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11 Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense: Best of Wikipedia

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia maintains a catalog of Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense (BJAODN) -- it's the best of the worst stuff added to Wikipedia. Here, I present 11 excellent pieces of dumb humor that was deleted from Wikipedia...but then retained on a best-of page, because it's just that bad good.

1. Water on Mars

On April 1, 2004 a Wikipedia user discovered shocking proof -- photographic proof -- of water on Mars. The photograph was posted to the heart-laden article "♥Water on Mars♥" and the image is still retained (Creative Commons license and all) on Wikipedia, though it carries this bold warning: "This is a very bad joke. We believe it to be one of the most humorous examples of the Wikipedia community's work."
 
A Wikipedia editor commented: "Evidently, there is also glass and a plastic wrapper and now MY JAWS!"

2. The Cross-Eyed Teacher

Wikipedia's Pupil page had this section inserted:

Q. Why was the teacher cross-eyed?
A. Because she couldn't control her pupils.

Wikipedia editors followed up with:

[edit: This is incredibly not funny.]
[edit edit: That's why it's funny.]

3. CPGM

A little Physics humor:

The Coalition to Prevent Gratuitous Misuse (CPGM) was organized in 1901 to protest the (then) common misuse of the word weight to mean mass. The movement gained momentum (defined as the vector product of its velocity and mass) when SI was officially adopted in place of metric system, which no longer carried its weight. This movement captured the imagination of the mass of scientists througout the world, although the general public remained unmoved, since a body at rest tends to remain at rest (see Newton's Laws).

Editors added:

this should never have been deleted, it is a work of genious (edit: I think you mean "genius," genius.)

4. Y0-Y0 Ma

Y0-Y0 Ma is not to confused with Yo-Yo Ma, the famous cellist. Apparently Y0-Y0 is a nonhuman actor. Okay, just read this glimpse into some Wikipedian's madness (and/or sense of humor):

Y0-Y0 Ma plays Yo-Yo Ma, who lives in the human universe. Y0-Y0 Ma was born on Availy 32, 123456789, so he is 40 years, 13 months, 5 weeks, and 8 days old as of Verely 0, 987654321. He was born in Culombos of District, Wishongtan, Amerigan Union of Soviet Capitalist Tribes.

About the actor

Y0-Y0 Ma is an actor who enjoys playing nonexistant creatures. Of all the beings he had played, his favorite are the humans. He enjoys playing them, because they aren't that sophisticated, so he doesn't have to be. Of course, no one understands what he's saying when he is acting, because all the actors speak in Humanish language for "authenticity". His favorite character, Yo-Yo Ma, is a parody on his name.

Y0-Y0 Ma currently resides in Los Diablos, Jaba Nacilofria, A.U.S.C.T.

5. A Tip on Cow Tipping

This briefly appeared on the Cow Tipping page (emphasis added):

Tip #2

If you succeed in tipping a cow only partway, such that only one of its feet is still on the ground, you have created lean beef. Such a feat is well done. Naturally, being outside, the cow is unstable. When it falls over, it becomes ground beef.

An editor then inserted: "Such quality of humor is rare."

6. The Drummer Joke

"Someone who hangs out with musicians." (Briefly appeared as a definition on the Drummer page.)

7. Th'u~nks

Presented without comment:

Th'u~nks as a religion, was born when two prophets — known as the Two Great Piephits by practitioners of the religion — discussed the greatness, and spiritual meaning that can be found in the humble pie, particularly the pukka (pronounced "puck-ah") variety. Currently it has believers in countries around the globe.

Origins

In the year 2006 CE the Piephits were discussing the benefits of the pie over other pastry based savoury foods, when they were struck by a joint moment of revelation. This moment, known as The Pievation, was believed to be the moment when the Master Baker showed the true meaning of pastry, and consequently life to the Two Great Piephits. From this they jointly established the main underlying tenet of the religion, that of B'heegery and thus Th'u~nks was born.

