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10 Geeky Place Card Ideas for Thanksgiving

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If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this week (and simply can't be trusted with turkey prep), you may find yourself in charge of place cards. You could just scribble names on a handprint turkey, but you could also seize this opportunity to give thanks for all things geeky. Here are a few ways to do just that.

1. SCRABBLE TILES

Pull out a handful and spell out guests' names on their plates—though you could be in trouble if you have more than one friend or family member with a “Z” or a “Q” in their names. Bonus: No pieces have to be harmed in the making of your place cards. After the meal is over, simply dump the tiles back into the bag.

2. LEGOS

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It doesn’t get much easier than snapping together a couple of LEGOs and sticking a name card in the middle.

3. LEGO MINIFIGS

Minifig hands are practically made for holding onto a small name card. Bonus geek points if yours are from a Star Wars set.

4. HARRY POTTER

Although Harry had to search through hundreds of keys to find the right one in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, your guests won’t have to look that hard. Just attach a vintage key to each place card—or if you’re feeling really ambitious, suspend each one above the table's place settings using fishing line.

5. LIBRARY "DATE DUE" CARDS

Do you yearn for the days when libraries actually stamped your due dates, in ink, on real paper? Though that method seems to mostly be a thing of the past, you can always recreate the effect via your table settings. You can also make (or buy!) ones that look like library cards.

6. PEZ DISPENSERS

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Personalize each place card by choosing dispensers that match your guests’ personalities. But tread lightly—unpleasant family members will definitely know what you’re getting at if you assign them the Wicked Witch of the West dispenser.

7. DINOSAURS

You don't have to sit at the kiddie table to play with dinosaurs. Indulge your inner paleontologist and spray paint some plastic dinosaur toys in fun colors. You can opt for a bold color scheme, or class it up with a coat of gold.

8. BOARD GAME PIECES

Delight your board game-loving guests with place cards featuring old game pieces and cards. Use classics like checkers or dominoes for a vintage vibe, or, for a quirkier approach, break out pieces from Operation and Mouse Trap.

9. BOOKMARKS

Why not give your guests a place card they can actually use again? Any bookmark would do, or you can consider getting one to suit the interests of each guest. Dr. Who? Stephen King? Horse-like fantasy creatures? It's all out there.

10. ANATOMICALLY CORRECT PLACE CARDS

If you're still mad that Halloween is over, go ahead and bring a little of that dark decor to your Thanksgiving table setting. There's a certain elegance in anatomical sketches, don't you think?

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?
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For carbohydrate consumers, nothing completes a Thanksgiving meal like stuffing—shovelfuls of bread, celery, mushrooms, and other ingredients that complement all of that turkey protein.

Some people don’t say “stuffing,” though. They say “dressing.” In these calamitous times, knowing how to properly refer to the giant glob of insulin-spiking bread seems necessary. So what's the difference?

Let’s dismiss one theory off the bat: Dressing and stuffing do not correlate with how the side dish is prepared. A turkey can be stuffed with dressing, and stuffing can be served in a casserole dish. Whether it’s ever seen the inside of a bird is irrelevant, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong and should be met with suspicion, if not outright derision.

The terms are actually separated due to regional dialects. “Dressing” seems to be the favored descriptor for southern states like Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, while “stuffing” is preferred by Maine, New York, and other northern areas. (Some parts of Pennsylvania call it "filling," which is a bit too on the nose, but to each their own.)

If “stuffing” stemmed from the common practice of filling a turkey with carbs, why the division? According to The Huffington Post, it may have been because Southerners considered the word “stuffing” impolite, so never embraced it.

While you should experience no material difference in asking for stuffing or dressing, when visiting relatives it might be helpful to keep to their regionally-preferred word to avoid confusion. Enjoy stuffing yourselves.

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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High School's Anonymous Pantry Offers Discreet Access to Necessities
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Being a teenager is tough enough without having to worry where your next meal is coming from. At Washington High School in Washington, North Carolina, students are able to access an in-house pantry stocked with basic resources, away from the prying eyes of their peers.

In 2015, the high school’s former principal Misty Walker opened a hygiene closet in partnership with Bright Futures, an organization dedicated to helping schools in the community. She told the Huffington Post that she got the idea after being approached by students looking for basic items like toothbrushes and toothpaste. Today, the pantry stocks food, clothing, and school supplies provided by local donors.

If students ever wish to use the closet, all they need to do is confide in a teacher, counselor, or administrator. They will then be taken by a staff member to one of the school’s pantries where they can shop in a private setting free from stigma. Because the program is anonymous, there are no flyers hung up advertising the pantry. Instead, the administration relies on word of mouth to spread the news.

Washington High School's assistant vice principal Melissa Harris took over the project following Walker's departure, and she tells Mental Floss that today it's stronger than ever. "The food pantry is being replenished by partners and student organizations," she says. "Our carpentry kids are also participating in the overhaul and design of the new space. The toiletry closet and clothes closet are in constant use and our partners are assisting in keeping that replenished and it has been a blessing to our students."

Some high schools across the country have followed Washington's lead in recent years. William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware, and Northridge High School in Layton, Utah, are just a few of the institutions with similar programs.

But Washington High remains ahead of the curve. In preparation for the holidays, the school is hosting food drives for its December backpack program: The plan is to send students home with backpacks filled with two weeks' worth of supplies to get them through the long break. 

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