Tuesday, May 27

The Debunker: Is Presidents Day a National Holiday?

by Ken Jennings

In a series of “Debunker” columns from a few years back, Ken Jennings shattered a few beloved myths about the presidency—Abraham Lincoln didn’t write the Gettysburg Address on an envelope, JFK didn’t kill the hat. So why take on four more White House whitewashes this month? It’s a matter of some urgency: Ken has a fun new book out this month about such matters. So get ready to whistle along to “Fail to the Chief” as KJ blows up everything you thought you knew about the leader of the free world.

The Debunker: Is Presidents Day a National Holiday?

The presidential holiday in February was created not by the mattress and used car salesmen who are so fond of it today, but by an act of Congress in 1879. The holiday was officially named “Washington’s Birthday,” just as it is today. Since Abraham Lincoln was born in February, there’s been some movement toward making the holiday a day to celebrate both presidents, or all presidents (even the loser ones), or the presidency in general. Many states have followed suit: 17 call it “Presidents’ Day” (check the apostrophe—multiple presidents), 4 call it “President’s Day” (just one president, no indication of which one), and 5 call it “Presidents Day” (no apostrophe, anyone’s guess). Only fifteen states call it “Washington’s Birthday,” as the U.S. government still officially does.

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Tuesday, May 20

The Debunker: Did Teddy Roosevelt and His Rough Riders Take San Juan Hill?

by Ken Jennings

In a series of “Debunker” columns from a few years back, Ken Jennings shattered a few beloved myths about the presidency—Abraham Lincoln didn’t write the Gettysburg Address on an envelope, JFK didn’t kill the hat. So why take on four more White House whitewashes this month? It’s a matter of some urgency: Ken has a fun new book out this month about such matters. So get ready to whistle along to “Fail to the Chief” as KJ blows up everything you thought you knew about the leader of the free world.

The Debunker: Did Teddy Roosevelt and His Rough Riders Take San Juan Hill?

“It was a splendid little war,” ambassador John Hay wrote to his friend Theodore Roosevelt in 1898, reminiscing about the eight weeks of the Spanish-American War. Leaving aside the little matter of 17,000 deaths, the war with Spain was indeed splendid for the political career of Roosevelt, who had resigned his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in order to fight in Cuba. The legend of Roosevelt leading his “Rough Riders” up San Juan Hill and saving the day is probably the most iconic thing people remember about the war. But most people’s knowledge of Teddy’s ragtag band of volunteers is a little, well, rough.

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Tuesday, May 13

The Debunker: Can the President Serve Only Eight Years?

by Ken Jennings

In a series of “Debunker” columns from a few years back, Ken Jennings shattered a few beloved myths about the presidency—Abraham Lincoln didn’t write the Gettysburg Address on an envelope, JFK didn’t kill the hat. So why take on four more White House whitewashes this month? It’s a matter of some urgency: Ken has a fun new book out this month about such matters. So get ready to whistle along to “Fail to the Chief” as KJ blows up everything you thought you knew about the leader of the free world.

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Tuesday, May 06

The Debunker: Did George Washington Chop Down a Cherry Tree?

by Ken Jennings

In a series of “Debunker” columns from a few years back, Ken Jennings shattered a few beloved myths about the presidency—Abraham Lincoln didn’t write the Gettysburg Address on an envelope, JFK didn’t kill the hat. So why take on four more White House whitewashes this month? It’s a matter of some urgency: Ken has a fun new book out this month about such matters. So get ready to whistle along to “Fail to the Chief” as KJ blows up everything you thought you knew about the leader of the free world.

The Debunker: Did George Washington Chop Down a Cherry Tree?

It’s the most morally edifying story from American history involving a hatchet. (Distant second place: Lizzie Borden.) A six-year-old George Washington, “immoderately fond” of his new present, uses it to chop down a “beautiful young English cherry-tree” on his family estate. His father is angrily trying to track down the culprit…when master criminal George walks into the room still holding the hatchet. “George, do you know who killed that cherry tree yonder in the garden?” Dad asks. “I can’t tell a lie, Pa,” says young George. “I did cut it with my hatchet.” Of course his father is so proud of his son’s guileless honesty that George suffers no consequences for his vandalism.

