How ‘Allo’ Allo survived the Nazi occupation

The author shares random facts in a new trivia book – from how “Allo” Allo survived the Nazi occupation to the murder by Genghis Khan of around 11% of the world’s population

  • Jonn Elledge gives the feeling of getting lost in an online encyclopedia in a tome
  • Facts include Genghis Khan killed around 11% of the population
  • TV’s ‘Allo’ Allo lasted more than twice as long as the Nazi occupation of France


by Jonn Elledge (title)

Many books have mentioned that one of the first names in Google was BackRub. Many books have mentioned the fact that there was a war that lasted from 1272 to 1278, which left 15,000 dead, and which began because a peasant in present-day Belgium stole a cow. But I bet this is the first book to mention these two facts.

Jonn Elledge’s self-proclaimed goal with this collection is to “induce the pleasant feeling of getting lost in an online encyclopedia, of sinking deeper into a hot tub of anecdotes.” The book just covers what interests him, for no other reason than what interests him.

Jonn Elledge gives the feeling of getting lost in an online encyclopedia in a new tome. Pictured: Gordon Kaye and Vicki Michelle in ‘Allo’ Allo

In the section on measurements, he reveals that “myriad” – nowadays a general word meaning “a lot” – was, to the ancient Greeks, a specific word for 10,000. In the section on countries, we learn that only 13 of the 150 or so non-European countries in the world have entirely escaped European colonization. And in the food section, we find the Loganberry, a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry that only happened because an American named Logan accidentally planted vines too close to each other.

Some of the facts are astonishing. If the universe’s 13.8 billion-year history is converted to a single year, for example, dinosaurs don’t go extinct until 6 a.m. on December 30. And Jesus Christ only exists five seconds before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Genghis Khan killed around 11% of the world’s population. The Australian military could have done away with him in 1932, when it was sent to send emus that were destroying crops. Despite the fact that they were using machine guns, the soldiers could not cope with the incredible speed of the birds, nor their ability to zigzag, so after a few days they admitted defeat and left.

Other facts are memorable because of their silliness. The TV show ‘Allo’ Allo aired from 1982 to 1992, meaning it lasted more than twice as long as the actual Nazi occupation of France.

Then there are the beautiful facts, the ones that prove that the supposedly boring world of “facts and figures” (adopts the monotonous, nasal librarian) can have a poetry of its own. The farthest point on Earth from mainland (it is in the South Pacific, 1,670 miles from the Pitcairn Islands, Easter Island and Antarctica) is known as Point Nemo, which means in Latin “person”.

And the Beaufort Wind Force Scale reads like a poem in itself. Force three consists of “leaves and small twigs in constant motion”, six means “umbrellas used with difficulty”, while force 12 is simply “devastation”.



It wouldn’t be a bad book to give to a kid who is about to start high school. Not only because some of the facts will be useful to them, but also because it will cause them to question the notion of what counts as fact in the first place.

Elledge is very good at reminding us that supposedly hard and fast news – the kind that’s quoted in textbooks, and indeed news reports – is often much less certain than we think.

Even something as “simple” as the longest river in the world. You will usually see the answer “the Nile”, with a number between 4,130 and 4,404 miles. But as this gap shows, measuring the length of a river is never easy. Which of its multiple sources do you choose?

At the other end, you don’t always know where a river ends and the sea begins. Do you measure the left bank, the right bank, or a line in the middle? These and other factors affect the response. Some people claim that the longest river in the world is actually the Amazon.

What counts as “interesting” is a very personal matter. So I would be amazed if you were interested in everything in this book. But then I would be amazed if nothing interested you in this book. You will certainly learn something.

For example, I thought I really knew my Michael Caine – but somehow I had missed the fact that in 2016 the actor (famous Maurice Micklewhite) finally changed his name by act of voting . It was to make life at airports easier.

“A security guard would say ‘Hi Michael Caine’, and all of a sudden I was giving him a passport with a different name. I could stay there for an hour.


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