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Way More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Hello Kitty

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You know her name. You've seen her signature red ribbon. And even though you're curious, you've never had the courage to learn more because you're not a seven-year old girl. Don't worry; your secret is safe with us. To help you out, we've come up with a list of everything you've ever wanted to know about Hello Kitty, but were too embarrassed to ask.

1. The iconic white cat is the primary spokesanimal for Sanrio, a Japanese company started in the 1950s to sell silk and produce.

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In the 1960s, they expanded their product line to include items that catered to the gift-giving tradition in Japan – usually small, simple objects that can be given to a friend for special occasions, holidays, or even everyday things like visiting their house. Most of Sanrio’s items at the time, like pencil cases and stickers, were geared towards elementary school kids and, almost by accident, they discovered that adding cute little designs and characters helped sales. When one of the in-house designers came up with Hello Kitty, the best thing company founder Shintaro Tsuji could say was that he liked it well enough.

2. Despite everyone calling her Hello Kitty, her name is actually Kitty White.

There is some debate as to how she got her nickname, though one theory points to her 1974 debut on a clear coin purse with her picture under the word “Hello.” Teenage girls were immediately drawn to “the Hello Kitty,” and the purse became a best-seller.

3. In Taiwan, there's a Hello Kitty Hospital!

© Christine Lu/Reuters/Corbis

Each bed sheet is branded with Hello Kitty, as are the nurses' uniforms. A giant Kitty statue greet guests in the lobby. According to a 2008 Reuters report, twice a year, people in character costumes come around and entertain patients.

4. Today, there are around 50 Sanrio characters gracing over 22,000 officially-license products.

On average, the company introduces three new characters every year, while at the same time taking a handful out of circulation for a little while so they don’t oversaturate the market. All told, Sanrio's annual sales hover around $5 billion dollars.

5. Hello Kitty and her pals are part of the kawaii (“cute”) subculture of Japan.

“Kawaisa” (“cuteness”) appeared on the cultural landscape in the 1970s, when teenage girls began adding hearts, rainbows, and smiley faces to their writing, and even spoke in a sort of baby talk manner. This fad caused quite a bit of controversy among adults, but was adopted by companies so they could connect with young people just as they were becoming a force in the consumer market. As people realized kawaisa wasn't going to bring the downfall of society, it became accepted and is now integral to Japanese culture.

6. There are a couple of urban legends about her origins that add a sinister connotation to Hello Kitty.

One story says that a controversial nuclear power plant hired Sanrio to create a cute corporate mascot that would help soften their image. Another legend tells of a married couple whose only daughter was sick with cancer. In exchange for her recovery, the parents made a pact with the Devil that they would create a character in Satan’s honor that would be adored worldwide. As you might have guessed, neither of these is true.

7. In 2007, it was announced that police in Bangkok would be forced to wear bright pink Hello Kitty armbands as punishment for minor infractions.

© Rungroj Yongrit/epa/Corbis

The plan was soon abandoned—according to NBC News, "There was a rebellion in the macho ranks, as well as outrage on Hello Kitty websites."

8. She's a clean slate!

Hello Kitty and many other Sanrio characters were designed without a mouth so that the character could take on whatever emotions the viewer needs them to have at the time. Some believe this is part of the reason they’re so popular across generations and cultures - anyone can relate to them. (It’s also one of the things that Kitty haters say creeps them out the most.)

9. She looks suspiciously similar to a certain white rabbit.

Image courtesy of JapanProbe.com

Almost since her introduction, children's author and illustrator Dick Bruna has insisted that Hello Kitty and her pals resembled the design of his own cute creation, Miffy. First published in 1955 — nearly 20 years before Hello Kitty’s debut — Miffy is a white rabbit with an oval head, small, black eyes and a tiny “X” for a mouth. Still, Bruna never officially challenged the designs until 2010, when he sued Sanrio for its character, Cathy, a white rabbit that is Hello Kitty's best friend. The timing was a bit strange, considering Cathy was introduced in 1976 and has been featured on thousands of products over the last 35 years, but the courts still ruled in Bruna's favor. Sanrio is appealing the decision, but for the time being, they're banned from selling Cathy merchandise in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

