Texting is changing the way we write and some experts believe this threatens the future of punctuation.
The discovery of carved, crystal-quartz, human skulls with alleged paranormal powers caused a great stir early in the 20th century.
It’s a common strategy among criminals to disguise their identity in order to escape detection, but it’s a trick used by stand up citizens as well.
People have been eating flat bread with toppings since the Stone Age, but pizza is of a much younger vintage.
Opening as a speakeasy during Prohibition, the Stork Club was the place for society’s elites to kick back and have a party.
A 17th century Protestant sect rebelled against the developing Age of Reason and competing religions.
The American explorer Robert Peary said he had found a new continent in the Arctic.
The waste from nuclear power plants will remain hazardous for thousands of years. How can it be stored safely?
At the very start of World War I, British soldiers reported witnessing strange apparitions.
Large, general museums attract tourists in all the world’s major cities, but there are lots of offbeat locations dedicated to a specific topic.
A fearless critic of political and corporate sleaze was censored and blacklisted for his advocacy.
Religious leaders, wing-nuts, charlatans, and even a chicken have predicted the end of the world, but we are still here.
Somnambulism is an odd affliction that causes people to behave strangely while fast asleep.
Body parts started showing up in central London in 1888; did they belong to a previously unknown victim of Jack the Ripper?
At the end of World War Two, many Nazi war criminals had the help of the Catholic Church in getting out of Europe.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, stories circulated around Europe that some women had pig’s heads instead of human ones.
During the 1982 Falklands War an Argentinean cruiser was sunk by a British submarine. Some have suggested the action was a war crime.
Some people believe the calendar we use today needs improving. Others point out the massive logistical challenges of changing what we have.
Strange things happen in the world of medicine.
From the 1880s to the 1920s, investigative journalists worked to expose corruption, deceit, racism, and inequality. They were given the unflattering nickname of “muckrakers.”
For centuries inventors and charlatans have made claims to have created a machine that never stops.
A grim discovery in 1942 in the Himalayas has led investigators on a hunt to explain how hundreds of skeletons ended up in and around a small lake.
A massive, almost forgotten, wildfire struck northeastern Wisconsin on the same day as the Great Chicago fire.
Ivan VI became Emperor of All Russia when he was just two months old; his reign was short and tragic.
When Detroit prohibited liquor sales a group of vicious criminals stepped in to satisfy demand.
A surprisingly large number of people wanted a brilliant Canadian engineer dead.
In the 19th century, European powers used opium as a tool for dominating south-east Asia.
There are some weird and wonderful names with which people go through life.
Jack Kipling was one of the thousands of young British men callously thrown into the meat-grinding battlefields of World War I.
A British man believed his own spiritual magnificence made him above the gods, while others thought him the Devil incarnate.
The men who go down to the sea in ships know only too well about the dangers involved when the weather turns angry.
For hundreds of years, stories of animals emerging alive from solid rock have intrigued people.
We all have a lot of microplastic in our bodies and it’s impossible to avoid ingesting more.
Huge numbers of people responsible for the Holocaust escaped punishment; some Jewish survivors decided to correct that.
The Bohemian Club is a secret society where "the one percent" frolics in the forest stirring the imaginations of critics.
After the Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act was passed in 1956, conspiracy theories and communist plot allegations followed an attempt to help the mentally ill.
An immensely popular German writer rose from jailed con man to the most popular fiction writer in his country’s history. This is the story of Karl May.
The wealthy heiress to a rifle company fortune built a huge mansion in California; it’s said to be inhabited by multiple ghouls and anguished spirits.
Brought to the United States by German immigrants, the hot dog has become an American institution. Twenty billion wieners are consumed in the U.S. each year.
As the writer and publisher of I.F. Stone’s Weekly, he skewered politicians and journalists alike.
Fortunately for the rest of us, a lot of crooks are monumentally dumb.
