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facts & arguments

A Canadian flag attached to a ski pole is waved on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, April 15, 2013.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Canada, in a nutshell

"Canada is too polite to say so," says Discover Canada (Lonely Planet), "but it's got the goods: a trio of cultured cities in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver; an epic amount of terrain to play on outside the urban areas; and a welcoming, progressive vibe throughout."

Who said that?

"Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin and Martin Luther King have probably said less than half the things you've heard them quoted on," writes social anthropologist Jamie Tehrani for BBC News. "Because quotes are just so much more quotable when they come from individuals who are famed for their wit and wisdom. It's okay. Because misattributing quotes exemplifies our tendency to give too much credit to celebrities. Fame is a powerful cultural magnet. As a hyper-social species, we acquire the bulk of our knowledge, ideas and skills by copying from others, rather than through individual trial-and-error. However, we pay far more attention to the habits and behaviours demonstrated by famous people than those demonstrated by ordinary members of our community. It follows that things are much more likely to catch on if they are associated with someone who is well known for one reason or another – even if the association is erroneous."

Geeks and nerds

To many people, "geek" and "nerd" are synonyms, but in fact they are a little different, writes Burrsettles at The blogger notes:

Geek: An enthusiast of a particular topic or field. Geeks are "collection" oriented, gathering facts and mementos related to their subject of interest. They are obsessed with the newest, coolest, trendiest things that their subject has to offer.

Nerd: A studious intellectual, although again of a particular topic or field. Nerds are "achievement" oriented, and focus their efforts on acquiring knowledge and skill over trivia and memorabilia.

"Both are dedicated to their subjects, and sometimes socially awkward. The distinction is that geeks are fans of their subjects, and nerds are practitioners of them. … Note that, while not synonyms, they are not necessarily distinct, either: many geeks are also nerds (and vice versa)."

Wit on the Web

From AskReddit: "It's hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally."

Social Studies, 1990-2013

This is the last appearance of Social Studies. The column has run on weekdays since June 12, 1990.

The column has never had an official title. "Social Studies" was a placeholder name, used by the Globe's then-editor-in-chief when he designed the Facts & Arguments page. Busy reshaping the whole newspaper, William Thorsell never had time to come back and give this column an imaginative designation.

The idea was to present a collection of news nuggets that could be adjusted to fill the space available that day. However, people weren't exactly sure what the column was to be about or to look like. I was one of them. I just winged it and hoped for the best, but I wasn't optimistic it would ever work.

By far, the most popular item in Social Studies is the Thought du Jour. (A few readers have told me it's the only essential part.) I've never cared much for the daily quotation, myself – as Voltaire said, a pretty saying proves nothing. However, people often cut out their favourite Thoughts and save them. Resistance is futile.

The Facts & Arguments page itself, with its essay, will continue to appear.

Thought du jour

"Canada is free and freedom is nationality."

– Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canadian prime minister (1841-1918)