Historic Folks or Mythical Legends?

History can be a funny thing, filled with names of folks and deeds that might never have existed or occurred except in folklore. We all know at least a little about such figures as William Tell, King Arthur, John Henry and many others. Some scholars, however, are convinced that they did not exist, that they are myths or legends handed down through folklore. Reader’s Digest provided a look at some of the most notable examples.

King Arthur
The best place for “”happy-ever-after” feelings is the kingdom of Camelot, ruled by King Arthur, who leaned on the advice of the wizard Merlin to lead the Knights of the Round Table. Except he likely is fictional: The tale was popularized in stories dating back to the 800s and it served as the inspiration for Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem, Idylls of the King. Scholars aren’t sure if these works are based on a real man or on folklore. The legendary King Arthur may have been based on a real warrior who led British armies during the fifth or sixth century. He also may have been the inspiration for historical writings about a warrior king, but no one can confirm whether those were about the mythic Arthur or if he even existed at all.

Even if you can’t remember exactly what the Pythagorean Theorem is about (triangles!), you’ve probably heard of the famous math equation. It’s possible that the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras wasn’t even the first to come up with it – it may have been the Egyptians. If Pythagoras did exist, he didn’t leave any records that he himself wrote, and the accounts that do remain may have been written by his somewhat unreliable followers.

Robin Hood
Robin Hood is most famous for stealing from the rich to give to the poor, but the fair-minded outlaw might only exist as a fictional hero. Medieval scholars turned up records of criminals named “Robehod” and “Rabunhod,” but they’re not sure who they were or how they got their names. What they do know is that stories about outlaws who buck the system seem to have been popular throughout history. Everyone roots for Robin Hood!

Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu is the author of the best-selling strategy guide The Art of War. The ancient book is believed to have been written in the fourth or fifth century, but no one knows for sure. And its age hasn’t stopped it from being consulted and employed by contemporary generals and CEOs. No one is sure if the Chinese military mastermind actually existed, or if the strategy classic was a compilation of Chinese wisdom gathered by many across time and then attributed to a single author.

The famous poet, supposed writer of the iconic literary works the Odyssey and the Iliad, may not have existed at all, argue scholars. They believe Homer was created out of a cultural need for an author for these great Greek myths. The works were possibly written much earlier than scholars originally believed and compiled by many authors across time through oral traditions.

Mulan is the iconic Chinese warrior that Disney animated. This inspiring young woman is a figure in a beloved Chinese folktale that dates back to the fifth century. There are multiple versions of the tale of a girl who takes her father’s place as a warrior because he’s too old to fight. She usually hides her identity and leads an army to victory. But most scholars agree that there’s no evidence such a woman existed.

William Tell
William Tell is the famous Swiss archer who was forced to shoot an apple off his son’s head by a despot. Tell’s arrow didn’t miss, and the Swiss point to the heroic act as the start of Switzerland’s movement to become an independent nation. Although the event is supposed to have taken place in 1307 A.D., researchers haven’t been able to find evidence that the story or the man are more than an inspiring myth.

Betty Crocker
You think of her as the classic kitchen goddess who knows everything about baking. Unfortunately, she’s not a real person. The company that became General Mills invented her to answer consumer queries. The surname Crocker came from a company director, and Betty was considered a “friendly sounding name.” Soon the persona became a reliable and beloved expert on cooking and recipes.

John Henry
The superhuman railroad man was a little too good to be true: The John Henry ballads sprang out of the post-Civil War era when the railroads were being built and America aimed to become a titan of industry. Henry was said to be a former slave who challenged a steam drill to a race and won, only to die shortly after. The story highlights grit and determination, but evidence of a real John Henry is hard to find. He seems to be a composite of many stories featuring citizens who embodied the fearless spirit that America wanted to project.

Uncle Sam
You know him as the top-hatted, patriotically dressed, gray-haired guy on the “I want you” recruiting posters. The figure was inspired by a real guy – a businessman who supplied army provisions and was nicknamed Uncle Sam. Soldiers during the war of 1812 would joke that their food came from ‘Uncle Sam,” but they weren’t referring to the distributor – more so to the actual army. The nickname usage spread, especially in newspapers, and Uncle Sam became the familiar popular figure by World War I.

Airlines Have an Alcohol Problem

One of the few remaining pleasures of commercial air travel is a cold pint post-security or a Bloody Mary to quell in-flight nerves. But for flight attendants and the airlines they work for, the grand tradition of drinking while traveling causes a host of problems that some blame on airports and which the airlines are intent on cracking down on.

