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Why Do We Call Athletic Uniforms “Jerseys”?

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Super Bowl XLVIII is this weekend, and both teams have already selected their designated uniforms for the occasion. But have you ever wondered why we call these athletic garments “jerseys” in the first place?

Sorry, New Jerseyites: the moniker isn’t an homage to the Garden State, at least not directly. The actual island of Jersey is a “crown dependency” of the UK whose natives have been knitting hardy wool sweaters for centuries. Noted for their tight weave, these warm articles of clothing were initially used as an inner layer by rural seamen before gradually evolving into a type of common outerwear. Jersey sweaters spread to the UK and northern Europe as the country’s trading industry rose in prominence during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Their popularity skyrocketed abroad—so much so, in fact, that the name “jersey” became synonymous with “sweater” in countries as far away as the United States by the 1850s.

And speaking of the Yanks, as American football developed, it was clear that players of the rough-and-tumble game (which often claimed multiple lives every year prior to Theodore Roosevelt’s intervention in 1905) needed strong, insular uniforms. Thick wool “jerseys” fit the bill perfectly. Bikers, golfers, and other athletes began donning the sweaters as well.

Yet, as the Gilded Age wore on, athletic “jerseys” bore increasingly little resemblance to their bulky ancestral tops. Just as the name had previously become synonymized with “sweater,” it was now indistinguishable from the term “athletic uniform.” For example, lightweight baseball shirts were often called “jerseys” by the press during this period despite being generally made of flannel and incorporating short sleeves, buttons, and collars. However, regardless of these developments, the name stuck.

This trend also spread north of the border, to the chagrin of Canadian hockey fans, as longtime NHL commentator Don Cherry recalls in his book Don Cherry’s Hockey Stories, Part 2:

“[Hockey] sweaters are now called jerseys, if you can believe it, and we’ve sort of accepted that. But in Canada, it was always called a sweater… Americans used jerseys when they were playing football; then, when they finally got around to playing hockey, they used the same name. Nowadays, most kids call sweaters jerseys. Another little part of our hockey heritage is gone.”

For those interested, the jerseys we’ll see this Sunday as the Denver Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks consist largely of nylon and spandex

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What’s the Difference Between Prison and Jail?
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Many people use the terms jail and prison interchangeably, and while both terms refer to areas where people are held, there's a substantial difference between the two methods of incarceration. Where a person who is accused of a crime is held, and for how long, is a factor in determining the difference between the two—and whether a person is held in a jail or a prison is largely determined by the severity of the crime they have committed.

A jail (or, for our British friends, a gaol) refers to a small, temporary holding facility—run by local governments and supervised by county sheriff departments—that is designed to detain recently arrested people who have committed a minor offense or misdemeanor. A person can also be held in jail for an extended period of time if the sentence for their offense is less than a year. There are currently 3163 local jail facilities in the United States.

A jail is different from the similarly temporary “lockup”—sort of like “pre-jail”—which is located in local police departments and holds offenders unable to post bail, people arrested for public drunkenness who are kept until they are sober, or, most importantly, offenders waiting to be processed into the jail system.

A prison, on the other hand, is usually a large state- or federal-run facility meant to house people convicted of a serious crime or felony, and whose sentences for those crimes surpass 365 days. A prison could also be called a “penitentiary,” among other names.

To be put in a state prison, a person must be convicted of breaking a state law. To be put in a federal prison, a person must be convicted of breaking federal law. Basic amenities in a prison are more extensive than in a jail because, obviously, an inmate is likely to spend more than a year of his or her life confined inside a prison. As of 2012, there were 4575 operating prisons in the U.S.—the most in the world. The country with the second highest number of operating prisons is Russia, which has just 1029 facilities.

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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What Do Morticians Do With the Blood They Take Out of Dead Bodies?
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Zoe-Anne Barcellos:

The blood goes down the sink drain, into the sewer system.

I am not a mortician, but I work for a medical examiner/coroner. During an autopsy, most blood is drained from the decedent. This is not on purpose, but a result of gravity. Later a mortician may or may not embalm, depending on the wishes of the family.

Autopsies are done on a table that has a drain at one end; this drain is placed over a sink—a regular sink, with a garbage disposal in it. The blood and bodily fluids just drain down the table, into the sink, and down the drain. This goes into the sewer, like every other sink and toilet, and (usually) goes to a water treatment plant.

You may be thinking that this is biohazardous waste and needs to be treated differently. [If] we can’t put oil, or chemicals (like formalin) down the drains due to regulations, why is blood not treated similarly? I would assume because it is effectively handled by the water treatment plants. If it wasn’t, I am sure the regulations would be changed.

Now any items that are soiled with blood—those cannot be thrown away in the regular trash. Most clothing worn by the decedent is either retained for evidence or released with the decedent to the funeral home—even if they were bloody.

But any gauze, medical tubing, papers, etc. that have blood or bodily fluids on them must be thrown away into a biohazardous trash. These are lined with bright red trash liners, and these are placed in a specially marked box and taped closed. These boxes are stacked up in the garage until they are picked up by a specialty garbage company. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure they are incinerated.

Additionally anything sharp or pointy—like needles, scalpels, etc.—must go into a rigid “sharps” container. When they are 2/3 full we just toss these into one of the biotrash containers.

The biotrash is treated differently, as, if it went to a landfill, then the blood (and therefore the bloodborne pathogens like Hepatitis and HIV) could be exposed to people or animals. Rain could wash it into untreated water systems.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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