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10 Things We’re Supposed to Remember

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1. …the Alamo

A quick refresher on the basics of the Battle of the Alamo: fought from February 23-March 6, 1836, between Mexico and the Republic of Texas as a part of the Texas Revolution of 1835-1836. The first 12 days were a siege by Mexican General Santa Anna and his troops of the Alamo Mission and its small contingent of Texans including the commanders, William Travis and James Bowie and the “King of the Wild Frontier” himself, Davy Crockett. The siege came to a swift conclusion on the 13th day, March 6, with an all-out assault that killed most of the Texan soldiers. Commander Travis is said to have been the first killed, by a single gunshot wound to the forehead.

The phrase “Remember the Alamo,” then, was used as a rallying cry (often attributed to General Sam Houston) throughout the rest of the revolution and referring to the cruelty exhibited by Santa Anna. General Santa Anna had purportedly even executed those who had surrendered in the battle and burned the bodies of the Texans, including Travis, Bowie, and Crockett. As far as pep talks go, this one appears to have been quite successful. The Texans earned a quick and decisive victory over the Mexicans at San Jacinto on April 21 and Santa Anna was forced to sign a treaty giving Texas their independence the following day.

2. …the first of Octember

Please Try to Remember the First of Octember is a 1977 children’s book written by Theodore Geisel under the pen name Theo. LeSieg (Geisel, spelled backwards). You may recognize Mr. Geisel by his more well-known pseudonym, Dr. Seuss. In addition to all of his Seussian goodness, Geisel wrote, but did not illustrate, 13 books released under the LeSieg pen name and 1 under the name Rosetta Stone. So, if you want to have the complete Seuss canon in your library, you might have some shopping to do.

According to this particular Geisel book, one of the things that will occur on the first of Octember: “…you’ll stay up all night, drinking 66 six-packs of Doodle Delight.” And to think Geisel’s first children’s book, To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was turned down by 27 publishers.

3. …the Time

“Remember the Time” was a 1992 Michael Jackson single from Dangerous. Perhaps more notable than the song itself, which peaked at number three on the Billboard charts, is the randomly star-studded music video directed by John Singleton (of Boyz n the Hood, Higher Learning, and 2 Fast 2 Furious fame). The “short film” stars Eddie Murphy, Magic Johnson and Iman (the Somali-American model who is married to David Bowie) and features Jackson’s first on-screen kiss (with Mrs. Bowie).

4. …the Titans

Remember the Titans is a 2000 football movie from Disney Studios and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. The movie stars Denzel Washington, so you can be assured of good acting, and it has one of those choreographed football pre-game, on-field team motivational dance scenes that are just all-too-rare in American cinema.

The real story of T.C. Williams High School is pretty cool to remember too, lack of choreography aside. The consolidation of three Alexandria, Virginia, public high schools into one and the resulting formation of an essential all-star football squad consisting of the best from each of the three schools.

Though dramatized for the purposes of the movie, there were certainly racial implications of the school consolidation. Even though integration had technically occurred years prior, the previous three schools had still been racially imbalanced prior to consolidation. Of course, there was some embellishment here-and-there for the purposes of the movie, in most cases to heighten the intensity of the situation’s racial tensions. One thing that was made slightly more mild, however, was the incident in which a brick was thrown through the window of African-American Coach Boone’s family home.

“There wasn’t a brick thrown through my window,” the coach explains during the DVD commentary, “it was something far more devastating to any human being than a brick could be. I guess Disney, being the family movie production company that it is, felt that to depict a toilet stool coming through your window was a bit much ... I've never gotten over that incident that particular night, because I could never understand how anybody could feel so bad about another human being as to throw a toilet commode through a window.”

5. …the Maine

The USS Maine was a U.S. Navy battleship that was stationed in Havana, Cuba during the Cuban revolt against Spain in the late 19th Century for the purpose of protecting U.S. interests there. On February 15, 1898, the Maine exploded in Havana Harbor and 261 sailors lost their lives. Just a couple months later, President William McKinley asked congress for permission to use force in Cuba and the U.S. was catapulted into the Spanish-American war, in part because of media and public pressure (thanks, Hearst and Pulitzer) for a U.S. reaction to the Maine incident.

Much like “Remember the Alamo” became a rallying cry for the Texas Revolution, the more emphatic and, indeed, poetic “Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!” became a similar cry during the Spanish-American War. Rally cries are always pretty fun, but the problem with this particular motivational rhyme is that there is, to this day, no conclusive evidence that the Maine disaster was the result of a Spanish attack. Alternate theories include that the explosion was the result of an accidental fire in one of the ship’s coal bunkers, that she was destroyed by a naval mine, and even that the United States was responsible for the ship’s sinking as a means to fuel public support for a war against Spain.

6. …Baker

OK—Remember Baker was a guy. I had never heard of him before, but maybe we just ought to remember him, after all. Aside from having a very memorable first name, he was Ethan Allen’s first cousin and a member of Allen’s Green Mountain Boys militia who, in the decade prior to the Revolutionary War, were crucial in resisting New York’s attempts to control the territory that is now Vermont.

