20 Truly Fascinating Things I Learned This Week That I Won't Be Forgetting Any Time Soon

    Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth II's youngest son, was a huge fan of the movie Shakespeare in Love, in which Colin Firth portrayed a fictional royal named Lord Wessex. When he got married in 1999, Edward asked his mother if he could take the title of Earl of Wessex because of the movie. She obliged, and now Edward and his wife Sophie are known as the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

    Warning: this post mentions rape, murder, and other sensitive topics.

    1. Looks like the food court at Costco is doing big business! The retailer sells so much pizza that it's considered the 14th largest pizza chain in the United States. In 2011, Costco sold 100 million hot dogs, which was four times as many that were sold at all of the Major League Baseball stadiums combined that year.

    2. Charles Schulz actually hated the name Peanuts for his iconic comics because he thought it made his work seem "insignificant." While Peanuts officially debuted in 1950, Schulz had previously released a comic strip that had included some of the same characters. The comic had been called Li'l Folks. "I wanted to keep Li’l Folks," he said. "I wanted a strip with dignity and significance. Peanuts made it sound too insignificant."

    Charles Schulz working

    Why was Schulz forced to change the name? Turns out there were some copyright concerns with using Li'l Folks. Strips called Li'l Abner and Lil Folks had both been previously published, so newspapers worried about potential infringement claims. A newspaper syndicate editor chose the name Peanuts, without Schulz's input. Despite hating the name, Schulz devoted the rest of his life to working on the comic.

    Schulz with comic plushies

    3. The glass frog has translucent skin, which means you can see not only the frog's internal organs, bones, and muscles, but also its heart beating and food digesting. Scientists say their skin helps them blend in to their surroundings and protects them from predators.

    Glass frog

    4. George Remus, a lawyer from Cincinnati, is believed to have been F. Scott Fitzgerald's inspiration for Jay Gatsby, the main character in The Great Gatsby. When Prohibition became law in 1918, Remus decided to leave his legal career to try out the smuggling business after noticing that many of the criminals he defended in his legal work were getting incredibly rich through bootlegging. He started studying the Volstead Act, which officially banned alcohol, and found that alcohol could technically be sold if it was labeled as medicine. Before practicing law, Remus was a pharmacist, so he was able to use his medical background to create his scheme.

    George Remus

    The scheme involved Remus purchasing distilleries to produce medicinal alcohol and creating trucking companies. He would have his employees "steal" his alcohol, then use his trucking companies to distribute it. After three years of this, Remus had made an estimated $40 million, and began living quite lavishly. He bought a huge mansion that he called Price Hill, installed an indoor pool at his daughter's request, and began purchasing rare art and exotic plants to decorate the estate. In order to keep his misdeeds on the down low, he began bribing law enforcement and encouraged them to focus on his competitors. In 1925, Remus's luck ran out. He was charged with violating the Volstead Act and was sent to prison in Atlanta, where he received special treatment. Remus even told his cellmate, Franklin Dodge, that his wife was controlling his vast estate and hiding his assets from the government, so he would be living a life of luxury once again upon his release.

    George Remus

    Dodge was actually an undercover FBI agent in the prison, and after hearing Remus's story, resigned his post and headed to Cincinnati, where he started an affair with Remus's wife Imogene. Together, they began to sell off Remus's assets to end his bootlegging empire. When Remus was released from prison, Imogene filed for divorce. While on the way to the courthouse to finalize the papers, Remus had a group of cars chase her down, forcing her to abandon her vehicle. When she got out, he shot and killed her. During his murder trial, Remus, who defended himself, was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and was sent to an asylum. His stay in the asylum was short-lived after he convinced the staff that he was not actually insane. While he tried to reboot his bootlegging empire, his attempts were unsuccessful, and he moved to Kentucky where he lived relatively quietly until his death in 1952.

    George Remus

    So, where does the Gatsby connection come in? Remus was notorious for throwing huge parties at his mansion, where he would give attendees jewelry and other lavish gifts. At one party, Remus allegedly gave every single guest a new car. Similarly to Jay Gatsby, Remus rarely came out of his room during these parties, and spent most of his time in his private library. F. Scott Fitzgerald actually met Remus at a hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. Fitzgerald was reportedly captivated by Remus's personality, and decided he was going to base some of Gatsby's character traits off of Remus's lifestyle. In addition to being the inspiration for one of literature's most recognizable characters, Remus was also a character in Boardwalk Empire, which aired on HBO.

    5. Terry Crews is an incredibly gifted artist! Crews majored in art while attending Western Michigan University, where he also played football. Crews said that he spent most of his NFL career on the bench, and decided he would offer to paint portraits of his fellow players to earn extra money. "Humility gets you far," Crews told Jimmy Kimmel. "If you want to make some money, you've got to humble yourself." He also worked as a courtroom sketch artist, created graphics for a news station in Michigan, and even designed logos for local rappers.

