Models vs. Supermodels: What's the Difference?

KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock via Getty Images
KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock via Getty Images

The Quick Trick: A model gets arrested for snorting cocaine; a supermodel gets on the cover of People for snorting cocaine.

The Explanation:

Like beauty itself, supermodeldom is in the eye of the beholder. One day, perhaps, there will be a Model Sanctioning Body that will establish clear rules for who qualifies as a supermodel—but until then we'll just have to muddle our way through. The difference between regular and super models is generally believed to involve not money but fame: A supermodel is someone whose celebrity extends outside of the fashion world. That is to say, you don't have to know your Dolce from your Gabbana to know that Cindy Crawford is really pretty.

Janice Dickinson, the thrice-divorced Surreal Life alum who wrote the literary gem Everything About Me Is Fake . . . And I'm Perfect, coined the term supermodel in 1979. Hence, she calls herself the world's first supermodel. But we feel that no one who ever appeared on Surreal Lifeshould be legally allowed the title of "super" anything. A better candidate for first-ever supermodel might be Suzy Parker. Born in 1932, the 5'10" Parker ushered in the era of tall female models, starred in many ad campaigns, and appeared in the movie Funny Face with Fred Astaire. She also became one of the first fashion models to be really, really bad at acting. But being unable to act your way out of a paper bag is just all part of la vita supermodel.

Nadja Auermann: Said to have the world's longest legs (they're 45"), Auermann has appeared on many magazine covers, starred in a couple German movies, and has her own perfume. But 1) these days, everybody has her own perfume, and 2) nobody outside of Germany can pronounce her last name. Verdict: model.

Naomi Campbell: Instantly recognizable, Campbell's made $50 million modeling, was one of People's 50 Most Beautiful People in 1991, wrote (well, cowrote) a novel, and sold one million copies of her first and only album, Babywoman. (It was a failure in America, but a single from it was a huge hit in Japan.) Plus, she used to date Usher. Verdict: supermodel.

Helena Christensen: This former Miss Denmark changed our lives forever with her appearance in the music video for Chris Isaak's Wicked Game. And she dated Leonardo DiCaprio (although, really, at this point who hasn't?) in addition to appearing on the cover of countless fashion mags. But she never managed to parlay the Wicked Game video into widespread renown. Nothing personal, Helena, but we're gonna say: model.

Tyson Beckford: A former gangbanger who left the streets behind to become the face of Calvin Klein apparel, Beckford is the highest-paid male model in human history. He also appeared in Zoolander and 2003's Oscar-nominated Biker Boyz. What's that you say? Biker Boyz wasn't nominated for an Oscar? Oh, well. The verdict's still: supermodel.

This post was excerpted from the mental_floss book What's the Difference? 

Why Do Fruitcakes Last So Long?

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iStock

Fruitcake is a shelf-stable food unlike any other. One Ohio family has kept the same fruitcake uneaten (except for periodic taste tests) since it was baked in 1878. In Antarctica, a century-old fruitcake discovered in artifacts left by explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910 expedition remains “almost edible,” according to the researchers who found it. So what is it that makes fruitcake so freakishly hardy?

It comes down to the ingredients. Fruitcake is notoriously dense. Unlike almost any other cake, it’s packed chock-full of already-preserved foods, like dried and candied nuts and fruit. All those dry ingredients don’t give microorganisms enough moisture to reproduce, as Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, explained in 2014. That keeps bacteria from developing on the cake.

Oh, and the booze helps. A good fruitcake involves plenty of alcohol to help it stay shelf-stable for years on end. Immediately after a fruitcake cools, most bakers will wrap it in a cheesecloth soaked in liquor and store it in an airtight container. This keeps mold and yeast from developing on the surface. It also keeps the cake deliciously moist.

In fact, fruitcakes aren’t just capable of surviving unspoiled for months on end; some people contend they’re better that way. Fruitcake fans swear by the aging process, letting their cakes sit for months or even years at a stretch. Like what happens to a wine with age, this allows the tannins in the fruit to mellow, according to the Wisconsin bakery Swiss Colony, which has been selling fruitcakes since the 1960s. As it ages, it becomes even more flavorful, bringing out complex notes that a young fruitcake (or wine) lacks.

If you want your fruitcake to age gracefully, you’ll have to give it a little more hooch every once in a while. If you’re keeping it on the counter in advance of a holiday feast a few weeks away, the King Arthur Flour Company recommends unwrapping it and brushing it with whatever alcohol you’ve chosen (brandy and rum are popular choices) every few days. This is called “feeding” the cake, and should happen every week or so.

The aging process is built into our traditions around fruitcakes. In Great Britain, one wedding tradition calls for the bride and groom to save the top tier of a three-tier fruitcake to eat until the christening of the couple’s first child—presumably at least a year later, if not more.

Though true fruitcake aficionados argue over exactly how long you should be marinating your fruitcake in the fridge, The Spruce says that “it's generally recommended that soaked fruitcake should be consumed within two years.” Which isn't to say that the cake couldn’t last longer, as our century-old Antarctic fruitcake proves. Honestly, it would probably taste OK if you let it sit in brandy for a few days.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

What’s the Difference Between Crocheting and Knitting?

djedzura/iStock via Getty Images
djedzura/iStock via Getty Images

With blustery days officially upon us, the most pressing question about your sweaters, scarves, hats, and mittens is probably: “Are these keeping me warm?” If you’re a DIY enthusiast, or just a detail-oriented person in general, your next question might be: “Were these knitted or crocheted?”

Knitting and crocheting are both calming crafts that involve yarn, produce cozy garments and other items, and can even boost your mental well-being. Having said that, they do have a few specific differences.

To knit, you need needles. The size, material, and number of those needles depends on the project; though most traditional garments are made using two needles, it’s also possible to knit with just one needle, or as many as five. But regardless of the other variables, one or both ends of your knitting needles will always be pointed.

While crocheting calls for a similar long, thin tool that varies in size and material, it has a hooked end—and you only ever need one. According to The Spruce Crafts, even if you hear people refer to the tool as a crochet needle, they’re really talking about a crochet hook.

crotchet hook and garment
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Part of the reason you only use one hook brings us to the next difference between crocheting and knitting: When crocheting, there’s only one “active loop” on your hook at any given time, whereas knitting entails lining up loops down the length of your needles and passing them between needles. The blog Darn Good Yarn explains that since each loop is attached to a long row of stitches, accidentally “dropping” one off the end of your needle might unravel the entire row.

Of course, you have a better chance of avoiding that type of manual error if you’re using a knitting machine or loom, which both exist. Crocheting, on the other hand, has to be done by hand. Since machines can create garments with extremely small stitches, some knit clothes can be much more lightweight or close-fitting than anything you’d be able to crochet—and knitted clothes can also be mass-produced.

When it comes to what the items actually look like, crochet stitches characteristically look more like knots, while knit stitches seem flatter and less bulky. However, materials and techniques have come a long way over the years, and now there’s more crossover between what you’re able to knit and crochet. According to The Spruce Crafts, socks and T-shirts—traditionally both garments that would be knitted—can now technically be crocheted.

knitting needles and garment
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And, believe it or not, knitting and crocheting can even be used to depict complicated mathematical concepts: see what a crocheted hyperbolic plane, Lorenz manifold, and more look like here.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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