WTF Fun Fact 13651 – Origin of the Word Whisky

Whisky has a history as rich as its flavor. Originating from the Gaelic phrase “uisge beatha” or “usquebaugh,” whisky translates to “water of life.”

This term, deeply rooted in the Highlands of Scotland, perfectly encapsulates the essence and historical significance of this revered beverage.

Early Uses of the Word Whisky

Whisky’s journey began hundreds of years ago, likely influenced by the practices of Christian missionary monks. Its earliest mention dates back to the Scottish Exchequer Rolls of 1494, where ‘eight bolls of malt’ were allotted to Friar John Cor for making ‘aquavitae,’ an early form of whisky. This art of distillation, potentially discovered by Highland farmers, marked the beginning of a storied legacy.

Scotch whisky, initially known as the Red Stockings and later simply as ‘Reds,’ underwent significant transformations. The term ‘whisky’ became mainstream in 1881, following the Red Stockings’ expulsion from the National League due to beer sales. Despite its evolving identity, whisky remained a central part of Scottish culture and commerce.

Political Influences and Name Changes

Whisky’s history is not without its political challenges. In the 1950s, the name ‘Reds’ became politically charged due to the widespread fear of communism, known as ‘The Red Scare.’ This led to the temporary renaming of the Cincinnati Reds to the ‘Redlegs,’ a decision driven by the desire to dissociate from any communist connotations. However, the name ‘Reds’ prevailed and was officially restored in 1959.

The Art of Whisky Making Whisky making is an intricate process, preserving techniques passed down through generations. The art involves careful distillation of barley and other grains, capturing the essence of its ingredients. The spirit’s character is further shaped by aging in wooden casks, where it acquires unique flavors and a golden hue.

Whisky’s Role in Social and Economic History Throughout its history, whisky has played a significant role in society. It has been a source of economic growth, a symbol of national identity, and a staple in social gatherings. Distilleries have long contributed to local economies, while the spirit itself has been celebrated in literature, music, and art.

Today, people enjoy whisk(e)y across geographical and cultural boundaries. Its appeal lies not only in its rich flavor but also in its ability to connect people to a shared heritage. From its humble beginnings as the “water of life” to its status as a sophisticated beverage, whisky continues to captivate connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike.

As whisky enters a new era, it continues to evolve while maintaining its connection to tradition. Innovations in distillation and aging processes promise exciting developments in flavor profiles. Whisky festivals, tastings, and clubs foster a growing community of enthusiasts, ensuring that the legacy of this storied spirit lives on.

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Source: “The Origin of Scotch Whisky” — Scotch Whisky Experience

WTF Fun Fact 13357 – The Youngest Monarch

Did you know that the youngest monarch in history was Mary, Queen of Scots, who ascended to the throne when she was just 6 days old? Second place goes to Emperor Shang of the Han Dynasty in China. He ascended to the throne in 105 AD when he was just 100 days old.

History’s youngest monarch

Mary, Queen of Scots was born Mary Stuart on December 8, 1542, to King James V and the French Queen, Marie de Guise. The momentous occasion took place in Linlithgow Palace, Scotland.

Sadly, just six days after her birth, Mary’s father died. This left her the sole heir to the Scottish throne.

So, on December 14, 1542, baby Mary was proclaimed Queen of Scots. And while she clearly could not govern, this was the official beginning of her reign. Her mother served as Scotland’s regent from 1554 until her death in 1560.

Educating a queen

Mary was raised by her mother, who protected her and ensured she received the best possible education before taking on her royal duties. She was trained in languages, literature, music, and dance.

But, as was the custom, she was also betrothed to her husband very early in life. In 1548, at just five years old, Mary was betrothed to the French Dauphin, Francis. As a result, she was sent to France to live at the French court. While her mother visited, she spent her formative years with her future family.

In 1558, Mary and Francis were married. And a year later, upon the death of King Henry II, they became the king and queen consort of France.

