THE BEAR FACTS — Wait a sec while I wipe some of this egg off my face. Well, actually, it isn't egg. It's pear juice.

You may remember a recent column in which I reported that my 12-year-old granddaughter, Josie, told me she'd read that the bear on the California state flag was supposed to have been a pear (to symbolize California's agricultural excellence) — the idea of Captain Jedediah Bartlett, after whom the Bartlett pear is named. Josie got excited when I told her I was going to mention her discovery in one of these columns.

My first reaction — as I stated in the column — was that it sounded like an urban myth (and I just wish now I'd stayed with that assessment), but I decided to recount it when I checked a Web site that purports to investigate urban myths to determine their validity. The Web site pronounced it "True."

So I passed it along. Bad idea.

I knew I was in trouble when I heard from Lenny Lim, who said he'd come on the bear/pear story somewhere else, in which it was claimed that Captain Bartlett had two lieutenants named "Bosc" and "Anjou."

Uh-oh.

Then I heard from Dolores Orsi — whose husband is a retired history prof — and from Jane Petersen, who urged me to go back and recheck my facts, then write another column confessing my mistake. This is that other column.

I did some further checking. The bear/pear story is a hoax. No truth to it. Forget it. I was guilty of lazy research — ignoring the old newspaper principle of never giving validity to information from only one source — and I apologize for the goof.


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It's tough having to admit you were taken in by a hoax, but that's not the worst part.

The worst part will be telling Josie.

FAST BREAK — Following a column on how to get off the phone if you find yourself caught in a long and boring conversation, Susan Schwede says she has the perfect answer: Hang up while you're talking.

"No one ever expects you to hang up on them if you're talking at that moment," she says. "They'll think the phone system is at fault. It works like a charm."

WEEKLY WIT-WRENCHER — Interestingly, if you write out all the numbers from 1 to 99 (writing 1 as "ONE," 2 as "TWO," etc.) you'll find that not once have you written an A, a B, a C, or a D.

Moreover, you'll find that there are only two numbers between ONE and NINETY-NINE in which the letter L appears.

You have just 30 seconds to come up with them. (answer below)

THE QUOTE RACK — "Anyone capable of getting themselves elected President should on no account be allowed to do the job."

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WIT-WRENCHER REVISITED — Eleven and twelve. (And please don't write to tell me there's a "b" in "eleben.")