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Check Out These 10 Facts About Plaid

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The unofficial uniform of farmers, grunge rock enthusiasts and many a twee hipster, plaid has been in style for some 3000 years. The proof: a group of archaeologists inspecting an ancient Chinese cemetery in 1978 uncovered the mummified body of a Celtic male wearing a red twill tunic and a pair of tartan leggings. Experts estimated the Caucasian male—later dubbed the Cherchen Man—died around 1000 BCE, showing the crosshatch pattern was cool with the ancient set. Read on to check out more fun facts.

1. IN 16TH CENTURY SCOTLAND, WEARING TARTAN WAS A WAY TO SHOW REGIONAL PRIDE.

As Brian Wilton, director of the Scottish Tartan Authority, explained to Pacific Standard magazine, residents in remote Scottish towns dressed the same by necessity. They bought their garb from the same place, “and the weaver would not be reproducing a choice of patterns, but a standard pattern using the colors available to him.” As trading increased access to different hues and patterns, sticking to the materials from your region became a way of showing off where you came from—the way a proud Boston native might rock a Patriots jersey on the streets of New York.

2. PLAID AND TARTAN AREN'T TECHNICALLY THE SAME THING.

Tartan is the correct word for that specific pattern unique to each Scottish clan or region. But the term plaid comes from the Gaelic word, plaide, which referred to the actual blanket or outer layer that kept Scots toasty during harsh weather. Though the terms are often used interchangeably nowadays, it's worth noting that while all tartans are plaids, not all plaids (simple checkered patterns, for example) are tartans.

3. FOR ALMOST FOUR DECADES, PUTTING ON PLAID WAS ILLEGAL …

After the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, the British parliament passed the Dress Act of 1746, which made wearing any tartan—the uniform associated with the rebel armies—illegal. Punishments for disobeying were harsh: imprisonment for the first offense, then deportation. And according to Jude Stewart’s 2015 book Patternalia, suspected plaid-lovers even had to take an oath: “I do swear … never [to] use any tartan, plaid or any part of the Highland garb; and if I do so, may I be cursed in my undertakings, family and property—may I never see my wife and children, father, mother and relations—may I be killed in battle as a coward, and lie without Christian burial, in a strange land.”

4. … YET A BRITISH MONARCH IS CREDITED WITH MAKING IT POPULAR AGAIN.


In 1822—40 years after the ban on plaid was lifted—King George IV made a visit to Scotland. It would be the first sojourn to the area by a reigning monarch since 1650. To mark the occasion, novelist Sir Walter Scott organized a welcome ceremony featuring hordes of Scots dressed in their regional tartans. The event led residents to become mad about plaid once more, helped by a king who decided to wear his own kilt (which turned out to be too short, requiring him to accessorize with some pink tights).

5. THE PLAID CRAZE HIT THE U.S. IN THE 19TH CENTURY.

In the mid 1800s, Pennsylvania company Woolrich Woolen Mills began producing the red-and-black Buffalo Check Plaid shirt, which became a hit with workers braving the cold outdoors. Legend says the pattern’s designer owned a herd of buffalo, which inspired the name.

6. A HARSH WINTER BOOSTED PLAID SALES.

During the particularly bitter winter of 1936, a New York feature writer bemoaned the lack of available red flannels. Writers at a Michigan newspaper, the Cedar Springs Clipper, read the piece and answered it with an editorial of their own, explaining that a local shop in their town had a plethora of such underwear available. When the Associated Press picked up the story, Pollock’s Store was inundated with orders for the cozy flannel. Today the small town (population: roughly 3500) marks the moment with a series of fall events called the Red Flannel Festival.

7. THE PATTERN GOT EDGY IN THE 1970s …

When Daisy Duke knotted a plaid shirt above her, well, daisy dukes on the popular series The Dukes of Hazzard, the rustic look gained a sexy edge. Meanwhile, across the pond, punk enthusiasts were reappropriating Queen Elizabeth II’s classic Royal Stewart Tartan. Wearing it in torn-up strips or as bondage wear was their way of giving the proverbial middle finger to the proverbial Man.

8. … THEN GRUNGY IN THE '90s.

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As bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam began, er, rocking plaid shirts, the checked flannel became the unofficial symbol of the grunge movement. The trend was also popular with the more fashionable set. See: Cher and Dionne’s stylish skirt suits in the 1995 hit Clueless, and Marc Jacobs’ plaid-heavy 1993 grunge collection for Perry Ellis.

9. THIRTY-FOUR STATES HAVE THEIR OWN OFFICIAL TARTAN.

Much like official flowers and birds, the patterns in these states have been adopted by legislators as legitimate state symbols. The entire country also celebrates National Tartan Day—established by Congress in 1997 as a way to recognize Scottish-American citizens—on April 6.

10. PLAID HAS EVEN BEEN TO THE MOON.

When astronaut Alan Bean traveled to the moon on November 19, 1969, as part of the Apollo 12 crew, he took half a yard of his family’s MacBean tartan with him. However, despite popular legend, he did not leave a scrap behind.