This continues for quite a while.

8. Alternative Rock/Missing the Point

The page for Alternative rock featured this alternate definition, including an apparently sincere attempt by an editor to make sure it was properly sourced:

Alternative rock is the name given to one stone when you're looking at another stone. The term was coined by photographer Edwin Blastocyst when looking at one stone and speaking about another, oddly enough.

     The quote from Edwin Blastocyst needs to be verified.

          (Note: I'm not sure Blastocyst was a real person, considering that "blastocyst" is a stage of embryonic growth.)

9. Voltaic Democratic Union

The Voltaic Democratic Union, which is actually a thing, started out as a "stub page" (starting point) featuring the text: "Shocking, just shocking!"

10. Baby Catapult

From the now-deleted "Baby Catapult" page:

The Baby Catapult is an invention of insane genius Maxwell Q. Infantlauncher of Indianapolis, Indiana. It is not meant to launch actual infants; it is meant to launch Cabbage Patch Kids and the sort. The goal is for them to go 100 feet in the air, and 500 feet along the ground. The catapult should be finished by mid-2004.

An editor noted: "I, for one, am disappointed."

11. C is for Cookie

This mini-essay on the rhetorical form of Cookie Monster's discourse was added to the page C is for Cookie and then, sadly, removed.

C is for Cookie can be regarded as a case study in persuasive oratory, emphasizing the emotional aspect of public speaking. Cookie Monster builds excitement by answering his opening rhetorical question, "Now what starts with the letter C?" with the obvious reply, "Cookie starts with C!" He then challenges the audience, "Let's think of other things that starts with C," before quickly replying, "Oh, who cares about the other things?" casually dismissing a whole range of other possibilities as irrelevant. Thus, having ostensibly come for the purpose of covering the letter C in its entirety, Cookie Monster has already focused his agenda exclusively on cookies, employing the classic bait and switch tactic. Several times in his presentation, Cookie Monster emphasizes what appears to be the central thesis of his remarks: "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me!" The appealing rhythm of this slogan appears designed to entrance listeners, swaying their emotions and making them instinctively want to chant along with him. After rousing the crowd, Cookie Monster systematically lays out the logical underpinnings of his pro-cookie ideology, comparing cookies to round donuts with one bite out of them and to the moon during its crescent phase, in essence using a straw man argument that implies his opponents would advocate the superiority of these competitors over cookies. In this sense, Cookie Monster may be proposing a false dichotomy representing cookies as the only viable choice to a group of obviously inferior alternatives. But before the audience has a chance to catch on, Cookie Monster launches into another round of repetitive chanting, "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me, yeah!" as young children sing along. Here, Cookie Monster uses a propaganda technique strikingly similar to that employed in George Orwell's Animal Farm by the pig Napoleon, who trained the farm's sheep to bleat, "Four legs good, two legs bad" on his cue. Cookie Monster then adds visual stimulation to his discourse by chomping into a large cookie, concluding his remarks with "Umm-umm-umm-umm-umm" and other chewing sounds.

Another addition was an entire section titled Other Things Starting with the Letter C, including Carrot, Crabcakes, and Cucumber.

Way, Way More

There's a whole page of this, and it includes links to several more "best of BJAODN" lists. One of my favorites in those extra lists is a spoiler-filled plot summary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar (with philosophical commentary).

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Dodo: © Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Background: iStock
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science
Head Case: What the Only Soft Tissue Dodo Head in Existence Is Teaching Scientists About These Extinct Birds
Dodo: © Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Background: iStock
Dodo: © Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Background: iStock

Of all the recently extinct animals, none seems to excite the imagination quite like the dodo—a fact Mark Carnall has experienced firsthand. As one of two Life Collections Managers at the UK's Oxford University Museum of Natural History, he’s responsible for nearly 150,000 specimens, “basically all the dead animals excluding insects and fossils,” he tells Mental Floss via email. And that includes the only known soft tissue dodo head in existence.

