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Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

People Are Panic-Buying Necco Wafers Before They Disappear From Shelves

Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The sugar wafers everybody loves to hate may not hold their spot on candy shelves for much longer. Necco is in need of a buyer, and according to CEO Michael McGee, the candy company may need to shutter for good if it doesn't find one within the coming weeks. As a result of the company's threatened status, Necco Wafers are suddenly a lot more popular, as the graph below from Candystore.com reveals.

News of the New England Confectionary Company's situation spread on March 12 when The Boston Globe reported McGee's announcement. That same day, Necco Wafer sales spiked more than 50 percent on CandyStore.com. Over the course of the month, sales of the candy rose 63 percent overall.

Necco Wafers Panic Buying from CandyStore.com

For any other candy, this sort of "panic-buying" wouldn't be surprising. If a beloved product looks like it might be taken off the market, people will hoard as much of it as they can while it's still available. But Necco Wafers aren't typically characterized as "beloved." In an earlier list of the best and worst Halloween candy published by Candystore.com, Necco Wafers ranked the fourth worst. Commenters compared the candy to both chalk and Tums, with one hater even declaring that, "Necco Wafers suck all moisture out of my mouth and all joy out of my soul."

Though they may not be the flashiest or tastiest candy, Necco Wafers do strike a nostalgia nerve in some buyers. Necco is the oldest continuously operating candymaker in the U.S., dating back to 1847. "It is a love/hate type of candy and people are super passionate about it," Clair Robins of Candystore.com tells Mental Floss. "They are perceived as an old-school classic, and even patriotic—soldiers ate them in the World Wars (both). But others think it's dry and gross and should die a painful death."

If Necco goes under, its signature wafer won't be the only product to go with it. The company also produces Clark Bars, Sky Bars, Mary Janes, Candy Buttons, and Sweethearts, so stock up on these classic candies while you still can.

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Food
11 Things You Might Not Have Known About Garlic
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National Garlic Day may be a holiday best celebrated alone—or with a hefty box of breath mints and a very charitable loved one—but few foods are as deserving of their very own day of recognition as the amazing, edible bulbous plant (okay, “bulbous plant” might not sound super appetizing, but it’s certainly accurate). Celebrate National Garlic Day on April 19 with your favorite garlic-laced meal and a few fun facts about this delicious, flavor-packed add-in that can do almost anything, from reducing your cholesterol to keeping vampires at bay.

1. YOU CAN EAT MORE THAN JUST THE STANDARD GARLIC CLOVE.

When you think “garlic,” you inevitably picture garlic cloves, but despite the ubiquity of that particular image of the plant, it’s not the only part you can eat. Hard-neck varieties of garlic produce “scapes,” green shoots that can be especially delicious and tender when they’re young. Think of them as garlic-flavored scallions. They also make a wonderful addition to pestos, soups, and butters.

2. CHINA PRODUCES THE MOST GARLIC.

Garlic is native to central Asia and has long popped up in European and African cooking, too. But it's China that currently holds the record for most garlic grown. Per a 2012 study, China grows a staggering two-thirds of the world’s garlic, believed to be around 46 billion pounds per year.

3. AVERAGE CONSUMPTION OF GARLIC IS BELIEVED TO WEIGH IN AT AROUND TWO POUNDS PER PERSON.

Even with just two pounds, that means eating roughly 302 cloves per person per year, as each clove typically weighs about three grams.

4. GARLIC'S HEALTH BENEFITS ARE MYRIAD, INCLUDING AN ABILITY TO REDUCE CHOLESTEROL.

The best way to release the health-happy power of garlic is to cut it, which then turns garlic’s thio-sulfinite compounds into allicin, an antibiotic and antifungal that is believed to reduce “bad” cholesterol, as it inhibits enzymes from growing in liver cells.

5. ALLICIN IS ALSO GOOD AT COMBATING HEART DISEASE.

Allicin helps nitric oxide release in the blood vessels, relaxing them and thus bringing about a drop in blood pressure. Keeping blood vessels relaxed and lowering blood pressure is good for the heart and the rest of the vascular system (and it’s tasty).

6. GARLIC CONTAINS TONS OF VITAMINS, MINERALS, AND ANTIOXIDANTS THAT ARE GOOD FOR YOU, TOO.

The bulbs are packed with potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and Vitamin C.

