The Fantastic Origin of Things

STANDING VATION Ovations come from Ancient Rome, when they. celebrated victorious military figures: However, this was a step below the greater honor o
Source: Mental Floss

PAINTING NAILS The custom first started with warriors going off to battle in Babylonia in 3200 B.C., with the color signifying their class. CRACKEDCOr

Source: Byrdie

GIVING A THUMBS UP It's believed the positive gesture derives from English archers in the Middle Ages. The thumbs up was the correct brace height ofSource: BBC

TEETH BRUSHING Ancient civilizations used chew sticks (a twig with a frayed End) since 3000 B.C. China invented the a bristle toothbrush, using hog'

THE RING FINGER Ancient Egyptians believed vein a ran directly from the fourth finger to the heart, which is why we wear the wedding finger there. CRASource: Vanity Fair

CROSSING FINGERS FOR LUCK Crossing fingers with another person was an ancient pagan custom to catch good luck. CRACKEDCOr Source: BBC

DEMANDING ENCORES Back in the Baroque days, audiences would demand that musicians, mid-song, replay sections that they enjoyed. Source: WQXR

KISSING The first evidence of kissing is in the Hindu Vedic Sanskrit texts that describe kissing as soul inhaling. Researchers believe kissing serves Source: BBC

COVERING YOUR MOUTH WHILE YAWNING ffhle Ancient cultures believed yawning left you vulnerable to evil spirits entering through your mouth. CRACKEDCON

THE BEST MAN A German Goth tradition, the best man was the best swordsman who could assist the groom with kidnapping the bride if the family disapprovSource: CNN

CROSSING FINGERS WHILE LYING Christians were believed to cross their fingers to absolve themselves of the lies they told their persecutors. CRACKEDGONSource: BBC

MAKING A WISH BEFORE BLOWING OUT CANDLES Ancient cultures believed smoke brought prayers to the heavens. CRACKEDCON Source: Mental Flo

PINKY SWEARING Pinky swearing may be derived from yubikiri, literally finger-cutting, which is a promise if broken, can result in having your finger

SAYING BLESS YOU AFTER A SNEEZE Bless you dates back to 77 C.E., when sneezes were considered a sign of health. That changed when it was a symptomSource: Mental Floss

HIGH-FIVING os 12 On Oct. 2, 1977, Glenn Burke, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, reached his hand up to his teammate; Dusty Baker, who had jSource: ESPN

GIVING BUNNY EARS The cuckold's horns gesture derives from the Middle Ages, where the symbol was used to mock a man whose wife had cheated. CRACKED.Source: BBC

WRAPPING PAPER In 1917, the standard wrapping was tissue paper, but when Hallmark sold out, they started selling envelope lining paper instead. It wasSource: Mental Floss

BRIDESMAIDS Bridesmaids wore similar dresses to the bride in order to trick any evil spirit who may attempt to curse the bride. CRACKEDGON Source: CNN

SHAKING HANDS The handshake was first popularized in America by the Quakers, replacing the bow with the gesture that could be offered to everyone equaSource: JStor

Wi-Fi Started as a Way to Detect Black Holes


Stephen Hawking proposed a theory on how black holes emit radio signals after evaporating. A physicist, called John O’Sullivan, wanted to prove it. Consequently, he developed a mathematical tool that could detect the radio signals given off by black holes. For a long time, he stared out into space but found nothing.

In 1992, he took a job at a networking company that was trying to develop wireless computer networks. Nothing worked for the company until O’Sullivan added his black hole tool to the network. This is the device that created Wi-Fi, one of the most popular everyday things that we use today.

Balloon Animals Started as an Aztec Animal Sacrifice Ritual

Balloon Animals - Everyday Things

The first balloon animals were made by the Aztecs, but they weren’t very much fun. These balloon animals were made out of dried cat intestines and had an airtight seal. The Aztecs would blow them up and twist them into fun animal shapes. It was probably at least slightly delightful—by Aztec standards—until they set the balloon animals on fire as an offering to their bloodthirsty gods.

