10 Insanely Weird Wikipedia Articles You Should Read
By Guy McDowell, Make Use Of, 7 September 2015.
By Guy McDowell, Make Use Of, 7 September 2015.
Yeah, you’re too good for Wikipedia. That’s okay. Wikipedia isn’t too good for you - it still loves you. It still wants to hang out, be silly, and build blanket forts, even though you’re all mature and stuff. In fact, Wikipedia has a whole section dedicated to wildly funny and weirdly engrossing articles. Just because, you know, they’re cool.
Credit: Beko/Wikimedia Commons
So come on over, take off the business wear, put on your Hawaiian shirt. Put down the cognac and grab a cream soda. We’re getting silly and weird tonight! Let’s be dumb and dumbstruck together as we look at 10 insanely weird articles on Wikipedia. We got cake!
1. Colletto Fava: A Terrifying, Giant Pink Bunny in Italy
Credit: Luca Balzo/Google Maps
Cute? Disturbing? Disturbingly cute? What do you call a 200 foot long and 20 foot high stuffed bunny doll with its guts spilling out? The Austrian art group Gelitin calls it Hase, the German word for hare. We’re not entirely sure what the point of it is, but they invite hikers to take the 20–30 minute walk up the 5,000 foot high hill to climb on it and relax.
Credit: Angie Castillo/Google Maps
The bunny was made in such a way that it will decompose and not cause any damage. Well, except maybe psychological damage to little kids that the hikers drag up there. It’s almost all gone now, and even more disturbing. Hop on Google Maps and check it out for yourself.
2. The Great Stink: That Time London Smelled Like Sewage
Credit: Punch Magazine/Wikimedia Commons
People are always talking about Paris smelling odd, but maybe that stereotype should belong to London. Where else would the river smell so bad that the national government, and the entire capital city, stopped working?
Credit: William Heath/Wikimedia Commons
In the 19th century, London’s sewage all ended up in the Thames river. You know that big one flowing past that giant ferris wheel in all the pictures? It’s called The London Eye, but back during The Great Stink, they may have named it after another circular body part. Worse than the stink were the outbreaks of cholera, diphtheria, and scrofula.
Credit: Christine Matthews/Wikimedia Commons
An engineer, Joseph Bazelgette, came to the rescue and reworked London’s entire sewer system. He and his crew did so well that much of their system is intact today. In fact, one of the main pump houses is so beautiful it might make you wish you did live in a sewer.
3. 5318008: Spelling Things With Calculators
Credit: Mysid/Wikimedia Commons
Give a geek a hand held calculator and they’ll find a way to make it do things it wasn’t meant to do. Like spelling out words on a calculator. Oh, you know the obvious ones like 07734 and 5318008 (turn them upside down). But did you know about 11345, 35001, and 316006? Check it out at the Topsy-Turvy Calculator web app.
Throw in calculators with 12 digit displays and language variations such as urban slang and leet-speak and a whole new world opens up. You could tell your calculus teacher to 1134206. All your hip-hop arithmetic admirers would be impressed and say about you, 771534. You could respond, “For 3722145.”
Of course, other languages give equally funny or odd words. In Spanish, 50538 could get you slapped or kissed. In Italian, 07738135 might get you a date.
4. Greenwich Time Lady: Selling The Time
Credit: National Maritime Museum/Wikimedia Commons
Back in the day, way back, before smartwatch days, you couldn’t just ask someone for the time. If you wanted the precise time, you had to pay for it. Perhaps the biggest time pimp of the day was Ruth Belville. If you had the money, honey, she had the time.
Her dad, John Henry Belville, started the time service in 1836. Every morning he would go to the Greenwich Observatory and synchronize his pocket watch with the conservatory clock - the most accurate clock in England. Then he’d hop in his time-pimp-mobile (horse and cart) and take the time to his subscribers.
John’s wife, Maria, took over when John’s time passed. Then Ruth took over when mom retired - it was just time. She sold the time to hundreds. Ruth kept ticking along right up until 1940, competing with telegraph time services and more accurate watches on the market.
5. Inherently Funny Words
Credit: New York World-Telegram & Sun staff photographer/Wikimedia Commons
If you think a shmuck freezing his kidneys off in Keokuk while trying to eat a kumquat is funny, you already get the idea. Apparently words heavy in the K sound or sort of Yiddish in nature are pure comedy gold.
Some numbers might be titter-getters as well. Legendary writer/producer/director Neil Simon relied on the number 23. The inverse, 32, is just as funny. Large round numbers if used correctly, can be, like, a million times funnier though.
