10 Facts About Clue for Its 70th Anniversary

Hasbro
Hasbro

Introduced in the United States in 1949, the board game Clue has gone on to become a perennial item in millions of closets all over the world. In this morbid murder mystery, players must move from room to room in a mansion to determine who did away with the victim—the unfortunately named Mr. Boddy—as well as the method and location of the crime. Was it Colonel Mustard in the library or Miss Scarlett in the kitchen? Was it a candlestick or a revolver? For more on the history of this detective diversion, keep reading.

1. Clue was invented during the UK air raids of World War II.

In the early 1940s, a British musician, fire warden, and munitions factory worker named Anthony Pratt was holed up in his Birmingham home during air raids. During these nights, he recalled the murder mystery games played by some of his clients at private music gigs as well as the detective fiction popular at the time from authors like Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie. Slowly, Pratt and his wife, Elva, turned the idea into a board game they could play while waiting out the raids. Pratt filed a patent for the game in 1944, which was granted in 1947; Pratt then sold it to UK games manufacturer Waddington’s. Owing to war shortages, it wasn’t actually released there until 1948.

2. Clue wasn’t always called Clue.

When Pratt sold his game to Waddington’s, he named it Cluedo, a blend of clue and Ludo, the name of a 19th century board game that’s Latin for “I play.” When Parker Brothers picked up the rights to the game in America in 1949, they shortened it to Clue since Americans had no knowledge of the Ludo game.

3. Early versions of Clue featured different weapons.

Pratt’s earliest ideas for murder implements were sketched by Elva and were originally a bit more gruesome. In his patent application, Pratt listed an ax, a cudgel (stick), a small bomb, rope, a dagger, a revolver, a hypodermic needle, poison, and a fireplace poker. The rope, gun, and dagger made it to the final game, along with three new weapons: a candlestick, a wrench, and a lead pipe.

4. Clue's Colonel Mustard was originally Colonel Yellow.

Pratt detailed 10 characters in total in his patent application: Doctor Black, Mr. Brown, Mr. Gold, the Reverend Mister Green, Miss Grey, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlett, Nurse White, Mrs. Silver, and Colonel Yellow. Not all the characters survived the process of simplifying the gameplay and were eventually whittled down to six. Colonel Yellow remained but got a name change to Colonel Mustard. Norman Watson, an executive director at Waddington’s, was wary of using the word yellow because it was military slang for cowardly, which made little sense for an enlisted man. (Watson, incidentally, had experience in cunning and clever gamesmanship, though it wasn’t relegated to a table. At the behest of Mi9, he had slipped escape tools and maps into board game packages that were delivered to British prisoner-of-war camps.)

5. There’s a Clue world champion.

In 1993, Peter DePietro and Tom Chiodo of the Manhattan Rep Company promoted a Clue world championship event in New York City. Part competition and part performance art, contestants played while interacting with actors dressed as Clue characters. Clues were doled out in dialogue and via music. The winner was Josef Kollar from the UK, who also came dressed as Colonel Mustard. Kollar won a trip to Hollywood.

6. Cluedo was a hit British game show.

In 1990, Cluedo was adapted into a game show in which two teams of celebrities would watch as guest performers—including David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Tom Baker (Doctor Who), and Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous)—related clues in character. The show ran for four seasons.

7. There was a Clue musical.

You may recall the 1985 feature film Clue, which featured Tim Curry and others assuming the roles of the board game characters. But there’s also a stage version. Clue: The Musical opened in Baltimore in 1995 and fleshed out some of the tortured relationships of the ensemble that lead to the nightly murder of Mr. Boddy. Audience members were invited to pick three oversize cards that would identify the murderer, weapon, and location. Clue world champion promoter DePietro wrote the book; Chiodo wrote the lyrics; Wayne Barker, Galen Blum, and Vinnie Martucci composed the music. The musical went on to be performed in more than 500 cities around the world.

8. Clue got a makeover in 2008.

Doing away with the elegant aesthetic of the original, Hasbro (which owns Parker Brothers) decided to revise the game in 2008 to reflect more contemporary themes. The murder takes place at a celebrity party, with rooms including a spa and a theater; characters got revised backgrounds. Colonel Mustard morphed from a military man to a football hero; Professor Plum became a dot-com billionaire. Some weapons disappeared, while three new weapons were added: a trophy, ax, and baseball bat. The "retro" original is still available.

9. Clue killed off Mrs. White.

No one ever stays dead for long in Clue—unless you’re Mrs. White. In 2016, Hasbro decided to off the murderous housekeeper in favor of a new character, Doctor Orchid, a scientist who isn’t above bludgeoning someone with a candlestick. It was the first time a character in the game had ever been permanently retired.

10. The creator of Clue didn’t profit all that much from it.

In the late 1990s, Waddington’s sent out a press release soliciting information about Pratt. After selling 150 million Clue games, they wanted to see if they could locate its creator. Pratt had largely fallen out of sight since the 1960s, when his patent on the game lapsed and he stopped receiving royalty payments. He received no royalties on U.S. or international versions of the game, choosing instead to sign over those rights in 1953 for 5000 pounds (then about $14,000). He was unaware that the game was already a hit in the States.

