You Have the Power to Change the Spelling of One Word

On Fridays, I post a series of unrelated questions meant to spark conversation in the comments. Answer one, answer all, respond to someone else's reply, whatever you want. On to this week's topics of discussion...

1. We all have those words we always spell wrong. And who's to say these alternate versions aren't actually better? Let's pretend there was a Department of Spelling that people could petition. Is there a word whose spelling you think should be changed?

2. Our trusty proofreader Betsy had been without power since Hurricane Sandy hit, but I'm thrilled to report her lighting returned last night. What's the longest you've gone without power?

3. A reader recently asked if we could start a weekend feature where we recommend lesser-known movies for Netflix users. If the good people of Netflix want to sponsor such a feature, I'm sure we'd gladly do it. For now, I'll ask you guys. Seen any good movies?

4. Got a question for your fellow _flossers? The floor is yours. Have a great weekend!

Suggest or ask a question whenever you like via Twitter: @EnglishJason or @mental_floss.

Bone Broth 101

Whether you drink it on its own or use it as stock, bone broth is the perfect recipe to master this winter. Special thanks to the Institute of Culinary Education

Why Can Parrots Talk and Other Birds Can't?

If you've ever seen a pirate movie (or had the privilege of listening to this avian-fronted metal band), you're aware that parrots have the gift of human-sounding gab. Their brains—not their beaks—might be behind the birds' ability to produce mock-human voices, the Sci Show's latest video explains below.

While parrots do have articulate tongues, they also appear to be hardwired to mimic other species, and to create new vocalizations. The only other birds that are capable of vocal learning are hummingbirds and songbirds. While examining the brains of these avians, researchers noted that their brains contain clusters of neurons, which they've dubbed song nuclei. Since other birds don't possess song nuclei, they think that these structures probably play a key role in vocal learning.

Parrots might be better at mimicry than hummingbirds and songbirds thanks to a variation in these neurons: a special shell layer that surrounds each one. Birds with larger shell regions appear to be better at imitating other creatures, although it's still unclear why.

Learn more about parrot speech below (after you're done jamming out to Hatebeak).


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