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Tuesday, February 19

There Can Be Only Pun: Presidential Sweets

by Sean Adams

You guys, I have an addiction. I'm addicted to puns. I need them. I can't get enough of them. I HUNGER FOR THEM. That's why I've set up this weekly blog feature: so you guys can feed my addiction. Every week, I'll name the topic, give you some examples, and then you'll pun away in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter. I'll choose the best ones and post them here next week. Sound good? Good! Let's do it!

THIS WEEK'S EPISODE: Presidential Sweets!

We're celebrating Presidents' Day a day late here at Woot, with some sweet presidential puns. And not sweet like cool. Sweet like sweet. Check it out:

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Tuesday, November 27

The Debunker: Was David Rice Atchison President for a Day?

by Ken Jennings

Every schoolchild learns how John Quincy Adams used to deliver the State of Union address wearing only an oversized diaper and a velvet sash reading “BABY NEW YEAR 1823.” My fellow Americans, that’s just not true! And neither are the other four presidential misconceptions author and Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings will impeach this month.

Presidential Myth #4: In 1849, a Senator Named David Rice Atchison Was President for a Day.

Ah, the roll call of legendary American chief executives: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Atchison. Wait, Atchison?

David Rice Atchison was a Kansas lawyer and anti-abolitionist leader who represented his state in the U.S. Senate for twelve years, from 1844 to 1855. But today his fame mostly hinges on the historical claim that he, not Zachary Taylor, was the actual 12th President of the United States. In this version of history, Atchison is said to have served his term in office for twenty-four hours, between James Polk and Zachary Taylor. Also, the little guy was really tuckered out, so he spent most of his term asleep.

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Tuesday, November 20

The Debunker: Did Kennedy's Inauguration Make Hats Uncool?

by Ken Jennings

Every schoolchild learns how John Quincy Adams used to deliver the State of Union address wearing only an oversized diaper and a velvet sash reading “BABY NEW YEAR 1823.” My fellow Americans, that’s just not true! And neither are the other four presidential misconceptions author and Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings will impeach this month.

Presidential Myth #3: John F. Kennedy Killed the Hat by Going Bare-Headed on Inauguration Day.

During the first season of the TV series Mad Men, the series’ fedora-wearing (and Nixon-voting) ad execs prophetically ponder the specter of a Kennedy presidency. “He’s inexperienced,” says Roger Sterling. “He doesn’t even wear a hat,” replies Bert Cooper.

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Tuesday, November 13

The Debunker: Did Lincoln Write the Gettysburg Address on an Envelope?

by Ken Jennings

Every schoolchild learns how John Quincy Adams used to deliver the State of Union address wearing only an oversized diaper and a velvet sash reading “BABY NEW YEAR 1823.” My fellow Americans, that’s just not true! And neither are the other four presidential misconceptions author and Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings will impeach this month.

Presidential Myth #2: Abraham Lincoln Wrote the Gettysburg Address on the Back of an Envelope.

Seven score and nine years ago, at the dedication of a military cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Abraham Lincoln gave a two-minute speech that schoolchildren still memorize today. The so-called “Gettysburg Address” is one of the most famous orations in history, but the one thing people most often remember about its story—that it was hastily written on the back of an envelope while Lincoln was traveling by train to Gettysburg—couldn’t be further from the truth.

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Tuesday, November 06

The Debunker: Does the Presidential Eagle Ever Turn Its Head?

by Ken Jennings

The collective American mind is stuffed with an incredible amount of fable and folklore about our forty-odd past presidents. For example: every schoolchild learns how John Quincy Adams used to deliver the State of Union address wearing only an oversized diaper and a velvet sash reading “BABY NEW YEAR 1823.” My fellow Americans, that’s just not true! And neither are the other four executive branch errors author and Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings will impeach this month. (We apologize in advance if you live in a swing state and are thoroughly sick of all things presidential at this point.)

Presidential Myth #1: The Eagle on the Presidential Seal Turns Its Head in Wartime.

One of the most iconic symbols of the American presidency is the Seal of the President, which features a bald eagle set against a blue background. In its left talon it holds a bundle of arrows, in its right, an olive branch. This seal appears on the presidential flag, on Air Force One, on the carpeting of the Oval Office, and—most important of all—in the West Wing credits.

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Friday, August 17