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Medicine
Charles Dickens Museum Highlights the Author's Contributions to Science and Medicine

Charles Dickens is celebrated for his verbose prose and memorable opening lines, but lesser known are his contributions to science—particularly the field of medicine.

A new exhibition at London’s Charles Dickens Museum—titled "Charles Dickens: Man of Science"—is showcasing the English author’s scientific side. In several instances, the writer's detailed descriptions of medical conditions predated and sometimes even inspired the discovery of several diseases, The Guardian reports.

In his novel Dombey and Son, the character of Mrs. Skewton was paralyzed on her right side and unable to speak. Dickens was the first person to document this inexplicable condition, and a scientist later discovered that one side of the brain was largely responsible for speech production. "Fat boy" Joe, a character in The Pickwick Papers who snored loudly while sleeping, later lent his namesake to Pickwickian Syndrome, otherwise known as obesity hypoventilation syndrome.

A figurine of Fat Boy Joe
Courtesy of the Charles Dickens Museum

Dickens also wrote eloquently about the symptoms of tuberculosis and dyslexia, and some of his passages were used to teach diagnosis to students of medicine.

“Dickens is an unbelievably acute observer of human behaviors,” museum curator Frankie Kubicki told The Guardian. “He captures these behaviors so perfectly that his descriptions can be used to build relationships between symptoms and disease.”

Dickens was also chummy with some of the leading scientists of his day, including Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, and chemist Jane Marcet, and the exhibition showcases some of the writer's correspondence with these notable figures. Beyond medicine, Dickens also contributed to the fields of chemistry, geology, and environmental science.

Less scientifically sound was the author’s affinity for mesmerism, a form of hypnotism introduced in the 1770s as a method of controlling “animal magnetism,” a magnetic fluid which proponents of the practice believed flowed through all people. Dickens studied the methods of mesmerism and was so convinced by his powers that he later wrote, “I have the perfect conviction that I could magnetize a frying-pan.” A playbill of Animal Magnetism, an 1857 production that Dickens starred in, is also part of the exhibit.

A play script from Animal Magnetism
Courtesy of the Charles Dickens Museum

Located at 48-49 Doughty Street in London, the exhibition will be on display until November 11, 2018.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Words
Beyond Wanderlust: 30 Words Every Traveler Should Know
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For those who travel, wanderlust is a familiar feeling. It’s that nagging voice in your head that says, “Yes, you do need to book that flight,” even if your bank account says otherwise. Regardless of how many passport covers this word may adorn, it doesn’t begin to cover the spectrum of emotions and experiences that can be revealed through the act of travel. Here are 30 travel words from around the world to keep in your back pocket as you're exploring this summer.

1. VAGARY

From the Latin vagari, meaning “to wander,” this 16th-century word originally meant a wandering journey. Nowadays, "vagaries" refer to unpredictable or erratic situations, but that doesn’t mean the old sense of the word can’t be invoked from time to time.

2. SELCOUTH

An Old English word that refers to something that’s both strange and marvelous. It's a great way to sum up those seemingly indescribable moments spent in an unfamiliar land.

3. FERNWEH

Who hasn’t felt a strong desire to be somewhere—anywhere—other than where you currently are? That’s fernweh, or “farsickness," and this German word has been described as a cousin of wanderlust, another German loan word.

4. DÉPAYSEMENT

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Anyone who has traveled abroad will recognize this feeling. The French word refers to the sense of disorientation that often sets in when you step outside your comfort zone, such as when you leave your home country.

5. DÉRIVE

Another gift from the French, this word literally translates to “drift,” but thanks to some mid-20th century French philosophers, it can also refer to a spontaneous trip, completely free of plans, in which you let your surroundings guide you.

6. PEREGRINATE

To peregrinate is to travel from place to place, especially on foot. Its Latin root, peregrinus (meaning “foreign”), is also where the peregrine falcon (literally “pilgrim falcon”) gets its name.

7. PERAMBULATE

Similar to peregrinate, this word essentially means to travel over or through an area by foot. So instead of saying that you’ll be walking around London, you can say you’ll be perambulating the city’s streets—much more sophisticated.

8. NUMINOUS

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This English word could appropriately be used to describe the Grand Canyon or the Northern Lights. Something numinous is awe-inspiring and mysterious. It's difficult to understand from a rational perspective, which gives it a spiritual or unearthly quality.

9. PERIPATETIC

The young and the restless will want to incorporate this word into their lexicon. The adjective refers to those who are constantly moving from place to place—in other words, a nomadic existence. It stems from the Greek word peripatein (“to walk up and down”), which was originally associated with Aristotle and the shaded walkways near his school (or, according to legend, his habit of pacing back and forth during lectures).

10. WALDEINSAMKEIT

You’re alone in a forest. It’s peaceful. The sun is filtering through the trees and there’s a light breeze. That’s waldeinsamkeit. (Literally "forest solitude." And yes, Germans have all the best travel words.)