During Mary’s time in France (1548-1561), she did have an argument for being made Queen of England as well as the great-granddaughter of Henry VII of England. Mary was a cousin to Queen Elizabeth I, who took the throne instead. But for a while, things looked like they might go the other way since some people in England wanted Mary as Queen since she was Catholic. Elizabeth I was Protestant and faced opposition for it.

Return of the Queen

In 1560, King Francis passed away, making Mary a widow at age 18. After that, she returned to Scotland. But her reign was not easy and she deal with both political and religious conflicts among her people and within the palace.

Being Catholic made Mary unpopular with the predominantly Protestant Scottish nobility. And her French upbringing alienated her from her subjects. There were poor marriage decisions and other political miscalculations that led to the end of her reign in 1567. At that point, Mary was forced to abdicate in favor of her infant son, James VI.

After that, she fled to England hoping to seek refuge under Queen Elizabeth I.

As you may know, that did not work out. Mary was imprisoned by Elizabeth for 19 years on suspicions of plotting to overthrow the English queen. In 1586, she was found guilty of treason, and on February 8, 1587, Mary was executed at age 44.

Certainly not an ending befitting a Queen, and the world’s youngest monarch.

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Source: “The life of Mary, Queen of Scots” — National Trust for Scotland

WTF Fun Fact 13348 – May Dew

Do you know about the mystical powers of “May Dew”?

In Europe (particularly Ireland and Scotland), people believed that the dew that adorned grass and plants during May mornings possessed extraordinary powers.

Spring rituals

According to folklore, the magical moisture had the power to enhance beauty and preserve youthfulness. It was said that washing one’s face with this dew would give a person radiant, youthful skin. This belief was deeply rooted in countries like Ireland, Scotland, and England, where May Day rituals and celebrations were an integral part of the cultural fabric.

The all has its roots in ancient customs and nature reverence. On the first day of May, people celebrate May Day, which signifies the transition into the vibrant season of spring. As a result, they view the gathering of dew as a means to harness the life-giving energy of nature.

The ancient ties of morning moisture possessing magical properties stem from its association with purity and renewal across many cultures. The arrival of May, considered a time of abundant growth and fertility, intensifies the potency of the dew collected during this period.

May dew rituals

The rituals are often carried out before sunrise on May Day. People would venture into meadows and gardens, carefully collecting the dew that glistened upon leaves and petals. Some would simply wash their faces with it, believing it would bless them with a radiant complexion. Others would capture the precious liquid in containers, creating potions and cosmetics said to possess healing and beautifying qualities.

While the belief in May Dew has waned in modern times, it continues to leave a lingering trace in cultural folklore. The allure of this tradition lies in its connection to nature’s bountiful energy and the desire to harness its magic. It serves as a reminder of the ancient customs that shaped our relationship with the natural world.

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Source: “Weatherwatch: The magic of May dew” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 13195 – Tartle

The Scots have some great words in their vocabulary. Take “tartle,” for example. Have you ever heard of it?

What is a “tartle”?

Tartle is a Scottish word. It refers to the feeling of hesitation or panic that one experiences when one can’t remember someone’s name. Scots also use it to describe the act of hesitating to introduce someone because you can’t remember their name.

When someone experiences tartle forgetfulness, it can be caused by a number of factors. These include age-related memory loss, lack of attention when the person was first introduced, or normal forgetting. It can also be related to a condition known as anomic aphasia. This is a type of language disorder that affects the ability to recall words, including names.

The word tartle is not widely known outside of Scotland, but it is a useful word to describe a common experience of social awkwardness. You can also use the word tartle to describe the general feeling of hesitation when you are trying to remember something (not just a name) or when you are in a situation where your memory failed.

According to The Scotsman (cited below): “What makes the word so special is that it doesn’t apply when you forget the person’s name entirely. Oh no. It exists only to encapsulate the brief awkwardness while you rummage around your brain for the answer.”

Describing social awkwardness

There are many words and phrases in the English language that describe social awkwardness, here are a few examples:

  • Inept: This word is used to describe a lack of social skills or ability.
  • Bumbling: This word is used to describe someone who is awkward, clumsy or inarticulate in social situations.
  • Tongue-tied: This phrase is used to describe the feeling of being unable to speak coherently or express oneself effectively in a social situation.

