A Mother Lode of Father's Day Trivia

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Editor and author A.J. Jacobs notes some fun facts about Father's Day, including prolific sires — Egypt's Ramses II had 110 children — and the otherwise underpublicized men who bear the titles of "Father of Bantu Linguistics" and "Father of Irish Geology."

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Father's Day is Sunday, time to try to honor fathers with something more inventive than just another tie or a new set of BVDs. Ah, but the best we can do for the moment is speak again with A.J. Jacobs. He's the man who's read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover and remembers the basic plot.

A.J....

Mr. A.J. JACOBS (Encyclopedia Man): Here I am.

SIMON: ...we dip once more into the shallow well of your knowledge. Thanks for being with us.

Mr. JACOBS: Thanks, as always, I suppose.

SIMON: Let's start off with the most prolific fathers in history, some of the names that occur to you.

Mr. JACOBS: Yes. Well, there's a running competition in the encyclopedia to see which historical figure can sire the most kids, and one of the contenders is Charles II of England, who was called `The Merry Monarch,' with good reason. He sired 14 illegitimate kids and, in fact, legend has it that his doctor was a man named Dr. Condom, who came up with the birth control device specifically for the randy king.

SIMON: Oh, my word. Ramses II of Egypt?

Mr. JACOBS: He's in there, and I think he holds the record with an impressive 110 children. So ...(unintelligible).

SIMON: Father's Day must have been quite a celebration at the old Ramses castle, wasn't it?

Mr. JACOBS: Yeah. Got a lot of Old Spice.

SIMON: I've got to ask you about the--there's a practice called couvade?

Mr. JACOBS: Yes. I think it was the strangest ritual I read about in the encyclopedia. It's--while the wife undergoes labor, the husband goes to bed and pretends to give birth himself, so he screams and makes contorted faces. And this ritual was most recently practiced by the Basques of Spain in the early 1900s. So no offense to the Basque men, but it just seems like a desperate cry for attention from the man.

SIMON: This phrase, `father of the country,' `father of his country,' `father of nuclear physics,' who are some of your favorite `fathers of' from history?

Mr. JACOBS: We've got Aaron Dennison, the father of American watchmaking; Sir Richard Griffith, the father of Irish geology; and my favorite is Wilhelm Bleek, the father of Bantu linguistics. Where would we be without him?

SIMON: As I've so often said to myself. You're a father, aren't you? Pretty...

Mr. JACOBS: I am a father.

SIMON: Pretty new one?

Mr. JACOBS: That's right. A year and three months.

SIMON: And your son is named?

Mr. JACOBS: Jasper Jacobs.

SIMON: Now you know, A.J....

Mr. JACOBS: Yes, sir?

SIMON: ...I'm kind of a new father myself. At this particular point the kids don't really get us the Father's Day gifts, right? It's usually the mothers, and then they just put the name on the card.

Mr. JACOBS: I am disillusioned.

SIMON: I didn't mean to dispel whatever fantasies you had. This is the second Father's Day for both of us, isn't it?

Mr. JACOBS: Yes. Happy Father's Day to you.

SIMON: And happy Father's Day to you.

A.J. Jacobs, speaking with us from our New York bureau. He's the father of "The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World" book, soon to be a major motion picture if he ever completes the screenplay.

And it's 22 minutes before the hour.

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