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116 Amazing Facts for People Who Like Amazing Facts

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1. The first webcam watched a coffee pot. It allowed researchers at Cambridge to monitor the coffee situation without leaving their desks.

2. Between 1912 and 1948, art competitions were a part of the Olympics. Medals were awarded for architecture, music, painting, and sculpture.

3. The entire state of Wyoming only has two escalators.

4. The ampersand symbol is formed from the letters in et—the Latin word for "and."

5. Ravens in captivity can learn to talk better than parrots.

6. The actor who was inside R2-D2 hated the guy who played C-3PO, calling him "the rudest man I've ever met."

7. It's a myth that no two snowflakes are exactly the same. In 1988, a scientist found two identical snow crystals. They came from a storm in Wisconsin.

8. When Disneyland opened in 1955, "Tomorrowland" was designed to look like a year in the distant future: 1986.

9. Before George W. Bush took office, some Clinton staffers canvassed the White House offices and removed the W key from over 60 keyboards.

10. When the last official Blockbuster Video closed in November 2013, the final rental was the apocalyptic comedy This Is the End.

11. The German word kummerspeck means excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.

12. The collective noun for a group of pugs is a grumble.

13. In 1939, Hitler's nephew wrote an article called "Why I Hate My Uncle." He came to the U.S., served in the Navy, and settled on Long Island.

14. According to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, 44 percent of Bob Ross's paintings contain at least one "happy little cloud."

15. On an April day in 1930, the BBC reported, "There is no news." Instead they played piano music.

16. Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue" was penned by beloved children's author Shel Silverstein.

17. Ben & Jerry learned how to make ice cream by taking a $5 correspondence course offered by Penn State. (They decided to split one course.)

18. The word "PEZ" comes from the German word for peppermint—PfeffErminZ.

19. In the 1970s, Mattel sold a doll called "Growing Up Skipper." Her breasts grew when her arm was turned.

20. Before Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, a reporter asked, "Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?"

21. In the 1980s, Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel was spending $2,500 a month on rubber bands just to hold all their cash.

22. The inventor of the AK-47 has said he wishes he'd invented something to help farmers instead — "for example a lawnmower."

23. The Vatican Bank is the world's only bank that allows ATM users to perform transactions in Latin.

24. The duffel bag gets its name from the town of Duffel, Belgium, where the cloth used in the bags was originally sold.

25. James Avery ("Uncle Phil" on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) was the voice of Shredder on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.

26. At Fatburger, you can order a "Hypocrite"—a veggie burger topped with crispy strips of bacon.

27. When asked who owned the patent on the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk said, "Well, the people. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?"

28. The Q in Q-tips stands for quality.

29. Editor Bennett Cerf challenged Dr. Seuss to write a book using no more than 50 different words. The result? Green Eggs and Ham.

30. The act of stretching and yawning is called pandiculation.

31. Sea cucumbers eat with their feet.

32. A murder suspect was convicted after the broken-off leg of a grasshopper in his pants cuff turned out to be a perfect match for an insect found near the victim's body.

33. After an online vote in 2011, Toyota announced that the official plural of Prius was Prii.

34. In his book, Dick Cheney says his yellow lab Dave was banned from Camp David for attacking President Bush's dog Barney.

35. Lyme disease is named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where several cases were identified in 1975.

36. Reno is farther west than Los Angeles.

37. William Faulkner refused a dinner invitation from JFK's White House. "Why that’s a hundred miles away," he said. "That’s a long way to go just to eat."

38. In 1907, an ad campaign for Kellogg's Corn Flakes offered a free box of cereal to any woman who would wink at her grocer.

39. Why did the FBI call Ted Kaczynski "The Unabomber"? Because his early mail bombs were sent to universities (UN) & airlines (A).

40. Obsessive nose picking is called rhinotillexomania.

41. "Silver Bells" was called "Tinkle Bells" until co-composer Jay Livingston’s wife told him "tinkle" had another meaning.

42. Michael Jackson's 1988 autobiography Moonwalk was edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

43. How did Curious George get to America? He was captured in Africa by The Man With the Yellow Hat — with his yellow hat.

44. In the early stage version of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s faithful companion Toto was replaced by a cow named Imogene.

45. Tobias Fünke's "nevernude" condition on Arrested Development is real. It's called "gymnophobia" — the fear of nude bodies.

