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.

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

iStock/K_Thalhofer
iStock/K_Thalhofer

If something is edible (or even if it's not), many dogs will gladly make a meal of it. But if you see your pet grazing on your front lawn like cattle, it may be driven by something more than its undiscerning appetite. Eating grass frantically can be a sign that a dog is sick.

It's not unusual to see a dog vomit after consuming grass, prompting some pet owners to wonder if their dog ate the grass to soothe its own upset stomach or if the grass is what caused its symptoms in the first place. According Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club, this behavior is sometimes a response to symptoms that were already present. "When dogs go outside and gobble grass really quickly, there's usually a reason, an instinctual behavior to try to induce some kind of gastrointestinal reaction," he tells Mental Floss. "When they realize they're nauseous or something else, the only thing they know how to do is to force themselves to vomit. Some dogs that eat grass chomp it down without really chewing it, and often times may vomit something up and that's how they treat themselves."

Despite it being a common issue for pet owners, little research has been done into why dogs eat grass. It's likely that stomach problems only explain this behavior part of the time. In other situations, a dog may eat grass for the same reason it eats your shoes or the groceries you left on the kitchen counter: Because it's hungry, anxious, or bored.

So how can you tell when your dog is munching grass for pleasure and when it's trying to induce itself to vomit? Pay attention to the way it eats. Dogs are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals, so just eating grass alone normally won't be enough to make it sick. But if a dog is gorging on grass faster than it can chew it, that may be an indication that something is wrong. Whole blades of grass can irritate a dog's throat and stomach lining, potentially causing them to throw up if they swallow a lot of them in a short amount of time.

No matter the reason for your dog's grass-eating habits, Klein says that they aren't a major issue. The behavior shouldn't be encouraged, as grass in public places can potentially carry harmful chemicals like pesticides, so stop your dog if you see it grazing. But if it shows no signs of illness or discomfort afterward, there's no need to rush it to the vet. "If I see a dog eating grass, I'm not going to panic. I would try to stop it and then monitor it to see how it acts in the next 15 to 20 minutes. Look at how the dog's acting, its body shape and movement, and the feeling you get from the dog."

One condition related to vomiting that would warrant a trip to the vet is something called bloat. This happens when a dog's stomach fills with air, causing it to retch without actually throwing anything up. This is a medical emergency and can be deadly if left untreated.

A dog who vomits after eating grass and looks happy afterward, on the other hand, is probably not a cause for concern—though you may argue otherwise when you're steam-cleaning your carpet.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, send it to bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

How Do Airplanes Land in Water?

iStock/oblong1
iStock/oblong1

Joe Shelton:

At least in terms of the physical act of landing, seaplanes and floatplanes land on the water pretty much in the same way that land based airplanes land on the ground.

They start with an appropriate approach airspeed, a slight flaring just before touching down, feeling it as the aircraft touches the water, and then it's slightly different. Because of the water's drag the aircraft will slow very quickly and settle into the water. Brakes aren't really needed. And that's good because they don't have any brakes that work in the water.

Once in the water they are as controllable as a boat. Which is to say, not that much. In fact, in the water they are navigated pretty much just like a boat.

Most if not all seaplanes and floatplanes have "water rudders" that allow them to steer in the water just like a boat. But as they approach a pier or beach you'll usually see the engine stopped and the pilot out on the float or leaning out of the aircraft with an oar rowing the boat to shore (sounds like a Peter, Paul, and Mary lyric).

If the question wonders why the aircraft don't sink, it's because they are designed to float.

Floatplanes are typically normal aircraft that have been outfitted with floats, usually two, one under each wing. Seaplanes, on the other hand, are designed specifically for water operations.

Many or even most floatplanes and seaplanes are what's called amphibious. That means that they can land and take off from both water and land. Typically they have retractable/extendable wheels (landing gear).

While it's important that an aircraft's landing gear has been extended when landing on the ground, it's equally important, if not more so, that the landing gear is retracted when landing on water.

Here's why:

The aircraft in the video is a "floatplane" with aftermarket floats.

a firefighting seaplane
iStock/Paolo Seimandi

This is a seaplane where the fuselage is designed to float like a boat. It also has floats, but they are part of the design.

a Piper Apache floatplane
Phil Hollenback, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

This is a Piper Apache on floats. It's also the aircraft that I earned my Commercial Multiengine Seaplane rating in.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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