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12 Gloriumptious Facts About Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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Did you know that in the first draft of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie is encased in chocolate and given to another child as an Easter present? Or that the book's original title was Charlie's Chocolate Boy? Or that Dahl was working on a third book about Charlie at the time of his death? Here are some more fascinating facts about the development of this classic children’s book.

1. AS A BOY, DAHL WAS A TASTER FOR A CHOCOLATE COMPANY.

Dahl based Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on his experiences as a taster for Cadbury. When he was 13, Cadbury would send Dahl's school boxes of chocolates for the boys to taste test—kind of like an early focus group. The boxes contained 12 chocolate bars wrapped in foil—one “control” bar and 11 new flavors. As a child, Dahl fantasized about working in a chocolate inventing room, an idea that came back to him when he began writing his second children’s book.

2. CHOCOLATE ESPIONAGE WAS A REAL THING.

The chocolate spies who try to steal Willy Wonka’s inventions for rival candy makers were not entirely a product of Dahl’s imagination. In the 1920s, competition among chocolatiers was so fierce that companies sent spies to steal each other’s innovations. Trade secrets were guarded and employees were monitored for suspicious activities. During Dahl’s childhood, the British candy firms Cadbury and Rowntree's became such vicious competitors that stories about their spying became the stuff of legend.

3. THE ORIGINAL TITLE WAS CHARLIE'S CHOCOLATE BOY.

The first draft of the book, titled Charlie's Chocolate Boy, was completely different from the published version. In it, Charlie enters a room filled with chocolate eggs “the size of automobiles” and life-sized chocolate animals and people. He tries on a mold for making chocolate boys and becomes encased in chocolate. Willy Wonka, unaware that a real boy is inside the chocolate, gives Charlie to his son for Easter. Charlie then thwarts a robbery and Mr. Wonka rewards him with an enormous chocolate shop nine-stories high.

4. THERE WERE MANY OTHER KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EARLY DRAFTS AND THE PUBLISHED BOOK.

In addition to the familiar characters—Charlie Bucket, Augustus Gloop, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teavee, and Veruca Salt—early drafts had a host of other characters and different parts of the chocolate factory. Originally, Dahl wanted at least twice as many kids to take a trip to Wonka's factory: The author's lost first draft may have had 15 children, according to a spokesperson from his literary estate, while later drafts (including the one read by Lucy Mangan for her book Inside Charlie's Chocolate Factory: The Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket, and Roald Dahl's Most Famous Creation) put the number at 10 kids. In either case, Dahl quickly realized that was far too many characters and reduced the number to a more manageable five.

In the years since the book's release, many of the cut chapters have been “rediscovered” among Dahl’s papers and published online. For example, there's a chapter in which Willy Wonka takes the kids into the Vanilla Fudge Room, which has “a colossal jagged mountain as high as a five-storey building, and the whole thing was made of pale-brown, creamy, vanilla fudge.” Two of the now-excised children, Wilbur Rice and Tommy Troutbeck, disobey Mr. Wonka and ride on the railway wagon straight into the Pounding And Cutting Room. (You can read the chapter here).

In what was possibly the second draft of the book, Dahl has the children tour the Warming-Candy Room, where an elaborate machine makes a candy that warms you up when you eat it. Clarence Crump, Bertie Upside, and Terence Roper greedily eat handfuls of the stuff before learning the hard way that you’re only supposed to have one warming-candy at a time. (You can read that chapter here.)

5. A CHARACTER NAMED MIRANDA PIKER WAS TURNED INTO PEANUT BRITTLE.

“I remember one small girl I slung out of the book, who was called Miranda Mary Piker,” Dahl once recalled. “She was the filthiest, rudest, and most disobedient creature you could imagine.” In early drafts, Miranda falls into the chocolate waterfall and winds up in the peanut brittle room, where, according to an Oompa-Loompa song, she's turned into peanut brittle. ("And her parents will have surely understood / That instead of saying, 'Miranda, / Oh the beast we cannot stand her!' / They'll be saying, 'Oh, how tasty and how good!'")

Though Miranda was cut from the book, in 1973, Dahl published Miranda's chapter, called "Spotty Powder," as a short story in Puffin Post magazine. She and her parents try to smash the Spotty Powder machine and discover what the candy is really made of.

6. THE OOMPA-LOOMPAS WERE ALMOST CALLED WHIPPLE-SCRUMPETS.

Dahl changed almost all of the character names except Charlie's. Along with the Whipple-Scrumpets, Violet Beauregarde’s original last name was Glockenberry, Veruca Salt was Elvira Entwhistle, Mike Teavee was Herpes Trout, and Augustus Gloop was Augustus Pottle. Willy Wonka was Mr. Ritchie until Dahl renamed him after a boomerang his brother Louis invented when they were kids. It was called a Skilly Wonka. 