Here is a collection of unusual words that, if used in conversation, will likely lose you friends.
Sometimes the public is beset by a widespread and irrational dread that something terrible is about to happen and often that fear is manufactured.
One of the most infamous crooks of the Victoria era was a violent burglar.
At the height of the Cold War, Canadian engineers built an advanced combat interceptor, but it never went into production.
The South Fork of the Chicago River carried away the decaying effluent of the city’s stockyards but the legacy of pollution remains.
During the depths of the Great Depression a team of writers interviewed more than 2,000 former slaves who were still alive.
Late in the 19th century, work began on building a railway to the top of the Jungfrau Mountain in the Swiss Alps.
Ada Lovelace, the mathematician daughter of poet Lord Byron, is sometimes called “the first computer programmer.”
We all use figures of speech, which are devices that use words in a non-literal way. They give our language colour and vivacity. In this article, 12 common figures of speech are defined and discussed with specific examples.
Dunbar’s number was created by a British anthropologist to define how many friends an individual can reasonably have. This article examines the idea of friendship, the science behind it and the number of real friends people can have in the age of social media.
As the Ku Klux Klan became increasingly powerful, journalists worked to reveal its secrets.
At the start of the 20th century, riots broke out in London over the vivisection of a brown terrier mongrel. This article discusses the causes and implications of the anti-vivisection movement.
By the late 1800s, the Yahi band of Indians in California had been hunted and killed to extinction, except for one man.
Gamblers, although probably not successful ones, easily fall into the trap of believing in the “hot hand” or “lucky streak.”
From her headquarters in the Bahamas, Gertrude Lythgoe played a central role in subverting America’s experiment with prohibition.
For more than two centuries, several members of Europe’s nobility suffered from the belief they were made of glass. How did this phenomenon begin? Who did it affect?
A heavily overloaded ship was used to transport people deemed undesirable away from Britain.
For centuries, mythical beasts have captured our imaginations and scared us witless.
There are dozens of self-proclaimed all over the world that often spring from a whimsical mind. They include America's “Molossia,” Canada's “Outer Baldonia,” and the UK's “Austenasia.”
New words and phrases, called neologisms, are added to the English language at the rate of roughly three per day. This article discusses how and why new words are created and what it takes for them to officially land in the dictionary.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, gangs of marauding villains found a new way to rob from their targets.
The French mathematician Émile Borel proposed a law about the probability of events occurring.
A fictional professor at Brown University has a teaching career that spans almost a century.
A luxury liner embarked on its ill-fated last voyage crammed with involuntary passengers.
Particularly in Britain, buildings have been constructed that have no valid purpose.
The most reputable reference works contain errors, sometimes deliberately, often not.
In 1979, a publishing sensation sent thousands of people on a treasure hunt in Britain.
In 1793, a yellow fever epidemic decimated the population of what was, at the time, America’s capital city.
Though women have made many contributions to science, their efforts have been largely left out of history.
For the most part, physicians in the medieval era were groping about in the dark, and their patients often suffered as a result. Bloodletting, trepanation, and other outdated practices were the norm.
A slight lapse of concentration and a word spills onto the page that can cause embarrassment and cost a lot of money.
In June 2018, two strange coins were found when pews in the Bath Abbey church were being restored. As workers removed the pews, they made some curious finds. There was an order of service from 1902, not out of the ordinary in a place of worship. But, what were the two strange coins?
Let's play around with words, from Charles Dickens to the novels of Victor Appleton.
We usually evaluate risk emotionally when what’s required is a rational assessment of danger.
A world-famous bridge player was found dead in his locked New York home with a bullet in his head. Who killed him? And how?
The harmonica is one of the few musical instruments that can be carried in a pocket and that users can teach themselves to play.
A group of Oxford University students embarked on a scheme that can be seen as the birth of extreme sports.
The popular image of Neanderthals is of brutish characters that could only grunt. The popular image is wrong.
