The Quick 7: 7 Changes Coming to Disney World

A week ago, Disney announced some pretty major changes to its Orlando park. Fantasyland, located at the Magic Kingdom, will be almost completely rehauled "“ and by the time it's all over, it will have nearly doubled in size. Lots of people speculate that this is in direct response to Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, set to open next year. In case you haven't been obsessively monitoring the news, here's what's happening:

dumbo1. Double Dumbo. Dumbo is one of the most popular rides at the park, but it's kind of a pain. Many a parent has complained about waiting in the hot sun in the unwieldy queue just so their child can ride Dumbo for about 60 seconds. Well, Disney is building a twin Dumbo ride, and both of them will have queues under a three-ring circus. Well, scratch that "“ according to Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Jay Rasulo, there won't be a queue at all. Kids and parents will get to play interactive games and stay entertained while waiting for their turn.

2. Princess Meet-and-Greets. If you've been to Disney World, and especially if you have a princess-obsessed daughter, you know that you can already meet the princesses. They're awkwardly housed in a tent in the Mickey's Toontown Fair area of the park. The new version is a large part of the expansion "“ each of the main princesses will have her own small castle and a place to interact with her tiny guests. Princess Aurora is holding a Sweet 16 Party at her house, because she missed hers while she was cat-napping. Cinderella cleans the house but then transforms into her blue ballgown finery "in front of your very eyes" (a little adult, Disney?). And Belle really gets the royal treatment "“ you meet her in her father's cottage, but then the Enchanted Mirror takes you to the Beast's Castle. Which brings us to"¦

3. The Beast's Castle.

Among the things in it will be a "Be Our Guest" sit-down restaurant (do you think the waiters will have to burst into song every so often like at Texas Roadhouse? Ugh.) and Gaston's Tavern. The tavern will be all tricked out with taxidermy "“ Gaston's trophies, presumably. Now, this prompts the question "“ will Gaston's tavern actually serve alcohol? It's been a pretty hard line for years that alcohol will never be served at the Magic Kingdom (the other parks will give you a coldie, no problem), so will this finally nip that in the bud? I think after running the princess gauntlet, parents might really appreciate an adult beverage afterward. I know my dad would. Not because of the trip through the princesses, but just because he has always good-naturedly complained about the lack of beer there.

ariel4. The Little Mermaid Ride. If you think they left Ariel out of the princess lineup, never fear. The ride will be a trip under the sea and will work sort of like the Haunted Mansion with the constantly-loading seats. I'm sure there will be cameo appearances from Sebastian and Flounder.
5. Pixie Hollow. Of course, there's Tinkerbell. They haven't spent all of that money promoting Pixie Hollow and Tink's new friends for naught! In 2013, Pixie Hollow will be an interactive play area where guests "shrink" down to pixie size and get to frolic amongst enormous blades of grass. Sounds a lot like the Honey I Shrunk the Kids attraction over at Hollywood Studios, but geared more toward little girls.

6. Star Tours II. This is actually at Hollywood Studios, not the Magic Kingdom, but it was announced at the same time. This ride has been loooong overdue for an update, if you ask me. Even my husband, who absolutely adores Star Wars, went on the ride and was terribly disappointed by what an outdated clunker it was. But no fear "“ it looks like a fabulous, high-tech update is coming our way in 2013. Errr"¦ 2011, according to Darth.

7. TTFN, Toontown. With all of these new improvements that will surely take up a lot of real estate, something's gotta give "“ and it's Mickey's Toontown Fair. It was kind of fun walking through Mickey and Minnie's house playing with the oversized props, but overall, I think Toontown Fair is kind of a waste of space. And Disney doesn't seem to know what to do with it either "“ over the years it's been Mickey's Birthday Land and Mickey's Star Land before finally becoming the Toontown Fair in 1996. They're keeping the Barnstormer, a popular rollercoaster, but the word is that it will be re-themed to tie in with Dumbo's three-ring circus.

So those are all of the big changes for now. What do you think? Cool? Over-hyped? Much-needed? I think it's a little of all of the above. Fantasyland was getting slightly dated, but I also think they are really milking that Princess cash cow. Which I suppose is their job to do!
Share your thoughts in the comments "“ and what do you think needs the next re-do? I think the Great Movie Ride could use some updated movies.

