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Where Did The Term "Happy Hour" Come From?

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There’s nothing better after a hard day’s work than kicking back with some friends and downing a few cocktails. For bars, pubs, and restaurants, the practice of happy hour specials—typically held between the hours of 4pm and 8pm—has become a commonplace way to boost sales on slow weekdays and to let their customers relax to make them “happy” before dinner. But the concept of the “Happy Hour” isn’t merely a marketing strategy, and the history of hitting the sauce at half price has a surprisingly strong—if not varied—connection to American history.

Happy hour these days is clearly linked to getting slightly intoxicated without making too big a dent in your wallet, but the term itself comes from American Naval slang in the 1920s following the First World War. A “Happy Hour” was an allotted period of time on a ship where sailors engaged in various forms of entertainment to relieve the monotonies of the seafaring life. Most of the time, this meant wrestling or boxing matches, but it still could include other athletic activities intending to boost morale.

At the same time, the U.S. was going through the darkest—not to mention driest—period in the history of getting hammered: Prohibition, the failed experiment given legal standing by the infamous Volstead Act. From 1920 to 1933, the manufacture, transport, and sale of certain intoxicating beverages was prohibited. (Sacramental wines and cider fermented by farmers were given exemptions.

But instead of abiding by the newly enacted teetotal tenet, Americans became as alcoholic as ever, and would gather together in secret speakeasies or at home to consume some tantalizingly illegal cocktails to wet their whistle before dinner. “Happy Hour” as an expression was soon picked up, either directly or secondhand, from the Naval slang and merged to describe these outlawed gatherings. 

Though Prohibition was later repealed, the concept stuck around. Some think that a Saturday Evening Post article from 1959 that mentioned the happy hour in regards to military life introduced the expression to the public, but other sources, like the OED, cite later examples—such as a 1961 Providence Journal article referencing Newport policemen “deprived of their happy hour at the cocktail bar”—as informally spreading it into the general vernacular over time. Eventually, in the '70s and '80s, it was co-opted by the service industry as the food and drink specials we know today. 

The happy hour isn’t a universal concept, however. Currently, 23 states have banned restaurants and bars from selling "alcoholic beverages during a fixed period of time for a fixed price," including Massachusetts, which was the first state to do so, in 1984—no small feat when you consider that Boston was recently named the drunkest city in America. Yet some states, like Pennsylvania—which extended the minimum happy hour period to four hours in 2011—encourage a restaurant’s ability to schedule their specials however they please. Internationally, the happy hour was banned in Ireland and very specific restrictions were put in place in the rest of the UK in an effort to curb culturally acceptable binge drinking, while in Canada the term “Happy Hour” in regards to drink specials is banned in Ontario [PDF], and in Alberta regulations strictly limit drink prices and happy hours until 8pm.       

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

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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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

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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