Category Archives: Man In A Pub Facts

Man In Pub Fact – 698 Cities In China

Geezer says to me at the Tolbooth Tavern:

“Go on – ask this: How many cities are there in China?”

I said “What’s the answer”

He said “Six hundred and ninety-eight. Go on – ask it.”

Obviously I decline.

I can’t just turn man-in-a-pub facts as questions just like that… I need proof. So I’m looking it up now.

First stop is a simple Google search for “how many cities are there in China”, which brings up and this information:

The administrative divisions of China designate the cities into three levels. Provincial-level cities include municipalities and the country’s Special Administrative Regions, county-level cities and prefectural-level cities. China has a total of 662 cities that fall into these three categories, with Shanghai boasting the largest population with over 22 million residents as of 2016. The country has a total of 34 provinces that house its cities.

So there’s a pretty straight figure: 662 cities.

In terms of questions the trouble with this fact on its own is that its bit bland. With no sense of scale (how big are these “cities” – its kind of meaningless.

A better fact is quickly found further down the page:

In total, China has over 160 cities that have a population of over 1 million people.

That’s more like it – this would make a great tiebreaker.

But – wait a second… a few paragraphs later we get this:

China has 65 cities with more than a million people,

Hang on – where did all those other cities, nearly a hundred of them, disappear to?

Thing is, such variance within a couple of paragraphs is no surprise to your seasoned quiz writer.

City sizes have always given grief for setters and trivia hounds, because boundaries are hard to define.

You can have the administrative area of a city go only so far, and that limits the population to a certain number but then the urban sprawl runs right into the next area.

In real life there is no gap but administratively it is not the city. This is often called the Metropolitan area and sometimes the people who live there are counted as being part of the city and sometimes they are not.

In local terms this would be something like Musselburgh which is technically East Lothian but is completely connected to Edinburgh and is served by Edinburgh buses.

This is well summed up by a Wikipedia list of largest cities.

As you can see, Chongqing in China is top of the list but how many people live there?

The answer can be 30 million or 8 million, depending on how you look at it.

The three figures for Lagos vary wildly.

So that’s why you won’t get many questions about city populations, they’re just too difficult to pin down.

Going back to the man-in-a-pub fact, the number of cities in one particular country and region is easier to pin down and may make nice tiebreakers or multi-choice questions.

We’ll see.

Anyway – if you have some unverified fact that you think I should know, then come and tell me in the pub while I’m doing the quiz.

This works best if you’re a wee bit pished and use a certain amount of vehemance to tell me your fact.


See you soon.


Dr Paul

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The 46 States of The USA?

Classic Man In a Pub Fact from last night:, as given to me be a guy from Wales who was called Iuan or perhaps Euan or maybe Eion, but who definitely from Wales.

“There are NOT 50 US states, there are only 46 because 4 of them are ‘commonwealths rather than states”.

For fact-check I’ve looked at :

States which are Not States


Aye – I suppose so, but I think it’s fair to say that although they self-designate as “commonwealths”, it’s reasonable to say they are ALSO States.

This information certainly won’t affect any questions in the database about counting states or asking for states where the answer is one of the four ‘commonwealths’.

For the record – these non-states are

  • Massachussets
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • Kentucky

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Man In A Pub Fact Check – Susan Boyle

Scene: last night at the Brass Monkey Leith.

Three men at a bar. The chat turns, as it inevitably does in these situations, to Susan Boyle.

One man lays out a fact:

“Susan Boyle is the ONLY artist to ever have a number one album in the UK charts AND the US charts at the same time.”

Usually when I’m given an astonishing FACT like this, the implication is that I use it in the quiz.

Fair enough

But before deploying, I know it’s always worth checking.

So, unsurprisingly, the actual FACT is slightly less astonishing than the initial claim.

Susan Boyle became the first solo female artist to have TWO simultaneous UK-and-US chart-topping albums in the space of less than twelve months.

Two other artists have already achieved this: The Beatles and The Monkees (both in the sixties), but they are bands rather than solo artists.

Note: Boyle’s albums were not in the same calendar year (2009 and 2010).

Note: The achievement is doing the simultaneous no.1 TWICE in 12 months.

Other artists have done the double twice or more, including Adele and Led Zeppelin, but over a wider span of time. The Beatles did it six times.

Plenty of other artists have been simultaneously top of the US and UK charts, including Pink Floyd, Phil Collins and Radiohead.

Tom Yhorke out of Radiohead dissing the quiz
Tom Yhorke, yesterday

And this is all albums. The singles chart has a whole different list. In fact, that might make quite a good list round. Noted.

By the way, none of this is to subtract from Susan Boyle’s amazing success. Her chart achievements are pretty phenomenal but the point of this article is to point out how easily the truth can get blended into something completely different.

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Bar Animal Cruelty Now, Etc.

Classic man-in-a-pub fact last week.

There’s a guy in the pub who says he “used to work in television”.

I don’t doubt him, sounds kosher enough but then I happened to play the TV theme tune for Skippy.

This guy tells me an non-astonishing fact: “You know – they used to have seven differnt Kangaroos playing Skippy. There wasn’t just the one.”

No shit. I knew that.

But then he reveals: “…and you know how they used to get him to go ‘ttth-tth-ttth-ttth-ttth*’?”