    Closeup of Terry Crews

    6. During the 1985 NFL season, the Chicago Bears were a dominating force on their way to a win in Super Bowl XX. In December 1985, the team recorded "The Super Bowl Shuffle," a hype song ahead of the team's playoff run. The song was released to much fanfare, and ended up reaching No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 by February 1986, just in time for the Super Bowl. The team promised that the proceeds from the song would go to charity, and even included the line, "Now we're not doing this because we're greedy / The Bears are doing it to feed the needy," in the song.

    The Chicago Bears

    In 1987, "The Super Bowl Shuffle" was nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, but lost to Prince's "Kiss." The song's success inspired tons of imitations from other NFL teams, and even spawned pop culture parodies. In 2010, seven of the team members reunited to film a new version of the song, which was used as a Super Bowl commercial for Boost Mobile.

    View this video on YouTube

    Red Label / Via youtube.com

    7. Pencils are typically yellow because in the 19th century, when pencil production began, the best graphite came from China. American pencil makers wanted to convey to customers that their pencils were made from the finest graphite, so they made them yellow, which in China, signified royalty and respect.

    8. You're probably familiar with the debate over whether a tomato is a fruit or vegetable, but did you know that the Supreme Court has even weighed in? In the 1890s, New York taxed tomato imports as if they were a vegetable, even though importers argued that tomatoes were fruits, which were not taxed. In 1893, the Supreme Court ruled in Nix v. Hedden that while tomatoes were scientifically a fruit, they were more often used in cooking as if they were a vegetable, and ruled that the tax on them stood.


    9. Grover Cleveland somehow was able to spin a horrific scandal to his advantage in his bid for the presidency. It all started in 1873, when Cleveland met Maria Halpin and insisted that he take her on a date. After their dinner, Cleveland escorted Halpin back to her room at the boarding house where she was staying, and allegedly raped her. When she threatened to alert the authorities, Cleveland told Halpin that "he was determined to ruin me if it cost him $10,000, if he was hanged by the neck for it. I then and there told him that I never wanted to see him again [and] commanded him to leave my room, which he did." Six weeks later, Halpin learned that she was pregnant with Cleveland's baby.

    Grover Cleveland

    Cleveland had his sights set on entering politics and believed that a scandal would derail his chances. He arranged to have the baby taken from Halpin, who he sent to the Providence Lunatic Asylum. In 1881, Cleveland became the mayor of Buffalo, and just a year later, was elected governor of New York. By 1884, he was known in the press as "Grover the Good," and secured the Democratic nomination for president. Soon, the media revealed the story of Cleveland's son, and exposed Halpin's identity. Cleveland's team created a story that Halpin slept with several married men, and said that Cleveland bravely decided to say he was the child's father because he was the only single man in the group. Many believed Cleveland's story, and he was elected president in both 1885 and 1893. Researchers have since debunked Cleveland's claims.

    A political cartoon of Cleveland and Halpin

    10. The Doors' hit song "Touch Me" originally had a much different name and meaning. When Robby Krieger, the band's guitarist, originally brought the song to his bandmates, it was called "Hit Me," and based on playing blackjack. Jim Morrison refused to sing the song as Krieger wrote it because he believed that people would take the lyrics seriously and hit him when they saw him out and about. When he asked Morrison what the lyric should be changed to, Morrison allegedly said, "Well, I don’t want to be hit. … I mean, if people are gonna do anything I want them to — wait a minute, I got it. … I want 'em to touch me."

    View this video on YouTube

    WMG / Via youtube.com

    11. Ladybugs were named by European farmers who prayed to the Virgin Mary to ask her to protect their crops from pests. Soon after, they noticed that a new species of bug had eliminated the invasive bugs that had been eating their plants, so they dubbed the new bug "beetle of Our Lady." This was eventually shorted to "lady beetle," before finally landing on "ladybug."

    12. When filmmakers were adapting the songs from the stage version of Grease for the film, they decided to make a few tweaks to some of the lyrics. The song "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" originally included a lyric in reference to Sal Mineo, a teen heartthrob who had been stabbed to death in 1976. They decided to change the song lyrics to respect Mineo's memory, and replaced the mention of him with the line, "Elvis, Elvis, let me be. Keep that pelvis far from me."

    View this video on YouTube

    Paramount / Via youtube.com

    Production scheduled the shoot for the "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" scene on August 16, 1977, which just so happened to be the day Elvis Presley died. Randal Kleiser, who directed the movie, said that the whole crew knew about Elvis's death while filming the scene, and found the entire situation to be rather chilling. "We did this number, and everybody kind of looked at each other like: 'Yeah, this is creepy.'"

    Side-by-side of Sal Mineo and Elvis Presley

    13. According to the Oxford Dictionary, "publicly" is the most commonly misspelled word. It's believed that "publicly" trips so many people up because it violates a major spelling rule: for words ending in "ic," you typically add "ally" to the end, but in the case of "publicly," the only addition is "ly."

