The Quick 10: The 10 Oldest, Still-Functioning Universities in the World

My alma mater, Iowa State University, was founded in 1858... so that puts it waaaay out of the running for this list. In fact, all U.S. universities are nowhere near the top 10 (I know, go figure).

The 10 Oldest, Still-Functioning Universities in the World

1. Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences - Khozettan, Iran. It was founded around 200 B.C. by Shapur I, the Sassanian king.
2. The University of Al-Karaouine - Fes, Morocco. Founded in 859, the Guinness Book of World Records has recognized it as the world's oldest continuously operating, degree-granting university. (The Ahvaz Jundishapur University has not been continuously-operating)
3. Al-azhar University - Cairo, Egypt. It opened its doors in 975.
4. University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy. The first university in the western world was founded in 1088.
5. The University of Paris - Paris, France. An exact date is uncertain, but it was sometime around 1150. Teaching was suspended in 1229 and the university split into 13 different universities in 1970.

6. University of Oxford "“ Oxford, England. An exact date the actual university was founded is unknown, but it is known that teaching has existed since 1096. Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world.
7. University of Modena and Reggio Emilia "“ Modena, Italy. It was founded in 1175 but has faded in and out "“ in 1338 the medieval university was replaced by three "public lectureships" but no degrees were awarded. The university was reestablished in the early 1680s.
8. University of Cambridge "“ Cambridge, England. It is, as you might suspect, the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world. It was founded in 1209.
9. University of Salamanca "“ Salamanca, Spain. Founded in 1218, this is actually the second-oldest university in Spain. The oldest, Palencia, is no longer in existence. When Christopher Columbus was trying to gain Royal support for finding a western route to the Indies, he presented his case to geographers at this very university.
10. University of Montpellier "“ Montpellier, France. It's been around since 1220 but closed in 1793 because of the French Revolution. It opened again under the Imperial University of France in 1808.

In case you're curious, the oldest college in the U.S. is much debated, depending on your definitions.

The College of William & Mary claims to be the first college to become a university.
Harvard says it is the "oldest institution of higher education in the United States".
Johns Hopkins says it's the "first research university in the United States".
The University of Pennsylvania claims that they are "America's First University" and Georgetown says that Jesuit teaching began in 1634, which would make it the oldest. The formal campus wasn't built until 1788, however.

How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?

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.

TAKWest, Youtube
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]


More from mental floss studios