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25 Things You Might Not Know About Harry Potter

It's going to get very spoilery in here, so only watch this if you've read the books and seen the movies. Or if you never plan on doing either, in which case you're making a terrible mistake. Transcript courtesy of Nerdfighteria.

1. Hi, I'm John Green. Welcome to my salon. This is mental_floss on YouTube. And did you know that in 2005 a doctor conducted a study to see if children had fewer trips to the emergency room immediately after Harry Potter books were released? And he was right.

In the weekends after The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince were released, there were half the amount of children at the E.R. in John Radcliffe Hospital compared with weekends directly before. It probably had something to do with the fact that, you know, they were all sitting on the couch reading all weekend rather than getting into trouble.

2. Okay, let's start with the books and move on to the movies. So the idea for Harry Potter came to J.K. Rowling when her train was delayed for four hours and the long wait gave her the right amount of time to develop the idea, you know, "Wizard school."

3. As you've probably heard, Rowling's manuscript got rejected about five times before it was finally published. The main complaint was that it was too long for children. I don't know what the problem is. The books actually seem quite small to me.

But of course it did get published, so let's talk about it.

4. J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter share the same birthday, July 31.

5. But that's not the only similarity she shares with a character. Rowling's favorite character is the otter, and that, of course, is Hermione's patronus. Interestingly, Ron's patronus is a Jack Russell Terrier, a breed of dog that likes to chase otters.

6. Rowling based the dementors in Harry Potter on her experience with depression. She's described depression as the, quote, "Cold absence of feeling," which is how dementors are presented.

7. In a 1999 interview for People magazine, Rowling announced that the last word of the series was going to be "scar." But the last word of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is actually "well," which gives me hope for a Book Eight.

8. The love potion Amortentia smells different to everyone, depending on what they like. In the book, Hermione won't say out loud the third thing she smells in the potion, but Rowling has claimed that it's Ron's hair.

To me, that potion would smell like Ron Swanson. Whiskey, sawdust and breakfast food.

9. Many fans, including myself, do not understand why Hedwig had to die. But according to Rowling, the loss of Hedwig represented a loss of innocence and security. She has been almost like a cuddly toy to Harry at times. Voldemort killing her marked the end of childhood. Well yeah, but I don't want childhood to end, J.K. Rowling.

10. "Expecto Patronum" is Latin for "I await a protector." And that's not the only Latin phrase you can find in the series. Like Bellatrix, as in Bellatrix Lestrange, means "Female warrior." It makes sense, considering that Rowling was a classics major.

11. Speaking of names, Rowling found a lot of bizarre plant names for the series in a 17th Century book about herbs titled Culpepper's Complete Herbal.

12. Originally, Arthur Weasley was going to die at the end of The Order of the Phoenix, but then Sirius Black took his place, leaving Weasley to survive... to see one of his sons die and another lose an ear.

13. Stephen King once described Dolores Umbridge as the greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter. And coming from someone who wrote about an evil car, that is high praise.

14. The driver and conductor of The Knight Bus, Stanley and Ernie, were named after Rowling's grandfathers.

15. J.K. Rowling is the first person ever to become a billionaire for book writing, and also the first book-writing billionaire ever to cease to be a billionaire by giving away so much money to charity.

16. All right, let's move on to the movies. Back in 2000, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was being cast, Frankie Muniz and Haley Joel Osment were rumored to be in the running for the part of Harry.

17. Steven Spielberg wasn't interested in making the films. He said, I purposely didn't do the Harry Potter movie because for me, that was shooting ducks in a barrel. It's just a slam-dunk. It's just like withdrawing a billion dollars and putting it into your personal bank account.

So instead, he and Haley Joel Osment went off and made AI, and that didn't put a billion dollars in anybody's personal bank accounts.

18. When Rupert Grint auditioned for the films, he attempted to stand out by performing a rap.

19. Another person who auditioned for Ron? Tom Felton. He actually tried out for both Harry and Ron before getting cast as Malfoy.

20. As happens whenever you get a large group of children together, there was an outbreak of lice during the filming of The Chamber of Secrets.

