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The Surprisingly Scientific Origins of Your Car’s Air Freshener

It’s easy to overlook the things we see every day. How often do we stop and think about the decisions and thought processes that led to toothpaste, or duct tape, or those little tree-shaped air fresheners?

The history of Little Trees (their brand name) is indeed worth a second look. The car air fresheners have grown from their humble origins in Watertown, New York, to become a worldwide phenomenon. Known abroad as Magic Trees, Wunder-Baum, Boyut Promosyon, and Arbre Magique, the ubiquitous dangling trees have moved far beyond pine tree aromas. The trees were first patented in 1959. Today, the most popular fragrances are “Black Ice,” “Vanillaroma,” and “New Car Scent,” although “Royal Pine” is hanging in there. 

As the video from Great Big Story above shows, Little Trees can trace their roots to a grumbling milkman, a thoughtful chemist, and a whole lot of Canadian conifers. 

Header image from YouTube // Great Big Story 

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26 Facts About LEGO Bricks

Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

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Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
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Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.

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