Thursday, April 10, 2008

Gee Whiz Facts

My first job out of college was working for a congresswoman who loved nothing better than to sprinkle her speeches with a couple of what she called, "gee whiz" facts, so much so that writing her speeches often required little more than stringing together a few gotcha statistics.

Now these many years later, I'm finding the concept particularly helpful since my reading skills in French don't go much beyond the 5th grade level. As the nuances of opinion pieces or discussions of political strategy are pretty well over my head, I tend to confine my reading to straight reportage. Here are a couple of interesting facts, culled from the giveaway daily newspapers, that may make you too say "gee whiz."

  • The average age at which the French begin smoking is 13.5 years for girls, 13.3 years for boys.

  • Fully half of all French births are out of wedlock. (I was surprised to find that almost four in ten U.S. births are also out of wedlock.)

  • France is the number one tourist travel destination worldwide but the number of Americans coming to Paris was down 5.5 percent last year and 14 percent in January. (Think the shrinking dollar maybe has something to do with it?)

  • According to the Guiness Book of World Records 2008,the French have the world's highest average consumption of fat with Italians, Hungarians, and the Greeks not far behind. On average, each French person eats 6 ounces of fat a day. (And they still live longer than Americans.)
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