Fun Facts About the 50 States: Tennessee

Welcome to Fun Facts About the 50 States, where – week by week – I’ll be taking you on a tour around this great nation of ours, providing you with interesting, yet completely useless and probably untrue, information about each of the 50 states.

This week, we’ll be getting our asses whupped for making banjo jokes as we visit Tennessee. So let’s get started…

Tennessee’s flag features the first – and possibly worst – attempt at creating the now-iconic and ubiquitous “smiley face”.

* Tennessee became the 16th state on June 1, 1796, and was originally settled by outcast heretics from Massachusetts who believed that playing polo on horseback was completely inferior to playing it hogback.

* Tennessee’s nickname is the “Needs a cool spelling mnemonic like Mississippi has” state.

* Chattanooga, Tennessee is where the famous International House of Possum restaurant chain got its start in 1925.

* The Iris was adopted as the state flower of Tennessee in 1972, despite numerous complaints that it was too hard to spell.

* The state motto of Tennessee is: “Moonshine – it’s not just for breakfast any more”.

* The city of Kingston served as the state capital of Tennessee for only one day – just long enough to sign a peace treaty ending the bloody Civil War between rival factions of Hicks, Rubes, Hayseeds, Rednecks, and Hillbillies. The victorious Rednecks then moved the capital to its present Nashville location.

* The state song of Tennessee is “All I Want For Christmas Is My Thirty Front Teeth”.

* Living most of his life in Greeneville, Tennessee, Andrew Johnson held every elective office on the local, state, and federal levels – from City Alderman to US President. His shrewish mother-in-law, however, never ceased referring to him as “that good-for-nothing job-hopper”.

* Tennessee license plates are white with black numbers and feature the phrase “Barely Toleratin’ Yankees Since 1865”.

* The famous racehorse Iroquois was bred at Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation, and left hundreds of thoroughbred descendants. Sorta like the Kennedy clan, except with more hay-eating, and less negligent homicide.

* The Houston Oilers football team moved to Tennessee in 1997 and were known as the Tennessee Oilers for two years before changing their name to the Tennessee Titans. Which brings up a question: if the New England Patriots are affectionately known as the “Pats”, what’s the Titans’ nickname?

* During the first Gulf War, more National Guard members from Tennessee were deployed than from any other state. Possibly due to a rumor that the Iraqi Republican Guard consisted entirely of Gators fans.

* Born in Bakersville, Tennessee, Hattie Caraway became the first woman elected to the US Senate. Sadly, her term was marred by the now-infamous “lap dances for votes” scandal.

* Legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett was born near Greeneville, Tennessee and was best know for wearing a coonskin cap and a snakeskin thong.

* Tennessee’s name comes from the Cherokee Indian word “tanasi”, which means “White man make-um kick-ass corn juice firewater”.

* When it opened in 1992, Chatanooga’s Tennesse Aquarium was the largest fresh water aquarium in the US, featuring over 300 different aquatic species. Due to recent budget cuts, it now consists of three fishsticks in a wooden bucket.

* The largest earthquake in the continental US was the New Madrid Earthquake, which happened in northwestern Tennessee in 1811. Locals took it as a punishment from God for their sins of sobriety and book-learnin’, and quickly mended their evil ways.

* Tennessee’s Reelfoot Lake is known as the Turtle Capital of the World. It contains thousands of these ponderous reptiles, very few of whom are named after Renaissance painters or skilled in martial arts.

* Nashville, Tennessee is famous for its country music scene and is widely known as “the city that spells ‘opera’ with a y, and ‘violin’ with two d’s”.

* Famous railroad engineer Casey Jones lived in Jackson, Tennessee. He was killed when his train crashed on April 30, 1900, having failed to attain the 88 mph speed necessary for successful time travel.

* Tennessee has over 3800 caves containing a space of over one million cubic miles – nearly enough to hold an entire Senate’s worth of broken campaign promises.

* Bristol, Tennessee, is known as the “Birthplace of Country Music” and the “Graveyard of Cheerful Sobriety”.

* Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland, is located in Memphis, Tennessee, and is the most visited house in the US that does not contain the word “pancakes”.

* Or “possum”.

* Before the Revolutionary War, there was a colony in central Tennessee known as Transylvania. Contrary to popular rumor, it contained no vampires because 1) Tennessee vampires don’t exist, 2) if they did exist they’d be too ignorant to find the jugular vein on their victims, and 3) if they could find it, a toothless vampires couldn’t bite anyone.

* Tennessee will not allow you to buy beer in a liquor store. Probably because you can’t fit a Tennessee beer gut through a liquor store doorway.

* The 266 foot tall Sunsphere built for Knoxville, Tennessee’s 1982 World’s Fair still stands in it’s original location, although it’s currently up on blocks.

* Tennessee’s Fall Creek Falls is the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi. Unlike the more famous Niagra Falls, no one has ever gone over Fall Creek Falls in a barrel, since barrels are considered sacred by the state’s official religion of Whiskeytarianism.

* In Tennessee, it is perfectly legal to gather and consume roadkill. However, there IS a 7-day waiting period for buying a Buick.

* Jack Daniel, of Tennessee Whiskey fame, showed up early for work one morning and – frustrated at being unable to open a safe – kicked it, thus breaking his toe. He later died from infection as a result of the injury. Since then, people from Tennessee always stay home and drink all morning as a safety precaution.

That wraps up the Tennessee edition of Fun Facts About the 50 States. Next week we’ll be remembering the Alamo by randomly shooting Mexicans as we visit Texas.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go saddle up my hog for the polo match.


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  1. This week, we’ll be getting our asses whupped for making banjo jokes

    Ooh! Banjo jokes!

    Q. Why do bluegrass banjo pickers leave their fingerpicks on the dashboards of their pickup trucks?
    A. It qualifies them to park in handicapped spaces.

    Q. How do the workers setting up the stage at a bluegrass festival get the stage level?
    A. They have a banjo picker stand on it; when he drools out of both sides of his mouth, the stage is level.

    Q. What is perfect pitch with respect to a banjo?
    A. Pitching it into the toilet without hitting the toilet’s rim.

    Q. What’s the difference between a bluegrass guitar and a bluegrass banjo?
    A. The guitar burns longer.

    Yes, I play bluegrass guitar and banjo.


  2. You forget to mention that people in North Carolina pick on people in Tennessee for pronouncing hog, fog, and dog alike.


  3. What? no mention of the “Tennessee Bird Walk”. Reminds me of an old riddle.

    Why do birds fly south in winter?

    They are exempt from the humiliating TSA pat-downs.


  4. How do you spell “bourbon” in Tennessee? “W-H-I-S-K-E-Y.”

    How do you spell “whiskey” in Kentucky? “B-O-U-R-B-O-N.”


  5. I’ve been deep in the Tennessee woods and I’m here to report that many original, prohibition-era stills are still there, undiscovered by the Feds.


  6. What? Nothing about the Battle of Athens, TN, 1946 {} – which showed that sometimes guns alone aren’t enough.



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