If those colors come in ice cream form, then what happens is a mouthwatering scoop of heaven. The strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla of Neapolitan ice cream have been colorfully cohabitating in America since the 1870s. But this palate-pleaser hasn’t always drawn from the same palette of flavors. Originally, any three varieties of ice cream might have appeared together (how do they get them to sit so perfectly side by side? More on that later), and it’s thought that the version we love today became standardized simply because those were the three most popular ice cream flavors in America at the time.
There is nothing a heavy metal rocker loves more–after taking off his skull mask, corpse makeup, and studded leather bat wings–than curling up in a quiet corner with a good book. Or so one might think, considering the chosen names of some bands that consider “11” a reasonable sound volume.
In case you haven’t been keeping tabs on the news of the weird lately, the body of the Loch Ness monster has been found. Well, sort of. Researchers surveying the depths of the Scottish loch with sonar imaging technology have rediscovered a 30-foot prop Nessie used in the 1970 film “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.” Sunk during filming in 1969, the model monster has been hanging out 180 meters deep on the loch bed ever since. The researchers with the Loch Ness Project didn’t expect to encounter any mysterious creatures—real or artificial—so finding the film artifact was a quirky coincidence to their scientific search for Nessie’s lair. “We have found a monster, but not the one many people might have expected,” commented Loch Ness expert Adrian Shine. In a bit of mythical monster synchronicity, a drone has captured what may be footage of a Bigfoot scampering through the Idaho landscape.
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It would make sense that the novel idea of slicing off the Big Apple from the rest of the state would come from a novelist.
In the 1960s, New York City was suffering as crime rates climbed and the mighty metropolis lurched toward bankruptcy. While long-standing politicians offered few new ideas on how to wake the City That Never Sleeps from its fatal slumber, the unlikely duo of novelist Norman Mailer and columnist Jimmy Breslin seized the opportunity to shake up the status quo during the 1969 Democratic Mayoral Primary election–by running for Mayor and City Council president, respectively.
Cascading water, misty sprays, rainbow skies: Niagara Falls offers some pretty obvious aesthetic benefits. But other than its Instagram-worthy backdrop beauty, why, exactly, did the Twin Cities — which straddle the Canadian and U.S. borders — become known as the Honeymoon Capital of the World?
Here’s a secret weapon word for serious Scrabble competitors: syzygy. The shortest word to incorporate three y’s, it’s also a term shared by poetry and astronomy. For poets, the phenomenon takes two forms: phonetic syzygy (similar to alliteration but including sounds within words), and metrical syzygy (the repetition of rhythms in the meter of the poem). For astronomers, syzygy is shorthand for the straight-line alignment of celestial bodies in the same system—a line-up of Jupiter and Mars, for example. But to understand why poetry and astronomy share this weird word, we need to look at its etymological root. It enters English via Latin (suzugia) from the Greek syzygos, meaning yoked or paired. From there, it was broadly applied to describe linked things in literature, astronomy, and other fields. Lest you think that applications of the term are rare and unrelated across these fields, you’re witnessing an example every time you look up at the full moon. And what could be more poetic than that?
Blueberries, a cloudless sky, and grandma’s hair…there’s blue all around us. But would you be aware of it if you didn’t know the word for it? This perceptual question was explored by language historian Lazarus Geiger who looked for the progression of color words in ancient languages like Greek, Chinese, and Hebrew. He found that the earliest color-related words in each culture were black and white (or dark and light). Next came red, then yellow and green. But blue was the last common color word to appear in every ancient language. The Egyptians were the first on the blue bandwagon and, not coincidentally, also the first to produce blue dye.
But the question remains: Is the ability to actually see a color dependent on having a word for it? An anthropological experiment with the Himba people of Namibia sheds some light on this dilemma. Himba participants in the study had great difficulty spotting a blue square in a palette of green squares, but no problem finding a subtly different shade of green in the same context. The Himba have many words to describe green things, but no word for blue.
Is it easy seeing green? Find out here.
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We’ve all done it—you hear a song that might not be enunciated in the King’s English, and before you know it, Jimmy Hendrix is singing “excuse me while I kiss this guy.” This odd phenomenon of auditory processing has a quirky name: a mondegreen. Surely, it’s named for Professor Charles Mondegreen who first discovered the scientific basis for such misunderstandings. No? Then it must be a strange Esperanto mash-up that translates to “green world.” Wrong again. It turns out that the term mondegreen itself is a mondegreen. You heard that right. It originates from a misheard bit of a ballad. As a child, American writer Sylvia Wright enjoyed hearing her mother read from Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. One of her favorites was a Scottish ballad concerning the death of an Earl: “They hae slain the Earl Amurray, and laid him on the green.” To Wright’s imaginative young ears, the line “laid him on the green” became “Lady Mondegreen,” and the Earl’s accidental companion in death became the official mascot of misunderstood lyrics.
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