European low cost carrier Ryanair is leading the charge. In a recent incident a flight from Dublin to Ibiza had to be diverted to Paris to de-plane a trio of drunk and disruptive. The airline has since announced that it will be lobbying for new restrictions on drinking in airports.

The proposed measures include a ban on serving alcohol before 10 a.m., which is common in European airports, and a two drink maximum in airport bars. Similar measures have been called for by fellow low cost carrier Jet 2 and by Aer Lingus which said they would turn away visibly inebriated passengers at the gate.

In a statement, Ryanair said that “It’s completely unfair that airports can profit from the unlimited sale of alcohol to passengers and leave the airlines to deal with the safety consequences.” They added that, because their flights are so short, it is rarely the case that passengers become problematically drunk on the plane; rather, intoxication usually begins before boarding. The airline had already previously banned the consumption of duty-free liquor on their flights, a practice which already is banned in many countries anyway, including the US.

It’s not just a European problem. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a May incident when an American Airlines flight attendant was on the receiving end of a vicious tirade after refusing to serve a passenger another beer. In an opinion piece calling for the banning of alcohol in the cabin, the opinion piece noted that when asked flight attendants overwhelmingly supported a ban on in-flight alcohol.

The FBI said reports of sexual assaults that take place during commercial flights have increased an “alarming” 66% between the years of 2014 and 2017. CNN said an FBI representative told reporters that a majority of offenses happen “on red-eye overnights, flights of three hours or more where cabin lights might be darkened, and/or instances where alcohol is being consumed.”

For frequent fliers who enjoy a drink, it may seem inconceivable that the future of flight might run dry. And indeed for airlines and airports – who gain a not-insignificant revenue stream from selling alcoholic beverages – removing the drinks may bear too high a cost.

A Teacher’s Great Summer Ideas

Betsy Eggart, a Pensacola, Fla., mom and teacher, believes kids should take a break from worksheets and equations over the summer and instead focus on resting and recharging for next year.

Many teachers send students home for summer vacation with worksheets and equations to tackle, But Eggart thinks outside of the box with her approach to keep kids sharp over the long break. Call it “the non-summer packet, summer packet.”

The R.C. Lipscomb Elementary School first-grade teacher posted her concept to Facebook where it quickly went viral. Eggart, 36, encourages parents to get back to some of the basics of life with their kids like tying shoes, behaving at the dinner table and putting away the iPhones and iPads to spend quality, uninterrupted time together. The teacher of 13 years also reminds parents of the importance of slowing down and letting kids rest and relax so they’re not burned out by the next school year.

The mother of two, an 8-year-old and a 1-year-old, says “I feel like when we just keep going and going and going, we hit a wall, and I think as adults we know that. We know for ourselves when we’ve been through a really busy season at work we hit a wall, and our kids do, too.”

Eggart offers some pointed advice within the post that she thinks could help children develop both in school and everyday life.

1. Teach Your Child How To Tie Their Shoes. Eggart encouraged parents to: Find a fun trick! Watch a video! Give an incentive! Be persistent! “Just make sure your child isn’t the one dragging their laces through the bathroom and cafeteria then asking the teacher to tie it” she wrote.

2. Establish A Regular Bedtime. “If we keep our bodies in a routine with sleep, August won’t hit quite so hard,” Eggart wrote. That’s good advice for both parents and kids!

3. Find A Pen Pal. Whether to a close friend or distant family member, “Writing with a purpose makes it relevant and real for your child,” Eggart said.

4. Have Dinner Together. Better yet, try to have dinner together every night.

5. Practice Being Kind. This is perhaps the easiest and most important assignment on Eggart’s list.

6. Let Your Child Make Mistakes. “Our children need us. But they need us to let them learn to problem solve,” she wrote, “if your child is in a situation that is frustrating, but not harmful (example: can’t put together a new toy, can’t open a Lunchable, can’t decide which color shirt to wear) let them work it out! It saves time and our nerves to just do it! But in the long run, it’s crippling our children of the basic and necessary skill to problem solve and think through an issue … for themselves. Hang back … just a bit. They’ll be OK!”

7. Read To Your Child. “I can’t encourage reading enough!” Eggart said. “Please visit the library and make books a part of your summer days. Most importantly, let your child see you read- to yourself and to them.”

8. Put Down Your Phone. “We could spend this summer scrolling through strangers’ vacation pictures wishing we had their reality,” Eggart wrote, “or we could be chasing our reality through the sprinkler in our own backyard.” It’s your call.

9. Take A Moment To Relax Every Once In A While. “Be OK with not constantly going somewhere,” Eggart challenged families, adding: “Boredom gives way to creativity. Rest renews our bodies and our minds for all the next school year has in store.”

