Our 25 Most Popular Stories of 2023

Old-timey slang terms, mispronounced words, Americans’ favorite junk food, and what the heck your car’s air recirculation button is for were all popular topics in 2023.
There was something for every type of reader on MentalFloss.com in 2023.
There was something for every type of reader on MentalFloss.com in 2023. / Nico De Pasquale Photography/Moment via Getty Images

For more than 20 years, Mental Floss has proudly served as the home for all things curious and quirky—and 2023 was no exception. Among some of the essential stories we have covered in recent months: IKEA’s gargantuan Swedish meatball, which weighs as much as a Pomeranian and is meant to serve the entire family; 100 facts that will make you say WTF (for example: Al Roker and Lenny Kravitz are distant cousins); and how, in the Middle Ages, an unfortunate mistranslation spawned a misguided mummy-eating fad.

While we published thousands of new stories over the past 12 months, we’re always excited to see any trends that emerge. And in 2023, what we learned is that our readers love to learn about words, phrases, slang, and names—particularly those they might be saying all wrong; which cassette tapes hiding in their attics might be worth a small fortune; the best travel hacks from the people who have tried them all (flight attendants); and anything related to awesomely bad movie(s).

Here are our 25 most popular stories of 2023, in case you missed any of them.

1. 25 Irish Names You’re Probably Mispronouncing

collage of cillian murphy, saoirse ronan, domhnall gleeson
(Left to right) Cillian Murphy, Saoirse Ronan, and Domhnall Gleeson. / (Murphy) Anthony Harvey/Getty Images; (Ronan) Tim P. Whitby/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Sony Pictures Releasing UK; (Gleeson) Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

Learn how to pronounce Saoirse and Cillian so you don’t have to live in fear of making a fool of yourself in front of Saoirse Ronan or Cillian Murphy.

2. The Highest-Rated Book in Each Country, Mapped

If you read to explore different worlds, this map is for you.

3. What Your Car’s Air Recirculation Button Does—And Why You Should Be Using It

blurred car dashboard with air recirculation button circled and in focus
Marin Tomas/Moment/Getty Images

Your car’s air recirculation button can make life easier on you and your air conditioner.

4. 10 of the Most Valuable Cassette Tapes From the ‘80s and ‘90s

Calling all Gen Xers and elder Millennials: Those old copies of Pearl Jam’s Ten could you earn you a bundle.

5. The Best Time to Use the Bathroom On an Airplane, According to a Flight Attendant

The correct answer is “never,” but if you have to, you’d better time it right.

6. The Coolest Offbeat Attraction in All 50 States (and Washington, D.C.)

Map of the United States with symbols on certain states
Which offbeat attraction do you want to visit? / Background: Vectorig/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images; Map: A Mokhtari/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images; Brain: OsakaWayne Studios/Moment/Getty Images; Roller Skate: Jancu Cojocar / 500px/Getty Images; Lucky Cat: blackred/E+/Getty Images; Tombstone: Jean Ursula/E+/Getty Images; Pistachio: Burazin/The Image Bank/Getty Images; Hammer: CSA Images/Getty Images; Hat: Sean Gladwell/Moment/Getty Images; Matchstick: Jeffrey Coolidge/Stone/Getty Images

From strange roadside attractions to wonderfully weird museums, the United States is full of delightful sights that don’t show up in all the guidebooks.

7. Feeling Adventurous? The U.S. Government Is Giving Away Lighthouses

For centuries, lighthouses and their keepers helped ships avoid catastrophe. Thanks to GPS, they’re all but obsolete. But that doesn’t mean you can’t live in one of these cherished structures and enjoy a hermetic existence with a great waterfront view: the U.S. government is giving away several lighthouses and selling others.

8. The Best Time to Go Thrift Shopping, According to Goodwill

There’s a perfect time to go to your local thrift store if you want to find the best deals.

9. There’s an Optical Illusion Hidden in the MLB Logo

MLB logo against blue and red background
Righty or lefty? / MLB.com, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The silhouetted player in the MLB logo is ambiguous in more ways than one.

10. The 10 Worst Movies to Win a Best Picture Oscar, According to Audiences

Many of the worst movies to win a Best Picture Oscar are still a lot better than most other movies.

11. 25 Welsh Names You’re Probably Mispronouncing

If you think the pronunciation of the Welsh name Rhys matches that of the word rise, this article is for you.

12. The Horror Movie Roger Ebert Couldn’t Review

Roger Ebert
Jim Ross/GettyImages

“Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.”

13. 10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Bring Through TSA Checkpoints

No need to leave your pet goldfish behind after all—or your favorite collectible lightsaber, for that matter.

14. “Vur-Sah-Chay”: 20 of the Most Commonly Mispronounced Brand Names

Nutella isn’t “Nut-tella,” and other lies you’ve been told.

15. How Long Can You Drive After Your Car’s Gas Light Comes On?

A car's gas tank light is pictured
Whoops. / Jasmin Merdan/Moment via Getty Images

Stop playing chicken with your fuel gauge.

16. 7 Misconceptions About the ‘80s

Whether you lived through the ‘80s or merely have absorbed some details via Stranger Things, take a look at some of the myths surrounding the “me decade.”

17. Science Has Figured Out the Most Germ-Ridden Spot in Your Kitchen, and It’s Going to Gross You Out

Sinks and countertops get all the bad press, but the most bacteria are actually lurking somewhere else.

18. America’s Favorite Junk Food, Mapped by State

See where Doritos, Sour Patch Kids, and other processed snacks rank on this map of America's favorite junk foods.

19. Red Lobster Reports $11 Million in Losses Because Customers Are Eating Way Too Much Unlimited Shrimp

In this photo illustration, the Red Lobster logo is...
SOPA Images/GettyImages

The seafood giant promised patrons as much shrimp as they could eat. It turns out they could eat a lot.

20. A Flight Attendant Explains the Clever Reason You Should Put One Shoe in Your Hotel Safe

It could be the sole reason you avoid hassle on your next trip.

21. The Breaking Bad Scene That Broke Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in 'Breaking Bad'
Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in 'Breaking Bad.' / Ben Leuner/AMC

Though Walter White commits his most heinous crimes in the later seasons of Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston said he was most shaken up by a moment from season 2.

22. 20 Delightful Slang Terms From the 1930s

These 1930s-era slang terms will blow your wig.

23. The 21 Worst Movies of All Time, According to CinemaScore

Only 21 films received a failing grade from CinemaScore. But does that mean they’re bad movies?

24. The Most Popular Baby Names in Each State

Whether you live in Alabama or Washington, your baby girl Olivia is probably going to meet a bunch of other Olivias.

25. 10 Ancient Kings Who Were Too Dramatic For Your History Books

silhouette of a king wearing an old crown against a dark red background
You probably didn't read about these ancient kings in history class. / artpartner-images/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Their stories were powerful and compelling, yet almost forgotten.