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Source: “Scottish word of the week: Tartle” — The Scotsman

WTF Fun Fact 12946 – The Stone of Destiny

Even if you’re a “royal watcher” and love the idea of real-life kings, queens, and princesses, you can still feel a little “icky” about the idea that royals often feel like they were chosen by the universe in some way to wield power and influence over others. Perhaps that’s why the so-called “Stone of Destiny” is making headlines before the coronation of King Charles III.

What is the Stone of Destiny?

Also called the Stone of Scone, this slab of red sandstone has been used in the UK since the 9th century when it was used to coronate Scottish kings. King Edward I stole it in 1296 after invading Scotland, and it was built into a throne in Westminster.

The Stony of Destiny long sat at Westminster Abbey and is still today what kings and queens of England sit upon during their coronations (with a cushion, of course, because royalty doesn’t want to be uncomfortable).

Stealing the stone

The stone was briefly stolen on Christmas Day in 1950 by students and a teacher making a statement about Scotland’s independence, but (while it was broken in the process) it was returned 4 weeks later. And the people who stole it were not charged – instead, a movie was made about the effort, aptly titled Stone of Destiny.

Soon, it will play a role in King Charles III’s rapidly-approaching coronation.

In 1996, the stone was returned to Scotland, but it will make the journey to England for the King’s coronation.

What’s so special about the stone?

The stone has some conflicting stories associated with it. The most common legend is that it was used by Jacob as a pillow in the Book of Genesis. It’s the pillow he laid his head upon when he had the dream of Jacob’s ladder.

That means it would have been mined in Palestine and the story goes that it made its way through Egypt, Spain, and to Ireland, courtesy of the prophet Jeremiah before the next part of the legend begins.

Later, the stone was brought from Ireland to Argyll, Scotland by Fergus the Great, the legendary first king of Scotland. (More accurately, he was the King of Dál Riada, a territory that spanned modern-day Scotland and Ireland.)

During the Viking raids on Scotland in the 9th century, the stone was moved to the Abbey at Scone (which is why it’s often called the Stone of Scone). It was moved there by Kenneth MacAlpin, which sounds like a modern name but is actually the name of a 9th-century king who began to consolidate the lands (and peoples, such as the Picts) into a separate country called Scotland.

Its biblical origins are unlikely, however, since geologists have proven that it’s “lower Old Red Sandstone” from a quarry very close to Scone. However, some insist the real Stone of Destiny still resides in Scotland because what was stolen by King Edward I and then repatriated had always been a replica of the original.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The “Stone Of Destiny” Is Returning To Westminster For The Coronation Of King Charles” — IFL Science

WTF Fun Fact 12893 – Scottish Words for Snow

The Scottish are really giving the Inuit a run for their money when it comes to piling up snow-related words. A few years ago, academics reported that they had found over 400 Scottish words for snow – 421, to be exact.

Why are there so many words for snow?

If you live in a snowy place, you know that there are different kinds of snow – wet snow, powdery snow, heavy snow, snow that makes good snowmen, lake effect snow, etc.

After spending years working through historical documents written in the Scots language, it turns out the people of Scotland really got descriptive! Academics at the University of Glasgow organized the Historical Thesaurus of Scots into some interesting categories, including (but not limited to):

  • types of snow
  • actions that involve throwing snow
  • pre-snow weather conditions
  • snowstorms
  • snow accessories
  • snow words related to sheep

What are some Scottish words for snow?

According to the BBC (cited below), the words that will go into the thesaurus include:

  • snaw – snow (viewed either as falling flakes, or as the layer of these formed on the ground)
  • feefle – to swirl
  • flindrikin – a slight snow shower
  • sneesl – to begin to rain or snow
  • snaw-pouther – fine driving snow
  • spitters – small drops or flakes of wind-driven rain or snow
  • unbrak – the beginning of a thaw
  • skelf – a large snowflake

But our favorites are “Katty-clean-doors,” which is a child’s name for snow, and “smirr,” which refers to a fine rain, drizzle, or of sleet or snow.”