    14. Kelly Clarkson made history and kickstarted an incredible career when she won American Idol in 2002, but it turns out that she didn't initially even want to win the competition. When the competition show debuted, part of the obligations for the winner included starring in a movie. "I do remember Justin [Guarini, Clarkson's runner-up] and I having the conversation before, and I was like, 'I don’t want to win, I don’t want to win,' because we found out we had to do a movie,” Clarkson told Entertainment Weekly. "He really wanted to do a movie. And I really didn’t want to do a movie. I was like, 'It would be really super cool if I got second and you got first, because the winner has to do the movie and the second one doesn’t.'"

    Kelly Clarkson

    Clarkson ended up winning and went on to star in From Justin to Kelly alongside Guarini. The movie was a box-office bomb, and the movie studio even got called out for trying to push the movie out of theaters as quickly as possible. To make matters worse, the soundtrack was never even released due to the movie's poor reception. Clarkson joked to Time that she just pretends the movie doesn't exist. "I want to own all of it. I just want it to not be here," she said.

    Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini onstage

    15. In 1947, fruit flies were the first animal to be launched into space. The flies were launched in a V-2 rocket, where they reached an altitude of about 68 miles before returning to Earth via parachute. The fruit flies were chosen as the first animals in space because their genetic code has a lot of similarities with that of humans, so scientists could get a clearer picture of the effect of space travel on humans. The flies survived the trip and showed no signs of mutation, which paved the way for other animals, then humans, to reach space.

    Fruit flies

    16. Purple is a color that's frequently associated with royalty. It all comes from a shade called "tyrian purple," which was created using the mucous glands from snails. The resulting pigment smelled absolutely horrible, but was revered because instead of fading over time like most colors, it deepened in intensity with each wear.

    A snail

    17. In 1918, people in Russia had nearly two weeks entirely wiped off of the calendar. Prior to 1918, Russia used the Julian calendar, which had been invented by Julius Caesar. After the Gregorian calendar was invented, the Julian calendar was seen as less precise, in part because it lagged 13 days behind its Gregorian counterpart. Most of the world switched to the Gregorian, but Russia decided to continue using the Julian. After the Bolshevik Revolution, it was decided that Russia would finally switch to the Gregorian to match up with the rest of the world.

    Russian calendar

    The issue? In order to switch, they would have to completely bypass the 13-day difference between the calendars. It was decided that after January 31, 1918, the calendar would switch right to February 14, 1918. Before making the decision to eliminate the two weeks from the calendar, the Bolsheviks considered making it a years-long process in which they would shave one day off of the calendar each year until they caught up, before deciding to do it all at once. However, Russia still uses the Julian calendar for religious purposes.

    18. While you probably don't associate landlocked Wyoming with the ocean, the state boasts a creek where half of the water flows to the Atlantic Ocean and half to the Pacific. The creek is fittingly called Two Ocean Creek, and those who take the 15-mile hike through the Tetons to see it call it the "Parting of the Waters."

    Two Ocean Creek

    19. When Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth II's youngest son, got married in 1999, his mother planned to bestow him with the title of the Duke of Cambridge. However, Edward was a huge fan of the movie Shakespeare in Love, in which Colin Firth portrayed a fictional royal named Lord Wessex, and asked his mother if he could take the title of Earl of Wessex instead because he liked the way "Wessex" sounded. She obliged, and now Edward and his wife Sophie are known as the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

    Prince Edward and Queen Elizabeth II

    20. And finally, Dr. Antonia Novello made history when she became the first woman, first Latine person, and first person of color to be named US Surgeon General. Novello was born in Puerto Rico in 1944, where her mother, who was a school principal, emphasized the importance of education. She was born with a condition called congenital megacolon, which limited her energy. For years, her family was unable to afford the costly surgery. When Novello was 18, she got the first of two surgeries that would change her life. From that point on, she was determined to become a doctor.

    Dr. Antonia Novello

    Novello attended both college and medical school at the University of Puerto Rico. During her time in medical school, Novello's aunt died from kidney failure, which inspired Novello to specialize in pediatric nephrology (the study of the kidneys). After continuing her medical studies at both the University of Michigan and Georgetown University, Novello entered private practice, but found the emotional impact of working with critically ill children to be difficult, and turned to public health causes that would allow her to make big changes in medicine that would benefit larger populations. She worked to help establish the national organ donor registry and helped write the health warnings on cigarette packaging. In 1987, Novello began to focus on pediatric AIDS. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush took notice of Novello's work and named her Surgeon General, making her the nation’s top health official.

    Novello and men surrounding a podium

    During her tenure as Surgeon General, Novello focused heavily on the health of women, children, and minorities. She worked to end underage drinking and smoking by targeting companies that aimed their advertising to children through cartoons. She also promoted pediatric immunization and stood up for causes preventing domestic violence. After leaving the White House, she worked for both the New York and Florida state governments. In 2017, she traveled to her native Puerto Rico to provide medical aid after Hurricane Maria, and in 2021, administered COVID-19 vaccines in San Juan.

    Dr. Novello