But the Boys’ most remembered accomplishments occurred during the early part of the Revolutionary War when Ethan Allen, et.al. captured some strategically important military posts in New York, most notably Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. Remember was there.

A disturbing thing to remember about Remember is that, after leaving Ticonderoga on a scouting mission, he was shot and killed by Native Americans, who then cut off his head and stuck it right on a pole.

7. ...How You Got Where You Are

"Remember How You Got Where You Are" is the subtitle of the 1971 Temptations single "Superstar." Lyrics like, “No, you didn’t make it by yourself; You had help from somebody else” and “Remember beneath the glitter and gleam, like everyday people, you’re just a human being” were some verbal slaps from the Temptations to former band members David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, who had left the band in 1968 and 1971, respectively. Kendricks and Ruffin had been vocal about their negative feelings toward their former band mates in several 1971 interviews and the song served as a melodious means for the remaining and replacement Temptations to call out their old pals as sell outs. Some view the song as an early ancestor of today’s “diss tracks” that are sometimes released by artists as a part of musical rivalries most famously, perhaps, in the battle between East and West Coast rappers.

Apparently, people liked the way the superciliousness sounded – "Superstar" peaked at #18 on the Billboard charts. As the ultimate in-your-face comeback, David Ruffin recorded a cover of the song four years later. Also, incidentally, the Temptations version is featured on the soundtrack of the aforementioned movie, Remember the Titans.

8. ...the fifth of November

The fifth of November is to be remembered as Guy Fawkes Day in England and commemorates the day Mr. Fawkes was arrested while guarding 36 kegs of gunpowder that he and his Gunpowder Plot co-conspirators had placed below the House of Lords for the commencement of the Parliamentary session. They had high hopes of blowing up the Lords sending them a’leaping along with King James I, who they resented for not following through on a promise to relax England’s strict laws against Catholics.

Although Richard Catesby was the real mastermind behind the plot, Guy Fawkes’ is the name that most people remember. Either way, they were both killed for their role in the treasonous plot, Catesby by gunshot wound in a gunfight with the Sheriff of Worcester who was hunting down the conspirators and Fawkes by a good ol’ fashioned hanging, drawing and quartering. It is really a pretty interesting piece of history and, as the rhyme says, “…I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.” So, c’mon, join in the fun, light up those bonfires, chase each other through the streets with flaming barrels of tar, and set those Guy Fawkes effigies ablaze!

9. …me to Herald Square

“Remember me to Herald Square” is a lyric from George M. Cohan’s song “Give My Regards to Broadway.” The song is from Cohan’s first full-length musical Little Johnny Jones, which is based on the true story of American jockey Tod Sloan. Sloan went to England in 1903 to ride in the English Derby. The song is sung by the title character to a friend returning to America while Jones remains in England to clear his name in a scandal that erupts around the Derby. While the musical is extremely patriotic (it also features the song "Yankee Doodle Boy"), Cohan’s patriotism was even more apparent in real life. He was the first artist to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, which he was given by FDR for his contributions to the nation’s cause in World War I, primarily for the songs "Over There" and "You’re a Grand Old Flag."

As of 1959, you no longer have to give Cohan’s regards to Broadway—an 8-foot bronze statue of Cohan stands at Broadway and 46th Street and that seems to take care of all of the requisite regard-giving. But you really still ought to remember him to Herald Square (which is at the intersection of Broadway and Sixth).

Also remember this: potentially the only thing cooler than George M. Cohan is James Cagney as George M. Cohan. In the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy, the classic actor typically known for his gangster roles, played the song and dance man to audience acclaim, superlative reviews, and the approval of the Academy who awarded him the 1942 Oscar.

10. ...Two Things

Remember Two Things is the name of Dave Matthew’s Band 1993 self-released album (reissued by RCA in 1997 when more people started jumping on the DMB bandwagon) that included three of their first major hits: "Ants Marching," "Tripping Billies," and "Satellite."

The cover of the album is one of those magic eye thingies that is supposed to show a person’s hand giving the peace sign. Unfortunately, and verrrrrry frustratingly, I cannot confirm this for you and never ever will be able to do so. Ever.

So, what are the two things that one is supposed to remember? Two theories out there: one is that it is referring to the two fingers on the alleged hand giving the peace sign on the album cover. The other is that the two things are to “love your mother” and to “leave only your footprints.”

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
A Chinese Museum Is Offering Cash to Whoever Can Decipher These 3000-Year-Old Inscriptions

During the 19th century, farmers in China’s Henan Province began discovering oracle bones—engraved ox scapulae and tortoise shells used by Shang Dynasty leaders for record-keeping and divination purposes—while plowing their fields. More bones were excavated in subsequent years, and their inscriptions were revealed to be the earliest known form of systematic writing in East Asia. But over the decades, scholars still haven’t come close to cracking half of the mysterious script’s roughly 5000 characters—which is why one Chinese museum is asking member of the public for help, in exchange for a generous cash reward.

As Atlas Obscura reports, the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan Province has offered to pay citizen researchers about $15,000 for each unknown character translated, and $7500 if they provide a disputed character’s definitive meaning. Submissions must be supported with evidence, and reviewed by at least two language specialists.

