Our 35 Most Popular Stories of 2019

Damir Khabirov/iStock via Getty Images
Damir Khabirov/iStock via Getty Images

Mental Floss readers are a curious bunch. Need proof? Look no further than our list of the year's most popular stories, which covered everything from how much those Beanie Babies gathering dust in your attic might be worth to the life and legacy of Rosa Parks.

1. The 10 Most Valuable Beanie Babies That Could Be Hiding in Your Attic

Beanie Babies strapped into seatbelt in a car
Emmanuel Morales, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Beanie Babies like the purple Princess Diana bear are listed for $600,000 on eBay, but how much money are the nostalgic toys really worth? We dug into the details.

2. Why Do Dogs Kick Their Feet After They Poop?

Dogs that dig into the ground after relieving themselves aren't trying to bury their waste. They're leaving a fecal message for other dogs.

3. The 25 Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time Worldwide

Shortly after grossing $2 billion in record time, Avengers: Endgame officially became the highest-grossing movie of all time—knocking James Cameron's Avatar, which had held the top spot for a full 10 years, to runner-up status.

4. 10 Examples of the Mandela Effect

Tom Cruise stars in 'Risky Business' (1983)
Tom Cruise stars in Risky Business (1983).
Warner Home Video

Did Tom Cruise really dance in his underwear and a pair of Ray-Bans in Risky Business? If you answered “yes,” you might be suffering from the Mandela Effect.

5. If You Can Correctly Pronounce Every Word in This 1920s Poem, You’re Among the English-Speaking Elite

English is a tricky language to learn. Native speakers may take this for granted, failing to realize how intricate—and inconsistent—many of its pronunciation rules are. But how good are you?

6. 6 Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out to Be True

Humans love conspiracy theories, and always have (there’s even evidence that ancient Romans had a few). But with the advent of the internet, they seem to be everywhere—and some of them are actually true.

7. McDonald’s Happy Meals Now Come With Roald Dahl Books Instead of Toys in New Zealand

Would you like a Matilda or BFG to go with your burger and fries? If you're a young Kiwi, you just might have gotten your wish in 2019.

8. The 35 Best-Selling Albums in American History

A stack of records.
iStock

What albums are most beloved by Americans? Well, a lot of us seem to own the Eagles's Greatest Hits.

9. Why You Should Never Rinse Your Dishes Before Putting Them in the Dishwasher

If you give your plates and bowls a quick rinse before sticking them in the dishwasher, you may be surprised (and disgusted) to learn that it doesn’t make them any cleaner.

10. 10 Highest-Grossing Movie Franchises of All Time

Star Wars has a long way to go to catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

11. 10 Bizarre Documentaries That Are Stranger Than Fiction

Jan Broberg, Susan Broberg, Mary Ann Broberg, Bob Broberg, and Karen Campbell in Abducted in Plain Sight (2017)
Top Knot Films

If these were fictional stories, you'd have a hard time swallowing them.

12. The Right Way to Pet a Dog, According to Veterinarians

Much like humans, dogs are complex creatures with a wide range of personalities.

13. 45 Amazing Facts About All 44 American Presidents

Discover which American president wanted to be a concert violinist, which carried a dictionary around in his pocket, and who burned his official White House portrait.

14. Why You Should Always Leave the Cap on a Plastic Bottle Before You Recycle It

Many of us were taught to crush plastic bottles and leave the cap off. As it turns out, that isn't the best approach.

15. The 100 Most Popular Baby Names of 2019

Happy, laughing baby boy
ideabug/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re looking for a baby name that sounds cool or unique, Posie and Milo could be a good place to start.

16. You've Been Assembling Your Hard-Shell Tacos all wrong

There's a simple trick for preventing your crunchy hard-shell taco from breaking apart in your hand.

17. 30 Hilarious German Insults You Should Start Using Immediately

Some of these insults are amusingly innocent-sounding, while others are pretty devastating—so let’s hope you don’t wind up on the receiving end of one of those.

18. The Classic Novel That Is Most Often Abandoned By Readers

Just because you buy or borrow a book doesn’t necessarily mean that you'll actually finish—or even start—reading it. Though tracking which books don’t get finished is not an exact science, people have tried to figure it out.