Pratt tried to create two other games—one revolving around a buried treasure and the other about a gold mine—but was unsuccessful. In 1990, he gave an interview in which he expressed no bitterness over missing out on a fortune. “A great deal of fun went into it,” he said. “So why grumble?” He died four years later at the age of 94.

10 Fascinating Facts About the Thesaurus for National Thesaurus Day

iStock.com/LeitnerR
iStock.com/LeitnerR

Writers often turn to a thesaurus to diversify their vocabulary and add nuance to their prose. But looking up synonyms and antonyms in a thesaurus can help anyone—writer or not—find the most vivid, incisive words to communicate thoughts and ideas. Since January 18 is Thesaurus Day, we’re celebrating with these 10 fascinating facts about your thesaurus.

1. Thesaurus comes from the Greek word for treasure.

Greek lettering.
iStock

Most logophiles consider the thesaurus to be a treasure trove of diction, but the word thesaurus really does mean "treasure." It derives from the Greek word thésauros, which means a storehouse of precious items, or a treasure.

2. The plural of thesaurus is thesauruses or thesauri.

Row of old books lined up.
iStock

How do you refer to more than one octopus? People say everything from octopuses to octopi to octopodes. Similarly, many people have trouble figuring out the correct plural form of the word thesaurus. Though thesauri is technically correct—it attaches a Latin suffix to the Latin word thēsaurus—both thesauri and thesauruses are commonly used and accepted today.

3. Early thesauruses were really dictionaries.

Close-up of the term 'ideal' in a thesaurus.
iStock

Ask a French scholar in the 16th century to see his thesaurus, and he'd gladly give you a copy of his dictionary. In the early 1530s, a French printer named Robert Estienne published Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, a comprehensive Latin dictionary listing words that appeared in Latin texts throughout an enormous span of history. And in 1572, Estienne's son Henri published Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, a dictionary of Greek words. Although the Estiennes's books were called thesauruses, they were really dictionaries comprised of alphabetical listings of words with their definitions.

4. A Greek historian wrote the first book of synonyms.

Stacks of books surrounding an open book and a pair of glasses.
iStock

Philo of Byblos, a Greek historian and grammarian, wrote On Synonyms, a dictionary of synonyms that scholars consider to be the first ancient thesaurus. Dating to the late 1st century or early 2nd century CE, the book lists Greek words that are similar in meaning to each another. Sadly, we don’t know much more about On Synonyms because copies of the work haven’t survived over the centuries.

5. An early Sanskrit thesaurus was written in the form of a poem.

Sanskrit lettering.
iStock

In the 4th century CE, an Indian poet and grammarian named Amara Sinha wrote The Amarakosha, a thesaurus of Sanskrit words. Rather than compile a boring list of similar words, Amara Sinha turned his thesaurus into a long poem. Divided into three sections—words relating to the divine, the earth, and everyday life—The Amarakosha contains verses so readers could memorize words easily. This thesaurus is the oldest book of its kind that still exists.

6. A British doctor wrote the first modern thesaurus.

Portrait of Peter Mark Roget.
Thomas Pettigrew, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Peter Mark Roget is the British doctor credited with authoring the first modern thesaurus. In 1805, he began compiling a list of words, arranged by their meaning and grouped according to theme. After retiring from his work as a physician in 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus of English words and phrases; so classified and arranged as to facilitate the expression of ideas and assist in literary composition. Today, Roget’s Thesaurus is still commercially successful and widely used. In fact, we celebrate Thesaurus Day on January 18 because Roget was born on this day in 1779.

7. The thesaurus has a surprising link to a mathematical tool.

Image of a vintage log log slide rule.
Joe Haupt, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The division between "words people" and "numbers people" is deep-seated. Many mathematicians may try to steer clear of thesauruses, and bibliophiles may avoid calculators, but the thesaurus is actually linked to a mathematical tool. Around 1815, Roget invented the log-log slide rule, a ruler-like device that allows users to easily calculate the roots and exponents of numbers. So while the inventor of the thesaurus was compiling words for his tome, he was also hard at work on the log-log slide rule. A true jack-of-all-trades.

8. The Oxford English Dictionary has its own historical thesaurus.

Synonyms for
iStock

In 1965, a professor of English Language at Glasgow University suggested that scholars should create a historical thesaurus based on entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. The project was a massive undertaking, as people from multiple countries worked for 44 years to compile and classify words. Published in 2009, the Historical Thesaurus to the Oxford English Dictionary contains 800,000 words organized by theme and date. The thesaurus covers words and synonyms from Old English to the present day and lets readers discover when certain words were coined and how long they were commonly used.

