The column derives its name from the American idiom meaning roughly "the true information; the full story" and covers many subjects, including history, science, old wives' tales, urban legends, and inventions. The column appears under the tagline: "Fighting ignorance since 1973 (it's taking longer than we thought)." First published by the Reader in 1973, the column is written by Cecil Adams and illustrated by Slug Signorino.
In 1996, the A&E Network briefly aired a show based on the column called The Straight Dope, hosted and co-written by comedian Mike Lukas. A podcast has also been released sporadically.