What's the Difference Between Hotels and Motels?

iStock.com/jganser
iStock.com/jganser

In crime fiction, society's degenerates often meet up in what authors like to describe as "seedy motels." Unlike a hotel, a motel carries connotations of being hospitable to illegal acts, unkempt, cheap, dilapidated, and generally the lesser of travel lodgings. Hotels, though they can be dirty and unpleasant in equal measure, tend to be looked upon more favorably.

Is this kind of hospitality stereotyping even fair? What's the difference between a hotel and a motel?

The answer is in the etymology of the word motel. It's a really two words spliced together: motor (or motorist) and hotel. Motels first came into prominence in the 1920s, when newly-paved highways meant that drivers might be traveling long distances and be in need of accommodations. These early motels popped up along roadways, offering meals, a place to sleep, and a place to park one's car. These car spaces were typically situated right in front of the motel rooms, which were part of a one- or two-story structure. Because motels weren't intended to shelter hundreds of people in a major tourist spot, it made more sense to keep them small and make crashing for the night as convenient as possible.

Hotels, in contrast, have been around for centuries and are meant to both host destination travelers and stand as architectural marvels, with an artery of lobbies offering interior entrances to rooms. The staff can run into the hundreds to keep their sprawling operation clean and efficient.

Because their amenities are more limited, motels might employ just a handful of people. They're also less likely to be prepared for extended-stay guests, who may quickly grow tired of the small rooms and basic features. Motels, for example, typically don't have gyms and room service.

On the plus side, you're more likely to find a motel in remote areas, and chances are the rates will be more reasonable than what a hotel might charge.

As for whether motels have an earned reputation for being sleazy, that's probably not true. While they do offer easier access to non-guests into rooms by virtue of their layout (and therefore make for much better movie-shooting locales), your chances of being victimized by some type of crime probably have more to do with where you are than where you're staying. Crime in nicer New York City hotels is up 20 percent in the past few years, with 2656 police reports filed in 2017.

Hotel or motel, always lock your door and remain alert walking to and from your vehicle—which, if you're in a motel, can be easily seen from your room window. Happy travels.

Does the Full Moon Really Make People Act Crazy?

iStock.com/voraorn
iStock.com/voraorn

Along with Mercury in retrograde, the full moon is a pretty popular scapegoat for bad luck and bizarre behavior. Encounter someone acting strangely? Blame it on the lunar phases! It's said that crime rates increase and emergency rooms are much busier during the full moon (though a 2004 study debunked this claim). Plus, there's that whole werewolf thing. Why would this be? The reasoning is that the Moon, which affects the ocean's tides, probably exerts a similar effect on us, because the human body is made mostly of water.

This belief that the Moon influences behavior is so widely held—reportedly, even 80 percent of nurses and 64 percent of doctors think it's true, according to a 1987 paper published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine [PDF]—that in 2012 a team of researchers at Université Laval's School of Psychology in Canada decided to find out if mental illness and the phases of the Moon are linked [PDF].

To test the theory, the researchers evaluated 771 patients who visited emergency rooms at two hospitals in Montreal between March 2005 and April 2008. The patients chosen complained of chest pains, which doctors could not determine a medical cause for the pains. Many of the patients suffered from panic attacks, anxiety and mood disorders, or suicidal thoughts.

When the researchers compared the time of the visits to the phases of the Moon, they found that there was no link between the incidence of psychological problems and the four lunar phases, with one exception—in the last lunar quarter, anxiety disorders were 32 percent less frequent. "This may be coincidental or due to factors we did not take into account," Dr. Geneviève Belleville, who directed the team of researchers, said. "But one thing is certain: we observed no full-moon or new-moon effect on psychological problems."

So rest easy (or maybe not): If people seem to act crazy during the full Moon, their behavior is likely pretty similar during the rest of the lunar cycle as well.

This story was updated in 2019.

What's the Difference Between a Rabbit and a Hare?

iStock.com/Carmen Romero
iStock.com/Carmen Romero

Hippity, hoppity, Easter's on its way—and so is the eponymous Easter bunny. But aside from being a magical, candy-carrying creature, what exactly is Peter Cottontail: bunny, rabbit, or hare? Or are they all just synonyms for the same adorable animal?

In case you've been getting your fluffy, long-eared mammals mixed up, we've traveled down the rabbit hole to set the record straight. Although rabbits and hares belong to the same grass-munching family—called Leporidae—they're entirely different species with unique characteristics. It would be like comparing sheep and goats, geneticist Steven Lukefahr of Texas A&M University told National Geographic.

If you aren't sure which animal has been hopping around and helping themselves to the goodies in your vegetable garden, take a closer look at their ears. In general, hares have longer ears and larger bodies than rabbits. Rabbits also tend to be more social creatures, while hares prefer to keep to themselves.

As for the baby animals, they go by different names as well. Baby hares are called leverets, while newborn rabbits are called kittens or kits. So where exactly do bunnies fit into this narrative? Originally, the word bunny was used as a term of endearment for a young girl, but its meaning has evolved over time. Bunny is now a cutesy, childlike way to refer to both rabbits and hares—although it's more commonly associated with rabbits these days. With that said, the Easter bunny is usually depicted as a rabbit, but the tradition is thought to have originated with German immigrants who brought their legend of an egg-laying hare called "Osterhase" to America.

In other ambiguous animal news, the case of Bugs Bunny is a little more complicated. According to scientist and YouTuber Nick Uhas, the character's long ears, fast speed, and solitary nature seem to suggest he's a hare. However, in the cartoon, Bugs is shown burrowing underground, which doesn't jive with the fact that hares—unlike most rabbits—live aboveground. "We can draw the conclusion that Bugs may be a rabbit with hare-like behavior or a hare with rabbit nesting habits," Uhas says.

The conversation gets even more confusing when you throw jackrabbits into the mix, which aren't actually rabbits at all. Jackrabbits are various species of large hare that are native to western North America; the name itself is a shortened version of "jackass rabbit," which refers to the fact that the animal's ears look a little like a donkey's.

A jackrabbit
Connor Mah, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

As Mark Twain once famously wrote about the creature, "He is just like any other rabbit, except that he is from one-third to twice as large, has longer legs in proportion to his size, and has the most preposterous ears that ever were mounted on any creature but the jackass." (Fun fact: Black-tailed jackrabbits' extra-long ears actually help them stay cool in the desert. The blood vessels in their ears enlarge when it gets hot, causing blood to flow to their ears and ridding their bodies of excess heat.)

Rabbits, hares, and jackrabbits all have one thing in common, though: They love a good salad. So if you happen across one of these hopping creatures, give them some grass or weeds—and skip the carrots. Bugs Bunny may have loved the orange vegetable, but most hares and rabbits would prefer leafy greens.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, send it to bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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