Stump Jonathan Coulton In this round of Stump Jonathan Coulton, it's the year 1004 and a relatively new hand-held object has just been derided by clergy as being "sinfully decadent."
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Stump Jonathan Coulton

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Stump Jonathan Coulton

Stump Jonathan Coulton

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JONATHAN COULTON: From NPR and WNYC, coming to you from a studio in a skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, it's NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia, ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Now, here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.


Thank you, Jonathan. Today, we're taking a break from our usual home at The Bell House, and we are broadcasting out of NPR's beautiful studios in New York City. Why? Well, because we have listeners all over the country who want to play our games but they can't or won't travel to New York. Today, we're opening up our phone lines to them across the United States.

COULTON: And even though we are not taping in a bar this week, I have graciously volunteered to be our house mixologist.

EISENBERG: Excellent.

COULTON: So I have some - puzzle guru Art Chung, if you want me to make you a drink, I'm happy to make you something. What would you like?

ART CHUNG: I'll have a vodka martini with a little lemon twist.

COULTON: OK. I can do that. Ophira, is there something you would like?

EISENBERG: Yeah, I'll have a bourbon, bitters and a shot of Robitussin.

COULTON: Oh, yeah, the Ophira special?

EISENBERG: Yeah, lucky cocktail.

COULTON: Sure. Here's the thing - this is just a fake, prop cocktail shaker, so I don't actually have any ingredients to make.

EISENBERG: Don't worry about it. I have my own shaker. By the way, later in the show, we'll be joined by our special guest, Pablo Hidalgo. Pablo is a creative executive at Lucasfilm where he keeps track of all things "Star Wars." But first, it's time for a game we call Stump Jonathan Coulton. This is where we ask our in-house mixologist and all-around smarty pants Jonathan Coulton about a piece of trivia we found on the internet. Here is your question, Jonathan.


EISENBERG: It was the year 1004.


EISENBERG: What relatively new handheld object was derided by clergy as being sinfully decadent?

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: It now sounds like it's a commercial for whatever I'm talking about...

COULTON: I know.

EISENBERG: ...But back then it was bad, denounced.

COULTON: Was it a brownie?


COULTON: It sounds like you're describing a dessert.

EISENBERG: Right, exactly.

COULTON: A handheld object.

EISENBERG: Handheld object.

COULTON: This is in 1004.


COULTON: It probably wasn't any sort of tool that had an important purpose because that's - there's nothing decadent about holding something you actually need. So it wasn't, say, a hammer.

EISENBERG: Right, exactly. You decadent hammer.

COULTON: So perhaps some sort of a leisure time device?

CHUNG: Part of the clue is that it was relatively new in 1004, so people were doing fine without it.

EISENBERG: Yeah, you could deal without it.

CHUNG: But would you want to?

EISENBERG: Well, depending on the culture.

COULTON: A spatula - no.

EISENBERG: Well, you know what (unintelligible).

COULTON: Does a kitchen - a kitchen implement of some kind?


COULTON: Something for food preparation?


COULTON: Is it - Ophira, is it a fork?

EISENBERG: Yes. So the niece of the Byzantine emperor used a golden fork - of course it was golden, right...

COULTON: Sure, well.

EISENBERG: ...At her wedding feast in Venice. Said one clergy member, God in His wisdom has provided man with natural forks - his fingers.


EISENBERG: Disgusting. So back then, it was common to eat with one's hands and using a knife only if you needed to cut something. The idea of using a fork was an affront to the Almighty. But get this - that bride died of the plague a few years later.


EISENBERG: So they were like, ha ha, you know why that happened? Because you used a fork.

COULTON: Jokes on her.

EISENBERG: Yeah, that's right. And I'm sure it was all about that fork.

COULTON: Yeah, probably.

EISENBERG: So if you heard a piece of trivia that you think will stump Jonathan Coulton, share it with us on Facebook or Twitter.

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