Behind Scrooge
What is a First Edition of A Christmas Carol Worth?
The Story Behind “The Night Before Christmas”

For further reading:


The Atkins Bookshelf Literary Christmas Price Index: 2018

alex atkins bookshelf booksBack in 1984, the PNC Bank (a bank based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania) developed the Christmas Price Index that totals the cost of all the gifts mentioned in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as a flippant economic indicator. In 1984, the Christmas Price Index was $12,623.10; more than three decades later, in 2018, it has reached $39,094.93.

Despite their symbolism, the twelve gifts of Christmas are not only extremely random, they are more of a nuisance than carefully-selected gifts that you would actually cherish. As if the holidays are not stressful enough, imagine all those animals running and flying about helter-skelter, defecating all over your clean carpets — not to mention the nonstop, grating sound of drummers drumming and pipers piping pushing you toward the brink of a mental breakdown. Truly, no book lover would be happy with these gifts. Bah humbug! Therefore, Bookshelf introduced the Atkins Bookshelf Literary Christmas Price Index in 2014 that would be far more interesting to appreciated by bibliophiles. The Atkins Bookshelf Literary Christmas Price Index replaces all those unwanted mess-making animals and clamorous performers with first editions of cherished classic Christmas books. The cost of current first editions are determined by the latest data available from Abe Books, the leading online antiquarian bookseller.

For 2018, the Atkins Bookshelf Christmas Price Index is $78,924 (shipping and tax are not included), a decrease of about 18% of the price index of 2017 ($95,683) — something that would be sure to deeply dismay that old curmudgeon Scrooge. The biggest hit to your wallet remains — by a very large margin — Charles Dickens’ very coveted and valuable first edition of one of the most well-known literary classics — A Christmas Carol ($35,000, a decrease of $5,000 from last year). The second most expensive Christmas book, coming in at $12,000, is Clement C. Moore’s classic poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (more commonly known at “The Night Before Christmas”) that has largely influenced how Santa Claus is depicted. The poem was included in a collection of Moore’s poems in 1844, a year after the publication of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. The biggest change in value was Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas that shrunk like the Grinch’s heart from $10,415 in 2017 to a mere $4,500 this year — a decrease of 57% — a bit of a let down for the festive folks in Whoville. Below are the individual costs of the books that make up the Atkins Bookshelf Christmas Price Index.

A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens: $35,000
A Visit from St. Nicholas (included in Poems, 1844) by Clement C. Moore: $12,000
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957) by Dr. Seuss: $4,500
A Christmas Memory (1966) by Truman Capote: $1,875
The Polar Express (1985) by Chris Van Allsburg: $2,500
The Nutcracker (1984 edition) by E. T. A. Hoffman: $1,250
Miracle on 34th Street (1947) by Valentine Davies: $875
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902) by L. Frank Baum: $11,385
The Greatest Gift (1944) by Philip Van Doren Stern: $8,800
Christmas at Thompson Hall (included in Novellas, 1883) by Anthony Trollope: $150
Old Christmas from the Sketchbook of Washington Irving (1886) by Washington Irving: $125
The Gift of the Magi (included in The Four Million, 1905) by O. Henry: $14

Total $78,924

SHARE THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Origin of the Name Scrooge
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
What is a First Edition of A Christmas Carol Worth?
The Story Behind “The Night Before Christmas”

Words invented by Dickens
Why Read Dickens?
Atkins Bookshelf Literary Christmas Price Index: 2017

For further reading:

Types of Anagrams

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAn anagram is one of the most popular forms of word play that recombines all the letters of a word or phrase to create a new word or phrase. For example, “inch” is an anagram of “chin.” The anagram, of course, is at the heart of board games like Scrabble, Clabbers, Boggle, and Bananagrams and puzzles like Jumble and Cryptic Crosswords. But did you know that anagram mists have actually coined specific words for specific types of anagrams? So if you want to show off your word scrambling skills, here are the various types of anagrams.

ambigram: an anagram that is ambiguously the opposite of the original phrase
Example: the nuclear regulatory commission = your rules clone atomic nightmares

antigram: an anagram that is the antonym of the original word or phrase
Examples: violence = nice love; fluster = restful; Santa = Satan; united = untied

pairagram: an anagram where the words are linked in meaning or form a sentence
Examples: Elvis = lives; dormitory = dirty room; the Morse code = here come the dots

semordnilap: an anagram that is the reverse spelling of a word that spells a real word (the reverse spelling of palindromes)
Examples: desserts = stressed; diaper = repaid

synanagram: an anagram that is a synonym of the original word
Examples: angered = enraged; statement = testament; evil = vile