46. Hawaiian Punch was originally developed as a tropical flavored ice cream topping.

47. Andy's evil neighbor Sid from Toy Story returns briefly as the garbage man in Toy Story 3.

48. Jacuzzi is a brand name. You can also buy Jacuzzi toilets and mattresses.

49. During a 2004 episode of Sesame Street, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

50. Roger Ebert and Oprah Winfrey went on a couple dates in the mid-1980s. It was Roger who convinced her to syndicate her talk show.

51. Fredric Baur invented the Pringles can. When he passed away in 2008, his ashes were buried in one.

52. When he appeared on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!, Bill Clinton correctly answered three questions about My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

53. The archerfish knocks its insect prey out of over-hanging branches with a stream of spit.

54. There really was a Captain Morgan. He was a Welsh pirate who later became the lieutenant governor of Jamaica.

55. In 1961, Martha Stewart was selected as one of Glamour magazine;s "Ten Best-Dressed College Girls."

56. At the 1905 wedding of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, President Teddy Roosevelt gave away the bride.

57. Sorry, parents. According to NASA's FAQ page, "There are no plans at this time to send children into space."

58. God and Jesus are the only characters on The Simpsons with a full set of fingers and toes.

59. The sum of all the numbers on a roulette wheel is 666.

60. Only one McDonald's in the world has turquoise arches. Government officials in Sedona, Arizona, thought the yellow would look bad with the natural red rock of the city.

61. Brenda Lee was only 13 when she recorded "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

62. Dolly Parton once entered a Dolly Parton look-a-like contest—and lost.

63. During the Coolidge presidency, the First Family had a pet raccoon named Rebecca who liked to play in the White House bathtub.

64. After OutKast sang "Shake it like a Polaroid picture," Polaroid released this statement: "Shaking or waving can actually damage the image."

65. In Peanuts in 1968, Snoopy trained to become a champion arm-wrestler. In the end, he was disqualified for not having thumbs.

66. In France, the Ashton Kutcher/Natalie Portman movie No Strings Attached was called Sex Friends.

67. The famous "Heisman pose" is based on Ed Smith, a former NYU running back who modeled for the trophy’s sculptor in 1934.

68. For $45, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing will sell you a 5-lb bag with $10,000 worth of shredded U.S. currency.

69. Before going with Blue Devils, Duke considered the nicknames Blue Eagles, Royal Blazes, Blue Warriors and Polar Bears.

70. At an NOAA conference in 1972, Roxcy Bolton proposed naming hurricanes after Senators instead of women. She also preferred "him-i-canes."

71. For one day in 1998, Topeka, Kansas, renamed itself "ToPikachu" to mark Pokemon's U.S. debut.

72. Before settling on the Seven Dwarfs we know today, Disney also considered Chesty, Tubby, Burpy, Deafy, Hickey, Wheezy, and Awful.

73. The Dictionary of American Slang defines "happy cabbage" as money to be spent "on entertainment or other self-satisfying things."

74. Herbert Hoover was Stanford's football team manager. At the first Stanford-Cal game in 1892, he forgot to bring the ball.

75. The unkempt Shaggy of Scooby-Doo fame has a rather proper real name—Norville Rogers.

76. If you open your eyes in a pitch-black room, the color you'll see is called 'eigengrau.'

77. In 1965, a Senate subcommittee predicted that by 2000, Americans would only be working 20 hours a week with seven weeks vacation.

78. There are roughly 70 ingredients in the McRib.

79. A baby can cost new parents 750 hours of sleep in the first year.

80. Winston Churchill's mother was born in Brooklyn.

81. Brazil couldn't afford to send its athletes to the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. So they loaded their ship with coffee and sold it along the way.

82. Before Stephen Hillenburg created SpongeBob SquarePants, he taught marine biology.

83. New Mexico State's first graduating class in 1893 had only one student—and he was shot and killed before graduation.

84. George Washington insisted his continental army be permitted a quart of beer as part of their daily rations.

85. When Canada's Northwest Territories considered renaming itself in the 1990s, one name that gained support was "Bob."

86. President Nixon was speaking at Disney World when he famously declared, "I am not a crook."

87. In a study by the Smell & Taste Research Foundation, the scent women found most arousing was Good & Plenty candy mixed with cucumber.

88. In 1958, Larry King smashed into John F. Kennedy's car. JFK said he’d forget the whole thing if King promised to vote for him when he ran for president.

89. Before she wrote The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins was a writer for Clarissa Explains it All.

90. The male giraffe determines a female's fertility by tasting her urine. If it passes the test, the courtship continues.