In 1939, a clown named Henry Maar made a balloon animal out of rubber. He was probably oblivious to the fact that he was carrying out an old Aztec ritual, minus the cat intestines. What makes these everyday things even weirder is the fact that they are used as children’s toys.

Candles on Birthday Cakes Started as a Tribute to the Moon Goddess

Candles on Birthday Cakes - Everyday Things

Putting candles on birthday cakes is a pretty common practice. Although there are a lot of different theories about the origin of this act, none of them have been proven. One of them connects our birthday celebrations to ancient Greeks.

According to this theory, they used to organize a festival every spring (Mounichi). In this celebration, women would make offerings to Artemis, the goddess of the hunt and the Moon. They prepared honey cakes that they filled with candles, meant to shine like the Moon in the sky. Later on, the Greeks went one step further and butchered a goat during the festival. It is a good thing that the goat part got dropped somewhere in history.

Treadmills Started as a Punishment for Criminals

Treadmills - Everyday Things

Everyone has heard of a treadmill. Some of you might feel that working out on a treadmill is torture. Interestingly, treadmills were literally used for torture, a century ago.

The first treadmill was built in 1818 by William Cubit. It was a wooden cylinder equipped with a handrail that worked like a hamster wheel. Due to this, the users could walk as much as they want without ever getting anywhere.

Cubit put these treadmills in prisons, where they were used to punish convicted criminals. They were made to walk on them for up to 10 hours a day. Soon afterward, the wardens realized that the treadmills could be used as free energy sources. They connected them to grinders and water pumps and the idea worked. Years later, it was declared that walking on treadmills was too cruel a punishment for even the worst of criminals.

Bowling Started as a Religious Ceremony


Are you a fan of bowling? If yes, the surprising origin of your favorite game might give you a shock. The tomb of an Egyptian child, buried in 3200 BC, suggests that bowling started in Egypt. The tomb contained a set of nine stones and a stone ball, something quite similar to modern-day bowling. In addition to that, they seem to have been used almost exactly the way we play bowling today.

In the 3rd century, a very similar game popped up in Germany. Coincidence or not, the game started in churches as a solemn ritual. People who managed to knock down all nine pins (called heathens) were declared free of all sins. After a short while, people just started doing the ritual as a game. If the Germans were right, anyone who bowls a strike before dying has a clear path to Heaven.

Jelly beans

Jelly beans are cute, colorful and sweet, and are a favorite of the kids and the kids at heart. But after discovering the lesser-known facts about jelly beans here in this article, would you pop them into your mouth again?

Unless you don’t want to know… shellac plays an important part in the creation of the jelly beans. It’s what makes them shiny and crunchy. Shellac is a commercially-used resinous pigment secreted by lac bugs… bugs! Yep, you read them right.

Jelly Belly combines shellac and beeswax to give its jelly beans the final luster. So yes, you might say you’re almost chewing on insects.

Fancy perfumes

Expensive perfumes will make you smell as fresh as a springtime daisy even if you haven’t showered since the beginning of the day. Ironically, something that’s supposed to make you smell sweet comes from something that’s… stinky?

Yes. The fact is that most fancy perfumes — the real deals that are — are composed of several many ingredients, and one of them is called ambergris. Ambergris is a solid, waxy substance secreted from the digestive system of a sperm whale, so it’s like a whale’s vomit or (most likely) poop. It is either black or gray in color.

Freshly caught ambergris, naturally, gives off a fecal odor. But as it ages, it has become sweet-smelling. The ambergris’ chemical properties also enable the perfume to last much longer, even for many hours after you have sprayed it on yourself.

People have sailed to great distances to obtain ambergris, which is found floating on the surface of the water. Also known as “floating gold,” the ambergris fetches up to tens of thousands of dollars! Yes, that proves that not all that glitters is gold… sometimes it is in the form of waste.