7. GARLIC'S USE AS A HEALTH AID DATES BACK TO ANCIENT HISTORY.

It’s believed that Egyptian pharaohs plied their pyramid-builders with garlic for strength, and an ancient Egyptian medical document—the Ebers Papyrus—counts a stunning 22 different medicinal uses for the plant. Garlic also pops up in texts from Virgil, Pliny the Elder, Chaucer, and Galen, all of which detail its various uses and share lore about the magic plant.

8. DESPITE ITS ASIAN ORIGINS, ITS NAME IS DERIVED FROM ANGLO-SAXON SPEECH.

A combination of two Anglo-Saxon words—“gar” (spear) and “lac” (plant)—is believed to be the source of the plant’s name, specifically in reference to the shape of its leaves.

9. GARLIC'S REAL HEALTH BENEFITS ARE PROBABLY THE REASON FOR ONE OF ITS MOST PREVALENT MYTHS.

Garlic had long been recognized as a wonderful health aid before writer Bram Stoker introduced the concept of the vampire—a beast repelled by garlic—to the public with his 1897 novel Dracula. In the book, Van Helsing uses garlic as a protective agent, and it’s believed that Stoker lifted that idea from garlic’s many medicinal purposes, particularly as a mosquito repellent (think of the blood-sucking).

10. YOU CAN USE GARLIC TO MAKE GLUE.

The sticky juice that’s in garlic cloves is often used as an adhesive, especially for delicate projects that involve fragile items like glass. You just need to crush the cloves to get to the sticky stuff which, despite its smell, works surprisingly well as a bonding agent for smaller jobs.

11. GARLIC CAN CLEAR UP SKIN TROUBLES.

You can battle both acne and cold sores with garlic, simply by slicing cloves in half and applying them directly to the skin. Hold for a bit—as long as you can stand!—and while the smell might not be the best, the antibacterial properties of the miracle plant will speed along the healing process.

All images courtesy of iStock.

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Big Questions
Why Is a Pineapple Called a Pineapple?
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by James Hunt

Ask an English-speaking person whether they've heard of a pineapple, and you'll probably receive little more than a puzzled look. Surely, every schoolchild has heard of this distinctive tropical fruit—if not in its capacity as produce, then as a dessert ring, or smoothie ingredient, or essential component of a Hawaiian pizza.

But ask an English-speaking person if they've ever heard of the ananas fruit and you'll probably get similarly puzzled looks, but for the opposite reason. The average English speaker has no clue what an ananas is—even though it's the name given to the pineapple in almost every other major global language.

In Arabic, German, French, Dutch, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Swedish, Turkish—even in Latin and Esperanto—the pineapple is known as an ananas, give or take local variations in the alphabet and accents. In the languages where it isn't, it's often because the word has been imported from English, such as in the case of the Japanese パイナップル (painappuru) and the Welsh pinafel.

So how is it that English managed to pick the wrong side in this fight so spectacularly? Would not a pineapple, by any other name, taste as weird and tingly?

To figure out where things went wrong for English as a language, we have to go back and look at how Europeans first encountered the fruit in question, which is native to South America. It was first catalogued by Columbus's expedition to Guadeloupe in 1493, and they called it piña de Indes, meaning "pine of the Indians"—not because the plant resembled a pine tree (it doesn't) but because they thought the fruit looked like a pine cone (umm, ... it still doesn't. But you can sort of see it.)

Columbus was on a Spanish mission and, dutifully, the Spanish still use the shortened form piñas to describe the fruit. But almost every other European language (including Portuguese, Columbus's native tongue) decided to stick with the name given to the fruit by the indigenous Tupí people of South America: ananas, which means "excellent fruit."

According to etymological sources, the English word pineapple was first applied to the fruit in 1664, but that didn't end the great pineapple versus ananas debate. Even as late as the 19th century, there are examples of both forms in concurrent use within the English language; for example, in the title of Thomas Baldwin's Short Practical Directions For The Culture Of The Ananas; Or Pine Apple Plant, which was published in 1813.

So given that we knew what both words meant, why didn't English speakers just let go of this illogical and unhelpful linguistic distinction? The ultimate reason may be: We just think our own language is better than everyone else's.

You see, pineapple was already an English word before it was applied to the fruit. First used in 1398, it was originally used to describe what we now call pine cones. Hilariously, the term pine cones wasn't recorded until 1694, suggesting that the application of pineapple to the ananas fruit probably meant that people had to find an alternative to avoid confusion. And while ananas hung around on the periphery of the language for a time, when given a choice between using a local word and a foreign, imported one, the English went with the former so often that the latter essentially died out.

Of course, it's not too late to change our minds. If you want to ask for ananas the next time you order a pizza, give it a try (though we can't say what you'd up with as a result).

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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