91. Hell-o? Hell no! In 1997, Kleberg County in Texas designated "Heaven-o" as its official new phone greeting.

92. Jim Cummings is the voice of Winnie the Pooh. He calls sick kids in hospitals and chats with them in character.

93. In 1994, two men broke into the National Gallery in Oslo and stole a version of Edvard Munch's The Scream. They left a postcard that read: "Thanks for the poor security."

94. In 1979, Japan offered new British PM Margaret Thatcher 20 "karate ladies" for protection at an economic summit. She declined.

95. The Pittsburgh Penguins made Mister Rogers an honorary captain in 1991.

96. In a 1917 letter to Winston Churchill, Admiral John Fisher used the phrase "O.M.G."

97. Truman Show Delusion is a mental condition marked by a patient's belief that he or she is the star of an imaginary reality show.

98. During the first Super Bowl in 1967, NBC was still in commercial when the second half kicked off. Officials asked the Packers to kick off again.

99. Sea otters hold hands when they sleep so they don't drift apart.

100. Until 1954, stop signs were yellow.

101. Mardi Gras float riders are required by law to wear masks.

102. Garbage trucks in Taipei play Beethoven's "Fur Elise" to let people know it's time to bring the trash out.

103. Asperger syndrome is named for Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, who described it in 1944. He called his patients "Little Professors."

104. The term "lawn mullet" refers to a neatly manicured front yard with an unmowed mess in the back.

105. Mark Twain invented a board game called Mark Twain's Memory Builder: A Game for Acquiring and Retaining All Sorts of Facts and Dates.

106. In 1991, Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse, married Russi Taylor—the voice of Minnie.

107. Furbies were banned from the National Security Agency's Maryland headquarters in 1999. It was feared the toys might repeat national security secrets.

108. In the 1880s, a baboon worked as a signalman for nine years on a South African railroad. He was paid in brandy and never made a mistake.

109. Carly Simon's dad is the Simon of Simon and Schuster. He co-founded the company.

110. When the mummy of Ramses II was sent to France in the mid-1970s, it was issued a passport. Ramses' occupation? "King (deceased)."

111. The giant inflatable rat that shows up at union protests has a name—Scabby.

112. When the computer mouse was invented, it was called the "X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System."

113. As part of David Hasselhoff's divorce settlement, he kept possession of the nickname "Hoff" and the catchphrase "Don't Hassle the Hoff."

114. "Jay" used to be slang for "foolish person." So when a pedestrian ignored street signs, he was referred to as a "jaywalker."

115. Duncan Hines was a real person. He was a popular restaurant critic who also wrote a book of hotel recommendations.

116. The only number whose letters are in alphabetical order is 40 (f-o-r-t-y).

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12 Surprising Facts About Bela Lugosi
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On October 20, 1882—135 years ago today—one of the world's most gifted performers was born. In his heyday, Bela Lugosi was hailed as the undisputed king of horror. Eighty-five years after he first donned a vampire’s cape, Lugosi's take on Count Dracula is still widely hailed as the definitive portrayal of the legendary fiend. But who was the man behind the monster?

1. HE WORKED WITH THE NATIONAL THEATER OF HUNGARY.

To the chagrin of his biographers, the details concerning Bela Lugosi’s youth have been clouded in mystery. (In a 1929 interview, he straight-up admitted “for purposes of simplification, I have always thought it better to tell [lies] about the early years of my life.”) That said, we do know that he was born as Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó on October 20, 1882 in Lugoj, Hungary (now part of Romania). We also know that his professional stage debut came at some point in either 1901 or 1902. By 1903, Lugosi had begun to find steady work with traveling theater companies, through which he took part in operas, operettas, and stage plays. In 1913, Lugosi caught a major break when the most prestigious performing arts venue in his native country—the Budapest-based National Theater of Hungary—cast him in no less than 34 shows. Most of the characters that he played there were small Shakespearean roles such as Rosencrantz in Hamlet and Sir Walter Herbert in Richard III.

2. HE FOUGHT IN WORLD WAR I.

The so-called war to end all wars put Lugosi’s dramatic aspirations on hold. Although being a member of the National Theater exempted him from military service, he voluntarily enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1914. Over the next year and a half, he fought against Russian forces as a lieutenant with the 43rd Royal Hungarian Infantry. While serving in the Carpathian mountains, Lugosi was wounded on three separate occasions. Upon healing from his injuries, he left the armed forces in 1916 and gratefully resumed his work with the National Theater.