6. List of lists of lists
Some editors hate articles that are nothing but a list. Listicles, they’re called. Which is a pretty funny word in itself. You can imagine their rage bubbling more to see it is a list of lists, and imploding into a pile of hyphens and Oxford commas when they see that it’s actually a list of lists of lists.
So, yeah, this Wikipedia article is a list that lists lists that list lists. Mind blown. A quick caution though, the list is incomplete. Kind of like Russell’s paradox, which is lists of lists that do not contain themselves.
7. Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, Sr.
Credit: Associated Press/Wikimedia Commons
If you were a Jewish man living in the ghettos of 19th century Germany, this is the kind of thing you would do to stick it to the man. Apparently, the government at the time didn’t like traditional patronymic names, so they made the Jews come up with Germanic names.
Hubert’s great-granddaddy came up with the German equivalent of the following:
“Ages ago, there were conscientious shepherds whose sheep were well tended and carefully protected against attack by their rapacious enemies. Twelve hundred thousand years ago there appeared before these first earthmen, at night, a spaceship powered by seven stone and iridium electric motors. It had originally been launched on its long trip into stellar space in the search for neighbouring stars that might have planets revolving about them that were inhabitable and on which planets a new race of intelligent humanity might propagate itself and rejoice for life, without fear of attack by other intelligent beings from interstellar space.”
Still here? Well translate that into German, roughly, and it becomes Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff…screw it. You haven’t got time to read all that. There’s over 600 more letters.
The name caused problems. Many problems. It wasted the time of German officials way back when it made the Philadelphia phone book that much heavier in 1938, and broke an IBM computer in 1964. It is, to this day, the longest surname in the world.
8. Two Global Pollutants - One Inventor
Credit: Plazak/Wikimedia Commons
You probably never heard of this guy, but you’ve heard of lead poisoning and holes in the ozone layer. Thomas Midgley, Jr. is the man to thank for those. He was the brain that put lead in leaded gasoline. It was like today’s gas, but with lead in it. So when the gas burned, lead fumes dumped all over the highways of the world, poisoning untold numbers of animals and plants including humans. But it kept engines from making a knocking sound. Knock knock. Who’s there? Screw health, get paid.
He didn’t stop there. Nuh uh. Why just poison people when you can burn them too? He came up with Freon or chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), as the chemistry geeks say. That’s the stuff that ate the hole in the ozone layer, rushing in the era of greenhouse gases/global warming/climate change. But it kept stuff cold and propelled your mom’s hair spray. That’s pretty important too.
J.R. MacNeill, environmental historian, says that Midgley, “…had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth’s history.” How do you put that on your resume?
9. Walk it Off? Nah, Swear it Off.
Slam your finger in the car door? Out of Tylenol? F*&k it. Seriously: just swear. Especially if you’re not the kind to use cursing like most people use commas. Researchers found that people could hold their hand in ice water for twice as long if they cursed a blue streak. Why not? Icy blue hands deserve a blue streak.
It turns out cursing may result in a release of adrenalin in response to an injury. The adrenalin has an analgesic effect. This isn’t just proven by real scientists in labs with glassware and white coats, this has been tested by MythBusters! So you know it’s good science.
10. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!
Credit: Nick Hobgood/Wikimedia Commons
If this tropical sea dweller could sing, he wouldn’t be spouting tunes from The Littlest Mermaid. He’d be rocking the holiday season favourites.
Spirobranchus giganteus is a sea worm that is a conical spiral of colourful goodness resembling a Christmas tree. The kind of Christmas tree you’d expect to see in the psychedelic 60s, but a Christmas tree nonetheless. You don’t have to go to the Caribbean though: apparently they do alright in salt-water aquariums.
No More! I Can’t Handle the Stress!
If you just can’t handle anymore, you could take a page from these fun ungulates. Just drop. Pass out and wait for the danger to pass. That’s what the Myotonic Goat does. You might know them better as Fainting Goats.
They don’t really faint, exactly. They just freeze up when panicked or excited for about 10 seconds. The young goats get so stiff, that they often fall over. With age comes wisdom, as the older goats tend to hang around things they can lean on. If you’d like to celebrate the fainting goat, where better than Tenessee’s Fainting Goat Festival. There’s something oddly right about that combination of celebrating a weird farm animal in Tennessee.
The Hits Keep Coming
Those are just a few of the highlights brought to you by Wikipedia and contributors around the world. Head over there for dozens of more awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, head-scratching fun. The world is wide, weird place. Wikipedia is doing its part to keep it that way.
Top image: Image of a cow with antlers atop a pole near electrical cabling, which appeared in "Wikipedia: Unusual articles." Credit: Captain Albert E. Theberge/Wikimedia Commons.
[Source: Make Use Of. Edited. Some image added.]