21. And when they weren't getting lice, the kids would sneak candy onto the set. The robe pockets were so big that child actors would stick sweets and even drinks in them. Tom Felton takes credit for starting this trend, so he's to blame for the pockets eventually getting sewn shut by the wardrobe department.

22. Shirley Henderson, the actress who played the 14-year-old Moaning Myrtle, was 36 while filming The Chamber of Secrets. The Moaning Myrtles, by the way, is the name of one of my very favorite wizard rock bands. Other standout wizard rock artists include Draco and the Malfoys, Harry and the Potters, and The Whomping Willows.

23. Before the Deathly Hallows book was released, J.K. Rowling gave Alan Rickman some hints about Snape's true feelings so that he could properly play the character. This sometimes caused confusion on set when a director would ask Alan to do something and he would respond, "No, no, no, I can't do that. I know what is going to happen and you don't."

24. In the end credits of The Goblet of Fire, there's a note that reads, "No dragons were harmed in the making of this movie."

25. And finally, I return to my salon to tell you that Prisoner of Azkaban director Alfonso Cuarón asked Emma, Rupert and Daniel to write essays about their characters. Emma turned in a 16-page essay, Daniel's was one page long, and Rupert never turned it in at all.

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Flurry Road: 5 Tips for Safe Driving on Winter Roads
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For drivers in the Upper Midwest, traveling during the winter can range from slightly unsettling to deadly. Between 2011 and 2015, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Auto Insurance Center, an average of 800 fatalities occurred annually as a result of weather-related accidents. Icy roads, poor visibility, and other factors can make cold-weather commuting a dicey proposition.

While we can’t control the weather (yet), we can increase our odds of navigating slush-filled roadways successfully. Mental Floss spoke with American Automobile Association (AAA) driving education expert William Van Tassel, Ph.D., for some key tips on how to get your winter driving in gear.

1. GATHER SUPPLIES.

Before you even start your car up for a trip through inclement weather, Van Tassel recommends you pack a worst-case scenario trunk full of supplies. “In case of emergency, you want things on board like water, a blanket, a flashlight, gloves, and kitty litter,” he says. (That last one is for traction in case you get stuck in a snowbank.) You should also have road flares, a shovel, an ice scraper, and a fully-charged cell phone to call for assistance if needed.

2. SLOW DOWN.

Posted speed limit signs assume you’re driving on clear and clean roadways. If snow or ice has accumulated, you need to adjust your speed accordingly. “In slick conditions, tires lose a lot of traction,” Van Tassel says. “You should be cutting your speed down by half or more.” Unfortunately, a lot of people learn this the hard way. “After a snowstorm, we’ll see more crashes on day one than days two or three.”

Van Tassel also cautions to avoid becoming overconfident on snow tires. While they provide better traction in bad weather, it’s not license to speed up.

3. MAINTAIN A SAFE DISTANCE FROM OTHER CARS.

You should be doing this regardless, but bad weather makes it even more crucial. Keep your vehicle at a safe distance from cars behind, in front, and off to the sides, as well as away from pedestrians or cyclists. If you need to brake suddenly, you need time—and space—to avoid a collision. “You really want more space in front,” Van Tassel says. Try to stay between seven and 10 seconds behind the vehicle ahead. That means seeing a landmark and then counting down until you pass the same marker. If you’re only a few seconds behind, you’re too close.

4. DON’T STEER INTO SKIDS.

“That was an old rule of thumb,” Van Tassel says. “The problem is, by the time I remember to steer into a skid, I’m already in a ditch.” If you feel your vehicle sliding, it’s better to steer in the direction you want to go. “You’ll drive where you look, so don’t look at a telephone pole.”

To help maintain control of the car, you want to focus on doing one thing at a time. “If you’re going through a turn, brake, finish braking, then turn. Don’t brake and turn at the same time.”

5. KEEP YOUR HEADLIGHTS ON.

Yep, even in broad daylight. Bad weather limits visibility, and headlights allow both you and your fellow drivers to orient a vehicle. “You’re twice as visible to other drivers that way,” Van Tassel says. “When people can see you, they can avoid you.”