3. WHEN HE MADE HIS BROADWAY DEBUT, LUGOSI BARELY KNEW ANY ENGLISH.

In December 1920, Lugosi boarded a cargo boat and emigrated to the United States. Two years later, audiences on the Great White Way got their first look at this charismatic stage veteran. Lugosi was cast as Fernando—a suave, Latin lover—in the 1922 Broadway stage play The Red Poppy. At the time, his grasp of the English language was practically nonexistent. Undaunted, Lugosi went over all of his lines with a tutor. Although he couldn’t comprehend their meaning, the actor managed to memorize and phonetically reproduce every single syllable that he was supposed to deliver on stage.

4. UNIVERSAL DIDN’T WANT TO CAST HIM AS COUNT DRACULA.

The year 1927 saw Bela Lugosi sink his teeth into the role of a lifetime. A play based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker had opened in London in 1924. Sensing its potential, Horace Liveright, an American producer, decided to create an U.S. version of the show. Over the summer of 1927, Lugosi was cast as the blood-sucking Count Dracula. For him, the part represented a real challenge. In Lugosi’s own words, “It was a complete change from the usual romantic characters I was playing, but it was a success.” It certainly was. Enhanced by his presence, the American Dracula remained on Broadway for a full year, then spent two years touring the country.

Impressed by its box office prowess, Universal decided to adapt the show into a major motion picture in 1930. Horror fans might be surprised to learn that when the studio began the process of casting this movie’s vampiric villain, Lugosi was not their first choice. At the time, Lugosi was still a relative unknown, which made director Tod Browning more than a little hesitant to offer him the job. A number of established actors were all considered before the man who’d played Dracula on Broadway was tapped to immortalize his biting performance on film.

5. MOST OF HIS DRACULA-RELATED FAN MAIL CAME FROM WOMEN.

The recent Twilight phenomenon is not without historical precedent. Lugosi estimated that, while he was playing the Count on Broadway, more than 97 percent of the fan letters he received were penned by female admirers. A 1932 Universal press book quotes him as saying, “When I was on the stage in Dracula, my audiences were composed mostly of women.” Moreover, Lugosi contended that most of the men who’d attended his show had merely been dragged there by female companions.   

6. HE TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER.

Released in 1931, Dracula quickly became one of the year's biggest hits for Universal (some film historians even argue that the movie single-handedly rescued the ailing studio from bankruptcy). Furthermore, its astronomical success transformed Lugosi into a household name for the first time in his career. Regrettably for him, though, he’d soon miss the chance to star in another smash. Pleased by Dracula’s box office showing, Universal green-lit a new cinematic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Lugosi seemed like the natural choice to play the monster, but because the poor brute had few lines and would be caked in layers of thick makeup, the actor rejected the job offer. As far as Lugosi was concerned, the character was better suited for some “half-wit extra” than a serious actor. Once the superstar tossed Frankenstein aside, the part was given to a little-known actor named Boris Karloff.

Moviegoers eventually did get to see Lugosi play the bolt-necked corpse in the 1943 cult classic Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. According to some sources, he strongly detested the guttural scream that the script forced him to emit at regular intervals. “That yell is the worst thing about the part. You feel like a big jerk every time you do it!” Lugosi allegedly complained.

7. LUGOSI’S RELATIONSHIP WITH BORIS KARLOFF WAS MORE CORDIAL THAN IT’S USUALLY MADE OUT TO BE.

It’s often reported that the two horror icons were embittered rivals. In reality, however, Karloff and Lugosi seemed to have harbored some mutual respect—and perhaps even affection for one another. The dynamic duo co-starred in five films together, the first of which was 1934’s The Black Cat; Karloff claimed that, on set, Lugosi was “Suspicious of tricks, fearful of what he regarded as scene stealing. Later on, when he realized I didn’t go in for such nonsense, we became friends.” During one of their later collaborations, Lugosi told the press “we laughed over my sad mistake and his good fortune as Frankenstein is concerned.”

That being said, Lugosi probably didn’t appreciate the fact that in every single film which featured both actors, Karloff got top billing. Also, he once privately remarked, “If it hadn’t been for Boris Karloff, I could have had a corner on the horror market.”

