The earliest known use of the term “OMG”

…was not on some obscure Usenet system or bygone bulletin board. It occurred, according to the Smithsonian, in a letter to Winston Churchill dated September 9, 1917 (more than 100 years ago!). The letter, written by British admiral Lord Fisher, includes the now-famous acronym in its final line:

Apparently there are two exclamation points in “omg”!

Other internet acronyms are much more recent coinages. The first documented instance of “LOL,” for example, dates back to a May 1989 issue of an online newsletter (still available here). Said newsletter includes the following guide to “colorful communicating” on the internet:

     OLM  - On Line Message          OTW  - On The Way
     OIC  - Oh I See                 H    - HUH???
     BTW  - By The Way               LOL  - Laughing Out Loud
     ROTF - Rolling On The Floor     RAO  - Rolling All Over
     LMTO - Laughing My Tush Off     BRB  - Be Right Back
     AFK  - Away From Keys           BBL  - Be Back Later
     BAK  - Back At Keys             WLCM - Welcome
     BCNU - Be Seeing You            L8R  - Later
     ODM  - On De Move               OTB  - Off To Bed
     LTNT - Long Time No Type        TTFN - Ta Ta For Now
     RE   - Again (Greetings, as in "re-hi")
     LTNS - Long Time No See
     M/F  - Male or Female (also known as 'MORFING', as in
     "Oh no! I've been morfed!!")

Some of these terms, of course, are still in use, while others never really took off.

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Norway considers giving mountain to Finland as 100th birthday present

In a lovely gesture that would surely make every Finn’s day, the Norwegian government is considering slightly redrawing its border to give Finland a mountain peak, which would become its highest point. The occasion? The 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence from Russia.

From The Guardian:

The originator of the idea is a retired geophysicist and government surveyor, Bjørn Geirr Harsson, 76, who learned last year that Finland would celebrate the 100th anniversary of its independence from Russia on 6 December 2017 and recalled being puzzled by the location of the border when he flew over Halti in the 1970s.

Harsson wrote to the ministry of foreign affairs in July 2015, pointing out that the gesture would cost Norway a “barely noticeable” 0.015 sq km of its national territory and make Finland very happy.

Public reaction has been overwhelmingly positive in both Norway and Finland, with the only objection so far coming from the indigenous Sami community, whose reindeer roam freely across the border and who argue that the land should belong to neither country.

If only all nations could learn such magnanimity.

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Why are there so many medieval paintings of people battling large snails?

I never knew that giant snails featured so prominently in medieval paintings, but now that I do, this is the first question on my mind. They do, it turns out.  According to Sarah J. Biggs of the British Library, “images of armed knights fighting snails are common” in 13th and 14th century illuminated manuscripts, “especially in marginalia.”  Check out a sampling below:

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One theory about the snails, Biggs goes on, is that they represent the Resurrection; others suggest they are a symbol of the Lombards, a group “vilified in the early middle ages for treasonous behaviour”;  still others have described the ‘knight v snail’ motif as “a representation of the struggles of the poor against an oppressive aristocracy, a straightforward statement of the snail’s troublesome reputation as a garden pest, a commentary on social climbers, or even as a saucy symbol of female sexuality.”

As /r/AskHistorians puts it, in other words, there are “as many explanations as there are scholars”; fundamentally, we just really don’t know. Redditor /u/TheAlaskan relates another plausible account:

“I’m partial to the explanation of Medievalist Lisa Spangenberg, who suggests that the snail is ‘a reminder of the inevitability of death.’
To understand that reference, you have to refer to Psalm 58 (Wycliffe translation) . We’re looking here at verses 7-8:
7 They shall come to nought, as water running away; he bent his bow, till they be made sick. (They shall come to nothing, like water running forth; and when they go to bend their bows, they shall be made feeble, or weak.)
8 As wax that floateth away, they shall be taken away; fire fell above, and they saw not the sun. (Like a snail that melteth away into slime, they shall be taken away; like a dead-born child, they shall not see the sun.)
Like the snail, even the best-armored knight will melt away.”

Fascinating and bizarre stuff.

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Underwater Mormon ghost town uncovered by Nevada drought

Formerly submerged under 60 feet of water, the ongoing drought in the western United States has left the ghost town of St. Thomas, Nevada, once again exposed to the air.

From the Huffington Post:

Lest anyone forget, the drought in California and across the Southwest is still raging on. And one of the places where its effects can be observed most clearly is Nevada’s Lake Mead.

The nation’s largest reservoir has hit a series of troubling milestones over the past year, sinking to a record low in late June. Now, in the latest benchmark for the new Lake Mead, a town that flooded shortly after the completion of the Hoover Dam in 1938 has literally risen from the depths.

The ghost town — once called St. Thomas, Nevada — was founded as a Mormon settlement in 1865 and had six bustling businesses by 1918, according to Weather.com. But for nearly a century, it’s been uninhabited and uninhabitable, existing mostly as an underwater curiosity.

