Meet Zeerak, the Newest Afghan Muppet

Sesame Workshop
Sesame Workshop

Sesame Street isn't just an American show—it has co-productions around the world, localized for kids in different countries and cultures. In Afghanistan, Baghch-e-Simsim ("Sesame Garden") just began its sixth season. Last year, the show introduced 6-year-old Zari, the first Afghan Muppet. Now, Baghch-e-Simsim adds its second Afghan Muppet, Zeerak, to its cast.

Zeerak, whose name means "smart" and "talented" in Dari and Pashto, is Zari's younger brother. He's 4 years old. He enjoys painting and playing games, and is just learning to read and count—though he's not going to school just yet. Zeerak marks the first time a male Afghan Muppet has ever existed, and he will likely become a role model for kids in the region. Baghch-e-Simsim is the most-watched TV program among young children in Afghanistan.

Zeerak sits with his older sister Zari. They're reading together.Sesame Workshop

Like Zari, Zeerak has multicolored yarn hair. He's orange, with a purple nose, glasses, and an outfit appropriate to the region. In a press release, the Sesame Workshop explained early interactions between Zeerak and Zari:

In one segment called “Going to School,” Zeerak eagerly awaits Zari’s return from school and is excited to hear about her day. Zari explains that Zeerak will have the opportunity to go to school too someday, and that working hard in school will help him achieve his dreams. Zari encourages Zeerak to think about what he might become when he grows up, and offers to teach him a few lessons before he’s ready to go to school himself.

It's hard to overestimate the impact of this TV show on Afghan children. The Sesame Workshop reports:

...[A]mong children who watch TV, over 80% report watching [Baghch-e-Simsim]; 3.1 million children ages 3-7 are tuning in, up 45% from 2015. And Baghch-e-Simsim isn’t only engaging children—more than 70% of parents and caregivers watch the program alongside children, with Baghch-e-Simsim surpassing other Afghan children’s shows in terms of adult-child co-viewership.

Zeerak is on the show now, and you can catch up on segments via YouTube if you happen not to be in Afghanistan. For a look behind the scenes of the show's production (in English), check out this delightful video in which (among other things) Muppeteers in the US videoconference with their counterparts in Afghanistan. Enjoy:

12 Perfectly Spooky Halloween Decorations Under $25

Amazon/shopDisney
Amazon/shopDisney

Halloween is right around the corner—which means it’s officially time to bring out the jack-o'-lanterns, watch scary movies, buy your costume(s), and hang up your festive decorations. Although there are thousands of decorations to choose from, you don’t have to blow your budget while decking out your house or apartment in honor of the spooky season this year. With a little guidance, you'll find plenty of ways to create the perfect ambiance at home without going for broke. (And best of all, you can put the money you saved toward extra Halloween candy to stash away.)

From giant spiders to hanging ghosts and lawn decorations, here are a few of our favorite props under $25.

1. Halloween Pillow Covers (4-Pack); $17

ZJHAI/Amazon

These adorable Halloween-themed pillowcases make the perfect accessory for any couch, sofa, or mattress. Made with thick linen fabric, these are durable, sturdy, and designed to last for seasons to come. (Tip: To prevent the zipper from breaking, fold the pillow in half before inserting.)

Buy it: Amazon

2. Black Lace Spiderweb Fireplace Mantle; $12

Aerwo/Amazon

This versatile spiderweb prop is made with 100-percent polyester, and its knit lace spiderweb pattern adds a spooky touch to any home. Display it on your doorway, across your fireplace mantel, or atop your table. (It also makes a great backdrop for Halloween photo ops.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Statement Halloween Signs; $16

Dazonge/Amazon

These festive, statement-making banners come pre-assembled, making them incredibly easy to install. They’re also weather-resistant and washable for both outdoor and indoor use. Use tape, push-pins, or weights to prevent the signs from blowing away.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Jack Skellington and Sally Plush Dolls; $23 (Each)

Disney

Celebrate your favorite holiday with a pair of adorable Jack Skellington and Sally plush dolls from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack stands at 28 inches tall, while Sally is a bit shorter at 21 inches. Set them up on your sofa or against the window sill for all to see.

Buy them: Disney Shop (Jack and Sally)

5. Halloween Zombie Groundbreaker; $22

Joyin/Amazon

This spooktacular zombie lawn decoration is sure to scare all of your friends, family, and neighbors alike. Made with a combination of latex, plastic, and fabric, this durable Halloween prop is sure to last for years to come.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Hanging Ghost Decoration; $14

Moon Boat/Amazon

Drape this handmade, 14-foot-long hanging ghost decoration over your porch, doorway, or window. You can also hang it outdoors over a tree or a (very tall) bush. And, since it comes pre-assembled, you won’t have to waste time constructing it yourself.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Two-Piece Hanging Ghost Set; $17

GeeFuun/Amazon

This pair of ghosts adds a whimsical touch to any home. While they’re not “scary,” per se, they certainly are adorable. Display them in your front yard, on your porch, on a lamppost, or a tree. To hang, simply tie the ribbons and bend the wires, arms, and tails.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Pumpkin String Lights; $19

Eurus Home/Amazon

Not only are these solar-powered, 33-foot-long LED string lights good for the environment, they’re also incredibly easy to install (no long, tangly power cable chords necessary). Since they’re waterproof, you can use them both indoors and outdoors. Choose from eight different light settings, including twinkling, flashing, fading, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Inflatable Ghost; $22

Joiedomi/Amazon

This adorable inflatable ghost (which dons a cute-as-can-be wizard hat!) features built-in LED lights and sandbags to help it stay sturdy. It also comes complete with a plug, extended cords, ground stakes, and fastened ropes. Simply plug it in and watch it magically inflate within just a few minutes.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Graveyard Tombstones; $17

meiguisha/Amazon

Turn your front lawn into a graveyard with this six-piece set. Each tombstone is made with foam and designed to add a touch of spookiness to your space. To install, insert one holder into the bottom of the tombstone, and one into the soil. You can use these indoors, as well.