Oh, one last thing "“ they also announced the title and release date of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean (On Stranger Tides, summer 2011). Maybe that in and of itself wasn't that thrilling, but the way they did it was pretty sweet. Can you imagine how excited the people who were at the expo must have been? OK, anyway, have a good weekend and enjoy the clip!


Afternoon Map
From Snoopy to Shark Bait: The Top Slang Word in Each State

There’s a minute, and then there’s a hot minute. Defined as “a longish amount of time,” this unit of time is familiar to Alabamians but may stir up confusion beyond the state’s borders.

It’s Louisianans, though, who feel the “most misunderstood,” according to the results of a survey regarding regional slang by PlayNJ. Of the Louisiana residents surveyed, 72 percent said their fellow Americans from other states—even neighboring ones—have a hard time grasping their lingo. Some learned the hard way that ordering a burger “dressed” (with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) isn’t universally understood, nor is the phrase “to pass a good time” (instead of “to have” a good time).

After surveying 2000 people (with proportional numbers from each state), PlayNJ created a map showing the top slang word in each state. Many are words that are unlikely to be understood beyond state lines, but others—like California’s bomb (something you really like) and New York’s deadass (to be completely serious)—have spread well beyond their respective borders thanks to memes and internet culture.

Hawaiians are also known for their distinctive slang words, with 71 percent reporting that words like shaka (hello) and poho (waste of time) are frequently misunderstood. Shark bait, one of the state’s more colorful terms, refers to tourists who are so pale that they attract sharks.

Check out the full list below and test your knowledge of regional slang words with PlayNJ’s online quiz.

A chart showing the top slang words in each state
Illustration by Mental Floss / Images: iStock
The Body
10 Facts About the Appendix
Illustration by Mental Floss / Images: iStock
Illustration by Mental Floss / Images: iStock

Despite some 500 years of study, the appendix might be one of the least understood structures in the human body. Here's what we know about this mysterious organ.


The human appendix is small, tube-shaped, and squishy, giving ancient Egyptians, who encountered it when preparing bodies for funerary rites, the impression of a worm. Even today, some medical texts refer to the organ as vermiform—Latin for "worm-like."


The earliest description of a human appendix was written by the Renaissance physician-anatomist Jacopo Berengario da Carpi in 1521. But before that, Leonardo da Vinci is believed to drawn the first depiction of the organ in his anatomical drawings in 1492. Leonardo claimed to have dissected 30 human corpses in his effort to understand the way the body worked from mechanical and physiological perspectives.


The appendix is a small pouch connected to the cecum—the beginning of the large intestine in the lower right-hand corner of your abdomen. The cecum’s job is to receive undigested food from the small intestine, absorb fluids and salts that remain after food is digested, and mix them with mucus for easier elimination; according to Mohamad Abouzeid, M.D., assistant professor and attending surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center, the cecum and appendix have similar tissue structures.


The appendix has an ill-deserved reputation as a vestigial organ—meaning that it allegedly evolved without a detectable function—and we can blame Charles Darwin for that. In the mid-19th century, the appendix had been identified only in humans and great apes. Darwin thought that our earlier ancestors ate mostly plants, and thus needed a large cecum in which to break down the tough fibers. He hypothesized that over time, apes and humans evolved to eat a more varied and easier-to-digest diet, and the cecum shrank accordingly. The appendix itself, Darwin believed, emerged from the folds of the wizened cecum without its own special purpose.


The proximity and tissue similarities between the cecum and appendix suggest that the latter plays a part in the digestive process. But there’s one noticeable difference in the appendix that you can see only under a microscope. “[The appendix] has a high concentration of the immune cells within its walls,” Abouzeid tells Mental Floss.

Recent research into the appendix's connection to the immune system has suggested a few theories. In a 2015 study in Nature Immunology, Australian researchers discovered that a type of immune cells called innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) proliferate in the appendix and seem to encourage the repopulation of symbiotic bacteria in the gut. This action may help the gut recover from infections, which tend to wipe out fluids, nutrients, and good bacteria.