A woman in Victorian London was so universally disliked that the list of those who had a reason to kill her was very long.
The British newspaper magnate rose from nothing and then collapsed spectacularly.
The humble spud has had a profound influence on world events.
A study in Finland has pinpointed the character traits that make some people drive like jerks.
A series of coincidences brought two athletes together at a crucial time in both their lives.
In 1894, a group of reformers marched on Washington to protest income inequality.
There are some very strange things going on in the world of art that defy relational explanation for ordinary people. It is really easy to ridicule some examples of performance art, so let’s get started.
A popular and harmless entertainment or the work of the devil? Let’s find out.
In Victorian Britain, an Anglican parson worked to improve the living conditions for the poor of London’s East End.
The 500-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a calamity even before the green flag waved.
An Italian noble family moved to British Columbia more than a century before Harry and Megan did the same thing.
In 1905, the former Governor of Idaho was murdered, the result of a bitter labour dispute.
Clues to the future can be found in the most unlikely places, but only by those who have the skill to interpret them.
The man who was to become Britain’s King George IV was self-indulgent, petty, wildly extravagant, and unpopular.
During the nineteenth century, the British and Russian Empires were engaged in a rivalry over control of Central Asia; there were casualties.
A cruise liner sank off the coast of South Africa in 1991; miraculously, all 571 people on board survived after the captain abandoned his responsibilities.
This small, round, black candy made of liquorice, known as the Pontefract Cake, has an interesting background.
Scientists say that Eurasia and the Americas might crash into each other in the Arctic and form a new continental land mass.
An English parson joined a criminal gang in order to supply his taste for fine alcohol.
In the 1920s and 1930s, New York embarked on a program to shut down the many services that offered a reading of the future in return for money.
The feisty editor of a community newspaper in British Columbia, Canada gained a national reputation for speaking her mind.
What daily concerns do homeless people face? Homelessness can happen to anyone, so it’s best to be prepared by knowing some survival skills.
Charles Joughin’s extraordinary story of survival in frigid water.
A natural human function is frowned upon in polite society and causes gales of laughter among those of us whose development has been arrested.
A German-Jewish immigrant to New York built a criminal empire based on the buying and selling of stolen goods.
During World War II, a code of honour unique to Albanians led to the rescue of Jews from the Nazi killing factories.
Over the years, some hazardous toys for children have made it onto the market, sometimes with tragic results.
American history is often tarnished by the mistreatment of the continent’s Indigenous peoples, and the Sioux Uprising of 1862 is sadly typical.
There was a time when overweight men revelled in their massive poundage and formed clubs to celebrate girth and heft.
Today’s anti-vaxxers are just the latest iteration of opposition to a procedure that has saved untold millions of lives.
A lost tribe was discovered in 1971 living deep in a Philippine rainforest and the story became an international sensation.
For most people, executive salaries are obscenely high, and even when leaders screw up, corporations seem willing to pay out a fortune to get rid of them.
A nineteenth century British woman with little education made some of the most important geological discoveries of her time.
Some people want the apostrophe killed off while others are struggling to preserve its place in the English language.
The oak desk used by many U.S. presidents was a gift from Queen Victoria in 1880.
Gross Domestic Product is the standard measure of how well or poorly an economy is doing. Some economists say it’s a false indicator.
Non-native plants arrive in various parts of the world and create havoc to ecosystems.
A large group of enslaved black people rose up against their owners in Louisiana; they chanted “Freedom or Death” because they had nothing left to lose.
A phenomenon known as hikikomori causes some people to isolate themselves in their rooms for months or even years.
On a planet with finite resources, the economy cannot keep growing forever.
The ownership of a tiny, rocky outcrop in Africa’s Lake Victoria is claimed by two countries.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, children in Britain were encouraged to read the lurid tales of felons in the hope that the stories of their gruesome ends would act as an example.
One of the most senior members of British royalty got tangled up in a conspiracy to overthrow the government in 1968.
Making liquor is a sometimes hazardous business that involves working with highly flammable liquids.
Casa Loma in Toronto is the kind of place that ought to have ghosts, and there are plenty of people who claim to have seen some.
An English nurse worked to help both British and French soldiers escape from occupied Belgium during World War I; her story was shamelessly propagandized by the British.
Angered by years of exploitation and unsafe working conditions, thousands of West Virginia coal miners took up arms against their employers.
There’s a short street in Manhattan that has the undesirable reputation of having been the most violent in the city’s history.
In the 19th century, the capital of the greatest empire the world had ever seen was squalid, choked by soot, and riddled with disease.
Sometimes, people do monumentally stupid things that cause injury to themselves, and then they feel someone should compensate them financially for their brainless behaviour.
When one power rises to challenge the domination of another the result is often war.
Tourism contributes to global heating, but there are ways to reduce the effect.
With the exception of some African people, everybody is a migrant or a descendant of migrants.
The highest peak in Wales attracts a lot of charity fund-raising schemes, and then, there’s the peculiar stuff.
Did a Brazilian, who declared himself to be the “first sportsman of the air,” beat the Wright brothers to practical flight?
From the barrier island of Barataria some shady characters carried on a brisk smuggling business in the early 19th century.
The River Thames had been an open sewer for Britain’s capital for centuries and then came the hot summer of 1858.
New York City’s Halls of Justice developed a well-earned and fearsome reputation as a place to steer clear of.
In the early 1800s, a rich and well-connected slave owner in New Orleans had charm, beauty, and a hidden depravity.
What started out as a teaching aid now entertains millions and has even resisted the digital onslaught.
The tiny enclave and tax haven on France’s southern coast has long enjoyed a reputation for being a playground for the extremely wealthy no matter how they came by their riches.
Creole languages take words from two or more languages to create a third tongue that becomes a common communication tool.
On May 19, 1780 the sky turned murky in New England and parts of eastern Canada and many people believed the end of the world had arrived.
"Silent Night"—one of the most popular Christmas carols—is now more than 200 years old. This article includes origin theories and other trivia pertaining to the classic holiday poem.
A Toronto theatre impresario signed the biggest deal of his life and then vanished.
The French Canadian strongman performed some amazing feats of lifting in the late 19th century.
Slavery may have been abolished in the Western world in the 19th century, but it continues today in many places.
A mid-air explosion brought down a United Airlines flight in what was probably the world’s first aeronautical terrorism case.
Those that contribute least to global heating are the ones who suffer most from it.
He was one of the greatest and saddest jockeys ever to grace the sport of horse racing in Britain.
There have been some brilliant feasts in celebration of the winter solstice throughout history. In Christianity, this time of year also marks the birth of Jesus.
Is there an identical copy of you somewhere in the world?
A humanoid creature with a ram’s head terrorized people in southern California. He is one of several strange animals that has appeared mysteriously throughout history.
There are conflicting claims about the appropriateness of killing wildlife. Many criticize big game hunting for moral reasons, as well as concerns over where the money from this expensive sport ends up.
The triangular trade among India, China, and Britain involved tea, silk, and opium. The latter had a terrible impact on China that is remembered today.
In Europe, ravens are seen as harbingers of misfortune while to North America’s Indigenous people they are central to creation myths.
The one-percenters contribute to global heating massively out of proportion to their numbers.
Called les sapeurs, African men dress in extravagant outfits while living in poverty.
A father and son combination governed the Caribbean nation with extreme corruption and violence for almost three decades.
Most of us don’t exercise enough, but how much is enough?
English has become the common language of the world; it’s a pity its spelling conventions are so complex.
In November 1944, an American bomber made a rough landing near a British army base in Belgium - without a crew.
Sometimes people have a strong memory of something happening and are surprised to find out that their recollection doesn’t match up with the historical record. It's called the Mandela Effect.
Child labour was not invented by Victorians nor did it end when the Victorian era passed into history. However, the Victorians put huge numbers of children to work.
Waitstaff have to endure long hours, low wages, and—sometimes—unpleasant customers who stiff them for the bill.
No matter how outrageous an Internet satirical comment someone will believe it to be true.
The “wild child” raised by animals is the stuff of folklore and legend, but there are real cases of feral children growing up without human interaction.
An Irish immigrant from a good family turned his back on respectability and became a vicious hoodlum in the 1920s.
Jealousy seems to be a trait shared by many writers who can’t resist launching malicious attacks on the work and characters of rivals.
Our throw-away society is creating a huge burden on the environment both in the consumption of resources and the choking of landfills.
Elderly Canadian patients in a nurse’s care started dying and nobody in authority bothered to investigate.
Before there was Charlottesville, the alt-right, or El Paso, there was a work of fiction that stirred up race hatred.
In Georgian Britain, pedestrianism was all the rage and large crowds gathered to watch men walk over vast distances. Eventually, the practice became an Olympic event.
People seen as a threat to the orthodoxy of government policy in China are whisked off to places where they learn to accept the wisdom of the regime – or else.
Scotland is generally not considered to be one of the great culinary centres of the world. There are good reasons for that.
Educators are seeing an increase in children arriving at school with poor vocabularies that are going to handicap them throughout life.
These tiny insects kill between one and two million people a year and the diseases they carry are turning up in places where they were never seen before.
For more than 200 years, the wealthy and privileged members of British society have cavorted and misbehaved at the exclusive Oxford University club.
“Don’t get mad, get even” is sound advice when you have been wronged; the more inventive your revenge the better the outcome.
In 1665, the people of a village in England made a terrible sacrifice that halted the spread of a killer disease.
The marriage between Gertrude Elizabeth Blood and Lord Colin Campbell in 1882 ended in a sensational divorce trial.
Some people are spending as much as $90 for a bottle of “premium” water—but even the cheaper stuff isn’t really cheap.
The World Health Organization says Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare but severe, often fatal, illness in humans.
Late in the 19th century, oil was found under the grazing land of the Osage Indian Reservation in Northeast Oklahoma; a discovery that proved disastrous for the Native People.
Trees are so much more than plants waiting to be turned into building materials and paper.
We all know that Victorians were straight-laced prudes. The truth is that some were and some weren’t; the difference largely depended on gender and social standing.
The Sunshine State has a major problem with non-native species that are wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. Burmese pythons, green iguanas, and feral pigs are some of the main culprits.
Why do two small ethnic enclaves at opposite ends of Europe share some linguistic similarities?
Primary rainforest covering an area about the size of Belgium was lost to chainsaws in 2018, but there are signs of recovery and regeneration. Many groups across the world are enacting reforestation initiatives.
Here is an alphabet’s worth of words that you would be wise not to use for fear of being labelled a vocabulary snob.
The thought of a visit to the dentist without anesthetics might cause many people to think that a raging toothache will take care of itself.
In 1957, the East German government released the horrible Trabant car on an unsuspecting world.
At the height of the Cold War a paperboy in New York City made a discovery that, eventually, led to the arrest of a spy.
We often use words that are derived from a person’s name without even realizing it.
“Unfounded fears” is how dictionaries describe superstitions; to actors in the theatre, there is nothing unfounded about them.
The great inventor put job applicants through an unusual test before deciding whether or not to hire them. How well would you do?
The sourtoe cocktail is served in the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, in the northwestern Canadian territory of Yukon. Just as the name suggests, this cocktail has a fascinating story.
Being rejected by the religious community to which you belong is devastating emotionally.
The so-called “sport of kings” has a nasty dark side that the industry would rather have the public not know about.
There were talkie movies and there were cars, and it took a man from New Jersey to make the extraordinary connection between the two.