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Today Would Have Been Freddie Mercury's 65th Birthday

Farrokh Bulsara was born on this date in 1946. In honor of the Queen frontman, here's a list of 10 things you might not know about him that Stacy originally wrote in 2008.

1. He designed the Queen emblem (AKA the Queen Crest) himself, thanks to a degree in art and graphic design from Ealing Art College. The crest is made of the zodiac signs of the whole band "“ two Leo lions for John Deacon and Roger Taylor, a Cancer crab for Brian May and two fairies to represent Freddie's Virgo sign. The "Q" and the crown represent the band name, of course, and a phoenix protects the whole thing.

2. His birth name was Farrokh Bulsara; he started going by Freddie when he was at St. Peter's, a boarding school for boys near Mumbai. He legally changed his name to Freddie Mercury around 1970, when Queen was formed.

3. He and family (parents and one sister, Kashmira) were Parsis and practiced Zoroastrian religion. Even though he hadn't practiced in years, his funeral was performed by a Zoroastrian priest.

4. Freddie was born in Zanzibar "“ his family moved there so his dad could continue his career at the British Colonial Office.

5. Freddie had a recorded range of three (almost four) octaves. Mariah Carey claims five, for some perspective. When he spoke he was more of a baritone, but majority of his singing fell in the tenor range.

6. He had a long-term girlfriend in the early 70s named Mary Austin. Even after they broke up, they remained incredibly close. He gave an interview in 1985 and said that she was his only friend and he didn't want any other friends. He wrote "Love of My Life" about her and was the godfather of her first son. When he died, he left her most of his money, his house, and his recording royalties.

7. Although he was obviously very flamboyant on stage, most people who knew him intimately said he was very shy in his personal life "“ one of the reasons he very rarely granted interviews.

8. Freddie and his manager issued a statement confirming that he had AIDS the very day before he died. It had been widely speculated for a couple of years due to his gaunt appearance and Queen's sudden lack of touring. Some people were very upset by this delayed statement, saying that an earlier announcement could have raised a vast amount of money for the cause.

9. He loved cats and had as many as 10 at one point. He even had an album and a song dedicated to his cats (Mr. Bad Guy). He wrote a song about his favorite cat, Delilah. Here's a bit of it:

Delilah, Delilah, oh my, oh my, oh my - you're irresistible
You make me smile when I'm just about to cry
You bring me hope, you make me laugh - you like it
You get away with murder, so innocent
But when you throw a moody you're all claws and you bite -
That's alright !
Delilah, Delilah, oh my, oh my, oh my - you're unpredictable
You make me so very happy
When you cuddle up and go to sleep beside me
And then you make me slightly mad
When you pee all over my Chippendale Suite

mic
10. The "bottomless mic" was among Freddie's many trademarks. Here's how that happened: early in Queen's career, he was apparently mid-show when his mic stand snapped in half. Instead of having it replaced, Freddie just used it as-is. He must have liked it, because he used the mic "stick" from then on.

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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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.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
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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]

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