7. THE OOMPA-LOOMPAS WERE FIRST DEPICTED AS AFRICAN PYGMIES.

When Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published in 1964, the Oompa-Loompas were described as African pygmies that Willy Wonka “discovered” and shipped to England “in large packing cases with holes in them.” In the 1970s, the NAACP and others groups criticized this portrayal as racist. Dahl rewrote the Oompa-Loompas, describing them as small people with white skin and long golden brown hair who come from Loompaland. (The orange skin and green hair were added for the 1971 film.)

8. DAHL EXPERIENCED TWO MAJOR TRAGEDIES WHILE WRITING CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.

While writing the book, Dahl experienced two of the biggest tragedies of his life: The first occurred in 1960, when a taxi hit his son Theo, who was riding in a baby carriage. The child developed hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid in his brain cavities that led to high fevers and temporary blindness and required that the young boy be put through a series of operations. Not content to sit by idly and watch his child suffer, Dahl became an active participant in Theo's recovery. With the help of toymaker Stanley Wade and Theo’s neurosurgeon, Kenneth Till, the trio developed a shunt that helped to alleviate the condition. It became known as the Wade-Dahl-Till valve.

Then, just as Theo was recovering, Dahl’s daughter Olivia came down with measles, which developed into measles encephalitis; she passed away not long after. Dahl was devastated. His wife, actress Patricia Neal, later said he “all but lost his mind.”

9. THE MOVIE WAS A BOX OFFICE FLOP.

The 1971 movie Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder, made only $4 million at the box office. Dahl reportedly hated the film, too. It wasn’t until Warner Bros. started airing the movie on TV that it became popular. (On the other hand, the 2005 movie starring Johnny Depp was a big hit.)

10. THERE'S A REASON WHY THE MOVIE STARS WILLY WONKA.

Though the book is called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the 1971 movie is named after Willy Wonka. There are two reasons for this: When the NAACP was protesting the Oompa-Loompas, they also demanded that the movie’s title be changed so as not to promote the book among viewers of the movie. The second reason for shifting the main character focus was because the movie was financed by Quaker Oats, who were looking at it as a way of advertising a new line of chocolate bars that they were about to produce. Eventually, they settled on calling the new bar the Wonka Bar, and with that they chose to rename the entire movie after Willy Wonka as a promotional tie-in. (Because really, what better way is there to sell candy bars than with the suggestion of light cannibalism?)

11. THERE WAS GOING TO BE A THIRD CHARLIE BOOK.

The book’s sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, was released in 1972. Dahl was working on a third book titled Charlie in the White House when he died in 1990. It was never completed.

12. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY CONTINUES TO INSPIRE OTHER ENTERTAINMENT.

Aside from the two movies, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been adapted into a musical, an opera, and two video games (including a 1985 game by ZX Spectrum). There’s even a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride at the Alton Towers theme park in the U.K. And let’s not forget the band Veruca Salt, named after the spoiled little girl who’s labeled a “bad nut” and sent down a garbage chute by Willy Wonka’s trained squirrels.

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10 Facts About Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary
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October 16 is World Dictionary Day, which each year celebrates the birthday of the American lexicographer Noah Webster, who was born in Connecticut in 1758. Last year, Mental Floss marked the occasion with a list of facts about Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language—the enormous two-volume dictionary, published in 1828 when Webster was 70 years old, that established many of the differences that still divide American and British English to this day. But while Webster was America’s foremost lexicographer, on the other side of the Atlantic, Great Britain had Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Johnson—whose 308th birthday was marked with a Google Doodle in September—published the equally groundbreaking Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, three years before Webster was even born. Its influence was arguably just as great as that of Webster’s, and it remained the foremost dictionary of British English until the early 1900s when the very first installments of the Oxford English Dictionary began to appear.

So to mark this year’s Dictionary Day, here are 10 facts about Johnson’s monumental dictionary.

1. IT WASN’T THE FIRST DICTIONARY.

With more than 40,000 entries, Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language was certainly the largest dictionary in the history of the English language at the time but, despite popular opinion, it wasn’t the first. Early vocabularies and glossaries were being compiled as far back as the Old English period, when lists of words and their equivalents in languages like Latin and French first began to be used by scribes and translators. These were followed by educational word lists and then early bilingual dictionaries that began to emerge in the 16th century, which all paved the way for what is now considered the very first English dictionary: Robert Cawdrey’s Table Alphabeticall—in 1604.

2. SAMUEL JOHNSON BORROWED FROM THE DICTIONARIES THAT CAME BEFORE HIS.

In compiling his dictionary, Johnson drew on Nathan Bailey’s Dictionarium Britanicum, which had been published in 1730. (Ironically, a sequel to Bailey’s dictionary, A New Universal Etymological English Dictionary, was published in the same year as Johnson’s, and borrowed heavily from his work; its author, Joseph Nicoll Scott, even gave Johnson some credit for its publication.)

But just as Johnson had borrowed from Bailey and Scott had borrowed from Johnson, Bailey, too had borrowed from an earlier work—namely John Kersey’s Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum (1708)—which was based in part on a technical vocabulary, John Harris’s Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. Lexicographic plagiarism was nothing new.