For a 2013 study examining the evolutionary rationale for the appendix in mammal species, researchers at Midwestern University and Duke University Medical Center concluded that the organ evolved at least 32 times among different lineages, but not in response to dietary or environmental factors.

The same researchers analyzed 533 mammal species for a 2017 study and found that those with appendices had more lymphatic (immune) tissue in the cecum. That suggests that the nearby appendix could serve as "a secondary immune organ," the researchers said in a statement. "Lymphatic tissue can also stimulate growth of some types of beneficial gut bacteria, providing further evidence that the appendix may serve as a 'safe house' for helpful gut bacteria." This good bacteria may help to replenish healthy flora in the gut after infection or illness.


For such a tiny organ, the appendix gets infected easily. According to Abouzeid, appendicitis occurs when the appendix gets plugged by hardened feces (called a fecalith or appendicolith), too much mucus, or the buildup of immune cells after a viral or bacterial infection. In the United States, the lifetime risk of getting appendicitis is one in 15, and incidence in newly developed countries is rising. It's most common in young adults, and most dangerous in the elderly.

When infected, the appendix swells up as pus fills its interior cavity. It can grow several times larger than its average 3-inch size: One inflamed appendix removed from a British man in 2004 measured just over 8 inches, while another specimen, reported in 2007 in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, measured 8.6 inches. People with appendicitis might feel generalized pain around the bellybutton that localizes on the right side of the abdomen, and experience nausea or vomiting, fever, or body aches. Some people also get diarrhea.


Treatment for appendicitis can go two ways: appendectomy, a.k.a. surgical removal of the appendix, or a first line of antibiotics to treat the underlying infection. Appendectomies are more than 99 percent effective against recurring infection, since the organ itself is removed. (There have been cases of "stump appendicitis," where an incompletely removed appendix becomes infected, which often require further surgery.)

Studies show that antibiotics produce about a 72 percent initial success rate. “However, if you follow these patients out for about a year, they often get recurrent appendicitis,” Abouzeid says. One 2017 study in the World Journal of Surgery followed 710 appendicitis patients for a year after antibiotic treatment and found a 26.5 percent recurrence rate for subsequent infections.


You might imagine a ruptured appendix, known formally as a perforation, being akin to the "chestbuster" scene in Alien. Abouzeid says it's not quite that dramatic, though it can be dangerous. When the appendix gets clogged, pressure builds inside the cavity of the appendix, called the lumen. That chokes off blood supply to certain tissues. “The tissue dies off and falls apart, and you get perforation,” Abouzeid says. But rather than exploding, the organ leaks fluids that can infect other tissues.

A burst appendix is a medical emergency. Sometimes the body can contain the infection in an abscess, Abouzeid says, which may be identified through CT scans or X-rays and treated with IV antibiotics. But if the infection is left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the abdomen, a serious condition called peritonitis. At that point, the infection can become life-threatening.


In 1894, Charles McBurney, a surgeon at New York's Roosevelt Hospital, popularized an open-cavity, muscle-splitting technique [PDF] to remove an infected appendix, which is now called an open appendectomy. Surgeons continued to use McBurney's method until the advent of laparoscopic surgery, a less invasive method in which the doctor makes small cuts in the patient's abdomen and threads a thin tube with a camera and surgical tools into the incisions. The appendix is removed through one of those incisions, which are usually less than an inch in length.

The first laparoscopic appendectomies were performed by German physician Kurt Semm in the early 1980s. Since then, laparoscopic appendectomies have become the standard treatment for uncomplicated appendicitis. For more serious infections, open appendectomies are still performed.


When the future King Edward VII of Great Britain came down with appendicitis (or "perityphlitis," as it was called back then) in June 1902, mortality rates for the disease were as high as 26 percent. It was about two weeks before his scheduled coronation on June 26, 1902, and Edward resisted having an appendectomy, which was then a relatively new procedure. But surgeon and appendicitis expert Frederick Treves made clear that Edward would probably die without it. Treves drained Edward's infected abscess, without removing the organ, at Buckingham Palace; Edward recovered and was crowned on August 9, 1902.


On August 26, 2006, during an autopsy at a Zagreb, Croatia hospital, surgeons obtained a 10.24-inch appendix from 72-year-old Safranco August. The deceased currently holds the Guinness World Record for "largest appendix removed."


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