Facts by the Barrel
1. Is Irregardless a Word?
English speakers can be grouped into two categories: those who say “irregardless” and those who are quick to correct them, specifying that “irregardless” is not, in fact, a word. However, since it has been used quite often over the last few decades, “irregardless” does make appearances in places such as Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries. It is specified that it is a nonstandard or an informal version of “regardless” and that the latter should be used instead, but it is still a word.
2. How Old Is Nintendo?
A lot older than you would expect. Actually, the company was founded all the way back in September 1889. To put that into context, it’s about the same time Jack the Ripper was finishing up his infamous killing spree in dreary ol’ London. Obviously, Nintendo didn’t make video game consoles back then. In fact, over the years, Nintendo has tried its luck at a variety of goods and services, but it started out making Hanafuda playing cards (also known as “flower cards”, they are used for a large number of Japanese card games).
3. What Is the Worst Sound in the World?
Trevor Cox is a Professor of Acoustic Engineering and a big name in the sound game. He proved conclusively that a duck’s quack does have an echo and then he went on a quest to discover the worst sound in the world. Obviously, something like this would be very subjective, so the best way to get accurate results was to go with a large test group. And he did this by conducting his study over the internet. People would listen to various sounds and registered their level of disgust and, after over 1 million votes, the results are in – the worst sound in the world is that of a person vomiting. It’s followed by microphone feedback and a crying baby, but you can check the Top 10 here.
Bonus Fact: Since the first study was such a huge success, the site used by Professor Cox is still up and is conducting other sound-based studies. If you want to take part in the scientific process, go here.
4. What Color Are Carrots?
The answer might surprise you or it might not depending on what part of the world you live in, but most people will generally answer that carrots are orange. And they are right…partly. The thing is that carrots come in a larger variety of colors and that the first carrots were actually purple. Purple carrots are still around today, just like yellow, white and orange ones. However, it is generally thought that carrots were first cultivated in Afghanistan sometime around the year 900 and those carrots would have been purple. Orange carrots didn’t really become common until the 16th century when Dutch farmers started growing them.
5. What’s the Connection between Thomas Crapper and Toilets?
Thomas Crapper is often credited as the inventor of the flush toilet, hence the words “crapper” and “crap”. Well, for starters, the word “crap” is actually a lot older. It is a Middle English word, itself derived from older words of different origins. As far as Mr. Crapper is concerned, he was, indeed, a successful and influential plumber and held numerous patents related to plumbing, but he didn’t invent the flush toilet. That being said, we are not sure of the origin of the word “crapper” meaning toilet other than a story that says that American soldiers stationed in England during WWI brought the term back home after seeing it written on toilets.
6. Where Does the Rule of Thumb Come From?
The story goes that it comes from an old English law that stated a man could hit his wife with a stick so long as the stick wasn’t thicker than his thumb. However, the story only has a tiny seed of truth. There was a judge named Sir Francis Buller in the late 18th century who said something along those lines and he was mocked by a renowned printmaker and caricaturist of the day called James Gillray (in the caricature pictured here) and even gave him the nickname Judge Thumb.
As far as the actual origin goes, we aren’t entirely sure. Many claim that it comes from carpentry, but it is possible to originate from other fields where a thumb could be used for measurements (such as brewing where brewers would stick a thumb or finger to judge the temperature). The expression is also present in other cultures so it is possible that it is far older than we would assume.
7. Why Do All Your Zippers Say YKK?
Well, not all, but most of them will. Grab a random pair of jeans and look at the zipper and it will most likely have YKK stamped on the front. Come to think about it, the answer to this one should be pretty obvious – it’s the name of the company that made it. In fact, the YKK Group (Yoshido Kogyo Kabushiki-Kaisha) is the largest manufacturer of zippers in the world (as well as other “architectural and fastening products”) so it makes sense that most zippers will have its logo.
8. How Do You Pronounce “Ye Olde”
Looking at that image above, if you were to pronounce it any other way apart from “the old pork pie shop”, you’d be wrong. For starters, the “e” at the end of words like “olde” and “shoppe” are silent and just represent archaic spellings of words we still have today. As far as “ye” goes, that is not actually a “y” instead of “th“. It is an old letter called a thorn and it looks like this – Þ, þ. It was pronounced like the digraph “th” and was quite common in Old and Middle English. However, when printing became popular, the letter started falling out of favor. This is because England didn’t make its own printing presses at first, but rather bought German and Italian ones. Neither one had a thorn so English printers had to improvise and decided to use the “y” instead. This led to the creation of many “ye olde…” signs but they were always pronounced “the old”.
9. Why Do We Use Xmas Instead of Christmas?
There are various reasons why some people get angry when they see Xmas instead of Christmas. The biggest complaint is that it is being used to take Christ out of Christmas, as a way for stores and other companies that profit from Christmas to distance the celebration from religious connotations. Others simply claim it is lazy.
While I can’t attest to the laziness of people who use Xmas as shorthand instead of Christmas, the abbreviation is not modern and wasn’t invented for the purpose of being disrespectful to Christians. It’s not supposed to eliminate the word “Christ” and the X is not meant to stand for anonymity. The X is actually considered to represent the letter Chi from the Greek alphabet, the first letter in the word Christos. Then there’s also the resemblance of the X to a cross and the fact that the abbreviation was also used 1,000 years ago on parchments, back when saving space actually mattered.
10. What Is an Android?
The common answer to that question would be a realistic robot that looks like a human. While this is generally true, technically an android is a robot that looks like a man, not a human. A realistic female robot has its own term – gynoid. Other alternatives include fembot (also used quite often) and the oldest female-specific term which is almost never used anymore – robotess.