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Levidrome: The Word That Launched a Thousand Erroneous Stories
What is a Semordnilap?
What is a Phantonym?
What is the Longest Word in English Language?
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

What is an Abecedarian Insult?
Difficult Tongue Twisters
Rare Anatomy Words
What Rhymes with Orange?
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order

For further reading: The Game of Words by Willard Espy
Oddities and Curiosities of Words and Literature by C. C. Tombaugh edited and annotated by Martin Gardner
A Word of Day by Anu Garg
Wordplay: A Curious Dictionary of Language Oddities by Chris Cole
The Dictionary of Wordplay by Dave Morice

What is the Most Rejected Book of All Time?

alex atkins bookshelf books“Tis a lesson you should heed, try, try again. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” When American educator Thomas Palmer wrote that in the Teacher’s Manual (1840), he was encouraging schoolchildren to finish their homework. But that same adage is perfectly true for aspiring writers who will receive their share of rejections slips from publishers and agents. Some of the greatest writers have received rejection slips: D. H. Lawrence, Herman Melville, Vladimir Nabokov, George Orwell, Marcel Proust, Kurt Vonnegut — to name just a few.

Of course, this discussion invites the question: what is the most rejected book of all time? Technically, that would be a book that has never been published — and there are thousands of those. But let’s limit the question to a book that was eventually published. According to the folks at LitHub, the author that holds the records for receiving the most rejections for a book is American science fiction writer Richard Samuel “Dick” Wimmer for Irish Wine (the first part of the Irish Wine Trilogy). He was 28 years old when he wrote it, but it took more than 25 years — and 162 rejections — until it was finally published in 1989 (by then, Wimmer was 53 years old).

In second place is Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Canfield’s manuscript received 144 rejections from publishers. Of course, the book became a phenomenal best-seller and launched a very lucrative brand and franchise. Dig this: the Chicken Soup books have sold more than 130 million copies. Responding to the sea of rejections he received, Canfield wrote: “If we had given up after 100 publishers, I likely would not be where I am now. I encourage you to reject rejection. If someone says no, just say ‘next!'”

Not far behind is Robert Pirsig’s classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. That philosophical work received 121 rejections. Fortunately for Pirsig, he persevered, and the book went on to become a bestseller and cult classic, selling millions of copies. Who says success isn’t the best revenge?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Famous Authors Who Were Rejected by Publishers
Could Jane Austen Find a Publisher for Her Work Today?
Daily Rituals of Writers: William Faulkner
Daily Rituals of Writers: Isaac Asimov
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The Daily Word Quotas of Famous Authors
Random Fascinating Facts About Authors
Words Invented by Famous Authors

For further reading:

How Many Synonyms Are There for Drunk?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsThe English language has thousands of synonyms for “drunk.” Lexicographer, Stuart Flexner, in his book I Hear America Talking, believes that since people get drunk for various reasons, affecting them in different way, the English language has simply developed synonyms to reflect the wide gamut of feelings and reactions. The first to record all the colorful terms for drunkenness was Benjamin Franklin, who included 228 terms in the Drinker’s Dictionary published in 1737. Apparently the colonists were so prone to inebriation, they required their own dictionary to know what they should be called by their spouses and friends. Several other editors and writers created their own expanded lists over the years; however, lexicographer Paul Dickson, bested them all, when he set the Guinness Book of World Records for most synonyms for a word in 1983, listing 2,660 terms for drunkenness. Later in 2009, he published Drunk: the Definitive Drinker’s Dictionary in 2006, listing a staggering (pun intended) 2,964 synonyms for drunk. Word lovers throughout the world — even the priggish editors of the OED — celebrated by getting bombed, loaded, trashed, hammered, soused, buzzed, blottered, marinated, liquefied, wasted, smashed … You get the point.

In 2002, the BBC One’s Booze program asked its audience to submit euphemisms for “drunk.” They headed to their local pubs, got sufficiently sloshed, and then contributed more than 141 euphemisms for drunk. For example, here are their synonyms for “drunk” beginning with the letter B: badgered, banjaxed, battered, befuggered, bernard langered, bladdered, blasted, blathered, bleezin, blitzed, blootered, blottoed, bluttered, boogaloo, brahms & liszt, buckled, and burlin.

