World’s Strangest

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Why Are Unidentified People Called John or Jane Doe?

From the courts to the morgue, if the government doesn’t know someone’s name or wants to withhold it, they give them one of these as a placeholder. Why? Toe tag image via Shutterstock The John Doe custom was born out of a strange and long since vanished British legal process called an action of ejectment. Under old English [...]

Which Came First: Orange the Color or Orange the Fruit?

Reader Erica wrote in with a question about oranges. Is the fruit named for its color, or is the color named for the fruit? Crayon and orange images via Shutterstock The citrus definitely got named first. The earliest recorded use of orange the fruit in English is from the 1300s and came to us from the Old French [...]

Why Don’t You Hear Someone’s Accent in a Song?

Reader Jared wrote in with this question: “Why do singers I perceive as having accents (i.e. Adele, Bono, etc.) have those accents when they talk, but not when they sing?” Microphone image via Shutterstock I hear what Jared is saying. Or, rather, I don’t hear it. While there are certainly exceptions, I’ve heard a thick accent on [...]

The Soviet Union Was Dissolved 20 Years Ago Today

Girl standing atop Soviet tank in Red Square during the Communist hard liners’ coup attempt in August 1991. © David Turnley/CORBIS Twenty years ago today, on December 8, 1991, a group of Soviet leaders got together in a house in snowy Belarus to declare the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The resulting treaty, [...]