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The Oxford “er”


I say, after brekkers do you want to see if Tollers from the Bodder wants to play some rugger or soccer for eccer? This “er” slang abbreviation came from Oxford University, where it has been in use since the 19th century.

Immortal dog


Some time more than 200 years ago, a dog or wolf in China or Siberia got cancer. It was a strange type of cancer: the cancer cells were contagious. That cell line is still alive today, and will probably be alive forever.

The world wonders


In World War II, it was standard practice to add nonsense phrases to coded messages in transit, in order to thwart decryption efforts. One of those phrases accidentally changed the course of the largest naval battle in history.

Flea poetry


Fleas are not an obvious topic for poetry. And yet it is the core of both the shortest poem in the English language and the dodgiest erotic poem ever written by a cleric of the Church of England.

Bean feast

Bean feast

“I want a bean feast” announces Veruca Salt in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. I used to think this was just another of her random demands, but it turns out that a bean feast is a real thing.

The last Yahi


August 29, 1911: a man walked out of the hills near Lassen Peak and introduced himself as the last survivor of the Native American Yahi people. Contemporaries branded him “the last wild Indian,” but we will never know his true name.