Weekly Wrap Volume 79

This is a weekly wrap of our popular Daily Knowledge Newsletter. You can get that newsletter for free here.

jello-340x226The Jiggly History of Jell-O

For over a century, Jell-O has been a part of American culture and, according to a 1904 edition of the Ladies Home Journal, “America’s Favorite Dessert” (conveniently enough named such in an advertisement paid for by Jell-O before anyone was really buying it all). That said, ever since then it really has been one of the most popular deserts in America. The story of this fruit-flavored, gelatin-based icon includes good old-fashioned American ingenuity, brilliant marketing, and a wobbly start. Gelatin, the main ingredient in Jell-O, has been an after dinner delicacy for the wealthy dating all the way back to at least the… (more)

graveSix Feet Under

If there’s one thing everyone knows about graves other than the fact that they’re really spooky at night, it’s that they’re always six feet deep. In truth, despite “six feet under” being synonymous with the very idea of death, it has little to no relevance in burial customs. For starters, the rules on exactly how deep you’re legally supposed to bury someone when they die are by… (more)

juicy-fruit2The Fruit in Juicy Fruit

With a brand recognition rate somewhere close to 99% in the States, it’s pretty safe to say that almost everyone reading this has at least heard of Juicy Fruit gum, if not also chewed it at some point. The question we’re looking at today is- exactly what fruit is Juicy Fruit supposed to taste like and does it actually contain any dehydrated juice from that fruit? Now you’d think that answering this question would be as simple as picking up a pack of Juicy Fruit gum and reading the ingredients list, but as with most things in life, we discovered it’s just not that easy. For starters, the ingredients listed on a pack of Juicy Fruit are incredibly vague; the only real piece of useful information you can glean from a pack itself is that the gum contains… (more)

speed-limitWhen Does a Speed Limit Come Into Effect?

On paper, speed limits sound like a pretty simple idea- legislators and experts agree upon a given speed at which it’s deemed safe to travel through an area and then let the public know by clearly signposting it. But a question we’ve received numerous times over the years is when exactly does a speed limit legally come into effect? Here now is the answer. Any signposted speed limit comes into effect at the exact point the sign resides. In other words, if you’re driving at 30 MPH through a 30 MPH zone and you’re about to enter a zone that allows you to… (more)

first-rodeoThis Ain’t My First Rodeo

For the uninitiated, “This ain’t my first rodeo” is roughly equivalent to telling a person that you’re more than prepared for a given situation or that it offers little challenge to you. It’s more often than not used derisively, usually in situations where a more experienced person is being given unwanted or unwarranted advice by someone else. The phrase is similar in inclination to the British idiom, “I didn’t come down with the last shower” (shower in this context referring to rain), or the expression, “I wasn’t born yesterday”. As to the origin of the expression, it would seem it isn’t nearly as old as you might think. The earliest known documented… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • A small Austrian village in the municipality of Tarsdorf has something of an odd name from an English speaking point of view.  The town is Fucking, Austria (pronounced fooking).  The town is thought to have been founded around the 6th century by a Bavarian nobleman by the name of Focko.  The name evolved from there with various spellings until the 18th century when it became as it is today. The name essentially means “(place of) Focko’s people.”
  • The word barbarian is used today (literally or metaphorically) to describe a person that is lacking refinement and thus is considered to be uncivilized. The word, however, comes from the Greek word “barbaroi,” which in antiquity described the people who couldn’t speak Greek and thus they were sounding (to the Greeks) like they were saying bar-bar-bar. This is the reason why the Ancient Greeks referred to everyone who wasn’t Greek as a “barbarian.”
  • You’ve probably heard at least once in your lifetime that the Great Wall of China is the only human-made object that can be seen from space with the naked eye. Well that’s not exactly true. In perfect conditions (with the wall casting a large shadow and clear skies) it is possible for astronauts in low Earth orbit (90-300 miles) to spot the wall if they have extremely good eyesight. However, for most who’ve claimed to have spotted portions of the wall, it was later determined that what they were looking at was a river or the Grand Canal of China. As Chinese astronaut, Yang Liwei, stated: “I did not see the Great Wall from space. You can’t see it.” Funny enough, the idea that the Wall could be seen from space with the naked eye originated decades before humans went to space, notably attested in The People and the Politics of the Far East, by Henry Norman (1904): “Besides its age [the Great Wall of China] enjoys the reputation of being the only work of human hands on the globe visible from the moon.”
  • While we generally call them “Swiss Army Knives” today, the fact is that the Ancient Romans used pocket multi-tools a couple thousand years before the first Swiss Army Knife was created by the Swiss company, Victorinox, in 1891. The term “Swiss Army Knife” was coined and popularized by United States soldiers around WWII. The soldiers had trouble pronouncing the original name of “Schweizer Offiziersmesser” (Swiss Officer’s Knife) and thus began calling the multi-tool a “Swiss Army Knife”.
  • The longest a modern boxing match can go is 12 rounds, with each round lasting 3 minutes. However, the longest boxing fight in history took place in New Orleans on Apr. 6, 1893, between Andy Bowen and Jack Burke. The fight was for the lightweight world title and lasted 111 rounds! After seven hours of brutal fighting, when the bell sounded for the 111th round, both fighters – dazed and exhausted- refused to come out of their corners and the referee ruled the bout as a no contest. So yes, after 111 rounds of using their bodies as punching bags, the contest ended in a tie.
  • Despite the fact he’s considered one of the greatest English-language novelists of all time, Joseph Conrad wasn’t fluent in English until he was in his twenties. Even when he finally became proficient in English, he spoke it with a heavy Polish accent, being from Poland. English was Conrad’s third language.
  • North Korea and Finland are technically separated by only one country. In different circumstances, they could be near “neighbors” if the country in between them, Russia, wasn’t the largest country in the world, with a total area covering 17,075,400 square kilometres. For reference, Finland and North Korea are approximately 6.5K kilometres from each other, about the same distance apart as the United States and Finland.
  • Colonel Sanders, the famous founder of “Kentucky Fried Chicken” (who incidentally was 62 and broke when he convinced a restaurant owner to make that restaurant the first KFC) is often considered one of Kentucky’s most notable people. However, it should be noted that he was born and raised in Indiana, not Kentucky.