Behind the Brand Names

You’re sporting your favorite Nike sneakers and Lululemon pants as you head to the mall to shop at the Gap. En route you grab a latte at Starbucks. After a few good hours of shopping, you head to Panera to meet a friend for lunch. You Venmo her for the meal and you both decide dessert is in the cards: Next stop, Häagen-Dazs.

All these brands are staples in our lives. But do you have any idea what their names actually mean?

You might think these corporate brand names were all made up by professional marketers, or company executives huddled for hours or days to come up with them. But, as Business Insider tells us, most came from much simpler beginnings.

Here’s a guide to the origins and meanings of some of the popular brand names we all know.

Adidas isn’t an acronym for ‘All Day I Dream About Soccer’
It turns out the athletics-apparel brand is named after its founder, Adolf Dassler, who started making sport shoes when he came back from serving in World War I, according to the LA Times. The name combines his nickname, Adi, and the first three letters of his last name.

Amazon was named after the world’s biggest river
When Amazon was launched in 1995, founder Jeff Bezos had a different idea for his brand name. Bezos wanted to call his online bookstore Cadabra, according to Brad Stone’s book about the company. But Amazon’s first lawyer, Todd Tarbert, managed to convince him that the name sounded too similar to “Cadaver.” Bezos is also said to have favored the name Relentless, and if you visit Relentless.com today, you’ll be redirected to Amazon’s website, Business Insider reported. Finally, Bezos settled on Amazon, named after the largest river in the world, and incorporated an image of the river in the company’s first logo.

ASOS is an abbreviation of AsSeenOnScreen
The British online retailer was founded as AsSeenOnScreen in 1999 and lived at asseenonscreen.com. The abbreviation ASOS – which is pronounced ACE-OSS – quickly caught on, and the website was shortened to asos.com.

Gap refers to the generation gap between adults and kids
The first Gap store opened in 1969 with the goal of selling good jeans. The name referred to the generation gap between adults and kids.

Gatorade was developed for the Florida Gators
A team of doctors at the University of Florida developed the sports drink for the Florida Gators football players, who were struggling to play in the heat.

Google owes its name to a typo
Google’s name emerged from a brainstorming session at Stanford University. Founder Larry Page was coming up with ideas for a massive data-index website with other graduate students, Business Insider reported. One of the suggestions was “googolplex” one of the largest describable numbers. The name ‘Google’ came about after one of the students accidentally spelled it wrong. Page then registered his company with this name.

Häagen-Dazs may sound Danish, but it’s completely made up
Reuben Mattus, a Jewish immigrant from Poland, named his ice-cream company Häagen-Dazs as a way to pay tribute to Denmark, according to an interview with the Jewish news publication Tablet Magazine. But the name doesn’t actually mean anything. “The only country which saved the Jews during World War II was Denmark, so I put together a totally fictitious Danish name and had it registered,” Mattus said. “Häagen-Dazs doesn’t mean anything. (But) it would attract attention, especially with the umlaut.”

IKEA isn’t a Swedish word that you don’t understand.
Founder Ingvar Kamprad chose the brand name by combining the initials of his own name, IK, with the first letters of the farm and village, where grew up in southern Sweden: Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd.

J.C. Penney is named after its founder, whose name is just too good to be true
With a name like James Cash Penney, it’s as if the retail founder was born to make money.

J. Crew’s name set it up to compete with Ralph Lauren’s Polo line
According to Forbes, “The name Crew was picked to compete with Ralph Lauren’s Polo label and (founder Arthur) Cinader added the J because he thought it added (cachet).” Makes sense. Polo and crew are both pretty preppy sports.

Lululemon means nothing at all, and it’s intentionally hard to pronounce
Lululemon founder Chip Wilson came up with the yoga-wear brand’s name because he thought Japanese people wouldn’t be able to pronounce it. He wrote in 2009: “It was thought that a Japanese marketing firm would not try to create a North American sounding brand with the letter ‘L’ because the sound does not exist in Japanese phonetics. By including an ‘L’ in the name it was thought the Japanese consumer would find the name innately North American and authentic. In essence, the name ‘lululemon’ has no roots and means nothing other than it has 3 ‘L’s’ in it. Nothing more and nothing less.” A Lululemon representative said the brand’s name was chosen from a list of 20 brand names and 20 logos by a group of 100 people.

McDonald’s is named after two brothers who ran a burger restaurant
Raymond Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, was a milkshake machine salesman when he first met brothers Dick and Mac McDonald, who ran a burger restaurant in San Bernardino, California. The McDonald brothers bought several of his Kroc’s Multimixers and he was so impressed by their burger restaurant that he became their agent and set up franchises around the U.S., Money reported. Years later, he bought rights to the McDonald’s name.