19. 10 Surprising Facts About Animal Sex

Tortoises mating in the middle of a road
iStock/Dias Studio

When the filmmakers behind Jurassic Park wanted to create velociraptor sounds, they used recordings of tortoises getting it on.

20. Robert Downey Jr. Improvised One of Iron Man's Most Memorable Lines

Though Iron Man made it seem as if Tony Stark was the role Robert Downey Jr. was born to play, Marvel actively rooted against casting him.

21. 11 Secrets of Target Employees

Target employees, or “team members,” adhere to a company policy of going out of their way to make sure customers leave happy. A number of current and former associates told us about life under the bull's-eye.

22. What's the Difference Between a Possum and an Opossum?

Possum and opossum are sometimes synonyms—but sometimes they refer to different animals. (Also, there's a chance you've been pronouncing opossum wrong all along.)

23. The Best Bookstores in All 50 States

The exterior of The Strand Bookstore in New York City.
Robert Kim, Getty Images

From their resident cats to that old book smell, there's something about wandering up and down the aisles of a brick-and-mortar bookstore that online merchants could never replicate.

24. The Ingenious Reason Medieval Castle Staircases Were Built Clockwise

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones or medieval programs in general, you’re probably familiar with action-packed battle scenes during which soldiers storm castles, dodge arrows, and dash up spiral staircases. And, while those spiral staircases might not necessarily ascend clockwise in every television show or movie you’ve watched, they usually did in real life.

25. 8 Inspiring Facts About Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks's historic arrest isn’t the only thing she should be remembered for.

26. The Reason Behind Those Brightly Colored Balls Along Power Lines

If you've ever driven past those colorful balls strung up along a power line, you might have wondered about what purpose they serve—a thought that usually disappears as soon as the balls have faded from your rearview mirror.

27. The Reason Why Your Car Window Is Edged With Tiny Black Dots

Those little polka dots circling your windshield might be easy to miss, but they actually serve a few crucial functions.

28. 25 Amazing Books by African-American Writers You Need to Read

The covers of 'Invisible Man,' 'The Hate U Give,' and 'The Underground Railroad.'
Background: iStock. Book Covers for "Invisible Man" and "The Underground Railroad": Amazon. Book Cover for "The Hate U Give": HARPERCOLLINS.

From literary icons to fresh, buzzworthy talent, we highlighted 25 books by African-American authors you should add to your reading list today.

29. Why Marvel Didn't Want to Cast Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

Further proof that Tony Stark is the role Downey was born to play.

30. The True Story Behind Gentleman Jack: 10 Facts About Anne Lister

Anne Lister was a businesswoman, a mountaineer, a world traveler, and a science enthusiast. But it’s her love life that she’s mainly remembered for today.

31. This Test Will Tell You How Many Books You Can Read in a Year

The average person in the U.S. reads about 12 books per year—but that number won't help you if you read at a different pace than the average American.

32. 10 VHS Tapes That Are Worth Money (No, Really)

A VHS cassette tape is inserted into a VCR
iStock.com/axeiz77

Normally relegated to junk bins, some VHS tapes are in demand by collectors due to their scarcity, nostalgia value, or cool box art.

33. 8 Facts About the Animals of Chernobyl

Researchers thought the site of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was unable to support life. But a bunch of wolves, deer, wild boars, bears, foxes, and dogs disagreed.

34. 50 Things Turning 50 in 2019

From the first manned Moon landing to Monty Python, here are 50 things that marked a half-century on this planet (and beyond) in 2019.

35. 12 Surprising Facts About Emilia Clarke

Actress Emilia Clarke of 'Don Hemingway' poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2013 in Toronto, Canada
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

Emilia Clarke became a household name playing Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, but she still goes largely unrecognized in public.

This Course Will Teach You How to Play Guitar Like a Pro for $29

BartekSzewczyk/iStock via Getty Images
BartekSzewczyk/iStock via Getty Images

Be honest: You’ve watched a YouTube video or two in an attempt to learn how to play a song on the guitar. Whether it was through tabs or simply copying whatever you saw on the screen, the fun always ends when friends start throwing out requests for songs you have no idea how to play. So how about you actually learn how to play guitar for real this time?

