Jan 30, 2017
This episode was decided by
listeners who responded to a poll I put up last week on Twitter
asking if I should do a regular show for Episode 30 or if I should
do a special episode with 30 random facts. If you’re not already,
follow @storybehindpod on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram so
you can contribute to the show.
What you decided was episode 30 should be 30 random facts, so
without further ado, here we go!
I’m your host, Emily Prokop, and this is The Story Behind 30
- Many things we eat and drink contain grass. Not the kinds that
necessarily grow in our yards, but varieties like wheat grass and
barley grass are found in beer, whiskey and bread.
- A way to distinguish a monkey from an ape is their tails. Apes
don’t have tails, but monkeys do.
- Yams commonly found in your grocery store are probably sweet
potatoes. True yams grow in Africa and Asia and are relatively
tough to find. They are related to the lily family, while sweet
potatoes are related to the morning glory family. But grocery
stores distinguish sweet potatoes as being a firm sweet potato with
a light flesh and a yam as being a soft sweet potato with a more
orange or copper color.
- The moons and natural satellites of Uranis were named for
characters in works by William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope, like
Ophelia, Juliet, Belinda and Umbriel. The tradition was started by
astronomer William Lassell, who discovered the first two in
- Cordelia from King Lear
- Ophelia from Hamlet
- Bianca from Taming of the Shrew
- Cressida from Troilus and Cressida
- Desdemona from Othello
- Juliet from Romeo and Juliet
- Portia from Merchant of Venice
- Rosalind from As You Like It
- Belinda, Umbriel from Rape of Lock
- Puck, Titania and Oberon from A Midsummer Night's Dream
- Miranda, Ariel, Caliban, Sycorax, Prospero, Setebos, Stephano
and Trinculo from The Tempest
- Hades, from Greek mythology, is not the basis for Satan in
Christianity. Hades isn’t necessarily a bad guy -- his job is
simply to guard the Underworld, which is where all souls were
believed to have gone when they died. There are parts of the
Underworld where evil souls are tortured, much like Christianity’s
description of Hell, but souls considered good are rewarded in the
- Erasers work by attracting the graphite from pencils off the
paper and onto the rubber. Before our modern-day erasers, people
would often use balled up bread to fix their mistakes on
- Raisins were discovered accidentally when a San Fransisco
grocer began selling grapes that had been dried out due to the heat
wave 1873. He called them a “Peruvian Delicacy.”
- Eclair is the French word for Lightning. It’s unclear why the
cream-filled pastry is named that. One theory is that the name
refers to the flaky outside and creamy inside being “light,” and a
second theory is that it’s eaten in a flash.
- Shirley Temple has fought soda companies twice for trying to
market the ginger ale and grenadine drink named in her honor. Both
times, she won. In 1988 when a California company tried to market
Shirley T. Sparkling Soda, she was quoted by the New York Times as
saying, “I will fight it like a tigress. All a celebrity has is
- If you’ve ever wondered where the phrase “Steal one’s thunder”
comes from, it’s from John Dennis, an English dramatist from the
1700s, who invented a device for one of his plays that made a
thunder sound. When his play flopped, the theater used the device
for another play, causing Dennis to say, “That is my thunder,
by God; the villains will play my thunder, but not my play.”
- “Steal my Sunshine,” the poppy ‘90s favorite by the
brother-sister band Len isn’t actually as positive as the title
implies. It’s been said the lyrics either refer to drugs or
depression and how someone can make you feel worse by stealing your
- The word “sychophant,” which basically means a self-serving
suck up, has two possible origins. Both are pretty great.
- The first is that it comes from the Greek words “suko,” which
means Fig, and “phantes,” which means people who reveal something.
Back then, those who exported figs were doing so illegally, and
anyone who told on them to authorities was called a Fig Revealer,
or Suko-Phant. But the Oxford English Dictionary acknowledges this
origin story to be unsubstantiated.
- The second origin comes from the Greek “sykophantes”, the Latin
“sycophanta” and the Middle French version, “sycophante” in the
1530s, which also has to do with figs. In ancient Greece, it was a
vulgar gesture to stick ones thumb between two fingers, which was
thought to resemble a fig. It doesn’t sound too bad until you find
out that a fig was symbolic of a certain lady part. This gesture
was commonly used as a taunt in Greek sporting events.
