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Why Do They Call It Trinidad AND Tobago?

Christopher Columbus did a lot of naming in his day. As it turns out, he had a hand in naming four of the five island-nations with two names. Is that an obscure enough fact for you? Still, this is definitely the kind of fact that shows up on pub trivia night, and if you know it, you’re going to look like a genius.

Trinidad and Tobago

Ol’ Chris Columbus named the Trinidad portion of the island-nation duo Trinidad and Tobago after—what else can be expected from a Catholic explorer?—the Holy Trinity. Rumor has it people started calling the other, smaller island “Tobago” because of all the tobacco grown (and smoked) by the natives there. The neighboring islands have been linked since the late 1880s, when a British commission combined Tobago with Trinidad.

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda has a similar story. Columbus named the Antigua portion of the two-island country after a Cathedral in Spain, Santa Maria La Antigua, but the name Barbuda, which means “bearded” in Spanish (and Portuguese and almost Italian), was probably named later, in a nod to the island’s famous fig trees looking like they have long, scraggly beards. (Incidentally, the island nation of Barbados, not to be confused with Barbuda, was probably named after the “bearded” appearance of that island’s ficus trees.)

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Old Chris named Saint Kitts and Nevis, too, but kind of by accident. When he first landed on what became Saint Kitts, he actually called it San Martin, but since there were so many poorly drawn maps in those days, the name later got transferred to the island we now know as Saint Martin. Oops. How St. Kitts then got to be called St. Kitts is a bit of a mystery, but it’s probably a safe bet to say it was named after Saint Christopher (the patron saint of, among other things, traveling, bachelors and toothaches).

Nevis derives its name from the Catholic dedication, Nuestra Senora de las Nieves, which means “Our Lady of the Snows,” and was later shortened and anglicized into “Nevis.”

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The naming of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was pretty straightforward: Columbus landed on St. Vincent on the Feast of Saint Vincent, and then named the other islands “the Grenadines” after the Spanish city, Granada. (So was the Caribbean island-nation, Grenada, but if that’s a question at your pub trivia night, someone’s not trying hard enough).

Sao Tome and Principe

The only island-nation that has two names that was not named by Christopher Columbus is—drumroll, please!—Sao Tome and Principe, which is off the coast of western Africa, and was named after Saint Thomas, of course, and the Portuguese prince to whom taxes were owed on the island’s abundant sugar fields.

This story originally appeared in 2011.

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Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
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WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane
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What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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