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February 29 is International Underlings Day

international underlings dayFeeling a little bored by Leap Day? Fear not: there is another. International Underlings Day was created in 1984 by Peter D. Morris to recognize those not honored by National Boss Day, Administrative Professional Day, Programmers’ Day, Professional Speakers Day, International Working Women’s Day—the list goes on. And on. And on.

Here’s a pop quiz to see if International Underlings Day is tailor-made for you:

Do you sometimes feel like work is a cosmic joke, that the ladder of success has a few broken rungs?

Do you know how everyone else likes their coffee, lunch, and dry cleaning?

Have you ever delivered bagels to a roomful of executives going through trust exercises?

Have you ever felt paralyzed by fear as you watched a coworker get fired for making a paperclip chain? Did you then feel:

a) relief that it wasn’t you
b) shame for feeling relieved
c) resentment that you’re still stuck in your crappy job
d) envy when you imagine that person walking around outside, free

     Have you ever quit a job, confident you would never work in such an insane asylum again, only to end up in progressively more horrifying       workplaces?

If you answered yes to any or all of the above questions, you might be an underling. Congratulations: you have a day. Unfortunately, but perhaps fittingly, that day falls on February 29th, which occurs once every four years. That makes 2020 only the tenth celebration of this holiday.

Have a happy International Underlings Day. You deserve it. Just don’t expect cake.

Copyright 2020 Worldwide Weird Holidays

 

January 22 is National Hot Sauce Day

national hot sauce day

Today is National Hot Sauce Day. It celebrates the birthday in 1865 of Wilbur Scoville, who created a method to determine a pepper’s spiciness that is still in use today.

Scoville, an American chemist, devised the system in 1912. It measures the concentration of capsaicin, the active component that gives chilies their spicy taste, using Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Ratings range from 0 for a bell pepper to 16,000,000 for pure capsaicin.

Capsaicin content, which causes a burning sensation when it comes in contact with any tissue, is measured by dissolving a pepper in alcohol to extract its capsaicin oil, then diluting the oil in sugar water.

If a panel of five testers detects any spiciness, the mixture is diluted again until three of the five cannot discern any hotness. Heat level is measured by how many dilutions are necessary. Every instance increases the SHU, since hotter chilies must be weakened many times for no heat to be detected.

In 2013, The Guinness World Record for hottest chili pepper went to the Carolina Reaper, a cross between a ghost pepper and a red habanero created by Ed Currie of the aptly named PuckerButt Pepper Company. The Reaper’s official heat level is 1,569,300 SHU but ranges up to 2,200,000. (By comparison, Tabasco sauce has a level 0f 2,500 to 5,000.)

The Reaper was bested in 2017 by Dragon’s Breath, which clocked in at 2,480,000 SHU. Currie surged back with Pepper X, a Frankenstein’s monster at 3,180,000 SHU. Unlike Dragon’s Breath, which will only be used for medicinal purposes, Pepper X is available as a sauce dubbed The Last Dab.

Studies have shown that heat levels evoke the same pain response in spice lovers and haters and everyone in between. So why do so many of us like it? Could it predict other risk-taking behaviors? Check out this TED Ed lesson for answers.

Happy National Hot Sauce Day!

Copyright 2020 Worldwide Weird Holidays

October 14 is national lowercase day

National Lowercase Day alphabetWhile English majors past, present, and future may grind their teeth in frustration, freewheeling texters will love today’s holiday: national lowercase day! This is the day to turn your back on the rules of capitalization if you were ever facing them at all.

This fun, unofficial holiday has no clear author or point of origin. We could only trace it back to 2011.

Fun fact: Poet E.E. Cummings often wrote and signed his name in lowercase; he also omitted the punctuation. e e cummings was a rebel, bending the language to his own liking.

Fun fact: While trying to find an example of the use of lowercase letters, I remembered the poet E.E. Cummings’ apparent penchant for using lowercase initials. After cursory research that appeared to confirm this, I wrote the now-stricken sentences. My thanks go to John Cowan for pointing out my error. I have no desire to add more misinformation to the internet. Author Norman Friedman writes here about Cummings’ widow’s reaction to his book being published without “E.E.” properly capitalized.