- Antarctica is the world’s largest desert. Hard to believe,
right? But a desert is actually defined not by sand or heat, but by
the amount of precipitation it receives, and Antarctica only gets
an average of 2 inches of snow per year.
- New words are added to English language at a rate of one new
word every two hours.
- Coca-Cola bottles were designed when the company sponsored a
competition to design distinctive bottles. At the time, all
beverages were put in similar bottles, making it difficult to
making it difficult to distinguish one drink from the other when
kept cool in a bucket of ice water. The designer of the bottles
originally wanted to draw inspiration from the coca leaf or kola
nut, but the local library didn’t have pictures of either. But he
came up with the now iconic design of the Coca-Cola bottle after
finding a picture of a cacao pod.
- “Enormity” is often thought to mean enormous, but it actually
means extreme evil. It can be used, however, to mean a gigantic
amount of evil.
- Remember the movie in which Sinbad played a genie called
“Shazam?” Or reading the childhood books, “The Berenstein Bears” or
even Curious George’s tail? Yeah … those actually never happened.
At least, according to what people are calling The Mandela Effect,
a phenomenon where many swear they remember something one way, but
it’s actually different. By the way, there’s no record of the movie
Shazam, the books we read as kids were actually the
and Curious George does not have a tail, which suggests he’s an ape
rather than a “little monkey,” as he’s called in books.
- Eyes that are two different colors on a person is called
Heterochromia. Some people mistakenly think David Bowie had this,
but one of his pupils was permanently dilated his friend’s
fingernail sliced his eye when they got into a fight as
- Mozart was so good at playing music at a young age, when he
performed in London, people suspected him of being a drawf posing
as a 9-year-old child.
- Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr wanted to help the war effort
during World War II and, with the help of composer George Antheil,
developed wireless communications technology we still use today in
everyday objects such as cell phones.
- In “The Big Lebowski,” the word Dude is used 161 times and
“man” is used 147.
- No one really knows why sometimes we get the sensation of
falling when we’re about to fall asleep. It’s called a hypnic jerk
and one theory is it’s a leftover response from when humans used to
sleep on branches in trees.
- V for Victory was popularized by Winston Churchill during World
War II. But it was first proposed as a symbol for resistance to
tyranny by Victor de Laveleye who was exiled to England after the
Nazi invasion of Belgium in 1940.
- In case you ever wanted to kiss a baby iguana on the mouth, you
might want to be aware that they often eat the poop of adult
iguanas to get bacteria necessary for digesting their food.
- George Orwell’s “1984,” written in 1949, shot to the top of
Amazon Best-Sellers last week, which for those of you listening in
the future was the second to last week of January 2017 following a
number of references to the book on Twitter after Trump counselor
Kellyanne Conway's statement that White House Press Secretary Sean
Spicer used "alternative facts" when describing Inauguration
- If you see a representation of a pirate wearing an eye patch,
it’s most likely not because he lost his eye -- a theory, which was
deemed Plausible by “Mythbusters,” is that wearing an eye patch
kept that eye’s pupil dilated so seeing in the dark was easier when
the patch was removed. Having this skill was handy when pirates had
to go below deck quickly.
- Lincoln’s famous beard was grown because 11-year-old Grace
Bedell of Westfield, New York, wrote him a letter suggesting
growing a beard to hide his gaunt face before the upcoming
presidential election. On the way to his inauguration, he made a
special stop in Westfield to meet Bedell and, shaking her hand,
said,“You see? I let these whiskers grow for you.”
- As much as fans love him, Darth Vader only appears on screen
for a total of 12 minutes in the original Star Wars.
- Not that I recommend you try it, but Romans used to effectively
whiten their teeth with urine.
- There are two theories most probable about the origin of pink
lemonade. Neither of them involve adding strawberry or raspberry to
the mixture, as is common today and both involve the circus. One is
that red cinnamon candies were accidentally dropped in a vat of
lemonade in 1912 and, because there wasn’t enough time to make a
new batch, the lemonade was sold and became a hit. The second is
that a lemonade salesman at the circus in 1857 ran out of water to
make lemonade and grabbed a tub of water that was previously used
to wash a performer’s pink tights.
The role of Shirley Temple was played by Laura McClellan from The Productive
Woman podcast, John
Dennis was played by
Savage from the
Savant, and Stargate Pioneer from Better
Podcasting played Abraham Lincoln.
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