11. SHINRIN-YOKU

In a similar vein, this Japanese word means “forest bathing,” and it's considered a form of natural medicine and stress reliever. There are now forest bathing clubs around the world, but you can try it out for yourself on your next camping trip. Take deep breaths, close your eyes, and take in the smells and sounds of the forest. Simple.

12. SOLIVAGANT

In those moments when you just want to run away from your responsibilities, you may consider becoming a solivagant: a solo wanderer.

13. YOKO MESHI

This Japanese phrase literally translates to “a meal eaten sideways,” which is an apt way to describe the awkwardness of speaking in a foreign language that you haven’t quite mastered, especially over dinner.

14. RESFEBER

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You just booked your flight. Your heart starts racing. You’re a little nervous about your journey, but mostly you just can’t wait to get going. The anticipation, anxiety, and excitement you get before a big trip is all rolled into one word—resfeber—and you can thank the Swedes for it.

15. FLÂNEUR

Taken from the French flâner, meaning to stroll or saunter, this word describes someone who has no particular plans or place they need to be. They merely stroll around the city at a leisurely pace, taking in the sights and enjoying the day as it unfolds.

16. GADABOUT

This could be construed as the traditional English equivalent of flâneur. Likely stemming from the Middle English verb gadden, meaning “to wander without a specific aim or purpose,” a gadabout is one who frequently travels from place to place for the sheer fun of it. In other words: a modern-day backpacker.

17. HIRAETH

Sometimes, no matter how amazing your vacation may be, you just want to come home to your bed and cats. This Welsh word sums up the deep yearning for home that can strike without warning. As Gillian Thomas put it in an interview with the BBC, “Home sickness is too weak. You feel hiraeth, which is a longing of the soul to come home to be safe.”

18. YŪGEN

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This Japanese word can be taken to mean “graceful elegance” or “subtle mystery,” but it’s much more than that. It's when the beauty of the universe is felt most profoundly, awakening an emotional response that goes beyond words.

19. SCHWELLENANGST

Translating to “threshold anxiety,” this German word sums up the fears that are present before you enter somewhere new—like a theater or an intimidating cafe—and by extension going anywhere unfamiliar. The fear of crossing a threshold is normal, even among the most adventurous of travelers—but it often leads to the most unforgettable experiences.

20. COMMUOVERE

Have you ever seen something so beautiful it made you cry? That’s commuovere in action. The Italian word describes the feeling of being moved, touched, or stirred by something you witness or experience.

21. HYGGE

This Danish word refers to a warm feeling of contentedness and coziness, as well as the acknowledgement of that feeling. Although not explicitly related to this term, author Kurt Vonnegut summed up the idea behind this concept quite nicely when he said, “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"

22. HANYAUKU

Here's one for those who have a beach trip coming up. Taken from Kwangali, a language spoken in Namibia, hanyauku is the act of tiptoeing across hot sand.

23. SMULTRONSTÄLLE

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This Swedish word translates to something along the lines of “place of wild strawberries,” but its metaphorical meaning is something along the lines of a "happy place." Whether it’s a hidden overlook of the city or your favorite vacation spot that hasn’t been “discovered” yet, smultronställe refers to those semi-secret places you return to time and time again because they’re special and personal to you.

24. DUSTSCEAWUNG

This Old English word describes what might happen when you visit a place like Pompeii or a ghost town. While reflecting on past civilizations, you realize that everything will eventually turn to dust. A cheery thought.

25. VACILANDO

In some Spanish dialects, the word vacilando describes someone who travels with a vague destination in mind but has no real incentive to get there. In other words, the journey is more important than the destination. As John Steinbeck described it in his travelogue Travels With Charley: “It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere, but doesn't greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction. My friend Jack Wagner has often, in Mexico, assumed this state of being. Let us say we wanted to walk in the streets of Mexico city but not at random. We would choose some article almost certain not to exist there and then diligently try to find it.”

26. LEHITKALEV

Backpackers and budget travelers, this one is for you: The Hebrew word lehitkalev translates to “dog it” and means to deal with uncomfortable living or travel arrangements.

27. KOMOREBI

Sun shining in the woods
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This beautiful Japanese word is a good one to save for a sunny day spent in the woods. Komorebi translates to “sunshine filtering through the leaves.” Does it get any lovelier than that?

28. RAMÉ

This Balinese word refers to something that is simultaneously chaotic and joyful. It isn’t specifically a travel word, but it does seem to fit the feelings that are often awakened by travel.

29. TROUVAILLE

Translating to a “lucky find,” this French word can be applied to that cool cafe, flower-lined street, or quirky craft store that you stumbled upon by chance. Indeed, these are the moments that make travel worthwhile.

30. ULLASSA

Just in case you needed another reason to plan that trip to Yosemite, here's one last word for nature lovers. The Sanskrit word ullassa refers to the feelings of pleasantness that come from observing natural beauty in all its glory.

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