It’s now possible to learn guitar from home with the Ultimate Beginner to Expert Guitar Lessons Bundle, which is currently on sale for $29. Grab that Gibson, Fender, or whatever you have handy, and learn to strum rhythms from scratch.

The strumming course will teach you how to count beats and rests to turn your hands and fingers into the perfect accompaniment for your own voice or other musicians. Then, you can take things a step further and learn advanced jamming and soloing to riff anytime, anywhere. This course will teach you to improvise across various chords and progressions so you can jump into any jam with something original. You’ll also have the chance to dive deep into the major guitar genres of bluegrass, blues, and jazz. Lessons in jam etiquette, genre history, and how to read music will separate you from a novice player.

This bundle also includes courses in ear training so you can properly identify any relative note, interval, or pitch. That way, you can play along with any song when it comes on, or even understand how to modify it into the key you’d prefer. And when the time comes to perform, be prepared with skilled hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, bends, trills, vibrato, and fret-tapping. Not only will you learn the basic foundations of guitar, you’ll ultimately be able to develop your own style with the help of these lessons.

The Ultimate Beginner to Expert Guitar Lessons Bundle is discounted for a limited time. Act on this $29 offer now to work on those fingertip calluses and play like a pro.

 

The Ultimate Beginner to Expert Guitar Lessons Bundle - $29

See Deal


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11 Fascinating Facts About Tamagotchi

Tamagotchi is the toy that launched a thousand digital pet competitors.
Tamagotchi is the toy that launched a thousand digital pet competitors.
Chesnot/Getty Images News

They blooped and beeped and ate, played, and pooped, and, for ‘90s kids, the egg-shaped Tamagotchi toys were magic. They taught the responsibility of tending to a “pet,” even though their shrill sounds were annoying to parents and teachers and school administrators. Nearly-real funerals were held for expired Tamagotchi, and they’ve even been immortalized in a museum (of sorts). Here are 11 things you should know about the keychain toy that was once stashed in every kid’s backpack.

1. The idea for the Tamagotchi came from a female office worker at Bandai.

Aki Maita was a 30-year-old “office lady” at the Japanese toy company Bandai when inspiration struck. She wanted to create a pet for kids—one that wouldn't bark or meow, make a mess in the house, or lead to large vet bills, according to Culture Trip. Maita took her idea to Akihiro Yokoi, a toy designer at another company, and the duo came up with a name and backstory for their toy: Tamagotchis were aliens, and their egg served as protection from the Earth’s atmosphere. They gave prototype Tamagotchis to high school girls in Shibuya, and tweaked and honed the design of the toy based on their feedback.

2. The name Tamagotchi is a blend of two Japanese words.

The name Tamagotchi is a mashup between the Japanese words tamago and tomodachi, or egg and friend, according to Culture Trip. (Other sources have the name meaning "cute little egg" or "loveable egg.")

3. Tamagotchis were released in Japan in 1996.

A picture of a tamagotchi toy.
Tamagotchis came from a faraway planet called "Planet Tamagotchi."
Museum Rotterdam, Wikimedia Commons//CC BY-SA 3.0

Bandai released the Tamagotchi in Japan in November 1996. The tiny plastic keychain egg was equipped with a monochrome LCD screen that contained a “digital pet,” which hatched from an egg and grew quickly from there—one day for a Tamagotchi was equivalent to one year for a human. Their owners used three buttons to feed, discipline, play with, give medicine to, and clean up after their digital pet. It would make its demands known at all hours of the day through bloops and bleeps, and owners would have to feed it or bathe it or entertain it.

Owners that successfully raised their Tamagotchi to adulthood would get one of seven characters, depending on how they'd raised it; owners that were less attentive faced a sadder scenario. “Leave one unattended for a few hours and you'll return to find that it has pooped on the floor or, worse, died,” Wired wrote. The digital pets would eventually die of old age at around the 28-day mark, and owners could start fresh with a new Tamagotchi.

4. Tamagotchis were an immediate hit.

The toys were a huge success—4 million units were reportedly sold in Japan during their first four months on shelves. By 1997, Tamagotchis had made their way to the United States. They sold for $17.99, or around $29 in today's dollars. One (adult) reviewer noted that while he was "drawn in by [the Tamagotchi's] cleverness," after several days with the toy, "the thrill faded quickly. I'm betting the Tamagotchi will be the Pet Rock of the 1990s—overwhelmingly popular for a few months, and then abandoned in the fickle rush to some even cuter toy."

