15 Mysterious Tidbits About Yetis

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Skeptics and believers alike will be going ape over this tantalizing trivia.

1. The Nepalese and U.S. Governments Have Regulated Yeti Hunting

You’ve got three basic ground rules. A 1959 U.S. embassy memo states that American citizens need special permits before they can legally start tracking yetis inside Nepal. Also, while photographs and live captures are A-Okay, killing them is a big no-no, “except in an emergency arising out of self-defense.” Finally, any evidence that turns up (including live specimens) must be immediately handed over to the Nepalese authorities. Happy hunting!

2. Fossils Show That Giant Prehistoric Apes Once Did, In Fact, Roam Asia


Sam Wise, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Gigantopithecus is a genus of massive simians whose fossils have been found throughout China, India, and Vietnam. In their heyday, these guys would’ve made a silverback gorilla wet himself—certain species weighed an estimated 1,100 pounds and could stand over nine feet tall! Gigantopithecus likely died out around 300,000 years ago.

3. Yetis Are Usually Cited as Having Dark Hair

Yeti movies—yes, that’s a genre—almost always throw shaggy white primates at us. This contradicts the lion’s share of accounts provided by most so-called “eyewitnesses,” who overwhelmingly describe them as “brown or reddish-brown.”

4. A Newspaper Columnist Coined the Term “Abominable Snowman”

While trekking around Mt. Everest in 1921, British Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury spotted huge footprints that were roughly “three times” the size of a normal human’s. These, his guides announced, had been left by something called a “met-teh kangmi,” or “man-sized wild creature.”

Soon his story was picked up by Henry Newman of the Calcutta Statesman, who made a fateful gaffe. Instead of “met-teh kangmi,” Newman printed “metch kangmi,” which he mistranslated as meaning “abominable snowman.” The rest is history…

5. Yeti-Sightings Have Been Reported in Several Different Countries

China, India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and Russia are all members of the international “we-might-have-yetis” club (t-shirts pending).

6. Jimmy Stewart’s Wife Smuggled a “Yeti Finger”

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You read that correctly. She was married to the Jimmy Stewart—as in the star of It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Here’s what went down: In 1959, adventurer Peter Byrne visited the Himalayan Pangboche Temple, where a severed yeti’s hand was said to reside. Carefully, he removed one of its fingers and replaced it with a human double he’d been given by British primatologist William Osman Hill for this precise purpose.

After making a clean getaway, Byrne’s team sent their digit back to the U.K. with some help from an unlikely partner. It turned out that Jimmy and Gloria Stewart were hunting in India at the time and would be stopping in London before heading home. Once Byrne paid them a visit, he convinced Gloria to slip the finger into her lingerie case, which no customs official would dare open.

Thanks to the Stewarts, the finger safely made its way to Hill, and it’s been stored at the Royal College of Surgeons ever since. Ultimately, however, Byrne’s work was in vain: Geneticists recently concluded that his prized steal was human after all.

7. The Cold War Raised the Stakes For Yeti Researchers

1958 saw American and Soviet teams both embarking on organized hunts for these beasts. “It is now an international race for the yeti” said cryptozoologist Gerald Russell, who led the U.S. campaign.

8. The Etymology of “Yeti” Is Very Uncertain

Most sources will tell you that “yeti” comes from “yeh-teh,” or “small, man-like animal.” Japanese researcher Makoto Nebuka isn’t one of them. Instead, he believes the word’s really descended from “meti,” which means “bear” in some dialects.

9. In 1994, One Tracker Claimed His Camera Froze Before He Could Snap a Definitive Yeti Photo

On the slopes of Dhaulagiri—Earth’s seventh-tallest mountain—“Yeti Project Japan” leader Yoshiteru Takahshi purportedly found a cave belonging to one of these legendary beasts. What a lousy time for an equipment malfunction

10. Siberia’s Getting a Yeti Resort

Complete with a museum and hotel, this odd, Russian park is currently in development. Once open, visitors will be encouraged to capture the elusive apes—anyone who does so can expect the equivalent of over $30,500 from regional governor Aman Tuleyev.

11. Hybrid Bears Might (But Probably Don’t) Explain Away Yeti Tales

Polar and brown bears frequent the world’s yeti belt. Terrifyingly, these animals may also be interbreeding. Perhaps, as some suggest, travelers spent centuries mistaking their mixed offspring for massive humanoids. Yet, critics point out that crossed ursids haven’t actually been documented in Asia. Their North American counterparts, on the other hand, are a lot more open to “experimenting” with each other:

12. One Estimate Contends that Two Hundred Now Reside in Northern Russia

This number was put forth by Professor Valentin Sapunov of the Russian State Hydrometeorological University in St. Petersburg.