Van Tassel also recommends that drivers avoid relying on fancy car technology to keep them safe. While blind spot monitoring and lane changing sensors are useful, they’re not there so you can zone out. “The tech is there to back you up if you need it. Drive the car, but don’t rely on those things,” he says.

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25 Polite Compliments You Can Pay a Coworker
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January 24 is National Compliment Day, and a great way to celebrate is by making a concerted effort to praise the people you work with. Be sure to consider when an appropriate time and place for a compliment would be (for instance, shy people would rather be commended on their stellar presentation in private rather than in front of a crowd), but know that whether a coworker is a longtime friend or more of an acquaintance, lauding their work performance and letting them know you appreciate their skills could really make their day.

1. "YOU HAVE A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR."

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Every office has one person who knows how to ease tensions at work by cracking a quick joke or sharing a funny link. If this person's sense of humor makes your job a little more enjoyable, make sure to let them know.

2. "NICE JOB ON THAT PRESENTATION."

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Public speaking is intimidating, especially to someone who's new to their job and not used to giving presentations. Notice your coworker is nervous before a big meeting? Seek them out afterwards. Letting them know you enjoyed and learned from what they said will hopefully make them feel more confident next time.

3. "YOU ALWAYS KNOW WHEN TO LEND A HAND."

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You probably know someone who's always willing to help out with a project when you need it most, and odds are they rarely receive the recognition they deserve. Next time a coworker offers some relief when you're feeling overwhelmed, don't let it go unnoticed. Set aside time to tell them you see the great work they're doing and you appreciate it.

4. "YOU'RE A SAVVY PROBLEM-SOLVER."

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Being able to see problems differently is a valuable skill in the workplace. It can open up a team to new ideas and save precious time and resources. Sometimes you may be the person to spot the way out of a problem, and other times it's a coworker who points out the solution that was right in front of your face. If you're grateful for their point of view, they deserve to hear it.

5. "YOU'RE A GREAT COMMUNICATOR."

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Without communication, collaborating with the people in your workplace would be impossible. A great communicator knows how to understand other people's perspectives, explain their own, and make sure they're never keeping anyone in the dark. They're also not above receiving a compliment every now and then.

6. "I LOVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM."

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For some people, getting up and going to work each day is easy: They're personally invested in the company they work for and enjoy helping it succeed. Maybe you're not there yet, but you might see this level of passion and enthusiasm in at least one person you work with. Don't let that inspiring attitude go unrecognized.

7. "I APPRECIATE YOUR TRUST."

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Effective management is just as much about offering guidance and support as knowing when to back off. Sometimes leaving employees room to breathe is the best thing managers can do to encourage growth and creativity. It's also a thankless move that often goes unrewarded. Expressing your appreciation to your manager can make a big difference in their day.

8. "WHAT A FUN PARTY (LUNCH/HAPPY HOUR/ETC.)."

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People take certain work events for granted without stopping to consider the employees who make them possible. Birthday cakes don't magically appear and after-work happy hours don't plan themselves. Behind every fun break you get from your day-to-day duties, there's a coworker who took the initiative to make it happen, and they would like to hear that you enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

9. "YOU'VE GOT A KILLER WORK ETHIC."

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We all wish we could be the employee who blows through projects without breaking a sweat. If you're not that person, the least you can do is pay the tireless person in your workplace a compliment—especially after a big project that had them tackling most of the work.

10. "YOUR POSITIVE ATTITUDE IS INFECTIOUS."

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Just like one pessimistic employee can bring down the whole office, a positive person can have the opposite effect. It's hard to feel grumpy about starting a new week when the colleague sitting next to you does everything with a smile on their face.

11. "YOU ASK GREAT QUESTIONS."

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Asking about something you're not familiar with at work can be intimidating, whether it's about a new policy or procedure or perhaps about the ins and outs of a department you don't usually work with. But asking for help or clarification is also the only way to learn and grow. Complimenting a coworker who asks a lot of questions lets them know that not only is that OK, it's valued.

12. "I LOVE YOUR IDEAS."

