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6 Unexpected Island Namesakes

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Meghan Roberts via Wikimedia // CC BY 2.0

Throughout history, the person to name an island was usually the person who found it—and because humankind is a little, well, self-absorbed, those islands were often named after their discoverer. But in a world with an uncountable number of landmasses, there’s bound to be some creativity. So forget explorers, saints, and officials; these island names come from much less obvious human sources.

1. BUSTA RHYMES ISLAND, MASSACHUSETTS 

Google Maps

In Shrewsbury, a town about an hour west of Boston, a small island named after rap royalty Busta Rhymes sits in little Mill Pond. Local resident and de facto island caretaker Kevin O’Brien named the island in honor of his favorite rapper. The name appears on Google Maps, but it isn't official (yet): The U.S. Board on Geographic Names has a strict set of rules for naming geographic features, including the namesake being dead for at least five years.

2. AXEL HEIBERG ISLAND, NUNAVUT, CANADA

National Library of Norway via Wikimedia // PublicDomain

One of the largest islands in Canada was explored and named by Otto Sverdrup around 1900, but he didn’t name it after himself. This particular island is named after a Norwegian brewer—Axel Heiberg was the financial director of Ringnes brewery, one of the sponsors of the expedition. Other islands in the archipelago named for the brewery staff include Ellef Ringnes Island and Amund Ringnes Island, named for the brothers who founded the brewery. (The archipelago as a whole is known as Sverdrup Islands, however.)

3. MAJOR CAYE, BELIZE

This small nation in Central America has more than 200 islands, which they call cayes (pronounced keys). The Belize Tourism Board recently dubbed one of them Major Caye in honor of DJ Khaled and the social media words of wisdom he calls his “major keys.” Hopefully he doesn’t encounter anything related to the island’s former name—Snake Caye—if he takes them up on their offer of a free trip.

4. BELLAMY CAY, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

Pirates of the Spanish Main Trading Card via Wikimedia // Public Domain

Just off the coast of Beef Island, visitors to the British Virgin Islands can visit Bellamy Cay, named after a superstar of the area’s pirate legacy. Black Sam Bellamy reportedly used this landmass as his home base while out looting and raiding during the 1700s. He referred to himself as the Robin Hood of the Sea and when he died, he was reportedly the richest pirate in history.

5. NORMAN ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

Matt & Nayoung via Wikimedia // CC BY 2.0

This island also takes its name from pirate history in the British Virgin Islands. Captain Norman, a pirate in the early 18th century, supposedly bought or leased this island prior to his death by hanging at the hands of the Spanish Puerto Rico Coast Guard. But he left some of his treasure behind—Norman Island is said to be the home of at least one recovered pirate treasure cache, and more are supposedly there waiting to be discovered. By some accounts, Robert Louis Stevenson used Norman Island as inspiration for Treasure Island.

6. YAYA ISLAND, RUSSIA 

Russian Air Force crews discovered the newest island on this list, Yaya Island, in 2013 during a helicopter flight. Their initial thought was to name it Bounty Island (after the island Marlon Brando “discovered” while filming Mutiny on the Bounty), but the name changed to Yaya when the crews tried to figure out who saw the land first. There was a chorus of “Ya, ya!” in the room—which means “Me, me!”—so the island was more or less named after everyone.

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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Why Your Traditional Thanksgiving Should Include Oysters
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If you want to throw a really traditional Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll need oysters. The mollusks would have been featured prominently on the holiday tables of the earliest American settlers—even if that beloved Thanksgiving turkey probably wasn’t. At the time, oysters were supremely popular additions to the table for coastal colonial settlements, though in some cases, they were seen as a hardship food more than a delicacy.

For one thing, oysters were an easy food source. In the Chesapeake Bay, they were so plentiful in the 17th and 18th centuries that ships had to be careful not to run aground on oyster beds, and one visitor in 1702 wrote that they could be pulled up with only a pair of tongs. Native Americans, too, ate plenty of oysters, occasionally harvesting them and feasting for days.

Early colonists ate so many oysters that the population of the mollusks dwindled to dangerously low levels by the 19th century, according to curriculum prepared by a Gettysburg University history professor. In these years, scarcity turned oysters into a luxury item for the wealthy, a situation that prevailed until the 1880s, when oyster production skyrocketed and prices dropped again [PDF]. If you lived on the coast, though, you were probably still downing the bivalves.

Beginning in the 1840s, canning and railroads brought the mollusks to inland regions. According to 1985's The Celebrated Oysterhouse Cookbook, the middle of the 19th century found America in a “great oyster craze,” where “no evening of pleasure was complete without oysters; no host worthy of the name failed to serve 'the luscious bivalves,' as they were actually called, to his guests.”

At the turn of the century, oysters were still a Thanksgiving standard. They were on Thanksgiving menus everywhere from New York City's Plaza Hotel to train dining cars, in the form of soup, cocktails, and stuffing.

In 1954, the Fish and Wildlife Service tried to promote Thanksgiving oysters to widespread use once again. They sent out a press release [PDF], entitled “Oysters—a Thanksgiving Tradition,” which included the agency’s own recipes for cocktail sauce, oyster bisque, and oyster stuffing.

In the modern era, Thanksgiving oysters have remained most popular in the South. Oyster stuffing is a classic dish in New Orleans, and chefs like Emeril Lagasse have their own signature recipes. If you’re not looking for a celebrity chef’s recipe, perhaps you want to try the Fish and Wildlife Service’s? Check it out below.

Oyster Stuffing

INGREDIENTS

1 pint oysters
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter
4 cups day-old bread cubes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Dash poultry seasoning
Dash pepper

Drain oysters, saving liquor, and chop. Cook celery and onion in butter until tender. Combine oysters, cooked vegetables, bread cubes, and seasonings, and mix thoroughly. If stuffing seems dry, moisten with oyster liquor. Makes enough for a four-pound chicken.

If you’re using a turkey, the FWS advises that the recipe above provides enough for about every five pounds of bird, so multiply accordingly.

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