Paper. The first paper was made in Hellenistic times, but it was a liquid, and it was not considered successful.
Pennies. No two pennies are exactly alike. If you find one that is alike, it is a counterfeit.
Pillows. The pillow was originally invented as a weapon, but it proved ineffectual.
Pillows, like magnets, have a north pole and a south pole.
Pine Cleaners. The introduction of modern commercial pine cleaners, which are sold in bottles in supermarket cleaner sections, put all the professional pine cleaners out of work, and put an end to a centuries-old traditional craft. Recent studies have shown that the average white pine is much dirtier as a result.
Plastic. Plastic is intrinsically more valuable than gold, but its price is kept artificially low by large-scale manufacture.
Hero of Alexandria invented most of the plastics used in modern commerce, but they were regarded as sacred to Isis and therefore employed only in cultic rituals.
Pope. By an ancient tradition, confirmed by a decree of the Second Lateran Council, the Pope is required to sing “Happy Birthday” to any citizen of Rome who passes one hundred years of age.
There have actually been 84 popes named Benedict, but after the notorious Benedict LXVII the count was begun again.
Pretzels. Pretzels are made straight, but they curl as they dry.
Printing. Johann Gutenberg originally invented printing as a means of counterfeiting money.
Quinces. Quinces are the only fruits not subject to mathematical laws. If you have five quinces and take one away, you will have three left.
Rabbits. Although rabbits are famous for multiplying, they are incapable of long division.
Irony is usually lost on rabbits, who are very literal-minded.
Rubber. The refusal of rubber to conduct electricity is due to its disdain for useful labor.
Saturn. The rings of Saturn are purely decorative.
Shirt, skirt. The words “shirt” and “skirt” are etymologically the same, but they differentiated as the garments described shortened in two different directions.
Shoes. Shoes were commonly worn on the ears until the middle of the 16th century.
Shower. The invention of the shower-bath, or “shower,” was the result of a comical, though nearly catastrophic, error in plumbing.
Sleep. Scientists using sensitive monitoring equipment have discovered that, during a good night’s sleep, the human body is actually projected forward eight hours in time.
Soy. So-called “soy flour” is actually a meat by-product.
Squirrels. Only their constitutional greed prevents squirrels from devoting their lives to abstract philosophy.
Sublime; ridiculous. ANSI measurements have determined that, contrary to the opinion of Napoleon, there are actually 1.2 steps from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Sun. Unmanned space probes have at last succeeded in mapping the dark side of the sun.
Currently the sun gets its energy from nuclear power, but long-term plans call for converting it to solar power by the year 2017.
Sunflowers. It is commonly supposed that sunflowers turn to face the sun all day, but in fact the reverse is true.