13. A Collection of Yeti Footprint Snapshots Were Just Sold for £5,500!

That’s $7,437.82, American mental_floss readers! Taken by mountain climber Eric Earle Shipton in 1951, these photos feature what appears to be several dozen footprints allegedly found 16,000-17,000 feet above sea level. The set was auctioned off last September.

14. Several Supposed Yeti Hair Specimens Have Been Debunked

Buzzkill alert! In 2013, human genetics expert Bryan Sykes exhaustively gathered 30 hair samples believed to have come from yetis, sasquatches, and other undiscovered apes. Subsequent DNA analyses revealed that every single strand had actually come from mundane, run-of-the-mill creatures like horses, bears, raccoons, and cows.

15. This Winter, Boston Got its Very Own Yeti

If Februarys like that last one become a regular occurrence, Bean Town might rechristen itself “Yetiville, USA.” Lately, the area’s been blessed with a local eccentric who calls him- or herself “The Boston Yeti.”

This mysterious Bay State hero currently boasts 8,000-plus Twitter followers and can often be seen roaming snowy streets or helping average citizens dig out their cars. “Snow storms are funny because a sense of camaraderie develops in the community,” the still-anonymous Yeti told ABC news. “For me, I wanted to lend a claw and do my part, too.”

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise stated.

15 Animal Names That Can Be Used As Verbs

iStock.com/fotojagodka
iStock.com/fotojagodka

People can go fishing, rabbit on incessantly, dog one another, and horse around. But because of their usefulness in completing burdensome work, horse has also been used in (originally naval) slang since the mid-19th century to mean “to work to the point of exhaustion”—or, in the words of the Oxford English Dictionary, “to drive or urge at work unfairly or tyrannically.” But horses aren’t the only animals whose names can be “verbed.” From turtles to tigers, you can drop any one of these 15 creatures into your everyday conversation.

1. Bulldog

No one is entirely sure why bulldogs are called bulldogs, with different theories pointing to everything from their bull-like stature to their bullish faces to the fact that they might once have been bred to bait bulls. Whatever the origin, the bulldog’s strength and its robust, resilient behavior means that you can use its name as a verb meaning “to attack roughly,” or “to wrestle to the ground.”

2. Tiger

A tiger
iStock.com/konmesa

If you tiger, then you walk to and fro, like a tiger pacing in a cage. If you tiger something, then you paint or mark it with contrasting stripes.

3. Spider

Jumping spider
iStock.com/elthar2007

As well as being used simply to mean “to creep” or “to move like a spider,” if you ensnare or entrap something, or else cover it in a cobweb-like pattern, then you spider it.

4. Cat

British shorthair cat with expressive orange eyes
iStock.com/Leesle

Because the cathead is the horizontal beam at the bow of a ship that’s used to raise an anchor, the word cat has a number of nautical uses as a verb, including “to lift an anchor from the water,” “to secure an anchor,” and “to draw an anchor through the water.” But because shooting the cat was 19th century slang for being sick from drinking too much, you can also use cat to mean “to vomit.”

5. Vulture

White-backed vulture
iStock.com/EcoPic

Vultures’ grim feeding habits and their remarkable flying ability have given the word two meanings as a verb in English. Feel free to use it to mean “to eat voraciously” or “to tear at your food,” or else “to descend steadily through the air.”

6. Owl

Owl in flight
iStock.com/WhitcombeRD

Owling (as well as being a short-lived social media craze) was once the name given to the crime of smuggling sheep and wool from England to the continent—a crime so-called because the nefarious “owlers” carried out their crimes at night. That might not be the most useful of words these days of course, so feel free to also use owl to mean “to act wisely, despite not knowing anything.”

7. Shark

It’s easy to presume that the use of shark as a verb to mean “to act like a predator” (which is the same shark as in loanshark, incidentally) derives from the deadly sea creatures. In fact, it might be the opposite: Both meanings of the word shark date back to the late 16th century, but it’s possible that the verb shark is the older of the two. If so, it’s possible that it comes from the earlier word shirk (in the sense of using deceit or trickery to avoid work) or else a northeastern French word, cherquier, which was often used in a phrase that essentially meant “to sponge of others” or “to act as a parasite.” So how did sea-dwelling sharks come to be called sharks? It’s possible the deceitful sharks gave their name to the menacing creatures, or else the two could be completely unrelated—and, thanks to a sea battle off the Yucatan peninsula in 1569, shark could in fact be a Mayan word.

