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Today's Newsletter

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Today's newsletter had all sorts of funky formatting issues. If you're interested, here's how it should have read...

Greetings Flossers:
Yesterday on the mental_floss blog, I asked readers to make National Grammar Day resolutions. (By the way, yesterday was National Grammar Day. Happy belated.) Without warning, resolutions began to take haiku form, which is fantastic. I'd like to share a few, share my own, and invite you to put your resolution in pixels.

Shudder not nor slap
My colleagues in government
Who use legalese
"“Conan the Grammarian

I will try to stop
Overusing em dashes
while writing—really!
"“Phraktyl

Hark! Language Changes!
New rules evolve over time.
Get over it, y'all.
"“James

And here's mine:

Interchangeably,
I use colons and dashes.
I can do better.

You can read many more resolutions and make your own right here. I welcome your colon/em dash wisdom, too. But first, keep reading for a few wild facts about punctuation marks from Sandy + Kara.

Best Wishes,
Jason

This Week's Theme: THE MILITARY
Our insanely interesting fact: As a young woman Dr. Ruth Westheimer was trained by the Israeli military as a sniper.

Can you out-trivia us?
Send in your fascinating one-sentence submissions, along with your full name and address to beatourfacts@gmail.com. This week's winners will win new T-shirts from the mental_floss store.

Oh, and even if your fact doesn't win you some swag, it could win you some fame! The best user-submitted facts will go into our Amazing Fact Generator.

Last Week's Theme: FRUIT
1) In an 1893 Tariff case the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared the fruit, tomato, to be a vegetable.
-Jim Kraft

2) Pears are somewhat unique within fruits in that they ripen from the inside outwards.
-Anthony L. Pope

3) Although a nut in the culinary sense, a cashew is actually a seed found in the fruit of the cashew tree.
-Stacie Hackel

Sandy + Kara's Trivia Facts
By Sandy Wood and Kara Kovalchik

"¢ The question mark is thought to have evolved from the Latin word quaestio. The "point of interrogation," as it was originally called, was indicated with a large "˜Q' over a small "˜o.' As time went on, the hastily written symbol developed into a "˜?' shape.

"¢ During the 1400s, printers began using the ¶ sign, called a "pilcrow," to indicate a new paragraph. Why not just indent, or double-space? Paper was much more expensive back then, and typographers were careful not to waste any space.

"¢ In the early days of typesetting, the exclamation point was often referred to as a "screamer" or a "bang." Some journalists still use this phraseology. Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post once summed up the difference an exclamation point can make thusly: "'Yeah' is either "˜yes,' without the screamer, or "˜oh boy' with it."

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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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