10. Hello Kitty has been featured in over a dozen video games, including her latest, Hello Kitty Online

Hello Kitty Online is a free massively multiplayer role playing game in the same vein as World of Warcraft. Players can adventure alone or join guilds to complete quests like finding all the ingredients for a special soup, delivering a pizza before it gets cold, or collecting wands that can be used to defeat monsters that guard treasure. There’s also the opportunity to build your own house, raise crops, adopt a pet, and customize your character’s wardrobe. For some of these perks, you’ll need to earn Sanrio Loyalty Points by posting videos, writing blog posts, and completing quizzes on Sanriotown.com. Or you can spend real money to buy Loyalty Points at an exchange rate of 80 points for a $1. To give you some idea of the price, a typical in-game house costs about $5, not including furniture, which is, of course, sold separately.

11. She's not just for kids.

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While most Hello Kitty products are made for children, as the brand’s customers have gotten older, Sanrio has catered to them with more adult-oriented products. For example, Fender guitars has featured a Hello Kitty Stratocaster, Neiman Marcus recently carried a collection of Hello Kitty jewelry with a top price of $5,000, Dr. Marten boots is currently selling a line of Sanrio shoes, and there are even Airbus airplanes with her image plastered on the side. There are also two high-end boutiques called Sanrio Luxe in New York's Times Square and in Manila, Philippines, which feature exclusive, expensive, rhinestoned-out products.

This shift to more adult products has been a bit controversial, though. Hello Kitty thongs, Hello Kitty Wine, and a “Hello Kitty Massage Wand” (AKA The Hello Kitty Vibrator), have been popular with adult female fans, but have been frowned upon by those who feel the brand should remain focused on its youngest followers instead.

12. Then there are the unofficial products.

Of course you can't be this popular without a few people jumping on the bandwagon. There are thousands of unofficial Hello Kitty products, like Hello Kitty bongs, Hello Kitty gas masks, and Hello Kitty handguns and assault rifles. There's even a Hello Kitty-themed S&M room at one of Japan's “love hotels,” where Japanese couples can rent a room by the hour for private encounters. Sanrio has tried to stop some of these copyright infringements, but there are so many that it's virtually impossible to keep up.

Meet the Cast

This epic world of cute fuzzy icons includes:

• Hello Kitty: Kitty White is officially 5 apples high, weighs 3 apples, lives near London, her birthday is November 1, and her blood type is A. (Blood type is apparently important in the Sanrio canon; you have to enter a blood type when creating your character on the Hello Kitty Online game.)

• Dear Daniel: Hello Kitty's unofficial boyfriend. His father is a famous photographer, which means the family has lived all over the world in places like Africa, New York City, and is now back in London. He’s an excellent dancer in styles ranging from ballet to hip-hop.

• Badtz-Maru: One of the few Sanrio characters marketed to boys, he's a spiky-haired, rebellious penguin born on April 1. He has a “watchdog” that is actually an alligator named Pochi. He was honored as the official mascot for the 2006 FIBA World Championship Basketball Tournament held in Japan.

• My Melody: A rabbit wearing a red hood, second in popularity only to Hello Kitty, she even has her own line of products not sold under the Hello Kitty banner. She loves baking cookies with her mother, eating almond pound cake, and her best friend is a mouse named Flat.

• Kuromi: My Melody's friendly rival, this white rabbit wears a black hood with a pink skull. She loves reading romance novels, writing in her diary, and eating shallots.

(And many more.)

13. Hello Kitty has quite a political career.

She has been a UNICEF ambassador to the United States since 1983 and to Japan since 1994. Then, in 2008, she was appointed as the official Japanese ambassador of tourism to both Hong Kong and China, the first fictional character to hold this title.

14. If you're a Scottish Sanrio fan, you can get a kilt made using the Hello Kitty tartan.

The pink plaid pattern was designed by Lochcarron of Scotland, the world's leading manufacturer of tartans, and was officially recognized by the the Scottish Register of Tartans in 2004.

15. Sadly, not all associations with Hello Kitty are sunshine and rainbows, especially 1999’s “The Hello Kitty Murder.”

The details are gruesome. You can read about it here.

Know any other Hello Kitty facts we missed? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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