8. Monkey

Chimpanzee looking surprised
iStock.com/photomaru

As well as meaning “to play the fool” or “to behave playfully”—as in “monkeying around”—monkey, like ape, can also be used to mean “to mimic” or “to copy someone’s movements or actions.”

9. Turtle

If a boat “turns turtle,” then it capsizes and flips over, so that it looks like a turtle’s domed shell floating atop the water. Because of that, to turtle something is to turn it upside down.

10. Snail

Burgundy snail
iStock.com/AlexRaths

For obvious reasons, snail has been used to mean “to move slowly” since the late 16th century, but because of the snail’s coiled shell, you can also use snail to mean “to draw or carve a spiral,” or “to roll into a spiral shape.”

11. Porcupine

Porcupine walking
iStock.com/ser-y-star

When your hair stands on end, feel free to say that it porcupined.

12. Canary

Canary birds take their name from the Canary Islands, which, somewhat confusingly, take their name from canis, the Latin word for “dog.” But in the 16th and 17th centuries, the canary was also the name of an energetic dance inspired by a traditional dance performed by the natives of the Canary Islands. And because of that, you can also use the word canary as a verb meaning “to dance in a lively fashion.”

13. Earwig

Earwig
iStock.com/Mr_Fu

Earwigs are so-called because they were once (thankfully erroneously) thought to crawl inside people’s ears as they slept. Through association with someone whispering clandestinely into someone’s ear, in the late 18th century eavesdroppers and people who seeked to secretly influence others became known as earwiggers—and so to earwig is to do precisely that.

14. Pig

Cute pig leaning on railing of his cot
iStock.com/Fotosmurf03

Pig has been used to mean “to give birth” since as far back as the 15th century in English (a fairly uncomplimentary allusion to a pregnant sow delivering a litter of piglets). But slightly less depreciatively, the living habits of pigs mean that it can also be used to mean “to huddle together,” or else “to live or sleep in crowded or dirty conditions.”

15. Dingo

A dingo
iStock.com/JohnCarnemolla

Because of their stereotypically sneaky behavior, to dingo on someone meant “to let down” or “to betray” them in 1930s Australian slang, while to dingo meant simply “to shirk” or “to back out of something at the last minute.”

This list first ran in 2016.

10 Facts About The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On its surface, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a straightforward story about a boy and a runaway slave floating down the Mississippi River. But underneath, the book—which was published in the U.S. on February 18, 1885—is a subversive confrontation of slavery and racism. It remains one of the most loved, and most banned, books in American history. 

1. Huckleberry Finn first appears in Tom Sawyer.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a sequel to Tom Sawyer, Twain’s novel about his childhood in Hannibal, Missouri. Huck is the “juvenile pariah of the village” and “son of the town drunkard,” Pap Finn. He wears cast-off adult clothes and sleeps in doorways and empty barrels. Despite this, the other children “wished they dared to be like him.” Huck also appears in Tom Sawyer, Detective, and Tom Sawyer Abroad, as well as the unfinished Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians.  

2. Huckleberry Finn may be based on Mark Twain's childhood friend.

Twain said Huck is based on Tom Blankenship, a childhood playmate whose father, Woodson Blankenship, was a poor drunkard and the likely model for Pap Finn. “In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was,” he wrote in Autobiography. “He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had." 

However, Twain may be exaggerating here. In 1885, when the Minneapolis Tribune asked who Huck was based on, Twain admitted it was no single person: “I could not point you out the youngster all in a lump; but still his story is what I call a true story.”

3. It took Twain seven years to write the book.

Huckleberry Finn was written in two short bursts. The first was in 1876, when Twain wrote 400 pages that he told his friend he liked “only tolerably well, as far as I have got, and may possibly pigeonhole or burn” the manuscript. He stopped working on it for several years to write The Prince and the Pauper and Life on the Mississippi.

In 1882, Twain took a steamboat ride on the Mississippi from New Orleans to Minnesota, with a stop in Hannibal. It must have inspired him, because he dove into finishing Huckleberry Finn. In August 1883, he wrote: “I have written eight or nine hundred manuscript pages in such a brief space of time that I mustn’t name the number of days; I shouldn’t believe it myself, and of course couldn’t expect you to.” The book was published in 1884. 

4. Like Huck, Twain changed his view of slavery.

Huck, who grows up in South before the Civil War, not only accepts slavery, but believes that helping Jim run away is a sin. The moral climax of the novel is when Huck debates whether to send Jim’s owner a letter detailing Jim’s whereabouts. Finally, Huck says, "All right, then, I'll go to hell,” and tears the letter up. 

