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So, if you're reading this, you're probably at your desk, and that makes me sad, because it's Labor Day! You should be outside enjoying the last days of summer or, at the very least, not laboring!

Alas, there's not much I can do about that, but let me try to cheer you up by telling you about all the wonderful things you'll find in the brand-spanking-new issue of mental_floss (and if you don't have your copy, you must run out and get one).

It's our annual 10 issue, so inside, you'll find:

10 Shocking Stories about America's First Ladies. They threw wild parties, they smashed priceless wineglasses, they made lewd remarks about roosters -- frankly, they made us wonder if the term "First Lady" wasn't something of a misnomer.

10 Gloriously Underhanded Sports Tactics. If you thought Cartman's attempt to win the Special Olympics was bad, you ain't seen nothin' -- just wait 'til you meet Eddie Stanky, the Spanish Paralympic Basketball Team, the mysterious "Mr. Martin," and seven other famously bad sports.

10 Not-So-Bright Ideas in Science. Is your dog feeling a little inadequate now that he's been neutered? Does your pet frog have B.O.? Are your pants exploding? No matter your problem, Science has a solution, though perhaps not a very effective one.

10 Studious Animals to Cheat off of in School. You already know that dolphins are smart and elephants never forget. But you may be surprised to find out there's a lot you could learn from a fruit fly, or an ant, or a stripe-backed wren.

10 TV Shows that Changed the World. We can't tell you who shot J.R. (well, we could, but that's not the point). We can tell you that "Dallas" killed Nicolae Ceausescu, in a metaphorical sense -- it helped inspire Romanians with fantasies of Western life -- and it's not the only TV show to have an impact on world affairs.

10 Most Important Days in the History of the Universe. The cosmos has been around for 15.8 billion years (give or take a couple billion), and in that time just a few important things have happened. Here are ten of them, courtesy of a top astronomer.

10 Places You'd Never Think to Find Albert Einstein. He's here, he's there, he's everywhere -- in space, on Broadway, in your shotglass, in your garden, on eBay!

10 Facts about Iraq (That You Won't Hear on the Nightly News). If all you think of when you hear "Iraq" is "violence," let us change your mind -- we'd much rather you thought "orange soda" or "sheep in the shotgun seat" instead.

10 Coins that Aren't Boring. Really! There are coins from leper colonies, coins favored by pirates and con artists, coins from 1780 (that aren't actually from 1780), coins from 1804 (that aren't actually from 1804), giant coins, steel coins, blank coins... just trust us, okay?

10 Religious Holidays Not Yet Exploited by Hallmark. Get your swords out of storage, stick a flower on your forehead, paint your body blue, and leave some food at the front door for any wandering souls who happen to drop by -- it's time to party!

Plus, our ever popular regular features: Scatterbrained (it's all about college), the Quiz, the Dead Guy Interview, and the Know-It-All, brought to you by the letter J and our own A.J. Jacobs.

We'll be feeding you little tidbits from the issue all week (we're taking the rest of today off but we'll be back bright and early tomorrow morning.) For the whole thing you'll have to head to your nearest newsstand or bookstore (or, if you're super brilliant, you can subscribe here and get future issues before they hit stores). Run, don't walk, unless you're carrying scissors!

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
iStock
iStock

Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
TAKWest, Youtube
TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

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