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10 Obscure but Obvious Pieces of Information that Very Few People Realize

6. There is a beer company by the name of Guinness Breweries who started the Guinness Book of World Records. Currently, they are independent entities, but at the beginning, the brewery started the world records book to settle bar arguments.

The Guinness Book of World Records
The Guinness Book of World Records was started to settle bar arguments. Image Credit: YouTube

The Guinness Book of Records is the go-to source for knowledge before the era of the Internet and Google. There is an amazing and unbelievable story behind the start of the famous book of world records. The book was started by the managing director of a brewery known as Guinness Breweries. Arthur Guinness established the brewery in 1759. The idea for the world record book came in 1951 with the simple goal to settle bar arguments.

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The story goes that the MD, Sir Hugh Beaver and a few of his friends, went on a hunting expedition. There, they missed a shot aimed at a game bird. This led the hunting party to ponder upon the fastest game bird in existence. Everybody had a different answer, but there was no means to make sure who was right. This disturbed Beaver and he wished there was a source to confirm the matter. This led him to stumble upon the idea of a world record book, heaven for knowledge which would help settle all such arguments.

Beaver hired two journalist brothers, Norris and Ross McWhirter, to compile records into a book which was published in 1955. Peter Harper, a senior VP at Guinness World Records says, “Since the first edition of the Guinness World Records book — which was known then as the Guinness Book of Records — in 1955, we have been committed to inspiring individuals through reading, watching, listening. and participating in record-breaking.” And the rest is history. (1, 2)

7. A “fortnight” is so named because it spans fourteen nights.

Fortnight
Image credit: Pixabay

A “fortnight” has a different meaning when it comes to different calendars across the world. For example, in the Hindu Lunar calendar, a lunar cycle has 30 days. These days are divided into two fortnights with 15 days in each. Similarly, in Celtic, Greek, and Roman calendars, a fortnight is used to designate 15 days. But in reality, a fortnight is so called because it expands across 14 days.

The word originates from the Old English word, fēowertyne niht, that stood for “fourteen nights.” In North America, the commonly used word to designate a fortnight is bi-weekly. (source)

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8. The Michelin Guide was originally created by the Michelin tire company not as a helpful guide to great restaurants, but as a way to get people to drive farther than they normally would to go eat and, consequently, wear out their tires faster.

Michelin Guide
The Michelin guide was started by the Michelin Tire Company to make drivers drive more and wear out their tires. Image Credit: Vintage 1937 Original Michelin Guide To France via Vinterior, Messy Nessy

The Michelin Guide is the equivalent of the Holy Bible for the restaurant industry. Today, the guide is considered the most authoritative voice when it comes to the world of dining. But very few people know that the guide was started by the famous tire company, Michelin. Now the question remains – why would a tire company start a dining guide to restaurants? Was it some sort of a marketing strategy to sell more tires? Oddly, it turns out that it was indeed a marketing strategy to grow sales!

When brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin started their tire company, cars were a luxury and could be afforded by only the wealthiest people. Sales were not growing as fast as they wished. So, they devised a way to make drivers drive more. The way came in the form of a guide. The early guides were quite practical and contained useful information on the tires, nearby gas stations, hotels, and restaurants. Interestingly, the restaurants were not rated at that time. The idea was to make the drivers drive over to those restaurants and in the process wear out their tires. This would mean new tires and hence, increased sales for the company!

The Michelin guide was distributed freely for the first 20 years. Later, they started charging. The guide had become so indispensable for people by then, they willingly paid for it. Over the years, the guide started rating restaurants based on their food and service. The legacy continued. and today, getting a Michelin Star is the highest honor that a restaurant can ever receive. (source)

9. The top left corner of a flag, known as the “canton,” is used for special designs because when the flag is limp on the flagpole, the top left is the part most clearly seen.

Flags
Some national flags with cantons. From top left: Australia, Taiwan, United States, Chile, Fiji, Greece, Malaysia, and New Zealand/ Wikipedia

The “canton” is the part of the flag that is located to the upper left corner towards the hoist. This part is the most visible part of the entire flag when the flag is limp on the pole. Hence, this is the part the contains intricate details in a flag. For example, the British flag has the Union Jack as their canton. Similarly, the national unity symbol, the blue field and white stars of the US flag are etched on the canton of the flag.

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The use of the canton by the UK and the US flags inspired many other nations to use the same idea on their flags. Above are the flags of various nations that uses the canton in their design. (source)

10. Onions make you cry as a form of defense.

Onions make you cry as an act of defense
Onions make you cry as an act of defense. Image Credit: Flickr

Cutting an onion without shedding a few tears is a dream for many cooking enthusiasts. Since they are one of the basic components of almost all the dishes, there is no compromise. There are numerous old wives’ tales on how to stop tearing up while chopping onions. But these old-school remedies seldom seem to work, so it’s better to understand the technicalities behind this menace and make peace with it.

All vegetables release a chemical called “polyphenols” when their outer covering is damaged. This is done in order to protect themselves from hungry predators and pests. Basically, the chemicals are a defense mechanism for the veggies. Similarly, onions release chemicals too. The only difference is that onions release a rather irritating chemical known as “propanthial s-oxide.” This particular chemical is very volatile. As soon as a cut is made into an onion, the chemical evaporates and enters the person’s eyes.

Once it reaches the eyes, it mixes with water in our eyes and forms sulphenic acid. This irritates the tear glands and tear starts pouring down from our eyes. There is no evident answer as to why onions possess this special power. Some experts believe that higher levels of sulfur in the soil where onions are grown contribute to this factor. (source)

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