Our System For Measuring Time

1- time
Sometime in the early second millennium B.C., the Babylonians invented their number system, and its influence still affects us to this day. Because of a limited amount of symbols (they only had two, along with their indicator for zero), they had to innovate, creating a system where one column indicated multiples of 1, one column indicated multiples of 60, and one column indicated multiples of 3,600. These columns were only separated by a small space, so attention to detail was important.

Once they had their number system in place, the Babylonians began applying it to various aspects of their life, such as the number of degrees in a circle and the number of days in a year. Since their system was much easier to calculate and divide, the Babylonian numbers reigned supreme over those of other nations, remaining the favored system for astronomers up to the 16th century. Eventually, thanks to its divisibility, the base-60 system was applied to the concept of time, giving us the number of minutes in an hour and the number of seconds in a minute.

Sports Bra

2- bra
Known as an apodesmos and created by the ancient Greeks, a tight band of cloth was originally worn by women who participated in sporting events. Placed over the breasts, it would restrict their movement, making athletics a little easier. For the exhibitionists in society, it could be worn underneath the breasts, emphasizing them like a Wonderbra. In addition, the apodesmos was much more prevalent in city-states which promoted women’s sports, like Sparta.

Another piece of cloth known as a strophion could be worn over the clothes, providing the same type of support as an apodesmos. Both garments were normally made of wool or linen, and they were usually tied or pinned in the back. Various statues have been found depicting the goddess Aphrodite wearing an apodesmos, leading some to believe that thinner versions may have had an erotic connotation.

Breath Mints

3- mints
Though they were responsible for a number of great inventions and works—including papyrus sheets and the Great Pyramids—dental hygiene evaded the Egyptians. Faced with the odor resulting from bacterial growth and tooth decay, they developed the first breath mints: a mixture of various ingredients, including frankincense and cinnamon, which was then boiled in honey and shaped accordingly.

First mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, a 16th-century-B.C. document, a number of different recipes for kyphi—the Greek transcription of the Egyptian word for their incense—have been found. Used in religious ceremonies as well as for medicinal reasons, the recipes for kyphi normally had a number of things in common, especially wine, honey, and raisins. Unfortunately, a few of them have listed ingredients which we have been unable to correctly identify.


4- parachute
While many people incorrectly attribute the invention of the parachute to Leonardo da Vinci, it was actually the ancient Chinese who came up with the idea. As far back as the first century B.C., written records detail the exploits of Emperor Shun, a man who lived over 4,000 years ago. In these books, historians detail how he was forced to the roof of a tall building by his father, who intended to kill him by burning the building underneath him.

Grabbing a pair of bamboo hats, Shun slowly descended to the ground, laying the framework for the idea of using wind resistance to slow a fall. Later stories talk about thieves escaping their would-be jailors by leaping off tall buildings and, as early as 200 B.C., Chinese acrobats were using parachute-like equipment to entertain the nobility, more than 1,700 years before da Vinci’s supposed “invention.”


5- popcorn
While they didn’t technically invent popcorn, it was the Aztecs who inadvertently introduced popcorn to the world as a result of the Spanish invasion. When Columbus first interacted with the Arawak tribe, he was given a popcorn corsage. Believed to be a key component in the foundation of their empire, popcorn played a large role in Aztec culture. It was often made into necklaces or headdresses, and it was commonly used to decorate religious statues. One Aztec ritual involved throwing a whole ear of un-popped popcorn into a fire as a sacrifice to the gods. They referred to the kernels which came out as “hailstones.”

Some archaeologists believe that popcorn was actually the first form of corn ever cultivated, with evidence of its existence dating to the Anasazi tribe of Utah, who arose around 350 B.C. Using seed selection, an agricultural process to determine the healthiest future crop, Native Americans are thought to have developed the crop almost 5,000 years ago.