As a child, Twain didn’t question the institution of slavery. Not only was Missouri a slave state, his uncle owned 20 slaves. In Autobiography, Twain wrote, “I vividly remember seeing a dozen black men and women chained to one another, once, and lying in a group on the pavement, awaiting shipment to the Southern slave market. Those were the saddest faces I have ever seen.”

At some point, Twain’s attitudes changed and he married into an abolitionist family. His father-in-law, Jervis Langdon, was a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad and housed Frederick Douglass.

5. Emmeline Grangerford is a parody of a Victorian poetaster.

Huckleberry Finn parodies adventure novels, politics, religion, the Hatfields and the McCoys, and even Hamlet’s soliloquy. But most memorable may be Emmeline Grangerford, the 15-year-old poet. Emmeline is a parody of Julia A. Moore, the “Sweet Singer of Michigan,” who wrote bad poetry about death. So does Emmeline, according to Huck: “Every time a man died, or a woman died, or a child died, she would be on hand with her "tribute" before he was cold. She called them tributes.” Along with bad poetry, Emmeline paints “crayons” of dramatic subjects, such as a girl “crying into a handkerchief” over a dead bird with the caption, "I Shall Never Hear Thy Sweet Chirrup More Alas."

6. A PENIS DRAWING ALMOST RUINED THE BOOK.

Twain, who ran his own printing press, hired 23-year-old E. W. Kemble to illustrate the first edition of Huckleberry Finn. Right as the book went to press, someone—it was never discovered who—added a penis to the illustration of Uncle Silas. The engraving shows Uncle Silas talking to Huck and Aunt Sally while a crude penis bulges from his pants. 

According to Twain’s business manager Charles Webster, 250 books were sent out before the mistake was caught. They were recalled and publication was postponed for a reprint. If the full run had been sent out, Webster said, Twain’s “credit for decency and morality would have been destroyed.” You can view Kemble’s original illustrations here.

7. Many consider Huckleberry Finn the first American novel.

“All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn,” Ernest Hemingway wrote in Green Hills Of Africa. “There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since." 

While this statement ignores great works like Moby-Dick and The Scarlet Letter, Huckleberry Finn was notable because it was the first novel to be written in the American vernacular. Huck speaks in dialect, using phrases like “it ain’t no matter” or "it warn’t no time to be sentimentering.” Since most writers of the time were still imitating European literature, writing the way Americans actually talked seemed revolutionary. It was language that was clear, crisp, and vivid, and it changed how Americans wrote. 

8. The end of the book is often considered a cop-out.

A major criticism of Huckleberry Finn is that the book begins to fail when Tom Sawyer enters the novel. Up until that point, Huck and Jim have developed a friendship bound by their mutual plight as runaways. We believe Huck cares about Jim and has learned to see his humanity. But when Tom Sawyer comes into the novel, Huck changes. He becomes passive and doesn’t even seem to care when Jim is captured.

To make matters worse, it turns out that Jim’s owner has already set him free, and that Huck’s abusive dad is dead. Essentially, Huck and Jim have been running away from nothing. Many, including American novelist Jane Smiley, believe that by slapping on a happy ending, Twain was ignoring the complex questions his book raises.

9. The book is frequently banned.

Huckleberry Finn was first banned in Concord, Massachussets in 1885 (“trash and suitable only for the slums”) and continues to be one of the most-challenged books.

The objections are usually over n-word, which occurs over 200 times in the book. Others say that the portrayal of African Americans is stereotypical, racially insensitive, or racist.

In 2011, Stephen Railton, a professor at University of Virginia, published a version of the book that replaced that offensive word with “slave.” Soon after appeared The Hipster Huckleberry Finn, where the word was replaced with “hipster.” The book's description says, “the adventures of Huckleberry Finn are now neither offensive nor uncool.”

10. Twain had some thoughts about the book's censorship.

In 1905, the Brooklyn Public Library removed Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer from the shelves because, as librarian wrote Twain, Huck is “a deceitful boy who said 'sweat' when he should have said 'perspiration.'" Here’s Twain’s reply: 

DEAR SIR:

I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again this side of the grave. Ask that young lady—she will tell you so.

Most honestly do I wish I could say a softening word or two in defence of Huck's character, since you wish it, but really in my opinion it is no better than those of Solomon, David, Satan, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood. 

If there is an unexpurgated Bible in the Children's Department, won't you please help that young woman remove Huck and Tom from that questionable companionship?

Sincerely yours,

S. L. Clemens

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