8. HE LOVED SOCCER.

In 1935, Lugosi was named Honorary President of the Los Angeles Soccer League. An avid fan, he was regularly seen at Loyola Stadium, where he’d occasionally kick off the first ball during games held there. Also, on top of donating funds to certain Hungarian teams, Lugosi helped finance the Los Angeles Magyar soccer club. When the team won a state championship in 1935, one newspaper wrote that the players were “headed back to Dracula’s castle with the state cup.” [PDF]

9. HE WAS A HARDCORE STAMP COLLECTOR.

Lugosi's fourth wife, Lillian Arch, claimed that Lugosi maintained a collection of more than 150,000 stamps. Once, on a 1944 trip to Boston, he told the press that he intended to visit all 18 of the city's resident philately dealers. “Stamp collecting,” Lugosi declared, “is a hobby which may cost you as much as 10 percent of your investment. You can always sell your stamps with not more than a 10 percent loss. Sometimes, you can even make money.” Fittingly enough, the image of Lugosi’s iconic Dracula appeared on a commemorative stamp issued by the post office in 1997.

10. LUGOSI ALMOST DIDN’T APPEAR IN ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN—BECAUSE THE STUDIO THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD.

The role of Count Dracula in this 1948 blockbuster was nearly given to Ian Keith—who was considered for the same role in the 1931 Dracula movie. Being a good sport, Lugosi helped promote the horror-comedy by making a special guest appearance on The Abbott and Costello Show. While playing himself in one memorable sketch, the famed actor claimed to eat rattlesnake burgers for dinner and “shrouded wheat” for breakfast.

11. A CHIROPRACTOR FILLED IN FOR HIM IN PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

Toward the end of his life, Lugosi worked on three ultra-low-budget science fiction pictures with Ed Wood, a man who’s been posthumously embraced as the worst director of all time. In the 1953 transvestite picture Glen or Glenda?, Lugosi plays a cryptic narrator who offers such random and unsolicited bits of advice as “Beware of the big, green dragon who sits on your doorstep.” Then came 1955’s Bride of the Monster, in which Lugosi played a mad scientist who ends up doing battle with a (suspiciously limp) giant octopus.

Before long, Wood had cooked up around half a dozen concepts for new films, all starring Lugosi. At some point in the spring of 1956, the director shot some quick footage of the actor wandering around a suburban neighborhood, clad in a baggy cloak. This proved to be the last time that the star would ever appear on film. Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956;  he was 73 years old.

Three years after Lugosi's passing, this footage was spliced into a cult classic that Wood came to regard as his “pride and joy.” Plan 9 From Outer Space tells the twisted tale of extraterrestrial environmentalists who turn newly-deceased human beings into murderous zombies. Since Lugosi could obviously no longer play his character, Wood hired a stand-in for some additional scenes. Unfortunately, the man who was given this job—California chiropractor Tom Mason—was several inches taller than Lugosi. In an attempt to hide the height difference, Wood instructed Mason to constantly hunch over. Also, Mason always kept his face hidden behind a cloak.

12. HE WAS BURIED IN HIS DRACULA CAPE.

Although Lugosi resented the years of typecasting that followed his breakout performance in Dracula, he asked to be laid to rest wearing the Count’s signature garment. Lugosi was buried under a simple tombstone at California's Holy Cross Cemetery.

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The First Known Uses of 6 Common Typographic Symbols
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Many of the most common symbols on our keyboards have fascinating origin stories. Some, such as the zero, we now take for granted—yet the idea of denoting an absence of value was not present in Western mathematics until introduced from the East. Other symbols, such as the hashtag or at-sign, had a variety of uses until the internet ushered in a new way of communicating and fixed them with the meanings we know today. Below are six examples of the first known usage and subsequent history of some of the most common typographic symbols.

1. AT SIGN // @

The @ (or at-sign) is usually dated to 1536 in a letter from a Florentine merchant, Francesco Lapi, who used it to mean a unit of wine called “amphorae.” But a Spanish researcher claims to have found an even earlier usage in a 1448 document, where the symbol also referred to a unit of measurement (even today, Spaniards call the @ symbol arroba, which is also a unit of weight, and some other Romance languages have similar dual meanings). Either way, the researchers think that the symbol then moved to Northern Europe, where it eventually gained the meaning of “at the price.” Other explanations have also been offered, but whatever the exact root of the symbol, its meaning eventually became known as shorthand for at, and it was generally used in written financial transactions—for example, in noting “Bob sells James 4 apples @ $1.”

The sign had largely fallen out of use by the early 1970s, when computer scientist Ray Tomlinson was working at what is now BBN Technologies, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tomlinson, who was working for the government on a forerunner of the internet, was trying to figure out how to address messages sent from one computer to another when he noticed the little-used @ on his computer keyboard, and used it to send a prototype email. This precedent was soon adopted as the internet developed, and the at-sign is now, of course, central to our lives.