Buy it: Amazon

11. 10-Piece Skeleton Set; $24

Fun Little Toys/Amazon

This skeleton set includes a skull, hands and arms, and legs and feet—plus five stakes to hold everything in place. Each “bone” and “joint” is flexible, allowing you to prop the skeleton into different frighteningly fun poses. Simply place the stakes into the bone socket and turn clockwise.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Outdoor Spider Web; $18

amenon/Amazon

This giant, ultra-stretchy spider web spans a whopping 23 feet. It also includes a 30-inch black spider, 20 pieces of fake spiders, one hook, and one nail. Its thick polyester rope—combined with the sturdy stakes—allows the spider web to stay in place all season long. Place the hook on a wall or tree, and expand the web using the stakes.

Buy it: Amazon

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100 of the Most Commonly Misspelled Words in the English Language

She's having a dilemma about how to spell dilemma.
She's having a dilemma about how to spell dilemma.
franckreporter/iStock via Getty Images

Since many apps and programs now come with built-in spellcheckers to catch pesky errors—and even correct them automatically—you’re less likely to be embarrassed if you always forget how to spell embarrass.

You’re also not alone. Lexico used data from the Oxford English Corpus, which monitors the usage of more than 2 billion English words, to compile a list of 100 most commonly misspelled words. Embarrass is one of them; people have trouble remembering that it has two r’s, writing it as embarass instead.

Of all the words on the list, more than two dozen have common misspellings related to double letters. For some of those entries, people seem to know there’s a double letter somewhere in the word, but they often choose the wrong letter to repeat—Caribbean, for example, is often spelled Carribean, and bizarre becomes bizzare. Others have multiple double letters, and people accidentally omit one, like missing the second t in committee or the second n in millennium.

Double letters aren’t the only recurring issue on this list. The old “i before e except after c” mnemonic rhyme hasn’t stuck for everyone; the two vowels are often mistakenly swapped in achieve, believe, friend, piece, receive, and siege. As a testament to how frustrating the English language can be, the words weird and foreign, two of the (many) exceptions to the “i before e” rule, are often misspelled as wierd and foriegn.

Another common vocalic blunder involves a’s and e’s in suffixes. It’s appearance, not appearence; calendar, not calender; and tendency, not tendancy. There aren’t always obvious mnemonic devices to help you keep these straight, but Reader’s Digest suggests exclaiming “Eeek!” whenever you need to remember that cemetery has three e’s and no a’s.

See all 100 words—with the correct spelling listed first, and the common misspelling listed after it—below. And if you’re not the greatest speller, don’t worry; neither were Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and these 9 other historical figures.

  1. accommodate // accomodate
  1. achieve // acheive
  1. across // accross
  1. aggressive // agressive
  1. apparently // apparantly
  1. appearance // appearence
  1. argument // arguement
  1. assassination // assasination
  1. basically // basicly
  1. beginning // begining
  1. believe // beleive, belive
  1. bizarre // bizzare
  1. business // buisness
  1. calendar // calender
  1. Caribbean // Carribean
  1. cemetery // cemetary
  1. chauffeur // chauffer
  1. colleague // collegue
  1. coming // comming
  1. committee // commitee
  1. completely // completly
  1. conscious // concious
  1. curiosity // curiousity
  1. definitely // definately
  1. dilemma // dilemna
  1. disappear // dissapear
  1. disappoint // dissapoint
  1. ecstasy // ecstacy
  1. embarrass // embarass
  1. environment // enviroment
  1. existence // existance
  1. Fahrenheit // Farenheit
  1. familiar // familar
  1. finally // finaly
  1. fluorescent // florescent
  1. foreign // foriegn
  1. foreseeable // forseeable
  1. forty // fourty
  1. forward // foward
  1. friend // freind
  1. further // futher
  1. gist // jist
  1. glamorous // glamourous
  1. government // goverment
  1. guard // gaurd
  1. happened // happend
  1. harass // harrass
  1. honorary // honourary
  1. humorous // humourous
  1. idiosyncrasy // idiosyncracy
  1. immediately // immediatly
  1. incidentally // incidently
  1. independent // independant
  1. interrupt // interupt
  1. irresistible // irresistable
  1. knowledge // knowlege
  1. liaise // liase
  1. lollipop // lollypop
  1. millennium // millenium
  1. Neanderthal // Neandertal
  1. necessary // neccessary
  1. noticeable // noticable
  1. occasion // ocassion
  1. occurred // occured
  1. occurrence // occurance, occurence
  1. pavilion // pavillion
  1. persistent // persistant
  1. pharaoh // pharoah
  1. piece // peice
  1. politician // politican
  1. Portuguese // Portugese
  1. possession // posession
  1. preferred // prefered
  1. propaganda // propoganda
  1. publicly // publically
  1. really // realy
  1. receive // recieve
  1. referred // refered
  1. religious // religous
  1. remember // rember, remeber
  1. resistance // resistence
  1. sense // sence
  1. separate // seperate
  1. siege // seige
  1. successful // succesful
  1. supersede // supercede
  1. surprise // suprise
  1. tattoo // tatoo
  1. tendency // tendancy
  1. therefore // therefor
  1. threshold // threshhold
  1. tomorrow // tommorow, tommorrow
  1. tongue // tounge
  1. truly // truely
  1. unforeseen // unforseen
  1. unfortunately // unfortunatly
  1. until // untill
  1. weird // wierd
  1. wherever // whereever
  1. which // wich

[h/t Lexico]