The museum began farming out their oracle bone translation efforts in Fall 2016. The costly ongoing project has hit a stalemate, and scholars hope that the public’s collective smarts—combined with new advances in technology, including cloud computing and big data—will yield new information and save them research money.

As of today, more than 200,000 oracle bones have been discovered—around 50,000 of which bear text—so scholars still have a lot to learn about the Shang Dynasty. Many of the ancient script's characters are difficult to verify, as they represent places and people from long ago. However, decoding even just one character could lead to a substantial breakthrough, experts say: "If we interpret a noun or a verb, it can bring many scripts on oracle bones to life, and we can understand ancient history better,” Chinese history professor Zhu Yanmin told the South China Morning Post.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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language
6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
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Salmonella species growing on agar.

Having something named after you is the ultimate accomplishment for any inventor, mathematician, scientist, or researcher. Unfortunately, the credit for an invention or discovery does not always go to the correct person—senior colleagues sometimes snatch the glory, fakers pull the wool over people's eyes, or the fickle general public just latches onto the wrong name.

1. SALMONELLA (OR SMITHELLA?)

In 1885, while investigating common livestock diseases at the Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., pathologist Theobald Smith first isolated the salmonella bacteria in pigs suffering from hog cholera. Smith’s research finally identified the bacteria responsible for one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans. Unfortunately, Smith’s limelight-grabbing supervisor, Daniel E. Salmon, insisted on taking sole credit for the discovery. As a result, the bacteria was named after him. Don’t feel too sorry for Theobald Smith, though: He soon emerged from Salmon’s shadow, going on to make the important discovery that ticks could be a vector in the spread of disease, among other achievements.

2. AMERICA (OR COLUMBIANA?)

An etching of Amerigo Vespucci
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) claimed to have made numerous voyages to the New World, the first in 1497, before Columbus. Textual evidence suggests Vespucci did take part in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, but generally does not support the idea that he set eyes on the New World before Columbus. Nevertheless, Vespucci’s accounts of his voyages—which today read as far-fetched—were hugely popular and translated into many languages. As a result, when German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was drawing his map of the Novus Mundi (or New World) in 1507 he marked it with the name "America" in Vespucci’s honor. He later regretted the choice, omitting the name from future maps, but it was too late, and the name stuck.

3. BLOOMERS (OR MILLERS?)

A black and white image of young women wearing bloomers
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dress reform became a big issue in mid-19th century America, when women were restricted by long, heavy skirts that dragged in the mud and made any sort of physical activity difficult. Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was inspired by traditional Turkish dress to begin wearing loose trousers gathered at the ankle underneath a shorter skirt. Miller’s new outfit immediately caused a splash, with some decrying it as scandalous and others inspired to adopt the garb.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was editor of the women’s temperance journal The Lily, and she took to copying Miller’s style of dress. She was so impressed with the new freedom it gave her that she began promoting the “reform dress” in her magazine, printing patterns so others might make their own. Bloomer sported the dress when she spoke at events and soon the press began to associate the outfit with her, dubbing it “Bloomer’s costume.” The name stuck.

4. GUILLOTINE (OR LOUISETTE?)

Execution machines had been known prior to the French Revolution, but they were refined after Paris physician and politician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin suggested they might be a more humane form of execution than the usual methods (hanging, burning alive, etc.). The first guillotine was actually designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgery, and was known as a louisette. The quick and efficient machine was quickly adopted as the main method of execution in revolutionary France, and as the bodies piled up the public began to refer to it as la guillotine, for the man who first suggested its use. Guillotin was very distressed at the association, and when he died in 1814 his family asked the French government to change the name of the hated machine. The government refused and so the family changed their name instead to escape the dreadful association.

5. BECHDEL TEST (OR WALLACE TEST?)

Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Bechdel Test is a tool to highlight gender inequality in film, television, and fiction. The idea is that in order to pass the test, the movie, show, or book in question must include at least one scene in which two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man. The test was popularized by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and has since become known by her name. However, Bechdel asserts that the idea originated with her friend Lisa Wallace (and was also inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf), and she would prefer for it to be known as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

6. STIGLER’S LAW OF EPONYMY (OR MERTON’S LAW?)

Influential sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested the idea of the “Matthew Effect” in a 1968 paper noting that senior colleagues who are already famous tend to get the credit for their junior colleagues’ discoveries. (Merton named his phenomenon [PDF] after the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew, in which wise servants invest money their master has given them.)

Merton was a well-respected academic, and when he was due to retire in 1979, a book of essays celebrating his work was proposed. One person who contributed an essay was University of Chicago professor of statistics Stephen Stigler, who had corresponded with Merton about his ideas. Stigler decided to pen an essay that celebrated and proved Merton’s theory. As a result, he took Merton’s idea and created Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer”—the joke being that Stigler himself was taking Merton’s own theory and naming it after himself. To further prove the rule, the “new” law has been adopted by the academic community, and a number of papers and articles have since been written on "Stigler’s Law."

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