2. ZERO // 0

The absence of a value is a complex concept, one that many ancient civilizations struggled with. The idea of a zero ultimately came to the West from the mathematicians of India, where, as in a few other cultures, zero was initially used as a placeholder, for example to indicate a lack of units, as in the number 101.

The earliest surviving usage of a zero in India has been traced to an ancient mathematical text known as the Bakhshali manuscript, which is held at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. In September 2017, radiocarbon dating indicated that the manuscript was produced as early as the 3rd or 4th century—providing us with the first known usage of zero some 500 years earlier than previously thought. As Oxford’s Bodleian Library says, “the symbol in the Bakhshali manuscript is particularly significant for two reasons. Firstly, it is this dot that evolved to have a hollow centre and became the symbol that we use as zero today. Secondly, it was only in India that this zero developed into a number in its own right, hence creating the concept and the number zero that we understand today."

The manuscript itself was discovered buried in a field in 1881 in what is today Pakistan. Written on 70 delicate leaves of birch bark, historians think it represents a training manual for Silk Road traders, teaching them concepts of arithmetic.

3. HASHTAG // #

Hashtag on an old typewriter key
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The origin of the hashtag (or pound sign as it's traditionally known in the U.S.) comes from scribes writing shorthand for the Latin libra pondo, which translates as "pound by weight." The abbreviation they used was lb, which was sometimes misread as 16. So, scribes took to drawing a line through the top of the two letters, which over time developed into the now familiar #. In the 1960s, the pound sign was chosen by Bell Laboratories to be a function key on their newly designed telephone keypad. (The Bell Labs team fondly nicknamed the symbol the “octothorpe,” possibly in honor of athlete Jim Thorpe.) Fast-forward to 2007, when early Twitter users wanted to be able to group and filter their feeds, so developer Chris Messina suggested they appropriate the method used in IRC (Internet Relay Chat) whereby users employed the pound sign or "hashtag" to signpost what they were chatting about. (Programmers knew the symbol as the hash, which was now being used to "tag" content.) This simple method soon caught on, and today the hashtag has become indelibly linked to the rise of social media.

4. ELLIPSIS // …

Originally, periods of silence were marked textually with a series of hyphens, but today the symbol of choice is the , a.k.a. the ellipsis. Dr. Anne Toner of Cambridge University spent years researching the ellipsis and finally discovered what she thinks is its first use—an English translation of Roman dramatist Terence’s play Andria printed in 1588. Although the play used hyphens instead of dots, the general idea caught on rapidly. (Toner notes that although there are only four “ellipses” in the 1588 translation, there are 29 in the 1627 version.) By the 18th century, dots started to replace the dashes, which an assistant professor from Southeastern University suggests may be connected to a medieval piece of punctuation called subpuncting or underdotting, which generally indicated something was incorrectly copied.

5. AMPERSAND // &

Ampersand symbol on an old metal block
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The ampersand originated in Latin when the word et (meaning and) was written in cursive script as a ligature (in which one or more letters are written together as a single glyph). One of the earliest examples was found daubed in graffiti on the walls of a house in Pompeii, where it was preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. By the 8th century the ampersand became a recognizably distinct character, but the word ampersand did not come into use until the late 18th/19th century, when English school children would recite "and per se and" meaning “and by itself means and” to help remember the symbol (per se being Latin for "by itself"). One of the most thorough investigations into the typographic history of the ampersand comes courtesy of German graphic designer Jan Tschichold, who in 1953 published The am­persand: its ori­gin and de­vel­op­ment, in which he collected numerous examples of the ampersand from the 1st century onwards, visually charting its developing form.

6. PLUS SIGN // +

A variety of ceramic plus signs
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The plus sign used for addition in mathematics likely derives from a shorthand ligature for the Latin et meaning “and” and was probably in use for a long time before a surviving example appeared in print. One candidate for the earliest surviving usage is in French philosopher and polymath Nicole Oresme's Algorismus proportionum, a manuscript handwritten between 1356 and 1361, although scholars debate whether it's a true plus symbol. The first use of a plus sign in a printed book is more definitive, and can be found in a 1489 edition of Johannes Widmann’s Mercantile Arithmetic. Widmann also uses the minus sign for the first time in print in this volume—although both plus and minus signs relate not to addition and subtraction but to surpluses and deficits in business accounting. After this usage, the plus sign began to appear more frequently in German mathematical texts, and first appeared in an English text in 1557 in Robert Recorde’s The Whetstone of Witte—which also introduced the equals sign.

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