Truth in Advertising

Pretty, ain’t it? This 30-meter cliff rises from the foothills of the Rockies in Alberta. For 6,000 years, Native Americans would drive buffalo over the edge; the bone deposits at the bottom are 10 meters deep.

The Blackfoot call this place estipah-skikikini-kots, after a legend about one unfortunate young man who chose to watch the climactic plunge from below. Estipah-skikikini-kots means “Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.”

Math Notes

5882 + 23532 = 5882353


Complete lyrics to the world’s shortest song, “You Suffer” by British grindcore band Napalm Death:

“You suffer–but why?”

It’s 1.316 seconds long, and band often performs it live.

The Hard Way

Son of a U.S. vice president, Michael Rockefeller shunned the easy life and sought adventure in New Guinea.

Apparently he found it. In November 1961 he and an anthropologist were three miles from shore when their pontoon boat overturned. After drifting for some time, Rockefeller told his companion, “I think I can make it” and swam for shore.

He was never seen again.

A Dead Language Revived

Jonathan Swift liked to compose “Latin puns” — stanzas of nonsense Latin that would render English when spoken:

Mollis abuti,
Has an acuti,
No lasso finis,
Molli divinis.
Omi de armis tres,
Cantu disco ver
Meas alo ver?

Read that aloud and you’ll hear:

Moll is a beauty,
Has an acute eye,
No lass so fine is,
Molly divine is.
O my dear mistress,
I’m in a distress,
Can’t you discover
Me as a lover?

In a later letter, Swift wrote:

I ritu a verse o na molli o mi ne,
Asta lassa me pole, a l(ae)dis o fine;
I ne ver neu a niso ne at in mi ni is;
A manat a glans ora sito fer diis.
De armo lis abuti hos face an hos nos is
As fer a sal illi, as reddas aro sis;
Ae is o mi molli is almi de lite;
Illo verbi de, an illo verbi nite.

I writ you a verse on a Molly o’ mine,
As tall as a May-pole, a lady so fine;
I never knew any so neat in mine eyes;
A man, at a glance or a sight of her, dies
Dear Molly’s a beauty, whose face and whose nose is
As fair as a lily, as red as a rose is;
A kiss o’ my Molly is all my delight;
I love her by day, and I love her by night.

See also this verse.


Russian spell to invoke a werewolf, cited in The Book of Werewolves (1865) by Sabine Baring-Gould:

He who desires to become an oboroten, let him seek in the forest a hewn-down tree; let him stab it with a small copper knife, and walk round the tree, repeating the following incantation:

On the sea, on the ocean, on the island, on Bujan,
On the empty pasture gleams the moon, on an ashstock lying
In a green wood, in a gloomy vale.
Towards the stock wandereth a shaggy wolf,
Horned cattle seeking for his sharp white fangs;
But the wolf enters not the forest,
But the wolf dives not into the shadowy vale,
Moon, moon, gold-horned moon,
Check the flight of bullets, blunt the hunters’ knives,
Break the shepherds’ cudgels,
Cast wild fear upon all cattle,
On men, all creeping things,
That they may not catch the grey wolf,
That they may not rend his warm skin!
My word is binding, more binding than sleep,
More binding than the promise of a hero!

Then he springs thrice over the tree and runs into the forest, transformed into a wolf.

“A gentleman,” said Lana Turner, “is simply a patient wolf.”

The Haberdasher’s Problem

Can you make three cuts in a square of cloth and rearrange the pieces to form an equilateral triangle?

Water Music

The Great Bell of Dhammazedi may have been the largest bell ever made, reportedly weighing 300 metric tons.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to confirm its size — after the Portuguese removed it from a Myanmar temple in 1608, it was lost in a river.

The Gävle Goats

There are good Swedes and bad Swedes. The good ones build a three-ton straw goat every Christmas, and the bad ones try to burn it down. This has happened almost every year since 1966, when the first goat went up in flames on New Year’s Eve. The forces of good have brought in police guards, webcams, soldiers, volunteers, and dogs, but the bad guys have usually won. In 1976 the goat was even run over by a car.

What all this means is a question for sociologists, but it’s become a local industry. In 1988 English bookmakers began laying odds on the goat’s prospects, and now “goat committees” stock up on flame retardant and extra straw. They’re up against a tough foe, though: In 40 years of struggle, only four arsonists have been caught.

“Two Young Women Want Washing”

Unfortunately worded advertisements of the 19th century, collected in English as She Is Wrote (1884):

  • “Teeth extracted with great pains.”
  • “Babies taken and finished in ten minutes by a country photographer.”
  • “For sale, a handsome piano, the property of a young lady who is leaving Scotland in a walnut case with turned legs.”
  • “Wanted, a young man to take charge of horses of a religious turn of mind.”
  • “Wanted, a young man to look after a horse of the Methodist persuasion.”
  • “A steamboat-captain, in advertising for an excursion, closes thus: ‘Tickets, 25 cents; children half price, to be had at the captain’s office.'”
  • “Among carriages to be disposed of, mention is made of ‘a mail phaeton, the property of a gentleman with a moveable head as good as new.'”
  • “A landlady, innocent of grammatical knowledge, advertises that she has ‘a fine, airy, well-furnished bedroom for a gentleman twelve feet square’; another has ‘a cheap and desirable suit of rooms for a respectable family in good repair’; still another has ‘a hall bedroom for a single woman 8 x 12.'”