3. THE DICTIONARY WASN’T THE ONLY THING JOHNSON WROTE.

Although he’s best remembered as a lexicographer today, Johnson was actually something of a literary multitasker. As a journalist, he wrote for an early periodical called The Gentlemen’s Magazine. As a biographer, he wrote the Life of Mr Richard Savage (1744), a memoir of a friend and fellow writer who had died the previous year. Johnson also wrote numerous poems (London, published anonymously in 1738, was his first major published work), a novel (Rasselas, 1759), a stage play (Irene, 1749), and countless essays and critiques. He also co-edited an edition of Shakespeare’s plays. And in between all of that, he even found time to investigate a supposed haunted house in central London.

4. IT WAS THE FIRST DICTIONARY TO USE QUOTATIONS.

Johnson’s dictionary defined some 42,773 words, each of which was given a uniquely scholarly definition, complete with a suggested etymology and an armory of literary quotations—no fewer than 114,000 of them, in fact.

Johnson lifted quotations from books dating back to the 16th century for the citations in his dictionary, and relied heavily on the works of authors he admired and who were popular at the time—Shakespeare, John Milton, Alexander Pope, and Edmund Spenser included. In doing so, he established a lexicographic trend that still survives in dictionaries to this day.

5. IT TOOK MORE THAN EIGHT YEARS TO WRITE.

Defining 42,000 words and finding 114,000 quotes to help you do so takes time: Working from his home off Fleet Street in central London, Johnson and six assistants worked solidly for over eight years to bring his dictionary to print. (Webster, on the other hand, worked all but single-handedly, and used the 22 years it took him to compile his American Dictionary to learn 26 different languages.)

6. JOHNSON WAS WELL PAID FOR HIS TROUBLES.

Johnson was commissioned to write his dictionary by a group of London publishers, who paid him a princely 1,500 guineas—equivalent to roughly $300,000 (£225,000) today.

7. HE LEFT OUT A LOT OF WORDS.

The dictionary’s 42,000-word vocabulary might sound impressive, but it’s believed that the English language probably had as many as five times that many words around the time the dictionary was published in 1755. A lot of that shortfall was simply due to oversight: Johnson included the word irritable in four of his definitions, for instance, but didn’t list it as a headword in his own dictionary. He also failed to include a great many words found in the works of the authors he so admired, and in several of the source dictionaries he utilized, and in some cases he even failed to include the root forms of words whose derivatives were listed elsewhere in the dictionary. Athlete, for instance, didn’t make the final cut, whereas athletic did.

Johnson’s imposition of his own tastes and interests on his dictionary didn't help matters either. His dislike of French, for example, led to familiar words like unique, champagne, and bourgeois being omitted, while those he did include were given a thorough dressing down: ruse is defined as “a French word neither elegant nor necessary,” while finesse is dismissed as “an unnecessary word that is creeping into the language."

8. HE LEFT OUT THE LETTER X.

    At the foot of page 2308 of Johnson’s Dictionary is a note merely reading, “X is a letter which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language."

    9. HIS DEFINITIONS WEREN’T ALWAYS SO SCHOLARLY.

      As well as imposing his own taste on his dictionary, Johnson also famously employed his own sense of humor on his work. Among the most memorable of all his definitions is his explanation of oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” But he also defined monsieur as “a term of reproach for a Frenchman,” excise as “a hateful tax levied upon commodities and adjudged not by the common judges of property but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid,” and luggage as “anything of more weight than value.” As an example of how to use the word dull, he explained that “to make dictionaries is dull work.”

      10. HE POKED LOTS OF FUN AT HIS OWN OCCUPATION.

      Listed on page 1195 of his dictionary, Johnson’s definition of lexicographer was “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.”

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      Inside This Pop-Up Book Are a Planetarium, a Speaker, a Decoder Ring, and More
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      Designer Kelli Anderson's new book is for more than just reading. This Book Is a Planetarium is really a collection of paper gadgets. With each thick, card stock page you turn, another surprise pops out.

      "This book concisely explains—and actively demonstrates with six functional pop-up paper contraptions—the science at play in our everyday world," the book's back cover explains. It turns out, there's a whole lot you can do with a few pieces of paper and a little bit of imagination.

      A book is open to reveal a spiralgraph inside.
      Courtesy Chronicle Books

      There's the eponymous planetarium, a paper dome that you can use with your cell phone's flashlight to project constellations onto the ceiling. There's a conical speaker, which you can use to amplify a smaller music player. There's a spiralgraph you can use to make geometric designs. There's a basic cipher you can use to encode and decode secret messages, and on its reverse side, a calendar. There's a stringed musical instrument you can play on. All are miniature, functional machines that can expand your perceptions of what a simple piece of paper can become.

      The cover of This Book Is a Planetarium
      Courtesy Chronicle Books

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