“In the two and a bit years that I’ve been here, there’s been a steady flow of queries about the dodo from researchers, artists, the public, and the media,” he says. “This is the third interview about the dodo this week! It’s definitely one of the most popular specimens I look after.”

The dodo, or Raphus cucullatus, lived only on the island of Mauritius (and surrounding islets) in the Indian Ocean. First described by Vice Admiral Wybrand van Warwijck in 1598, it was extinct less than 100 years later (sailors' tales of the bird, coupled with its rapid extinction, made many doubt that the dodo was a real creature). Historians still debate the extent that humans ate them, but the flightless birds were easy prey for the predators, including rats and pigs, that sailors introduced to the isolated island of Mauritius. Because the dodo went extinct in the 1600s (the actual date is still widely debated), museum specimens are very, very rare. In fact, with the exception of subfossils—the dark skeletons on display at many museums—there are only three other known specimens, according to Carnall, “and one of those is missing.” (The fully feathered dodos you might have seen in museums? They're models, not actual zoological specimens.)

A man standing with a Dodo skeleton and a reconstructed model of the extinct bird
A subfossil (bone that has not been fully fossilized) Dodo skeleton and a reconstructed model of the extinct bird in a museum in Wales circa 1938.
Becker, Fox Photos/Getty Images

Since its extinction was confirmed in the 1800s, Raphus cucullatus has been an object of fascination: It’s been painted and drawn, written about and scientifically studied, and unfairly become synonymous with stupidity. Even now, more than 300 years since the last dodo walked the Earth, there’s still so much we don’t know about the bird—and Oxford’s specimen might be our greatest opportunity to unlock the mysteries surrounding how it behaved, how it lived, how it evolved, and how it died.

 
 

To put into context how old the dodo head is, consider this: From the rule of Oliver Cromwell to the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, it has been around—and it’s likely even older than that. Initially an entire bird (how exactly it was preserved is unclear), the specimen belonged to Elias Ashmole, who used his collections to found Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum in 1677. Before that, it belonged to John Tradescant the Elder and his son; a description of the collection from 1656 notes the specimen as “Dodar, from the Island Mauritius; it is not able to flie being so big.”

And that’s where the dodo’s provenance ends—beyond that, no one knows where or when the specimen came from. “Where the Tradescants got the dodo from has been the subject of some speculation,” Carnall says. “A number of live animals were brought back from Mauritius, but it’s not clear if this is one of [those animals].”

Initially, the specimen was just another one of many in the museum’s collections, and in 1755, most of the body was disposed of because of rot. But in the 19th century, when the extinction of the dodo was confirmed, there was suddenly renewed interest in what remained. Carnall writes on the museum’s blog that John Duncan, then the Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, had a number of casts of the head made, which were sent to scientists and institutions like the British Museum and Royal College of Surgeons. Today, those casts—and casts of those casts—can be found around the world. (Carnall is actively trying to track them all down.)

The Oxford University Dodo head with scoleric bone and the skin on one side removed.
The Oxford University Dodo head with skin and sclerotic ring.
© Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History // Used with permission

In the 1840s, Sir Henry Acland, a doctor and teacher, dissected one side of the head to expose its skeleton, leaving the skin attached on the other side, for a book about the bird by Alexander Gordon Melville and H.E. Strickland called The dodo and its kindred; or, The history, affinities, and osteology of the dodo, solitaire, and other extinct birds of the islands Mauritius, Rodriguez and Bourbon. Published in 1848, “[It] brought together all the known accounts and depictions of the dodo,” Carnall says. The Dodo and its kindred further raised the dodo’s profile, and may have been what spurred schoolteacher George Clark to take a team to Mauritius, where they found the subfossil dodo remains that can be seen in many museums today.