Other Interesting Stuff:

engagement-ringThe Truth About Diamonds

An expensive meal at a fancy restaurant, a declaration of romance, and a big, fat diamond ring- this is a pretty standard formula for an engagement proposal. After all, it has been ingrained in all of us that a diamond ring equals love and the bigger the diamond, the more love there must be. Well, believe it or not, diamonds really aren’t all that rare. In fact, the reason diamonds cost so much is more due to savvy (and sometimes unethical) business practices and incredibly successful advertising campaigns than the actual inherent value of the stone based on supply and demand, something anyone who has actually tried to sell a diamond quickly comes to realize. Here now is the story of how and why we all fell in love with diamonds… (more)

20080217-Yongle_Dadian_Encyclopedia_1403-wiki-e1277386066600An Encyclopedia Finished in 1408 That Contained Nearly One Million Pages

Today I found out about an encyclopedia finished in 1408 that contained nearly one million pages.  This particular encyclopedia was called the “永樂大典”, which translates to “The Great Canon of the Yongle Era”; today it’s  just called, in English, the “Yongle Encyclopedia”.  This encyclopedia was originally commissioned by Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty in China.  It was not only the largest written encyclopedia in history, but was also one of the first.  It held the record for the largest overall encyclopedia in the history of the world (written or not) until September 9, 2007 when Wikipedia surpassed it.  At that point, Wikipedia had about two million articles.
As impressive a project as Wikipedia is… (more)

jumboWhere the Word “Jumbo” Came From

The word “jumbo” can roughly be understood to mean “a large specimen of its kind” and it’s often posited that the word entered the English language thanks to an elephant. While this is certainly a nice story, the truth is a little more complicated. First things first, though etymologists are in agreement that the word “jumbo” in specific reference to something that is quite big was popularised by an African bull elephant called Jumbo, there is evidence that the word existed long before he was even born. In the latter half of the 19th century, Jumbo the elephant was arguably one of the most famous animals on Earth. Throughout his life as a zoo attraction and later a circus performer, he is… (more)

human-cannonball-340x558 (1)The Most Dangerous Profession

Whenever there is a list released of the world’s most dangerous jobs, tree loggers, steelworkers, electrical power-line installers, and fisherman usually are the professions that populate the list.  But none of those things are nearly as dangerous as being propelled out of a long cylinder tube, flown through the air completely untethered, and attempting to land safely on the ground. As you’ll soon see, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently listed logging as the most dangerous job in America at 127.8 deaths per 100,000… well, let’s just say that’s laughable compared to the death rates of the human cannonballers. The human cannonball first entered the public consciousness… (more)

soap-in-a-tubThe Truth About the Origin of Floating Soap

Ivory has been producing their uniquely floating soap for the well over a century now and in that time they’ve become one of the most popular soap brands in the world. For many years, the company has maintained that the discovery of its trademark floating soap was a complete accident, but exactly how true is this? For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ivory brand soap, in a nutshell its two key selling points are that it is incredibly pure (99.44% pure) and that it floats, making it superior to all other kinds of soap because you don’t need to grope around on the bottom of the bath to find it. These two traits have made Ivory soap one of the most popular and enduring brands… (more)

amazon-340x255The Candirú Fish Can’t Swim Up a Stream of Your Urine

If you’ve never heard of the Candirú, also known as the pencil fish, the toothpick fish, the vampire fish and the fish that SWIMS INTO YOUR PEE HOLE, Google any of those names above (yes, even that last one, but maybe not at work). You’ll see hundreds of pages talking about this thin, translucent fish and its nasty habit of swimming up a stream of urine and lodging itself into the urethra of an unfortunate man or woman. The vast majority of these stories are from men. On the surface, this perhaps makes sense as men have significantly longer urethra’s than women… (more)

This Week’s Podcast:

Quote of the Week:

  • “Friendship is like peeing on yourself: everyone can see it, but only you get the warm feeling that it brings.” -Mark Russell
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