The Scots thesaurus

Of course, we all have lots of words that mean roughly the same thing – there are thesauruses for nearly every language. But we’re still impressed by just how diverse the Scots language is.

The Scots thesaurus also includes a category on sport and believe it or not, the game of marbles has the most words associated with it at 369.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Scots ‘have 421 words for snow” — BBC

WTF Fun Fact 12611 – The Ancient Origins Of the Loch Ness Monster

Perhaps the modern version of the Loch Ness Monster legend began on May 2, 1933, but that was long after the first sighting of a beast that lived in the Lochs of Ness had been “sighted.” In the early 20th century, a couple told the Inverness Courier about seeing “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.” The journalist chose to use the word “monster,” and a new chapter in the legend was born.

Once the London newspapers heard about it, it would be a tabloid story for decades to come. Thousands of people would not only try to see the beast but collect rewards from circuses and the like to capture it.

We don’t believe in the Monster, but do you want to know another fun fact? The loch sits on an enormous ancient fault line. So feel free to rile up the believers by telling them the creature could have come from the center of the earth. They love that stuff!

Anyway, the oldest sighting we know about comes from historical accounts dating all the way back to August 22, 564. An Irish priest, who would later become known as St. Columba, reported seeing an animal in the water while visiting Loch Ness, Scotland. In fact, he not only saw it, but he also claimed it tried to eat one of his servants. Luckily, he was able to command it through some sort of priestly superpower to find a snack elsewhere.

Today, the Loch Ness Monster is one of many cryptids (animals whose existence has never been proven). While it’s neither a profitable profession nor an actual science, those interested in this phenomenon can become cryptozoologists!

According to National Geographic: “Besides the Loch Ness Monster, other lake cryptids include Champ (in Lake Champlain, the United States, and Canada); Issi (in Lake Ikeda, Japan); and the Lagarfljot Worm (in Lagarfljot Lake, Iceland). Other cryptids include chupacabras, blood-sucking creatures that threaten livestock throughout Latin America; bunyips, which lurk in Australia’s swamps; dingoneks, “jungle walruses” found in lakes and rivers in central Africa; and, of course, Bigfoot, who stalks old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest.”

Enthusiasm over the Loch Ness Monster has dampened in recent years partly because of the decline of the ridiculous tabloids that used to tout their existence in the check-out aisle of the grocery store. But we think it’s also probably because so many of the photos people submitted as proof of its existence have been proven fake. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Aug 22, 564 CE: Loch Ness Monster Sighted” — National Geographic

WTF Fun Fact 12562 – Dunce Caps for Intelligence

The 13th-century Scottish philosopher and theologian John Duns Scotus was a highly educated man. But that didn’t stop him from believing that a pointy hat could make him smarter.

What we now see as a mark of stupidity today, the dunce cap originated with the philosopher-priest and his followers, the Dunsemen.

While some say John Duns Scotus was inspired by the image of wizards, others claim it was the other way around – the dunce caps inspired people to depict wizards in pointy hats.

In any case, the idea is that the cap acts as a reverse funnel, drawing in knowledge and letting it melt down into the brain.

The highly analytical writings of the medieval scholar fell out of favor in the more humanistic Renaissance, so it is perhaps the case that his followers were seen as…well, remedial, as time went on. As the Dunsemen came to be seen as foolish, their hats became a marker of that, signifying someone who is a lot less intelligent than Scotus once was.

However, the word “dunce” as we use it today originated in a play in the 17th century, which referred to a “dunce table” where children and dull guests were made to sit. In 1840, Charles Dickens mentioned the dunce cap in The Old Curiosity Shop, in which he described it as a leftover relic in a classroom made of newspaper. However, his mention and lack of further explanation mean it was probably something people would have already known about.

After that, the dunce cap served as a warning to children that when they misbehaved in class, they would be forced to sit in the corner wearing it. – WTF fun facts

Source: “The Dunce Cap Wasn’t Always So Stupid” — Atlas Obscura