6- odometer

Photo credit: Anagoria

A useful tool for measuring distance traveled, the odometer is believed to have been invented by an ancient Roman named Vitruvius. Mainly remembered as an architect, he came up with the idea for what he called a hodometer in the first century B.C. The word hodometer is derived from the Greek words for “way” and “measure.” He wrote extensively about the design, explaining how a wheel with 400 teeth would be turned by a single-toothed gear attached to the main wheel. A stone would then be dropped into a box, indicating that a Roman mile had just been traveled.

However, some archaeologists maintain that such a design would have been impossible for the Romans to actually manufacture, given their inexperience with metalworking. Even Leonardo da Vinci was unable to recreate Vitruvius’s invention. More recently, Andre Sleeswyck, writing for Scientific American, reported that he was able to reconstruct it successfully.

Postal Service

7- mail
Assyria, a major Semitic civilization which existed as an independent county from 2,500 B.C. to 900 B.C.—a period of nearly 19 centuries—was responsible for the creation of the first postal service in the world. Various other claims have been made from China and Egypt, but they are not as reliable as those we have for Assyria. Most likely created sometime during the reign of Shalmanesar III in the ninth century B.C., the postal service utilized mules in order to transport letters between cities.

The Greek historian Xenophon wrote about Cyrus the Great, the leader of the Persian Empire which controlled Assyria, and how, throughout the empire, there was a collection of couriers who would ferry letters back and forth between predetermined outposts in each city. It was a relay system, enabling fresh couriers to take over at each stop. Certain letters would even be sent with voice messengers to ensure that the tone of the writer’s words came across correctly.

Door Lock

8- lock
The oldest preserved door locks we have ever found belong to the ancient Egyptians and date back to at least 2000 B.C. It’s believed, but not proven, that they existed even earlier than that. What separates the Egyptian lock from later inventions is the fact that the whole thing was made out of wood, the key included. In fact, the basic idea for a lock—the pin tumbler—is still the most common type used today. There was one minor difference between their keys and ours though: Theirs were nearly a foot long, which made it much harder for would-be thieves to pick the locks.

It’s believed that the Egyptians designed these complex locks as a way to guard valuable items or places of religious significance. A simple latch or bolt normally sufficed, but this new system enabled places to be cordoned off, making actual security guards unnecessary. Also, the door could only be locked (or unlocked) from the outside, and a bolt was used to do the actual locking.

Vending Machine

9- vending machine
Invented by the famed Hero of Alexandria, the world’s first vending machine only had one snack you could get: holy water. In Egypt during the first century, a five-drachma coin, equivalent to around $4.40 in US dollars today, would get you a small amount of sacrificial water for use in the temples. Basically, a box had a slot in which the person would drop a coin. The coin would then hit a metal lever, which would act like a teeter-totter of sorts, moving the plug away from the holy water dispenser. Once the coin fell, the stream would be cut off.

The need for this new invention arose because, as professor of Greek and Roman studies John Humphrey of the University of Calgary says, “people were taking more Holy Water than they were paying for.” However, due to Hero’s inclusion of others’ inventions in his writings, it’s not really clear if he was the first to come up with the idea. Ctesibius of Alexandria is probably the next most likely inventor.


10- freezer

Photo credit: Ggia

Derived from the Persian words for “ice pit,” a yakhchal was a mound made of mud, rising as high as 18 meters (60 ft) off the ground. A pit up to 5,000 cubic meters (175,000 cu ft) in volume would then be dug underneath it. Using a process known as evaporative cooling, wind would blow into the pit, chilling any water which was brought in or left behind by melting ice. The ice itself was made in channels that extended behind the yakhchals that were filled with water at night, when temperatures dropped below freezing. The ice that formed at the top of the channels was then chipped off and put into the yakhchal. Known to the inhabitants of present-day Iran since as far back as the 17th century B.C., these “freezers” are much larger than those found farther west.

Though fairly efficient in their ability to store ice, yakhchals quickly fell out of favor when electric refrigeration was invented. Modern freezers also tended to produce much cleaner ice, as dust and other contaminants would often enter the water in a yakhchal. This is probably due to the fact that they were normally made of brick and mud.

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