9. One artist turned his love of words into a series of thesaurus paintings.

Mel Bochner,
Mel Bochner, "Crazy," 2004. Francesca Castelli, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In 2014, the Jewish Museum in New York showed a survey of conceptual artist Mel Bochner’s art. Bochner had incorporated words and synonyms in his paintings for years—which were collectively referred to as the thesaurus paintings—featuring word paintings and lists of synonyms on canvas. The brightly colored paintings feature different groups of English and Yiddish synonyms. According to Bochner, Vietnam and Iraq war veterans cried after seeing his thesaurus painting Die, which features words and phrases such as expire, perish, succumb, drop dead, croak, go belly up, pull the plug, and kick the bucket.

10. There's an urban thesaurus for all your slang synonym needs.

Copy of an Urban Dictionary book.
Effie Yang, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Urban Dictionary helps people decipher the latest slang terms, but where should you go when you need a thesaurus of slang? Urban Thesaurus, of course. The site, which is not affiliated with Urban Dictionary, indexes millions of slang terms culled from slang dictionaries, then calculates usage correlations between the terms. Typing in the word money, for example, gives you an eclectic list of synonyms including scrilla, cheddar, mulah, coin, and bling.

7 Weird Super Bowl Halftime Acts

Al Bello, Getty Images
Al Bello, Getty Images

Shakira and Jennifer Lopez seem like natural choices to perform the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl, but the event didn’t always feature musical acts from major pop stars. Michael Jackson kicked off the trend at Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, but prior to that, halftime shows weren’t a platform for the hottest celebrities of the time. They centered around themes instead, and may have featured appearances from Peanuts characters, Jazzercisers, or a magician dressed like Elvis. In honor of Super Bowl LIV on February 2, we’ve rounded up some of the weirdest acts in halftime show history.

1. Return of the Mickey Mouse Club

The era of Super Bowl halftimes before wardrobe malfunctions, illuminati conspiracy theories, and Left Shark was a more innocent time. For 1977’s event, the Walt Disney Company produced a show that doubled as a squeaky-clean promotion of its brand. Themed “Peace, Joy, and Love,” the Super Bowl XI halftime show opened with a 250-piece band rendition of “It’s a Small World (After All).” Disney also used the platform to showcase its recently revamped Mickey Mouse Club.

2. 88 Grand Pianos and 300 Jazzercisers

The theme of the halftime show at Super Bowl XXII in 1988 was “Something Grand.” Naturally, it featured 88 tuxedoed pianists playing 88 grand pianos. Rounding out the program were 400 swing band performers, 300 Jazzercisers, 44 Rockettes, two marching bands, and Chubby Checker telling everyone to “Twist Again."

3. Elvis Impersonator Performs the World’s Largest Card Trick

Many of the music industry's most successful pop stars—like Prince, Madonna, and, uh, Milli Vanilli—were at the height of their fame in 1989, but none of them appeared at Super Bowl XXIII. Instead, the NFL hired an Elvis Presley-impersonating magician to perform. The show, titled “BeBop Bamboozled,” was a tribute to the 1950s, and it featured Elvis Presto performing “the world’s largest card trick.” It also may have included the world's largest eye exam: The show boasted 3D effects, and viewers were urged to pick up special glasses before the game. If the visuals didn't pop like they were supposed to, people were told to see an eye doctor.

4. The Peanuts Salute New Orleans

Super Bowl XXIV featured one of the last halftime acts that was completely devoid of any musical megastars. The biggest celebrity at the 1990 halftime show was Snoopy. Part of the show’s theme was the “40th Anniversary of 'Peanuts,'” and to celebrate the milestone, performers dressed as Peanuts characters and danced on stage. The other half of the theme was “Salute to New Orleans”—not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the comic strip.

5. A Tribute to the Winter Olympics

Super Bowl XXVI preceded the 1992 Winter Olympics—a fact that was made very clear by the event’s halftime. The show was titled “Winter Magic” and it paid tribute to the winter games with ice skaters, snowmobiles, and a cameo from the 1980 U.S. hockey team. Other acts, like a group of parachute-pants-wearing children performing the “Frosty the Snowman Rap,” were more generally winter-themed than specific to the Olympics. About 22 million viewers changed the channel during halftime to watch In Living Color’s Super Bowl special, which may have convinced the NFL to hire Michael Jackson the following year.

6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

“Peace, Joy, and Love” wasn’t the only Disney-helmed Super Bowl halftime. In 1995, Disney produced a halftime show called “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye” to tease the new Disneyland ride of the same name. It centered around a skit in which actors playing Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood stole the Vince Lombardi Trophy from an exotic temple, and it included choreographed stunts, fiery special effects, and a snake. Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett were also there.

7. The Blues Brothers, Minus John Belushi

The 1990s marked an odd period for halftime shows as they moved from schlocky themed variety shows to major music events. Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 perfectly encapsulates this transition period. James Brown and ZZ Top performed, but the headliners were the Blues Brothers. John Belushi had been dead for more than a decade by that point, so Jim Belushi took his place beside Dan Aykroyd. John Goodman was also there to promote the upcoming movie Blues Brother 2000. The flashy advertisement didn’t have the impact they had hoped for and the film was a massive flop when it premiered.

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