13 Amazing Things That Happened on a Friday the 13th

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iStock

If you believe Friday the 13th is a day marked only by bad luck and running from an evil hockey enthusiast at a defunct summer camp, it’s time to rethink the infamous date’s potential. Leave your triskaidekaphobia at the door and check out the noteworthy events that landed on the “unlucky” day. All the bad stuff is just a coincidence.

1. DINOSAUR EGG DISCOVERY // JULY 1923

While hunting fossils for the American Museum of Natural History at Mongolia’s Flaming Cliffs, an expedition team led by Roy Chapman Andrews discovered the first scientifically recognized dinosaur egg fossils. He had gone there to try to find the missing link between apes and mankind, so this was a doozy of a consolation prize.

2. WELCOME TO HOLLYWOODLAND // JULY 1923


Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The same day that Andrews was digging up dino eggs, a giant group of letters was inaugurated in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, to signify a housing development owned by H.J. Whitley called Hollywoodland. Today, it’s one of the most recognizable landmarks even though it long ago lost its “land.”

3. TENNESSEE OUTLAWS EVOLUTION // MARCH 1925

It was an unlucky day for Darwin when the Tennessee Senate voted to prohibit Evolutionary Theory from public universities and schools. The law was deemed constitutional by the Tennessee Supreme Court during the famed Scopes Monkey Trial and wasn’t struck down until 1967.

4. THE BRITISH INTERPLANETARY SOCIETY // OCTOBER 1933

We may have landed people on the moon in 1969, but people have been dreaming of the stars since long before then. The British Interplanetary Society, the oldest space advocacy group in the world, was founded to boost public awareness of astronautics. Its most famous chairman? None other than Arthur C. Clarke.

5. HUGHES H-1 RACER SETS A WORLD AIRSPEED RECORD // SEPTEMBER 1935

Now residing at the National Air and Space Museum, the Hughes H-1 Racer spent an illustrious Friday the 13th in 1935 setting a world airspeed record (567 kph/352 mph). Designed by the legendary Howard Hughes and Richard Palmer, it was the last privately owned aircraft to break the world airspeed record.

6. THE FIRST HEAVY METAL ALBUM DEBUTS // FEBRUARY 1970


Marked by many music experts as the official birth of heavy metal, Black Sabbath’s eponymous album was released on an appropriately dangerous Friday the 13th in 1970. A remarkably good omen for everyone who wanted to board the crazy train.

7. RUGBY TEAM’S PLANE CRASHES IN THE ANDES // OCTOBER 1972

One of the more horrific things to have happened on this date, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed in the Andes Mountains while carrying the Old Christians Club rugby team. Over a quarter of the 45 were killed on impact, and it took until December 23 to rescue the surviving 16 who were forced to resort to cannibalism to stay alive.

8. MALTA BECOMES AN INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC // DECEMBER 1974


Sudika, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

The small country in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea declared its independence from the United Kingdom in 1964, but Queen Elizabeth remained the Head of State. In 1974, Malta Labour Party leadership declared the country a republic and installed a President (Sir Anthony Mamo) as the head of the government.

9. WE ALL GET TO PLAY SUPER MARIO BROS. // SEPTEMBER 1985

Undoubtedly one of the most famous video games of all time—and a mega-franchise-launcher and anchor for Nintendo—Super Mario Bros. was released on a fireball-throwing Friday the 13th. It makes sense; it’s a day when many superstitious people refuse to go outside.

10. THE STOCK MARKET MINI-CRASH // OCTOBER 1989


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Maybe it’s just Octobers that are unlucky for the stock market. Sixty years after the Black Tuesday crash that ushered in the Great Depression, the major markets experienced some serious turbulence after an aborted United Airlines merger tanked the junk bond market. Like a black cat crossing your path in a golden parachute, the mini-crash was a harbinger of the 1990s recession.

11. FINLAND’S ACCIDENT DAY // 1995

Since 1995, Finland has designated one Friday the 13th every year as a national Accident Day with the aim of raising awareness for workplace and road safety. It’s a clever idea to use the superstitious day as an opportunity to be extra vigilant. Plus, because of its capital’s airport code and a particular daily flight demarcation, Finland also offers a Flight 666 to HEL every Friday the 13th.

12. NASA ANNOUNCES EVIDENCE OF WATER ON THE MOON // NOVEMBER 2009

After studying data collected and relayed by the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), NASA chose a Friday the 13th to share evidence that the moon isn’t as desolate as we thought it to be. The robotic spacecraft studied particles in the debris plume created by its launchable upper stage impacting with the Cabeus crater, opening the door for more research and a new understanding of our only permanent natural satellite.

13. A BUNCH OF GREAT BIRTHDAYS


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Throughout the years, plenty of people have shrugged off being born under a bad sign to become noteworthy in multiple fields (and even score some Nobel Prizes for their mantel). People born on Friday the 13th include Nate Silver, jazz clarinetist George Lewis, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Plummer, novelist Georges Simenon, playwright Samuel Beckett, WWII hero-turned-actor Neville Brand, and poet Wole Soyinka.

10 Fascinating Facts About the Thesaurus for National Thesaurus Day

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
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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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