If shunning capitalization is not your cup of tea, you’ll be happy to know it is also National Dessert Day!

Tomorrow, we return to normalcy. If you’re looking for more information about capitalization and just about everything else, you can’t go wrong with The Chicago Manual of Style.

Happy national lowercase day!

Copyright © 2019 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 13 is Sadie Hawkins Day

Sadie Hawkins DayToday is Sadie Hawkins Day, an American rite-of-passage for generations of teenagers. Misogynistic, antiquated and awkward for all involved, the Sadie Hawkins Dance supposedly empowers girls to switch gender roles and ask out the boys. Did we mention it’s misogynistic and antiquated? The true origin is much, much worse.

Sadie Hawkins was a character created in 1937 by Al Capp in a cartoon called Li’l Abner, set in the fictional hillbilly town of Dogpatch, Kentucky. Sadie was the “homeliest gal in all them hills.” She waited in vain for a suitor to show up at her door, but not a single prospective husband came a-courting. After fifteen years, Sadie was in full panic mode and her father didn’t want to support a spinster daughter for the rest of her life.

After fifteen long years, Sadie’s dad decided to get creative. He called all the unmarried men of Dogpatch together and declared it Sadie Hawkins Day. The town’s bachelors would run for their lives with Sadie in hot pursuit. The “lucky” man she caught would have to marry her. As her Pappy explained, “Th’ one she ketches’ll be her husbin.”

Sadie_Hawkins_Day origin lil abner comic strip

The rest of the spinsters in Dogpatch (how many were there?) thought the race was an excellent idea and made Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory yearly event, much to the chagrin of the bachelors in town, who had no say in the matter.

The Sadie Hawkins Dance appeared in the strip sometime later, taking place the night before the race. The spinsters wore hobnail boots to stomp on the feet of the single men, potentially making them easier to catch in the next day’s race.

The Li’l Abner comic strip debuted in 1934. From the start, it was bawdy and filled with sexual innuendo, not to mention scantily-clad, pneumatically-chested women. But it was apparently considered wholesome family fare. In 1939, Life magazine ran a story stating that 201 colleges were celebrating Sadie Hawkins Day.  By 1952, it was reportedly celebrated at over 40,000 different locations. Capp wrote of the phenomenon:

It’s become my responsibility (to include Sadie Hawkins Day every year in the strip). It doesn’t happen on any set day in November; it happens on the day I say it happens. I get tens of thousands of letters from colleges, communities, and church groups, starting around July, asking me what day, so they can make plans.

Eventually, it evolved into an all-day event that occurs during the second week of November.

sadie hawkins day life magazine

Li’l Abner was an enormous success for its creator, who grew rich from merchandising and movie deals, product tie-ins and a short-lived TV puppet show. In the 1960s, he underwent an ideological transformation from New Deal Democrat to hippie-hater and close friend of Richard Nixon. He became a highly paid speaker on the college campus lecture circuit. His routine was to insult and provoke his audience into a shouting match.

sadie hawkins day al cappCapp attempted to use his fame to “seduce” young women. The biography Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary characterized him as something of a failed serial rapist since the few women who reported him to the authorities always got away. (Capp had lost one of his legs as a boy and routinely removed his prosthetic leg along with his pants.) One would-be victim described tipping him over like a floor lamp, as he crashed into the hotel furniture.

Of course, grotesque slapstick aside, there was nothing funny about his sexual assaults on young women. In 1971, Capp succeeded in physically forcing a 20-year-old Wisconsin college student to perform oral sex on him. To her credit, and against overwhelming pressure, the student pressed charges.

Capp was not charged with rape, but with three lesser counts: indecent exposure, sodomy and “attempted adultery.” He was only found guilty of the latter. Although his career and reputation never recovered, he continued to publish the Li’l Abner comic strip until 1977. He died two years later.

Sadie Hawkins Day is not what it seems. She wasn’t a real person. It has nothing to do with women’s emancipation. Who uses the word spinster? What do you think? Does it matter what its origin is if no one realizes it—or cares, for that matter? Should it continue to be celebrated or be retired?

Copyright © 2018 Worldwide Weird Holidays