World’s Strangest

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Marie Curie’s Sex Scandal and the Duel It Inspired

Getty Images Marie Curie is well known as the first genius to have snagged two Nobel Prizes. The first came in 1903, when she and her husband, Pierre, were awarded a Nobel Prize in physics for their radiation research. Then, in 1911, she nabbed a Nobel in chemistry for her discovery of radium and polonium. But [...]

Cold War: The Legal Battle Between Good Humor and the Popsicle Corporation

Advances in refrigeration technology led to an explosion in the world of ice creams and other frozen treats in the early 1900s. The ice cream cone, ice cream bar, Eskimo Pie, disposable ice cream cup, and ice pop were all invented or popularized within the first two decades of the century. Just a few years [...]

11 Product Names That Mean Unfortunate Things in Other Languages

Once in a while, an international company will come out with a new product, brand name or slogan that gets, well, seriously lost in translation. One famous example is Mitsubishi’s unfortunate 1973 decision to name its new SUV the “Pajero,” which translates in Spanish to “wanker.” Here are 11 more tragic, hilarious, and definitely off-color examples [...]

A Little Bit of Lotto History (Including Thomas Jefferson’s Take on Lotteries)

EPA/ERIK S. LESSER /LANDOV Tonight’s Mega Millions jackpot is up over $500 million—the biggest lottery prize ever. Whether you call it the poor man’s dream, a casino without walls, or a tax on the stupid, the lottery has deep and widespread roots. Here’s a look at three quick stories about the numbers game. Lotteries of Yore Lotteries have [...]

From Pennies to Chocolate: 11 Examples of Creative Flooring

1. Pennies Photo from NotCot.com If you’re like most people, you probably have cans and jars full of unused pennies. If you have, say, 480,000 or so, then why not do what the Standard Hotel in New York City did with them in their restaurant? Make a copper floor. 2. Wooden Type Photo by Flickr user Kris Arnold (wka) The [...]

11 Words With a ‘Q’ But No ‘U’ Acceptable in Words With Friends

At this very moment, someone is Googling “Words With Friends words without vowels,” and there’s a good chance they’ll land on this story I posted last year. If your problem isn’t a lack of vowels but a nagging ‘Q’ (and no ‘U’ to go with it), perhaps one of these words will help. 1. Qwerty/s – [...]

19 Outstanding Words You Should Be Working Into Conversation

There are some of our favorite words that appeared in mental_floss stories in 2011. Some are foreign words. Others come from medical dictionaries. And there’s a surprising amount of hobo slang. Have fun working these into conversation this holiday season! Gene Lee / Shutterstock.com 1. Kummerspeck (German): Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon. 2. [...]

10 Things Mark Twain Didn’t Really Say

As Google reminded us this morning with this nifty Tom Sawyer Doodle, today is Mark Twain’s 176th birthday! The man who provided us with some of the best quips ever is also one of the most misquoted men of all time. Here are 10 quotes Mark Twain likely never uttered, despite popular belief. 1. “The secret [...]

14 More Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent

Earlier this year, Bill DeMain introduced us to 15 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent. Now that you’ve integrated those into your vocabulary, here are 14 more. 1. Shemomedjamo (Georgian) You know when you’re really full, but your meal is just so delicious, you can’t stop eating it? The Georgians feel your pain. This word means, “I [...]

From the Dictionary to a Book Called “Horse”: The Surprising Complaints Against 6 Books

This week (September 24 through October 1, 2011) is the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, an “annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.” We’ve all heard about books like Lolita and The Awakening being banned, especially from schools, for overly sexual content; other books are banned—or at [...]