World’s Strangest

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What Do Chickens Have to Do With Chicken Pox?

Chickens image via Shutterstock The birds themselves? Not a whole lot. Chickens don’t even get infected by the virus — varicella zoster, a member of the herpes family — that causes the rash. (They can however, get an infection with similar effects called fowl pox.) The name, rather, likely comes from chickens’ association with weakness and wimpiness*. Just [...]

What’s So Special About the Cat’s Pajamas?

Yesterday reader Nyghtbeauty asked, “What’s so special about ‘the cat’s pajamas’?” We decided to find out. © Bettmann/CORBIS Not much, really. The cat’s pajamas are no better than the gnat’s elbow, the elephant’s instep or the cuckoo’s chin, which all entered the lexicon in the 1920s and mean the same thing. “The cat’s pajamas” is first recorded in [...]

Why Do People Say “Holy Mackerel”?

Stephanie and her curious two-year-old want to know why we sometimes say “Holy Mackerel!” Unfortunately, the answer is about as clear as the tomato sauce Brits like to douse the fish in. Mackerel image via Shutterstock One thing most experts agree on is that the phrase is a euphemism for Holy Mary. Blurting “Holy Mackerel” instead of [...]

Why Do Spicy Foods Make Your Nose Run?

Hot sauces, curries, wasabi peas and other spicy treats turn you into a snot faucet. Why is that? Capsaicin is the chemical found concentrated in the placental tissue of chile peppers and allyl isothiocyanate is an oil contained in plants like mustard and radishes (including horseradish). Plants use both of these chemicals as biological weapons against [...]

Our Favorite Opening Paragraph in the History of Journalism

The Fourth of July is rapidly approaching, which means we’re in for some lectures about fireworks safety. While we may get bored with warnings that end with “…until someone loses a finger” or “…until a red-hot sparkler wire brands someone,” these safety announcements are a worthy cause. Fireworks are dangerous. Just ask the Consumer Product [...]