11 Memorable Novelty Songs

From rockin’ ghouls to rollin’ truckers, here are 11 unforgettable novelty songs.

1. “Poisoning Pigeons In The Park” (1959)

Written and Performed by Tom Lehrer

Dr. Demento once called Lehrer “the greatest satirist of the 20th Century.” On this bouncy number, the math professor turned songwriter paints an idyllic portrait of spring, then goes pitch black on couplets like: “When they see us coming the birdies all try and hide / But they still go for peanuts when coated with cyanide.”

2. “Monster Mash” (1962)

Written by Bobby Pickett and Leonard Capizzi
Performed by Bobby Boris Pickett & The Crypt Kickers

Wannabe actor Bobby Pickett had a knack for impersonations, among them Boris Karloff. On weekends, he played in a cover band. One stormy night, Pickett mixed Karloff with “Little Darlin’” by The Diamonds, and “The Monster Mash” was created.

3. “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-ha” (1966)

Written by Jerry Samuels
Performed by Napoleon XIV

Recording engineer Jerry Samuels once spent eight months in a psychiatric hospital. Apparently the experience left an impression. This monologue of a man driven insane by his badly behaved dog was demented when played forward. And even more so on the B-side, where it’s recorded backwards!

4. “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” (1968)

Written by Al Dubin and Joe Burke
Performed by Tiny Tim

With his wobbly falsetto, dippy looks and beat-up ukulele, Tiny Tim (née Herbert Khaury) was like some time-traveling Vaudeville star. This update of a 1929 tune was his biggest hit. Tim later died of cardiac arrest while singing it on stage at a benefit in 1996.

5. “Convoy” (1975)

Written by William Fries and Louis Davis
Performed by C.W. McCall

As the CB Radio fad swept the country, one C.W. McCall (William Fries’ stage name) lent his drawl to a trucker’s drama loaded full of jargon. “10-4, good buddy” became a national catchphrase.

6. “King Tut” (1978)

Written by Steve Martin
Performed by Steve Martin & the Toot Uncommons

Boy King meets Wild and Crazy Guy. Spoofing the Tutankhamen exhibit that was touring museums in 1978, Martin wrapped every mummy cliché in the book around this hit. Best line: “He had a condo made a stone-ah.”

7. “The Curly Shuffle” (1983)

Written by Peter Quinn
Performed by Jump ‘N’ The Saddle Band

A jumpin’ jive tribute to everyone’s favorite Stooge. After it hit, the Chicago-based bar band was briefly courted by Atlantic Records, who apparently wanted them to come up with a Marx Brothers novelty song. “The Groucho Stoop”?

8. “Eat It” (1984)

Written and Performed by Weird Al Yankovic

Michael Jackson reportedly thought it was amusing enough to grant permission. The first in a long string of charting parody hits for the accordion-playing Yankovic. “Get yourself an egg and beat it.”

9. “The Chanukah Song” (1994)

Written by Adam Sandler, Lewis Morton and Ian Maxtone-Graham
Performed by Adam Sandler

After Sandler debuted his holiday song on SNL in December 1994, he went on to record three separate versions over the next decade, including one for the soundtrack of his film Eight Crazy Nights. And his list of Jewish celebrity shout-outs grew, taking in everyone from David Lee Roth to Debra Messing.

10. “Who Let The Dogs Out” (2000)

Written by Anslem Douglas
Performed by Baha Men

Who let the dogs out? You might want to blame Alex Rodriguez.

The director of promotions for the Seattle Mariners first played the Baha Men song at a Major League game as a joke on backup catcher Joe Oliver. A-Rod was there, and unfortunately, he liked the tune. Rodriguez requested that stadium officials play the song as his batter introduction music, and soon, ballparks around the nation were blaring “Who Let the Dogs Out?” over their loudspeakers.

11. “Bowie’s In Space” (2006)

Written by Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement
Performed by Flight of the Conchords

After New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk duo receive some counseling from an apparition of David Bowie, they sing this parody tribute. Best line: “I’m jamming out with the Mick Jagger-nauts / Ooh, and they think it’s pretty cool.”

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Afternoon Map
From Snoopy to Shark Bait: The Top Slang Word in Each State
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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
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The Body
10 Facts About the Appendix
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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.

1. THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS CALLED IT THE "WORM" OF THE BOWEL.

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."

2. THE APPENDIX SHOWS UP IN LEONARDO DA VINCI’S DRAWINGS.

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.

3. IT'S ABOUT THE SIZE OF A PINKY FINGER.

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.

4. CHARLES DARWIN THOUGHT IT WAS A VESTIGIAL ORGAN …

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.

5. … BUT THE APPENDIX PROBABLY EVOLVED TO HELP IMMUNE FUNCTION.

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.

6. ABOUT 7 PERCENT OF AMERICANS WILL GET APPENDICITIS DURING THEIR LIFETIMES.

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.

7. APPENDECTOMIES ARE ALMOST 100 PERCENT EFFECTIVE FOR TREATING APPENDICITIS.

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.

8. AN INFECTED APPENDIX DOESN’T ACTUALLY BURST.

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.

9. SURGEONS CAN REMOVE AN APPENDIX THROUGH A TINY INCISION.

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.

10. AN APPENDIX ONCE POSTPONED A ROYAL CORONATION.

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.

11. THE WORLD'S LONGEST APPENDIX MEASURED MORE THAN 10 INCHES.

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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