Monsanto is the middle name of the founder’s wife
Agrochemical company Monsanto was founded in 1901 by John F. Queeny. He named the business after his wife, Olga Monsanto Queeny.

Panera is a portmanteau of the words ‘pan’ and ‘era’
According to Panera’s Facebook page, the sandwich chain’s name “has Latin and Spanish roots.” In Spanish, “pan” means bread and “era” means age or time. So put together, Panera means “age of bread.”
Ron Shaich, the founder of Panera, also told Fortune the name comes from the Latin word for breadbasket.

Pepsi was named after the medical term for indigestion
Pepsi inventor Caleb Davis Bradham originally wanted to be a doctor, but a family crisis meant that he left medical school and became a pharmacist instead, according to the company website. His original invention, known as “Brad’s Drink,” was made from a mix of sugar, water, caramel, lemon oil and nutmeg. Three years later, Bradham renamed his drink, which he believed aided digestion, to “Pepsi-Cola,” taken from the word dyspepsia, meaning indigestion.

A genie whispered ‘Rolex’ in the founder’s ear
Hans Wilsdorf, founder of Rolex, wanted a brand name that could be said in any language. “I tried combining the letters of the alphabet in every possible way,” said Wilsdorf, according to Rolex. “This gave me some hundred names, but none of them felt quite right. One morning, while riding on the upper deck of a horse-drawn omnibus along Cheapside in the city of London, a genie whispered ‘Rolex’ in my ear.”

Soylent gets its name from a sci-fi novel
Soylent – that meal-replacement drink that’s a Silicon Valley favorite – got its name from the science-fiction novel “Make Room! Make Room!” which is about how population growth depletes the world’s natural resources. In the book, soylent is a blend of soybeans and lentils.

Starbucks is named after a character in ‘Moby-Dick’
In an interview with The Seattle Times, Starbucks co-founder Gordon Bowker told the story of how they arrived at the name. At first, they were going through a list of words beginning with “st” because they thought those were powerful. “Somebody somehow came up with an old mining map of the Cascades and Mount Rainier, and there was an old mining town called Starbo,” he said. “As soon as I saw Starbo, I, of course, jumped to Melville’s first mate (named Starbuck) in ‘Moby-Dick.'”

Under Armour decided to use the British spelling because it made a better phone number
The name Under Armour came about somewhat accidentally, according to The Washington Post’s interview with CEO Kevin Plank. Plank said he had landed on the name Body Armor, but couldn’t get the name trademarked. He told The Post: “I was a bit dejected, but I had lunch plans that afternoon with my oldest brother, Bill. So, I show up to pick him up, knock on the door, and he looks down at me the way only an older brother can look at a younger brother, and he asks, “How’s that company you’re working on, uhh … Under Armor?” So how did Under Armour end up with that weird spelling? “The reason we added the ‘U’ in ‘Armour’ is that I was skeptical at the time about whether this whole internet thing would stick,” Plank told The Post. “So I thought the phone number 888-4ARMOUR was much more compelling than 888-44ARMOR. I wish there was a little more science or an entire marketing study behind it, but it was that simple.”

Venmo was inspired by a dead language
Andrew Kortina, founder of the digital-payments app, writes on Quora: “When we were brainstorming names, one of the roots we were exploring for inspiration was the Latin, vendo/vendere, ‘to sell.’ As soon as we said venmo, we liked it because it was short and made for a good verb: ‘Just Venmo me for dinner.'”

Verizon stems from the latin word Veritas, meaning ‘truth’
Verizon was the product of a merger between Bell Atlantic and GTE, both telecommunications companies. The name is a mix between the latin word “veritas” meaning “truth,” and horizon, which is meant to signify that the brand is forward-looking.

Wawa is named after an area of Pennsylvania
The convenience-store chain’s name means two things: 1. It’s the name of the area in Pennsylvania where the company’s first dairy farm was located. 2. It’s an American Indian word for a Canada Goose – the one pictured in the company’s logo.

Zara came from Zorba, its original name
Zara founder Amancio Ortega originally named his company after the 1964 film “Zorba the Greek.” But this didn’t last long.The first store, which opened in La Coruña in 1975, happened to be two blocks down from a bar called Zorba, The New York Times reported. Ortega had already made the mold for the letters of his sign when the bar owner told him that it was too confusing for them to have the same name. In the end, Ortega ended up rearranging the letters to make the closest word he could come up with – hence Zara, according to The New York Times.