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When someone introduces a great idea at work, people often respond in one of two ways: They get upset that they didn't think of it themselves, or they admire the person for their brilliance. If you want to strengthen work relationships and feel better in the long run, we suggest expressing the latter.

13. "YOU'RE GREAT AT TAKING INITIATIVE."

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Employees who take initiative help businesses run smoothly. Managers don't have to worry about babysitting them, and their coworkers never end up picking up their slack. Next time you go into work, find the person you know who always takes initiative and compliment them for their efforts.

14. "YOU'RE VERY CREATIVE."

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Even if your job isn't particularly inspiring, you may have coworkers who find everyday opportunities to be creative. Their creativity might shine through in the form of a sharply designed flyer, a well-written memo, or an innovative solution to the problem at hand. Sometimes people who don't work in a traditionally artistic field are rarely complimented for their creativity—you can change that.

15. "I APPRECIATE YOU TAKING RESPONSIBILITY."

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Do you know someone at work who's taken responsibility—whether for a botched performance, a failed pitch, or a missed deadline—even when they could have gotten away with keeping quiet? That's not easy to do. Recognize their actions, and they may be inclined to do it more often.

16. "YOU'RE SO FLEXIBLE."

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Sure, you can promise your coworker this is the absolute last time you'll ask them to push a meeting back a couple of days or move up a deadline by a week. Or, you can compliment them on being so flexible and thank them for working around the changes so efficiently.

17. "I LOVE YOUR CONFIDENCE."

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Confidence in the workplace is hard to ignore. It radiates from everything a person does, and when you're working on a project with such a person, it can make you feel more confident as well. Let this employee know that you appreciate their poise and self-assuredness.

18. "I APPRECIATE HOW TECH-SAVVY YOU ARE."

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Who do you turn to when your screen freezes, or when the long email you spent the last 15 minutes crafting suddenly disappears? Likely, instead of running to I.T. every time, you ask a nearby coworker who always seems to have the answers. Even if they don't share their know-how for the praise, they deserve a compliment and gratitude.

19. "YOU'RE A GREAT BAKER."

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People who bake for their coworkers are a special breed. By sharing what they made with the office, it means that they not only took the time to cook with you in mind, but also that they're sharing a bit of their personal likes or hobbies with you. What better time to compliment the chef than when they bring platter of fresh cookies to the morning meeting?

20. "I ADMIRE YOUR LEADERSHIP."

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A good leader is many things, including fair, compassionate, and hard-working. But whatever qualities your manager exhibits that make you appreciate working for him or her, find a chance to let them know you commend their leadership, and that you're a better employee because of it.

21. "YOU HAVE A MIND FOR DETAIL."

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Details make a big difference at work, whether you're writing a big report or a thank you email. Sometimes the details that make the biggest impact on a project are hard to notice on their own. See if you can spot the smart, subtle details the next time you're evaluating your coworker's work, and tell them if you're impressed by what you find.

22. "YOU'RE ON MY WAVELENGTH."

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It may not always top lists of most valuable skills to take into the workplace, but empathy can do wonders for office culture. When team members practice empathy and really make an effort to understand the people they work with, they make everyone's job easier. This is one skill that definitely deserves recognition.

23. "THANKS FOR BEING SO RELIABLE."

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No matter what you do for work, it's impossible to do your job entirely on your own. Reliable coworkers you can depend on for support, guidance, and inspiration are a priceless resource. If they make the effort to show up and work hard consistently, the least you can do is show them you appreciate it.

24. "YOU'RE A REAL TEAM PLAYER."

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In order to succeed as a team, your colleagues need to have the right attitude. Maybe there's one person on your team who sets a good example for the rest of you: They know exactly when to step back and listen to other people's ideas and when to come forward with their own. Sometimes being a good team player means swallowing your pride to do what's best for the group, and that's behavior worth celebrating.

25. "YOU GIVE GREAT ADVICE."

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At some point in your career, you've likely relied on a more experienced coworker for advice. Without mentors, many of the world's most successful people wouldn't be where they are today. Never be ashamed to ask for guidance, and once you receive it, make sure to show your gratitude.

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