You can see more pictures here.

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Mysterious shipwreck discovered 1 mile deep off the coast of North Carolina

Mysterious is an appropriate term for the vast reaches of Earth’s global ocean: after all, we now have a fuller knowledge of the surface of Pluto, a full 4.67 billion miles away, than we do of the bottoms of our own terrestrial seas. It should really come as no surprise that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 still hasn’t been found.

Researchers have found something interesting off the coast of North Carolina, though: the remains of a centuries-old shipwreck of unknown origin, likely dating to the time of the American revolution or the early eighteenth century.  From the Washington Post:

The Marine scientists didn’t set out to find a shipwreck. But when they deployed their underwater equipment off the North Carolina coast, there it was, lying nearly a mile beneath the surface: a ship carrying an iron chain, red bricks and glass bottles.

Those artifacts suggest the ship could date to the Revolutionary War or the early 19th century. […]

“Lying more than a mile down in near-freezing temperatures, the site is undisturbed and well preserved,” Bruce Terrell, chief archaeologist of NOAA’s Marine Heritage Program, said in a statement. “Careful archaeological study in the future could definitely tell us more.”

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Ancient Mayan cities discovered hidden deep in Mexican jungle

It doesn’t take long for an unattended lawn to return to pasture, or for ivy to creep up and over the face of a brick building. But the jungle is another force of nature entirely, more than capable of swallowing whole entire cities, perhaps never to divulge them again. Two such cities, lost centuries ago, were recently rediscovered in the Yucatan:
A monster mouth doorway, ruined pyramid temples and palace remains emerged from the Mexican jungle as archaeologists unearthed two ancient Mayan cities.
 
Found in the southeastern part of the Mexican state of Campeche, in the heart of the Yucatan peninsula, the cities were hidden in thick vegetation and hardly accessible.
 

“In the jungle you can be as little as 600 feet from a large site and do not even suspect it might be there; small mounds are all over the place, but they give you no idea about where an urban center might be,” said expedition leader Ivan Sprajc, of the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU). 

 

 Read more… here!

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In 1906, the Bronx zoo exhibited an African man alongside monkeys.

A truly disgusting episode from our country’s depressingly racist past:

[…] the zookeepers 
Ota Benga, at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair,...

Ota Benga, at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, showing his sharpened teeth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

convinced Benga [one of the Congolese tribe of Mbuti pygmies] to play with the orangutan in its cage. Benga obliged. Crowds gathered to watch the two monkeying around. The keepers gave Benga his bow and arrow; he shot targets, squirrels, the occasional rat. Bones were scattered about the cage to add a whiff of cannibalism. The keepers goaded Benga to occasionally charge the bars of his enclosure, baring his sharp teeth. Children screamed. Adults were at turns horrified and titillated. “Is that a man?” a visitor asked. A circus owner offered to throw a party for Benga, a French spinster offered to purchase him, and a black manicurist offered to paint his nails. Hornaday posted a sign outside of the cage, displaying Benga’s height, weight, and how he was acquired. “Exhibited each afternoon during September,” it concluded.

One hundred years later, I like to think we’ve come a long way. You can read the full article at the New York Magazine.

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The greatest “order pizza to a stranger’s house” prank in history

… Occurred nearly 200 years ago, in London. From Wikipedia:

The Berners Street Hoax was perpetrated by Theodore Hook in the City of Westminster, London, in 1810.

On 27 November, at five o’clock in the morning, a sweep arrived to
sweep the chimneys of 54 Berners Street, the home of Mrs Tottenham. The
maid who answered the door informed him that no sweep had been
requested, and that his services were not required, and the disappointed
tradesman went on his way. A few moments later another sweep presented
himself at the door, then another, and another, 12 in all. After the
last of the sweeps had been sent away, a fleet of carts carrying large
deliveries of coal began to arrive, followed by a series of cakemakers
delivering large wedding cakes, then doctors, lawyers, vicars and
priests summoned to minister to someone in the house they had been told
was dying. Fishmongers, shoemakers, and over a dozen pianos were among
the next to appear, along with “six stout men bearing an organ”.
Dignitaries, including the Governor of the Bank of England, the Duke of York, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Mayor of the City of London
also arrived. The narrow streets soon became severely congested with
disgruntled tradesmen and onlookers. Deliveries and visits continued
until the early evening, bringing a large part of London to a
standstill.[1]

Hook had bet his friend Samuel Beazley
that he could transform any house in London into the most talked-about
address in a week. To achieve his goal he had sent out 4,000 letters
purporting to be Mrs Tottenham, requesting deliveries, visitors, and
assistance. Hook had stationed himself in the house directly opposite
54 Berners Street, and he and his friend had spent an amusing day
watching the chaos unfold.[1]

You really can’t top that.

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