The Names of 10 Fireworks Effects

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iStock

To me, their names always were, "The Ones That Do That Shooty Thing," "The Ones That Scream" and "The Ones That Kind of Sparkle Out." Very technical. If you're like me, here's a mini-lesson—try to spot them at whatever fireworks display you attend this Fourth of July.

1. PEONY

This one is apparently the most common, so your chances of spotting it in the skies this weekend are pretty good. It's "a spherical break of colored stars."

2. CHRYSANTHEMUM

This is a variation of the Peony—the difference is that the stars leave a visible trail of sparks. To me, this looks like a fiber optic ball or those balls that you put your hand on to attract the current at science museums and the like.

3. WILLOW

I love this one! It's a lot like the Peony and its variations (the Chrysanthemum and the Dahlia), but it leaves trails of silver or gold stars that produce a weeping willow-ish outline.

4. HORSETAIL

It's a compact little burst that falls down, well, like a horsetail. You might also hear this one referred to as a Waterfall Shell.

5. FISH

The shell bursts and then you see little squiggles of light squirming away from the main burst. The effect looks like fish swimming away. Or sperm. Whatever.

6. SPIDER

This one is fast-burning and bursts very hard, which makes the stars shoot out straight and flat. Basically, they look like lots of spider legs.

7. PALM

This one produces an effect that looks like a palm tree when it bursts (go figure). Some even have a thick tail that looks like a trunk.

8. CROSSETTE

Take lots of tic-tac-toe boards and cross them over each other haphazardly. That's kind of what the crossette looks like. It's usually accompanied by a loud crackling noise.

9. Kamuro

Named after a Japanese hairstyle, this one has a dense burst that leaves a glittery trail.

10. RINGS

I like these because they can be arranged to look like atoms, which is very mental_floss-y. But typically you see rings within rings, like the ones in the picture.

This post originally appeared in 2009.

Presidents Day vs. President's Day vs. Presidents' Day: Which One Is It?

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iStock

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" implies that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

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

California Retirement Home Put Residents' Vintage Wedding Dresses on Display

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iStock.com/raksybH

You know you’ve reached a certain level of maturity when many of your once-modern day belongings can be described as vintage. It’s a term the residents of the Stoneridge Creek retirement community are taking in stride this month, because some of their (yes, vintage) wedding dresses are now on display.

The Pleasanton, California retirement home has created an elaborate presentation of more than 20 dresses with various laces, styles, and lengths, some of which date back to 1907, along with wedding photos and other memorabilia to commemorate Valentine’s Day. The public is invited, but if you’re not local, you can catch a glimpse of the dresses in the video below.

This isn’t the first time Stoneridge Creek has made news. In 2015, a number of residents came together to craft quilts for residents who had served in the military. The group worked in secret to make the customized quilts honoring their service, then surprised them with the gifts on Veterans Day.

[h/t ABC7]

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