The toy was, in fact, overwhelmingly popular: By June 1997, 10 million of the toys had been shipped around the world. And according to a 2017 NME article, a whopping 82 million Tamagotchi had been sold since their release into the market in 1997.

5. Aki Maita and Akihiro Yokoi won an award for inventing the Tamagotchi.

In 1997, the duo won an Ig Nobel Prize in economics, a satiric prize that’s nonetheless presented by Nobel laureates at Harvard, for "diverting millions of person-hours of work into the husbandry of virtual pets" by creating the Tamagotchi.

6. Tamagotchis weren't popular with teachers.

Some who grew up with Tamagotchi remember sneaking the toys into school in their book bags. The toys were eventually banned in some schools because they were too distracting and, in some cases, upsetting for students. In a 1997 Baltimore Sun article titled “The Tamagotchi Generation,” Andrew Ratner wrote that the principal at his son’s elementary school sent out a memo forbidding the toys “because some pupils got so despondent after their Tamagotchis died that they needed consoling, even care from the school nurse.”

7. One pet cemetery served as a burial ground for expired Tamagotchi.

Terry Squires set aside a small portion of his pet cemetery in southern England for dead Tamagotchi. He told CNN in 1998 that he had performed burials for Tamagotchi owners from Germany, Switzerland, France, the United States, and Canada, all of whom ostensibly shipped their dead by postal mail. CNN noted that "After the Tamagotchis are placed in their coffins, they are buried as mourners look on, their final resting places topped with flowers."

8. There were many copycat Tamagotchi.

The success of the Tamagotchi resulted in both spin-offs and copycat toys, leading PC Mag to dub the late ’90s “The Golden Age of Virtual Pets.” There was the Digimon, a Tamagotchi spin-off by Bandai that featured monsters and was marketed to boys. (There were also Tamagotchi video games.) And in 1997, Tiger Electronics launched Giga Pets, which featured real animals (and, later, dinosaurs and fictional pets from TV shows). According to PC Mag, Giga Pets were very popular in the United States but “never held the same mystique as the original Tamagotchi units.” Toymaker Playmates's Nano Pets were also a huge success, though PC Mag noted they were “some of the least satisfying to take care of."

9. Rare Tamagotchis can be worth a lot of money.

According to Business Insider, most vintage Tamagotchis won't fetch big bucks on the secondary market. (On eBay, most are priced at around $50.) The exception are rare editions like “Yasashii Blue” and “Tamagotchi Ocean,” which go for $300 to $450 on eBay. As Complex notes, "There were over 40 versions (lines) of Tamagotchi released, and each line featured a variety of colors and variations ... yours would have to be one of the rarest models to be worth the effort of resale."

10. A new generation of Tamagotchis were released in 2017 for the toy's 20th anniversary.

The 2017 re-release of the Tamagotchi in its packaging.
Bandai came to the aid of nostalgic '90s kids when it re-released a version of the original Tamagotchis for the toy's 20th anniversary.
Chesnot/Getty Images

In November 2017, Bandai released a 20th anniversary Tamagotchi that, according to a press release [PDF], was "a first-of-its-kind-anywhere exact replica of the original Tamagotchi handheld digital pet launched ... in 1996." However, as The Verge reported, the toys weren't an exact replica: "They're about half the size, the LCD display is square rather than rectangle, and those helpful icons on the top and bottom of the screen seem to be gone now." In 2019, new Tamagotchis were released; they were larger than the originals, featured full-color displays, and retailed for $60.

11. The original Tamagotchi’s sound has been immortalized in a virtual museum.

The Museum of Endangered Sounds is a website that seeks to immortalize the digital sounds that become extinct as we hurtle through the evolution of technology. “The crackle of a dial-up modem. The metallic clack of a 3.5-inch floppy slotting into a Macintosh disk drive. The squeal of the newborn Tamagotchi. They are vintage sounds that no oldies station is ever going to touch,” The Washington Post wrote in a 2012 profile of the museum. So, yes, the sound of that little Tamagotchi is forever preserved, should it someday, very sadly, cease to exist completely.