Author Archives: Emily Upton

The Forgotten Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, Norton I

Today I found out about the largely forgotten colorful benevolent dictator of the United States and protector of Mexico, Emperor Norton I. His Imperial Majesty Joshua Abraham Norton I was born between 1811 and 1818 in England. Records of his birth date vary considerably, but it’s likely that the latter date is the correct one. His family immigrated to South […]

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The Language Made Up Entirely of Whistles

Today I found out about Silbo Gomero, the whistling language. In Spanish, “Silbo Gomero” means “Gomeran whistling.” It is a language “spoken” on La Gomera in the Canary Islands (which incidentally may have been named after dogs, and certainly wasn’t named after birds) and is made up entirely of whistling sounds. The language was used by the Guanches—the aboriginal people […]

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Nero Didn’t Fiddle While Rome Burned

Myth: Nero played music while Rome burned to the ground. The infamous phrase—“Nero fiddled while Rome burned”—has come to mean a person who is neglecting their duties, probably by doing something frivolous. Nero is painted as an emperor who didn’t care about his people, but it’s likely that he didn’t deserve such a bad reputation.  This is extremely similar to […]

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How Hieroglyphics were Originally Translated

Today I found out about the history of the Rosetta Stone and how hieroglyphics were first translated. Hieroglyphics were elaborate, elegant symbols used prolifically in Ancient Egypt. The symbols decorated temples and tombs of pharaohs. However, being quite ornate, other scripts were usually used in day-to-day life, such as demotic, a precursor to Coptic, which was used in Egypt until […]

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“Big Ben” is Not the Famous Clock Tower, but Rather the Name of the Great Bell Inside the Tower

If you’ve ever been to London, or even seen a picture of London, you’ve probably seen the giant clock tower at the corner of the Palace of Westminster. This tower is one of London’s major icons, ranking right up there with red double-decker buses, the London Eye, and Platform 9 ¾. Contrary to popular belief, the clock tower itself is […]

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The Great Chicago Fire Wasn’t Started by a Cow

Myth: The Great Chicago Fire was started by a cow. The Great Chicago Fire destroyed 3.3 square miles of Chicago, Illinois, burning for two days in 1871—between October 8th and October 10th. It killed hundreds of people, left more than 100,000 homeless (nearly one third of Chicago’s residents at the time), destroyed roughly 17,000 buildings, and caused a couple hundred […]

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Why and How a Cat Purrs

Rachel asks: Why and how do cats purr? As any cat owner—or even someone who’s seen a cat—knows, cats often purr when they’re being petted or getting their chin scratched. They also purr when they want food and when they’re eating. Sometimes, they’ll purr as they drift off into sleep. Purring is most known to be a sign that cats […]

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How the United Kingdom Flag Design Came to Be as It is Today

Today I found out the origin of the United Kingdom’s flag design. With Britain permeating many a nation’s history, even people who have never visited the place are familiar with the British flag peering out at them from their history textbooks. Red, white, and blue before America adopted the colour scheme, the current British flag has been flying above government […]

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