Why Are Your Favorite Rain Boots Called 'Wellies'?

iStock.com/coramueller
iStock.com/coramueller

The official April rainy season is here, and most of us have a raincoat, an umbrella, and our trusty pair of Wellies ready by the door. The popular boot has been around for nearly 200 years, and just like sandwiches and afternoon tea, Wellingtons are a still-practical mainstay that we can thank the British aristocracy for.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, German Hessian boots, with their low heels and high knees, were both fashionable and practical military garb. The raised knee gave extra protection to cavalry men on horses, and the decorative tassels gave them a daytime-to-eveningwear look. But, they were meant to be worn with knee breeches, and when those pants went out of style, the Hessian boot needed to be modified.

Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, in his German Hessian boots, circa 1814.
Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, in his German Hessian boots, circa 1814.
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Enter Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, a highly decorated war hero who commanded the army that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo (Wellington would later go on to become Prime Minister). Often noted as an extremely practical man, in 1817 he asked his St. James's Street shoemaker to modify his current Hessians. The lining was removed so that the boot would more easily fit over the popular long trousers, and, rather than the polished leather that had made Hessians all the rage, the shoemaker crafted the Duke's boots out of a more durable calfskin.

The look quickly caught on. Not only were the boots still fitted in the fashionable style, they now accommodated the new long pant and had the added benefit of being fairly waterproof (a boon in Britain's famously rainy climate). The fops and dandies of High Street—including the fashion-forward influencer Beau Brummell—clamored after the look, and the Duke's name forever became associated with the boot.

Arthur Charles Wellesley, the 4th Duke of Wellington, models the boots his great-grandfather helped make popular, circa 1930.
Arthur Charles Wellesley, the 4th Duke of Wellington, models the boots his great-grandfather helped make popular, circa 1930.
Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Eventually, new technology caught up with the look. In 1852, Charles Goodyear invented natural rubber. American industrialist Hiram Hutchinson acquired the patent to develop footwear from the rubber, and his subsequent workshoes became must-haves for farmers and field workers. When World War I hit, the company that would become Hunter Boots manufactured Wellington-style waterproof boots that could withstand muddy trenches for the troops. The Duke could not have known it at the time, but his namesake footwear would serve as an important piece of protection for the British army decades after his death.

The style never faded, and today, Hunters and other Wellington-style rubber boots are considered the gold standard for wet-weather wear.

What Does CPR Stand For?

undefined undefined/iStock via Getty Images
undefined undefined/iStock via Getty Images

The life-saving technique known as CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It's a method that allows oxygenated blood to temporarily circulate throughout the body of a person whose heart has stopped. When the heart ceases beating during cardiac arrest, lungs stop receiving oxygen. Without oxygen, nerve cells start to die within minutes; it can take just four to six minutes for an oxygen-deprived person to sustain permanent brain damage or die.

The cardio part of the phrase refers to the heart, the muscular organ that pumps blood through the body's circulatory system. Pulmonary involves the lungs. People take approximately 15 to 20 breaths per minute, and with each breath you take, your lungs fill with oxygen. Resuscitation means bringing something back to consciousness, or from the brink of death.

We have two physicians, Peter Safar and James Elam, to thank for developing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in the mid-1950s. In 1957, the American military adopted their CPR method for reviving soldiers. In 1960, the American Heart Association integrated chest compressions, which keep the blood circulating.

Doctors, nurses, dentists, first responders, lifeguards, and some teachers are required to be certified in CPR. But because approximately 85 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home, it’s smart for the average person to know how to perform it, too. In school, you were probably taught CPR by the traditional method of giving 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute (play the Bee Gees’ "Stayin’ Alive" in your head to keep the beat) and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Today, the American Heart Association recommends that average people learn hands-only CPR, which simply involves chest compressions. The organization has found that people can be reluctant to administer mouth-to-mouth CPR in an emergency because they're afraid of doing it wrong or injuring the patient. With hands-only CPR, bystanders feel less anxiety and more willingness to jump in. The AHA also notes that hands-only CPR can be just as effective in saving a life. (And any CPR is better than none at all.)

But how many people actually know CPR?

In 2018, a Cleveland Clinic survey found that 54 percent of Americans said they knew CPR, but only one in six people knew that bystander CPR requires only chest compressions. Only 11 percent of people knew the correct pace for compressions. Again, singing "Stayin' Alive" to yourself is one way to remember the pace—though being a fan of The Office can apparently help, too (as one lucky life-saver recently discovered).

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Are Left-Handed People Really More Creative?

Kuzma/iStock via Getty Images
Kuzma/iStock via Getty Images

The left-handed brand has come a long way in the last few decades. The majority of people no longer assume that southpaws are tools of Satan, alight with hellfire. Today’s lefties are surrounded by a far more benevolent glow. We associate left-handedness with intelligence, out-of-the-box thinking, and artistic talent. But are these flattering generalizations backed up by science? Does being left-handed really make you more creative? 

The answer to that is a definitive … maybe.

Scientists have been chipping away at the peculiarities of left-handedness, which occurs in about 10 percent of the population, for a long time. They’ve looked into the purported links between left-handedness and things like mental illness, faulty immune systems, and criminal behavior. They’ve studied whether lefties are better at problem-solving, and if they’re more likely to die young. From all these studies on left-handedness, we can conclude one thing, and one thing alone: science is complicated. 

A handful of studies have found a link between left-handedness and creativity, conferred (some think) by the fact that left-handed folks constantly have to adjust to a right-handed world. Other studies found no link at all. 

Some researchers conclude that lefties are no smarter than righties, while others say that left-handedness comes with a clear intellectual advantage. Is there really a left-handed personality? Are lefties more prone to schizophrenia and learning disabilities? That depends on who you ask. 

But "Are lefties different?" might not even be the right question. Over the last few years, a number of studies have concluded that it’s not which hand is dominant that matters—it’s the degree of dominance. According to researchers, very few people are truly entirely left- or right-handed; it’s more of a spectrum. We use our left hands for some things and our right hands for other tasks. 

These experiments have found that people toward the middle of the spectrum are more flexible thinkers. They seem to be more empathetic and better able to view things from other people’s perspectives. When considering the risks and benefits of any given decision, inconsistent-handed people (as researchers call them) are more likely to focus on the risks, whereas people at the outer edges of the handedness spectrum pay more attention to potential benefits. They may even sleep differently. It seems we’ve been aiming our stereotypes a little too far to the left.

But who knows? This is ever-changing, constantly evolving science. If you’re a lefty who enjoys feeling superior, we’re not going to tell you to tone it down. For all we know, you could be right.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER