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.
Dirt is absolutely essential to our survival, and we are losing it at a phenomenal rate. Modern farming methods, deforestation and urbanization all contribute to soil erosion and degradation.
In 1943, riots broke out in U.S. cities as servicemen and civilians attacked Mexican-Americans and other minorities.
Through bad seamanship and negligence hundreds of black South African war volunteers died in February 1917.
Women, and some men, apply many beauty products to their bodies and some of these cosmetics contain known cancer-causing substances.
America’s favourite salad has an interesting background—some of which might even be true. Learn about the myths, as well as the true origins, of the Caesar salad.
Being idle is not as simple as doing nothing; it requires dedication.
Rats carry the same levels of unpopularity as spiders and snakes. probably as the result of ancestral memories of bad experiences with the rodents.
Housing has been turned into a good that can be bought and sold for profit pushing a decent place to live out of reach for millions of people.
People have loved thrill rides for a long time and what was once deemed scary is now thought of as tame.
The economic system that has created comfortable standards of living for millions needs an ethical reset.
In most of the world, the “Qwerty” keyboard is the standard. Why?
We have known for thousands of years that bees are important to human society, so it’s not surprising that we have built up a body of folklore surrounding them.
He became Emperor of all Russia in 1796 and lasted less than five years in power before he came to a grisly end.
In 1941, with nuclear weapons still at the theoretical stage, two of the world’s most accomplished scientists met in Copenhagen. Why?
Many fans believe their teams are cursed by some malevolent force that destines them to be losers; obviously it can’t be because they are not good enough to win.
The World Health Organization has placed its seal of high disapproval on one of the world's most delicious foods.
The use of cleverly worded insults seems to have gone out of fashion replaced by short, abusive Tweets.
The ancient philosophy of forbearance in the face of adversity might be a salve that helps us deal with our topsy-turvy world.
As working people struggle to pay their bills, the masters of the financial universe trundle along, rewarding themselves with massive bonuses and risking a repeat of the financial implosion of 2008.
Tiny particles of plastic waste are turning up everywhere on our planet.
In 1903, Benjamin and Mary Purnell founded a weird religious sect and set up shop near Benton Harbour, Michigan; one of its distinguishing features was its baseball team.
The dedication of some library workers in getting books to readers is truly amazing.
In the 16th century an English sailor gave an account of walking across the American interior from Mexico to Nova Scotia.
It takes a lot of effort to avoid doing what should be done; distractions have to be found and not acted upon.
Some physicists are positing the idea that the Universe may be aware of its own existence.
Cleaning up after the daily bodily functions has generated a variety of solutions but it’s only relatively recently that paper has come to the rescue.
The idea that criminals share certain physical characteristics was developed by an Italian physician in the 19th century.
So convenient and, in many places, so necessary, yet our addiction to personal transportation may be killing us.
When travelling, bed and breakfast places are great for gathering information about the locality and for meeting other guests who have a wealth of stories.
Otherwise known as Simon Fraser, the clan leader was a cunning turncoat who played a role in the Jacobite Rebellions of the 18th century.
Being in prison is totally unlike life on the outside so it’s best to be prepared for being incarcerated; some well-heeled criminals even hire prison coaches.
Kings and queens have acquired some strange names, some complimentary, some derogatory, and some downright rude.
We almost never give concrete a second thought, yet it has a major impact on our lives both negatively and positively.
It’s embarrassing to discover information you have passed along as an absolute truth turns out to be a falsehood.
The real deal, called Parmigiano-Reggiano, can legitimately be made only in the region stretching west and north of Bologna, Italy, but fakes swamp the market.
Being the head of the Roman Catholic Church has sometimes been hazardous to the health of the incumbent.
Many products that used to last a lifetime now break down in a few years forcing consumers to buy a replacement.
In the past, being a church leader was an occupation that carried with it the prospect of an untimely demise.
For thousands of years leaders have resorted to using walls to protect them from external threats; they almost never work.
Throughout history, the English have shamelessly stolen words from other languages as diverse as Arabic and Norwegian.
There have been more than 1,600 mass shootings in the United States, defined as four or more people shot excluding the shooter, since Sandy Hook in December 2012.
Owls are good. No, they’re bad. Owls are wise. No, they’re stupid. The contradictions depend on which culture you come from.
The cruelly ruthless American lawyer had deep roots in the darkest corners of the Republican Party.
Has human evolution stopped or will our species continue to change?
With two wheels, budding suitors could expand their search for a mate beyond the confines of their village.
Many Scots insist their national dish makes a wonderful meal.
The spreading of lies is breaking down democracy and undermining the institutions that are the glue of society.
When governments enact deeply unpopular policies, sometimes massive numbers of citizens come together and, through acts of defying the law, bring about change.
In Georgian London, a man would approach women, slash their clothes and, occasionally, their flesh and then calmly stroll away.
As World War II was grinding towards to its cataclysmic end, a heroic effort was made to rescue as many people as possible from the Nazi concentration camps.
We have the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan to thank for giving us a word that describes the use of a wrong word in place of another with a similar sound.
Myths are more attached to magpies than any other bird and they don’t always come out of the stories looking good.
In 1953, the body of a man was found in a ditch and taped to his stomach was what appeared to be a coded message.
Countless people believe there is a Jewish plot to control the world; there is absolutely no truth to the story.
The 19th century author Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton is widely accepted as one of the worst writers ever to be published, and his name lives on in an award.
The moon is believed by many to have an influence on our physical and mental condition; it doesn’t.
Fed by sensational newspaper coverage, Victorians were terrified of being poisoned by the spouses or random murderers.
An extraordinary breed of person joins the Royal National Lifeboat Institute in Britain; as volunteers they risk their lives to save others and sometimes they pay the ultimate price.
The first crossword appeared in 1913 in The New York Post and ushered in an era of frustration for morning newspaper readers.
We all know that junk food is not good for us, but we consume it anyway. Would a special tax on doughnuts, chips, and pop change our eating habits?
At the height of the spiritualism craze in the 19th century, audiences could be easily convinced certain experts had contact with the supernatural world.
For more than 200 years, Canada has been deaf to the calls for union with America and has maintained its independent status as a sovereign nation.
They preach loudly about the organic, artisanal chicken they buy at the farmer’s markets, and they bang on forever over quinoa-encrusted tofu. They are food snobs, and they need to be dealt with.
In 1847, Christians and social reformers started the Vegetarian Society in England to advance the cause of a meat-free diet.
How well do you know food? In these seven quizzes you'll find 20 food-related words with several possible definitions. Can you identify the correct one?
More than 2,000, mostly American, internees were held in atrocious conditions in a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines; their rescue was imperative.
Scientists are saying that human activity has compressed geological change that normally takes millions of years into a few hundred.
Cape Verde is a group of islands off the west coast of Africa, and it’s where Cesária Évora perfected morna, the traditional style of music of the archipelago.
Tommy Lipton grew up in poverty in Glasgow before becoming one of the masters of retailing.
You never know when a piece of bush craft is going to come in handy.
As the Second World War was coming to an end, chaos reigned everywhere and led to an intelligence blunder of tragic proportions.
According to many experts the world is on the brink of a major industrial upheaval.
In 1919, black sharecroppers asked for a better deal from landowners; their request was met with extreme violence.
It’s impossible to like haggis, it’s impossible to dislike elephants, it’s impossible to create perpetual motion, and it’s impossible to cure stupidity.
Floating jails were used house convicts spilling out of Britain’s overcrowded prisons in the 18th and 19th centuries. Conditions were appalling.
In 1940, a Polish soldier volunteered to become an inmate in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp so he could reveal its horrors to the world.
In 1864, leaders of Canada’s Tsilhqot’in people were duped into a peace meeting that led to their deaths.
As a receiver of stolen goods he was famous in Victorian England and is probably the model from which Charles Dickens drew the character of Fagin.
Destined to one day inherit the throne of Britain, Prince Albert Victor seemed ill-suited to such a high office.
In late Victorian Britain, unmarried mothers paid others to take care of their babies to avoid the stigma of having an illegitimate child.
A humble, misunderstood, and unappreciated vegetable, the rutabaga needs a spin doctor to improve its image; I am not here to provide that service.
The fees charged by lawyers put professional legal representation out of reach for large numbers of people.
Violet Jessop survived the sinking of two vessels and the collision of another, all sister ships of the White Star Line.
Many a young man thinks he’s died and gone to heaven when he’s hired by a video game developer, then he discovers his hours of work will be brutal.
About 2.5 million scientific papers are published every year in order to reveal new research and advance knowledge; too bad there’s fraud and chicanery behind some of them.
People on the centre left of politics strive for a society of equality and stress the importance of the community over the individual.
Early in the 20th century, a group of burglars killed three unarmed London police officers; a crime that started a long standoff and gun battle.
A grifter from Rhode Island made a fortune and lost it by pretending to be a North American Indian.
For several hundred years, women have been coming to North America to marry men they never met before arrival.
Chef Albert Verdeyen says chips quite definitely come from his native Belgium; perhaps they do, perhaps they don’t.
A hundred years ago, the car maker turned a waste product into something useful that had a profound impact on America’s social life.
A compendium, collection, and chrestomathy of words you will likely never use. How can you resist a sales pitch like that?
Born in 1861 to free black parents, Isaac Murphy became one of the greatest jockeys in America. . . and then white people squeezed him out of horse racing.
Being poor is no fun; among the many negatives are bad health, exposure to crime, and lack of education.
A subset of humanity that would appear to have a very short life expectancy, claims people can live healthily without food.
In its post-war heydays, an all-male gathering of artists, writers, crooks, and aristocrats in London’s seedy red-light district involved crude behaviour.
In February 1942, wartime hysteria triggered a phantom battle in the skies above Los Angeles.
In the 1880s, a huge red beast terrorized the Arizona Territory, and stories of its appearance grew more and more grotesque with each telling.
One of the most baffling crimes in British history took place in a quiet Liverpool neighbourhood in 1931.
A century ago, Linda Hazzard practiced a form of medicine in Washington State based on her belief that people ate too much food. Her therapies were sometimes fatal to her patients.
In 18 hours of racially motivated violence some 300 Africa Americans lost their lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The world’s largest herd of camels is not where you’d expect to find it.
In Scotland, a career criminal with a personal code of honour became a war hero before returning to his old ways.
Somewhere, there’s a graveyard filled with inventions that failed such as Windows Vista, the Edsel car, and radium powder that was supposed to improve sexual prowess.
The Theresienstadt camp was fashioned in an attempt to convince outsiders that Jewish captives were being treated humanely.
Factory work in Victorian England was often sweat labour for low wages; in 1888 a group of young women decided to do something about it.
The Equal Justice Initiative has documented the extra-judicial executions, what it calls racial terror lynchings, of 4,084 African Americans between 1877 and 1950.
A German U-boat came to an abrupt and embarrassing end in 1945 off the coast of Scotland.
Late in the 19th century, Edward, Prince of Wales, became embroiled in a gambling dispute that saw him forced to give testimony in open court.
For three hundred years, women have sought better treatment and recognition for who they are as opposed to being defined by a male-dominated society.
In 1858, an eccentric San Francisco businessman declared himself Emperor of the United States and the locals treated him with deference and affection.
In the late 1950s, two Californian men invented what they called a religion that was based on chaos.
In Mumbai, a system of delivering lunches has evolved whose efficiency might be the envy of FedEx or Amazon.
In light of the U.S. government’s relaxation of rules surrounding the use of asbestos, now is a good time to look at the health concerns of this mineral.
Is it possible to give an accurate reading of someone’s personality by studying their handwriting?
Here are 26 words that you will likely never find a way of elbowing into a conversation.
Technology is increasingly making the need for handwriting obsolete; does that matter?
Mount Everest has been turned into the world’s highest garbage dump by those who seek to conquer it.
In 1612 in Lancashire, England, a dozen people accused of being witches were brought to trial with devastating results.
A victim with no identity, a charred vehicle, and an attempted disappearance.
The story is that the Earl of Sandwich (you can already see where this is going) created the first sandwich in the 18th century. The story is quite comprehensively wrong, although John Montagu, the fourth earl, did give his name to the concoction.
Almost nine centuries ago a gift of food called a dole was bestowed upon the poor of a village in Hampshire, England. The tradition continues today.
All over the Western world, people are losing their enthusiasm for democracy. Election turnouts are dropping, suggesting the democratic system is not important to large numbers of people.
For several decades the last remaining member of an Amazonian tribe has been living alone in the Brazilian rainforest. Or has he?
In 2013, Forbes Magazine said Russian President Vladimir Putin was the most powerful person in the world, and followed that up with three more similar acknowledgements.
Cheap, two-wheeled transportation relieved women from depending on men to get around and played a role in the emancipation movement.
The world’s smokers discard six trillion cigarette butts each year and the poisons in them leach out into the environment.
The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy is held every year in June. Since the races started in 1907, 270 riders have been killed on the island’s road course.
A gooey, dark brown, and salty spread has been marketed under the slogan “Love Me or Hate Me, I’m Yours.”
In 1854, seven men in a fishing boat set off to sail from Cornwall in the west of England to Australia.
In 1907, an American billionaire and a member of Britain’s nobility engaged in a weird bet.
A game of word definitions created by a malevolent writer who has juggled with the subject matter all his life.
Glow-in-the-dark clocks and watches were all the rage at the start of the 20th century, but they killed the people who made them.
The concept of populism gets tossed about a lot these days, but what does it mean?
Vast numbers of people don’t like working, but they do it anyway.
Working-class people in the nineteenth century could not get enough of the sensational stories published in the forerunners of today’s tabloids.
People climb barehanded up the outside of tall structures as a show of bravado, to make a political statement, or simply for the fun of it. No, really.
Before radio, television, and the Internet came to dominate our leisure hours at home people gathered round the hearth and played word games.
There’s more to this simple game than meets the eye; a lot more.
Some Christians believe that if donations are made to religious causes God will reward the donor with wealth, health, and happiness. There are several people ready and willing to encourage folk in that belief and relieve themselves of the burden of extra wealth.
The illusionist from India caused a sensation in Britain in 1956 when he appeared to cut his assistant in half using a massive circular saw.
It’s frequently said these days that democracy is in decline and that fascism is in the ascendancy; but what exactly is fascism?
Many people make product or entertainment choices based on what they read on Internet review sites; this can be a big mistake.
In the days before cheap vacations in the Mediterranean sunshine, British people flocked to coastal resorts for their annual summer holidays, and they usually sent home a postcard featuring a bawdy scene created by Donald McGill.
Z is for Zwodder and A is for Abulia, with 24 odd words in between.
Except for those whose political and economic destinies are tied to Big Oil, most people acknowledge that cutting the release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is best achieved by putting a price on carbon.
Frank Thompson enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War but he wasn’t what he appeared to be. He wasn’t an American and he wasn’t even a “he.”
In 1854, Roger Tichborne was lost at sea. His mother refused to believe her son was dead and embarked on a campaign to find him.
At the end of the 19th century, a pair of New York City lawyers had a legal practice that was as crooked as the people they defended in court.
Nuclear power does not add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere but it comes with a unique set of its own hazards.
They risk their lives to entertain us and the famed waterfall has an irresistible attraction for a certain type of person.
There are still thousands of tonnes of unexploded ordinance (UXO) buried on battlefields across Europe left behind by World War One.
It’s well known that elephants mourn their dead. Do they also mourn the death of people who have helped them?
William Thomas Stead was a journalist who campaigned against the trade in child prostitutes in Victorian London.
Hydrogen can be used as a way of storing energy produced from renewable sources such as wind, solar, or hydro; it can also be burned in a rocket engine to blast a space ship off its launch pad.
Unsinkable Sam served in the German Kriegsmarine and the British Royal Navy during World War II and survived three vessels being sunk under him.
Our appetites for meat and dairy are, indirectly, adding significantly to global warming.
In April 1817, an intriguing woman appeared in a village in Western England. She wore a turban and said she was a princess from some far off place.
Hammerfest is a town in the extreme north of Norway that has seen way more than its fair share of disasters, but it keeps springing back.
In post-Civil War New York City, the Whyos gang controlled the crime activity in most of Manhattan for two decades.
As Japan was nearing defeat in World War II it started to use more and more desperate tactics to turn the tide, one of these was balloon bombs carried across the Pacific Ocean by the jet stream.
Broadly speaking, Paganism, from a Western viewpoint, means all religions that do not trace their origins to Abraham, i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
First Nations Canadian men signed up for duty in World War I in large numbers. Many served with high distinction but nobody matched the exploits of Francis Pegahmagabow.
A version of English is spoken widely throughout what used to be the British Empire. It’s a mixture of local languages and simplified English grammar used by people who don’t share a common tongue.
Newspapers aimed at the semi-literate working classes of Victorian Britain traded in the grotesque, the gruesome, and the grisly.
The “micromort” is a unit used to estimate the probability of a one-in-a-million chance of experiencing sudden death.
Some people believe that personal misfortune and global issues are orchestrated by the Illuminati and other groups with ancient roots.
The Tudor monarch was a man of large appetites and it took a small army of servants to feed him and his court.
The worst mining accident in American history took the lives of at least 361 people in West Virginia in 1907.
Victorians turned death into a macabre theatrical ritual governed by rules of etiquette that covered every aspect of the process.
War is a great opportunity for profit; product has to be created only to be destroyed and created again and confusion leads to creative accounting.
In a strange reversal, DNA evidence can let guilty people go free.
A chrestomathy (that’s a ten dollar word for collection) of words you may never use.
Late in the Victorian era, men in high places were in the habit of visiting a brothel in London to engage in homosexual acts with teenage boys.
The period between the world wars was the golden age of polite drawing-room murder mysteries and those engaged in the craft of creating these stories banded together to develop a code of ethics.
A clandestine operation used fishing boats as a lifeline between Nazi-occupied Norway and Scotland.
A traditional dish of cabbage, bacon, and noodles that comes from Central and Eastern Europe.
Moving goods and people uses up a lot of hydrocarbon fuel so transportation is a sector where changes are coming; perhaps, quite rapidly.
In 1929, reporter Grace Drummond-Hay was the only woman aboard the Graf Zeppelin airship as it circumnavigated the world.
The discovery of a single tooth led to the belief in an ape-like creature had once roamed the plains of the New World.
For desperate Irish people trying to escape the potato famine an even worse fate awaited them.
Sneezing powder, stink bombs, and joy buzzers all came from the fertile mind of one man.
We are social animals and being part of a tribe is essential to our survival, but sometimes the tribal bond can go horribly wrong.
A Victorian zoo and circus sensation, the African elephant led a sad existance.