“They used to punch him in the FACE”.

take that, cunt

Fucking fantastic. If it’s true, then the world is a worse place and a better place simultaneously. Thankyou, real life.

If it’s false, it’s just a man-in-a-pub fact.

*Frank un-typeable kangaroo cute noise”

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Stuff I Learned At The Quiz This Week

Maggie told me at the Joker & The Thief that a man in the USA died from choking on a donut during a donut eating challenge. This turns out to be true.

Detail: The donut was a half-pounder and the man 42 years old. His name was Travis. The prize for eating the donut is that you get the donut for free and you get a badge.

Travis was going great guns but halfway through, choked, started thumping the counter of the shop and then turned blue and collapsed. He died right there in front of a crowd that had just been cheering him on.

The article I read does not detail whether the donut shop sent the badge to his family anyway or, more likely, they would deem the challenge incomplete.

What else?

There was a team at the Safari Lounge last night called “Ornitorrincos“. what’s that? Turns out this is Spanish for “Platypus”.


Another team name at the Brass Monkey led to a surprising discovery. I thought “His Ding-A-Ling’s Up” was something to do with Chuck Berry but it turns out it’s a reference to a 1970s porn musical film titled: Alice In Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy.

I had no idea such a thing existed. The team name refers to a part of the film where the characters restore Humpty Dumpty’s failed erection. Now you know.

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Taller Than You Think

Man-in-a-pub facts are always worth writing down and checking. Sometimes I get great questions that way.

For example, someone told me recently that TV presenter Jonathan Ross is unusually short.

“Really?” I said, “I always thought he was quite tall?”

“Naaaah,” says the man-in-the-pub: “He’s only like five foot or something. He’s a dwarf

A quick bit of checking reveals that Woss is indeed not as tall as Russell Brand but he’s still 186 cm (6′ 1″) which makes him taller than most men in Britain.

_ross_brandSo I got a question out of it but this man-in-the-pub fact turned out to be FALSE.

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Fact Check: Do Pigeons Have Penises?

A team at the Newsroom the other week dropped a bombshell when they told me that pigeons don’t have penises.

What? Pigeons don’t have penises? Can this be true? Sounds like a man-in-a-pub fact to me.

_pigeon lady gif

Time for some super-horny Thursday-morning fact-checking.

First thing I found was this piece in The Scientist, which should be pretty reliable. It says:

“… But 97 percent of bird species have lost the ability to grow a penile structure capable of penetration over the course of evolution. They mate instead by rubbing together small openings called cloacae, in a maneuver called a cloacal kiss…”

So 97 per cent of birds mate by kissing their arseholes together? And the birds who have real penises tend to be water fowl and large birds like ostriches?

Surely that’s the info I need. But a quizmaster must be certain. What if pigeons just so happen to be in that 3 per cent cock bracket?

There’s a bloke called George who thinks not. He says he “Wiki’d it” and consequently posted this educational video:

The evidence is fairly stacking up for a lack of pigeon penis, but I think I finally nailed it at this article on

which includes this terrific graphic:


and this killer quote:

In zoological anatomy, a cloaca is the posterior opening that serves as the only such opening for the intestinal, reproductive, and urinary tracts.  Birds also reproduce with this organ; this is known as a cloacal kiss. Birds that mate using this method touch their cloacae for only a few seconds, sufficient time for sperm to be transferred from the male to the female.
So there you have it. Fact proven: PIGEONS DO NOT HAVE PENISES. It’s going in the quiz.

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A Man In A Pub Told Me… Part 1 (Platypus)

As a quizmaster, I frequently face men in pubs (women too but mainly blokes) who wish to tell me fascinating true and genuine facts.

The usual idea is that I’m supposed to first be amazed and secondly throw their ‘fact’ straight into the quiz (after quickly constructing a great question to match the fact).

_its a factOne reason for this never happening is that the “amazing” facts are quite often NOT THAT INTERESTING. Flag: this is probably true if your “amazing” fact concerns sport or includes a numerical statistic.

Another reason for me failing to immediately deploy the wisdom is because I need to fact-check everything before using in a competitive quiz, particularly man-in-a-boozer nuggets.

Anyway – here’s the first in a new irregular series where I take a man-in-a-pub fact home and test it for interest and veracity and then try to make a question out of it.

So, someone told me at the Reverie the other night that

“Platypuses are poisonous”


Interest: 6/10

This is reasonably interesting. People like facts about dangerous animals. It creates frisson. Also, Platypuses are at the funnier end of the animal hilarity scale.

Truth: 10/10

Well, let’s see what they say on

“The platypus is the only Australian mammal known to be venomous”

Apparently it’s not enough to kill a man and the only ones armed with the venom are the males. It’s though that they spike each other when fighting for a mate. The poison is delivered via a wee spike above the platypuses rear hell. So don’t fuck with them.

Most importantly though, the truth checks out

Good Question?

With the extra knowledge that the platypus is the only venomous mammal in Oz, I can now create something like this:

Q. What is the only mammal in Australia known to be venomous?

a. Kangaroo

b. Wombat

c. Tasmanian Devil

d. Duck-Billed Platypus

Job’s a good’ un.


Fairly interesting, completely true and a decent question. Plus, it’s in the science category where questions are harder to come by, so overall I give this man-in-a-pub fact 7/10.

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