Melville and Strickland described Oxford’s specimen—which they believed to be female—as being “in tolerable preservation ... The eyes still remain dried within the sockets, but the corneous extremity of the beak has perished, so that it scarcely exhibits that strongly hooked termination so conspicuous in all the original portraits. The deep transverse grooves are also visible, though less developed than in the paintings.”

Today, the specimen includes the head as well as the sclerotic ring (a bony feature found in the eyes of birds and lizards), a feather (which is mounted on a microscope slide), tissue samples, the foot skeleton, and scales from the foot. “Considering it’s been on display in collections and museums, pest eaten, dissected, sampled and handled by scientists for over 350 years,” Carnall says, “it’s in surprisingly good condition.”

 
 

There’s still much we don’t know about the dodo, and therefore a lot to learn. As the only soft tissue of a dodo known to exist, the head has been studied for centuries, and not always in ways that we would approve of today. “There was quite some consideration about dissecting the skin off of the head by Sir Henry Acland,” Carnall says. “Sadly there have also been some questionable permissions given, such as when [Melville] soaked the head in water to manipulate the skin and feel the bony structure. Excessive handling over the years has no doubt added to the wear of the specimen.”

Today, scientists who want to examine the head have to follow a standard protocol. “The first step is to get in touch with the museum with details about access requirements ... We deal with enquiries about our collections every single day,” Carnall says. “Depending on the study required, we try to mitigate damage and risk to specimens. For destructive sampling—where a tissue sample or bone sample is needed to be removed from the specimen and then destroyed for analysis—we weigh up the potential importance of the research and how it will be shared with the wider community.”

In other words: Do the potential scientific gains outweigh the risk to the specimen? “This,” Carnall says, “can be a tough decision to make.”

The head, which has been examined by evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro and extinction expert Samuel Turvey as well as dodo experts Julian Hume and Jolyon Parish, has been key in many recent discoveries about the bird. “[It] has been used to understand what the dodo would have looked like, what it may have eaten, where it fits in with the bird evolutionary tree, island biogeography and of course, extinction,” Carnall says. In 2011, scientists took measurements from dodo remains—including the Oxford specimen—and revised the size of the bird from the iconic 50 pounder seen in paintings to an animal “similar to that of a large wild turkey.” DNA taken from specimen’s leg bone has shed light on how the dodo came to Mauritius and how it was related to other dodo-like birds on neighboring islands [PDF]. That DNA also revealed that the dodo’s closest living relative is the Nicobar pigeon [PDF].

A nicobar pigeon perched on a bowl of food.
A nicobar pigeon.
iStock

Even with those questions answered, there are a million more that scientists would like to answer about the dodo. “Were there other species—plants, parasites—that depended on the dodo?” Carnall asks. “What was the soft tissue like? ... How and when did the dodo and the related and also extinct Rodrigues solitaire colonize the Mascarene Islands? What were their brains like?”

 
 

Though it’s a rare specimen, and priceless by scientific standards, the dodo head is, in many ways, just like all the rest of the specimens in the museum’s collections. It’s stored in a standard archival quality box with acid-free tissue paper that’s changed regularly. (The box is getting upgraded to something that Carnall says is “slightly schmancier” because “it gets quite a bit of use, more so than the rest of the collection.”) “As for the specific storage, we store it in vault 249 and obviously turn the lasers off during the day,” Carnall jokes. “The passcode for the vault safe is 1234ABCD …”

According to Carnall, even though there are many scientific and cultural reasons why the dodo head is considered important, to him, it isn’t necessarily more important than any of the other 149,999 specimens he’s responsible for.

“Full disclosure: All museum specimens are equally important to collections managers,” he says. “It is a huge honor and a privilege to be responsible for this one particular specimen, but each and every specimen in the collection also has the power to contribute towards our knowledge of the natural world ... This week I was teaching about a species of Greek woodlouse and the molluscs of Oxfordshire. We know next to nothing about these animals—where they live, what they eat, the threats to them, and the predators that rely on them. The same is true of most living species, sadly. But on the upside, there’s so much work to be done!”

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