To that list, perhaps they should add “blue-eyed.” Seems that in 2017, researchers at the University of Vermont discovered this sobering fact: people with light-colored eyes (specifically, blue, green or gray) are more likely than those with dark eyes to have high rates of alcohol dependence. However, their study indicated that this relationship was correlational, not causal. That is to say, the researchers found a statistically significant interaction between the genes that determine eye color and genes associated with alcohol dependence — certainly a great topic for conversation among a group of inebriated folks hanging out at a bar.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Colorful Language of Roadside Diners
Colorful Victorian Slang
Words That Sound Naughty But Are Not

For further reading:

Have You Geminated Recently?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAlthough geminate, as a verb or adjective, is not often used, it happens quite frequently. Here’s a clue to its meaning: the word is derived from the Latin geminatus, which in turn is derived from geminus (meaning “twin”, as in Gemini). So when we say that somethings are geminate, we mean that these items come in pairs: eg, the following things are geminate: eyes, ears, shoes, headphones, earrings, chromosomes, gloves — you get the picture. The term is frequently used in phonetics to describe a person who pronounces a compound word as two distinct words, eg, “head phones” (rather than “headphones”) or “book shelf” (rather than “bookshelf”). Let us turn to the verb form. When we geminate, we are pairing something, that is to say, we are putting two items together to make a pair. So if you have recently done laundry, you have geminated — you have put socks together in pairs; you have geminated your socks. Or if you have put away your shoes, by pairing them in your closet, you have geminated your shoes.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?
How Many Words Does the Average Person Speak in a Lifetime?

Rare Anatomy Words
Words Oddities: Fun with Vowels
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Obscure Scrabble Words

The Most Wicked Freudian Slip in the Bible

alex atkins bookshelf booksIn the Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Sigmund Freud (“Siggy” to his friends) introduced the concept of Freudian slips: a verbal or memory mistake that is caused by a subconscious thought. It is often referred to as a slip of the tongue. For example, during a televised speech on C-SPAN, Senator Ted Kennedy was discussing education and uttered this titillating line: “Our national interest ought to be to encourage the breast and the brightest.” What he meant to say, was “the best” not “the breast.” Freud would say that this gaffe reveals what Kennedy was actually thinking about subconsciously — and of course, being a Kennedy… boys will be boys. More recently, in June 2018, during an interview on CNN’s New Day, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, Queen of Alternative Facts, said this: “Just so we’re clear: and the problem with the president of the United States and the Commander of Cheese — chief — expressing that opinion, is exactly what?” Freud would say that this egregious, and rather delicious, verbal slip-up reveals her subconscious feelings toward the President, considering him to be cheesy, i.e., inauthentic. Or perhaps she was thinking of swiss cheese, full of holes.

But in the world of print, perhaps the most famous—and most wicked—Freudian slip occurs in the 1631 Bible, published by Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, who were the royal printers in London. It was meant to be a reprint of the 1611 King James Bible but the compositor (the tradesman who arranged each cast metal letter on a composing stick) must have had adultery on his mind when he was working on the ten commandments. In this edition of the Bible (known as the Wicked Bible, Adulterous Bible, or the Sinner’s Bible — although it should also be known as the Politician’s Bible) the 7th commandment reads: “Thou shalt commit adultery.” as opposed to “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Oops. The compositor was caught with his pants down, so to speak. This egregious blunder, a classic Freudian slip, was also missed by the corrector, the person employed to review the typecast forms and initial printed proofs. As you can imagine, that mistake caused quite a scandal in England. The King, Charles I, and Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot, threw epic hissy fits. The printers were hauled into court, fined heavily, and had their printing license revoked.

So what happened to the Wicked Bibles? As soon as the error was discovered, all the evil Bibles  were collected and burned. However, dare we say miraculously, a few errant copies made their way to the open market. The Wicked Bible is extremely rare, and thus very valuable — worth about $100,000 (but of course, not as valuable as a first edition Gutenberg Bible, worth more than $30 million). Only a few museums or libraries have a copy of the Wicked Bible; those include the British Library, the New York Public Library, and the Dunham Bible Museum. Since most people do not want to see the Good Book commanding this sort of moral depravity, the Wicked Bible is rarely displayed.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Does the Bible Contain a Pangram?
What was the First Bible Printed in the United States?
What is a Thumb Bible?
How Many Books Exist in the World?

The Most Expensive American Book
How Many Bibles Have Been Sold?
Book Titles Based on Line from the Bible

For further reading: Just My Typo by Drummond Moir

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