88 Amazing Facts Everyone Should Know

1. Thirty-five percent of people are born without wisdom teeth.

2. As we continue to evolve, scientists believe that fewer and fewer humans will be born with wisdom teeth ...

3. ... or appendixes ...

4. ... or even little toes!

5. India’s Dahala Khagrabari is the world’s only third-order enclave.

6. It’s a patch of India inside a patch of Bangladesh, which is inside a patch of India—all of which is surrounded by Bangladesh.

7. The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-V handbook classifies caffeine withdrawal as a mental disorder.

8. Catnip isn’t just for housecats—it affects lions and tigers too!

9. In the 1870s, a Belgian village attempted to train a fleet of 37 official mail cats to deliver letters.

10. It didn’t work.

11. The cotton candy machine was invented by a dentist.

12. Twelve percent of sleepers dream in black and white.

13. Zebras’ coats are just black.

14. (Their undercoat has white stripes.)

15. The light emitted by 200,000 galaxies makes our universe a shade of beige.

16. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University christened the color “cosmic latte.”

17. The oldest star is nicknamed Methuselah. It’s 13.8 billion years old.

18. If you open your eyes in a pitch-black room, the color you’ll see is called eigengrau.

19. There may be no sound in space, but it does have a distinct smell: a bouquet of diesel fumes, gunpowder, and barbecue.

20. The aroma is mostly produced by dying stars.

21. In Japan, letting a sumo wrestler make your baby cry is considered good luck.

22. Where do baby carrots come from? Ugly carrots.

23. When a California farmer realized he was discarding 400 tons of carrots a day because they were too bent to be sold, he gave his harvest a makeover and shaved them down to snackable nubs.

24. Today, baby carrots are a $1 billion business.

25. Oreos are a knock-off of Hydrox cookies, which came out four years earlier (in 1908).

26. If your dog's feet smell like corn chips, you're not alone. The term "Frito Feet" was coined to describe the scent.

27. The female G-spot was nearly named the Whipple Tickle, after professor Beverly Whipple.

28. In Iceland, it’s hard to come up with a creative name for a newborn. A government committee prevents parents from giving babies names it deems too weird.

29. The committee’s name? Mannanafnanefnd.

30. Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are was initially pitched as Where the Wild Horses Are.

31. His editor loved the title, but Sendak couldn’t draw horses.

32. The wild things he ended up drawing are caricatures of his relatives.

33. In the original stage version of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s companion isn’t Toto, but a cow named Imogene.

34. It was easier to fit a human into a cow costume than a dog one.

35. Swiss designers are working on a milk carton that changes color as its contents nears expiration.

36. The most shoplifted food item in the U.S. is candy.

37. In Europe, it’s cheese.

38. In Latin America, it’s meat.

39. Sweden’s Left Party has campaigned to make men sit when they pee.

40. (The campaign isn’t going very well.)

41. In 2008, Carl Mosca Dionisio strung together 18,500 latex condoms and used them to bungee jump from a 100-foot tower.

42. In 2001, Beaver College changed its name to Arcadia in part because anti-porn filters blocked access to the school's website.

43. A 2009 study found that when men interact with an attractive woman, they may become “cognitively impaired.”

44. Further studies found that the mere thought of talking to a pretty girl increases a man’s likelihood of saying something really, really stupid.

45. In 2008, the U.K.’s Susie Hewer knitted a scarf while running a marathon.

46. It was five feet, two inches long.

47. New York Times illustrator Christoph Niemann doodled 46 sketches—in color—while running the New York City Marathon.

48. Juggling while jogging is also a marathon phenomenon.

49. It’s called joggling.

50. The electronic game Simon, where players repeat the sequence of lit-up colored panels, debuted at Studio 54.

51. In 2005, executives from Christie’s and Sotheby’s played a game of Rock Paper Scissors to determine who’d get to sell a $20 million art collection that included works by Picasso, Van Gogh, and Cézanne.

52. Christie’s scissors beat Sotheby’s paper.

53. To celebrate Andy Warhol’s 85th birthday, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh broadcast a streaming video of the artist’s grave.

54. In 1953, during the Eisenhower administration, the White House was wired to play Muzak.

55. But Eisenhower wasn’t even Muzak’s biggest presidential fan. Lyndon Johnson owned an Austin franchise earlier that decade.

56. The FBI investigated the song “Louie Louie” because the agency thought the lyrics were dirty.

57. After three months, the FBI abandoned the investigation because it couldn’t make out the words.

58. In the 1940s, the British government launched a series of PSAs on the proper way to use a handkerchief.

59. Kleenex was originally marketed not as a disposable hankie, but as a cold-cream remover.

60. Sea otters hold hands when they sleep so they don’t drift apart.

61. Male caimans dance to impress potential mates.

62. In 1998, a Georgia student was suspended for wearing a Pepsi shirt to "Coke in Education Day."

63. Fredric Baur invented the Pringles can. When he died in 2008, his ashes were buried in one.

64. German chocolate cake isn’t German. It’s named for Sam German, an American baker.

65. The national animal of Scotland is the unicorn.

66. Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr was given a perpetual supply of beer piped into his house.

67. “Hello” wasn’t a common greeting until the invention of the telephone. Thomas Edison convinced the printers of the first phone books to make it the sanctioned greeting.

68. Alexander Graham Bell disagreed. He pushed for “Ahoy!”

69. In 1997, Kleberg County, Texas, designated “Heaven-o” its official new phone greeting.

70. All the characters on The Simpsons have four-fingered hands with one exception: God.

71. The best man’s original purpose was to serve as an accomplice in case the bride needed to be kidnapped from disapproving parents.

72. Meanwhile, the bridesmaid tradition started because people believed that dressing everyone up in the same clothing would confuse evil spirits.

73. Ever practical, Puritan brides-to-be accepted engagement thimbles from their fiancés.

74. When the wedding day arrived, they’d simply cut the bottom off and wear it as a ring.

75. In 1998, the U.S. Army tried developing a telepathic ray gun “where words could be transmitted to be heard like the spoken word, except that it could only be heard within a person’s head.”

76. The world’s shortest scheduled flight lasts 47 seconds. It covers just over a mile on Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

77. Richard Silver invented the Electric Slide in 1976. It consisted of 22 steps.

78. When he learned that wedding revelers were bungling his masterpiece by doing only 18 of the steps, he threatened amateur dancers with lawsuits.

79. (Silver never actually sued anyone.)

80. In 2006, an Australian man tried to sell New Zealand on eBay. The price rose to $3,000 before eBay shut it down.

81. In 1967, the Nigerian Civil War ground to a halt for two days because both sides wanted to watch Pelé play in an exhibition soccer match.

82. Some cats are allergic to humans.

83. The first sales pitch for the Nerf ball was “Nerf: You can’t hurt babies or old people!”

84. In 2006, a Wisconsin man legally changed his name to Andy Griffith, hoping it would help him get elected as county sheriff.

85. Instead, he was sued by Andy Griffith.

86. PETA once asked the Pet Shop Boys to consider changing their name to Rescue Shelter Boys.

87. Winston Churchill's mother was born in Brooklyn.

88. Homosexuality was still classified as an illness in Sweden in 1979. Swedes protested by calling in sick to work, claiming they felt gay.

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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