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A Brief History of Kool-Aid

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Though the fruity juice powder is now best known for the “Oh yeah!” of its Kool-Aid Man mascot, the recognizable anthropomorphic pitcher came along much later, after Kool-Aid was already a popular product.

Kool-Aid got its start in the 1920s as Fruit Smack, a liquid drink mix developed by Edwin Perkins of Hastings, Nebraska (which later went on to make Kool-Aid its state soft drink in 1998). Considering the competition Kool-Aid faces now with liquid drink mixes, it’s interesting that Fruit Smack was initially a liquid mix. The costs of packaging and risk of breaking bottles prompted Perkins to develop a way to remove the liquid, packaging it in personally-designed packages and renaming it Kool-Ade.

Eventually, the spelling was changed to Kool-Aid, and Perkins sold it as an affordable luxury for children at five cents per packet. The Smiling Face Pitcher was introduced in print ads in the 1950s, when Perkins sold Kool-Aid to General Foods. General Foods introduced lemonade and root beer to Kool-Aid’s standard six flavors, and in the mid-1970s, the Kool-Aid Man made his debut. 

The Kool-Aid Man hasn’t changed much through the years, as Milwaukee Mag's article shows. The cheerful pitcher of red drink bursting through walls with his signature “Oh yeah!” is widely recognizable, even featured in the Museum of Modern Art and appearing several times in Fox’s television series Family Guy.

However, the signature Kool-Aid Man has recently been given a makeover. While he does still prefer walking through walls, this new Kool-Aid Man is entirely computer-generated and presented as a “celebrity trying to show he’s just a normal guy.” Instead of crashing through a wall mid-commercial, he’s now shown stepping out of the shower as a clear pitcher and choosing his “pants” (Kool-Aid flavors) for the day as a voiceover makes him a relatable character.

While the Kool-Aid Man is advancing into the technological future of computer-generated images, the products themselves are shaking hands with the past: Kraft has introduced into the lineup of Kool-Aid products Bursts and Jammers, which are liquid drinks more like the Fruit Smack that Edwin Perkins first invented.

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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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" infers 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 nearly 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.


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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/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.

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