weird and wacky holidays happening in November

November 8 is International Tongue Twister Day

Today is International Tongue Twister Day. Celebrate with these doozies chosen for their fun and difficulty. Will they leave you speechless? Read aloud and repeat, if you dare.

international tongue twister day twisted tongueIn 2013, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) tripped up volunteers with the following word combination they declared the most difficult tongue twister in the English language.

Pad kid poured curd pulled cod.

It was judged to be even harder to say than a longstanding favorite introduced in 1990 by American expert (and MIT graduate) William Poundstone:

The seething sea ceaseth and thus the seething sea sufficeth us.

The Guinness Book of World Records, meanwhile, gave the following sentence its highest marks:

The sixth sick sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick.

What are the elements of a tongue twister? Our brains can handle words that sound identical, like “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” It’s the same story with words that sound very different from each other, such as “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

At a recent meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in San Francisco, CA, the MIT team presented its finding that different types of tongue twisters have different effects on our brains, lips, tongues and throats as we produce mistakes in our speech.

Our brains get drawn up short when we attempt to jump between two nearly identical sounds, confusing one sound with the other. “She sells seashells on the seashore” twists the tongue because the sss and shh sounds are similar but not exactly the same. Speech errors also occur when we try to quickly repeat certain words or phrases. For instance,  “toy boat” several times in a row turns into “toy boyt,” while “top cop” becomes “cop cop.”

Insight into such slip-ups may help researchers understand how humans process and plan speech. As we speak, we must coordinate movements of the lips, tongue, jaw and larynx. Our brains may sort sounds by which muscles need to move to produce them, such as front-of-the-tongue sounds (sss), back-of-the-tongue sounds (ga) and lip sounds (ma).

“This implies that tongue twisters are hard because the representations in the brain greatly overlap,” Edward Chang, a neuroscientist at the University of California, told Nature.

Invite some people over for an International Tongue Twister Day party and have fun trying to say some of these whoppers.

Rubber baby buggy bumpers
I saw a kitten eating chicken in the kitchen.
Lesser leather never weathered wetter weather better.

Here’s a little tongue twister trivia to amaze your friends.

We all know this Mother Goose nursery rhyme:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers;
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

But did you know that it was inspired by the life of one-armed Frenchman Pierre Poivre? An 18th-century horticulturist and pirate, Poivre raided spice stores and smuggled the seeds back to France. Poivre often stole nutmeg seeds, which were nicknamed “peppers.”

Another famous tongue twister was taken from a song written in 1908.

She sells seashells by the seashore;
The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure.
So if she sells seashells by the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

Terry Sullivan’s ditty paid tribute to Mary Anning, whose father taught her to find and dig fossils from the cliffs of Lyme Regis in Dorset, England. As an adult, she famously unearthed a previously unknown type of dinosaur, later named Plesiosaurus.

Which do you like? Which one is the hardest to say? Should a nonsense phrase like “pad kid poured curd pulled cod” be considered a tongue twister, or is it cheating? What do you think?

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays2017

November 7 is National Notary Public Day

Today is Notary Public Day, created in 1975 to “recognize notaries for their public service and their contributions to national and international commerce.” Today’s date was selected because the first American notary public, Thomas Fugill, was appointed on November 7, 1639, by the Colony of New Haven.
notary public day

Today, nearly 4.8 million notaries public in the United States carry on the tradition of service. Let’s take a look at a few of these trusted public officials who’ve witnessed American history.

New World
When Christopher Columbus sailed in 1492, King Ferdinand of Spain sent a notary to keep track of any treasure that might be picked up by the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. When Columbus landed in the New World on October 12, 1492, notary Rodrigo de Escobedo was there to document the momentous event.

American Revolution
Thomas McKean served as Delaware’s delegate to the Continental Congress and voted to support the colonies’ bid for independence from England. He also was a notary and the last person to sign the Declaration of Independence.

Nathaniel Gorham, a Massachusetts notary and businessman, served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and his signature appears alongside those of John Hancock, Alexander Hamilton and others on that historical document.

19th Century Notaries
Charles Bellinger Tate Stewart became a notary in 1841 and served in the fledgling Republic of Texas government when it declared independence from Mexico. He also designed the iconic Lone Star flag.

Another Texas notary well-known in Western folklore was the eccentric Judge Roy Bean, who founded the town of Langtry in 1882 and was notorious for holding court in a saloon he owned. He called himself the “Law West of the Pecos” and offered notary services along with ice-cold beer.

national notary public roy bean

In 1864, author Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, was appointed a notary public in Virginia City, Nevada by his brother, acting Nevada governor Orion Clemens. He resigned a few months later and left for California. Clemens later claimed he’d left town to avoid legal trouble after challenging a local man to a duel following their argument over one of Clemens’ newspaper articles.

The Civil War
The American Civil War ended in 1865 when Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the Confederate forces, surrenders at Appomattox. Lee took an amnesty oath, swearing to remain loyal to the United States and abide by its laws. C.A. Davidson, a West Virginia notary,  witnessed and certified Lee’s oath.

The document was misplaced and Lee never received a pardon or regained his citizenship. In 1975, Lee’s citizenship was posthumously restored by Congress, following the discovery of the notarized oath in State Department records.

Swearing in the President
When President Warren Harding died in 1923, Vice President Calvin Coolidge was staying with family in Vermont. Upon receiving word of Harding’s death, Coolidge took the oath of office before the nearest qualified official, his father (and notary) John.

21st Century Notaries
Many modern-day celebrities have served as notaries. Humorist writer Dave Barry became a Florida notary in 1994 to officiate a friend’s wedding. Actor Stanley Tucci and singer Jennifer Lopez also have served as notaries.

If you’d like to join them, learn how to become a notary in your state. And don’t forget to thank a notary public today.

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Zero-Tasking Day

zero-tasking dayMultitasking, we can all agree, is not much fun. Meet zero-tasking, a term coined by Nancy Christie, an author and motivational speaker. (I guess today we can call her a “de-motivational” speaker.)

Zero-Tasking Day occurs on the day when Daylight Saving (not Savings) Time ends. Christie encourages us to resist the urge to fill that hour with activity. She wants us to kick back and relax, to be, not to do.

Christie’s holiday is an important reminder of the need to rest and recharge. It also sounds like the perfect excuse for a nap. See you tomorrow.

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays