Everything comes from somewhere, as vague a statement as that may be. But sometimes the origins of things can be surprising, like how bagpipes don’t come from Scotland or pasta doesn’t come from Italy. And then there’s another level of surprising origins when you discover that multiple things all come from the same place.
10. Black, White, Red, and Green Peppercorns All Come From the Same Plant
If you have taken cooking beyond the microwave, then there’s a chance you’ve dealt with peppercorns while making one of your tasty creations. Black pepper, arguably the most popular seasoning in the world next to salt, starts life as a peppercorn. But peppercorns come in a variety of colors which include black, white, green, red and pink. Surprisingly enough, the first four are actually all the exact same thing. And pink peppercorns aren’t even peppercorns at all, so they don’t really count.
Green peppercorns are the unripe version of the fruit that come from a plant, actually a vine, called Piper Nigrum. When these are picked and allowed to dry, they become black peppercorns. If they are kept in a brine so they don’t dry out,they retain their green color. They can also be flash dehydrated or freeze-dried to keep that green color as well.
Red peppercorns are the mature fruit of the plant, and the red color is from the outer hull or skin on the berry. If that hull is removed, a white peppercorn is what’s underneath. So technically red and white peppercorns are the same thing, or at least they have the same ripeness.
9. Black, White, Green, and Oolong Teas Are From The Same Plant
Word is that tea is the most popular beverage in the world, aside from water. And there are also nearly countless varieties of it available from Orange Pekoe to Earl Grey to Chai and Nighty Night. But four of the most popular varieties – black, white, green, and oolong – all share one thing in common. They’re all the same.
The plant called Camellia sinensis can provide you with all four types of tea depending on how the leaves are treated during the tea making process. Considering how different all of those teas taste, that’s rather remarkable.
Green tea is made from fresh tea leaves that have not had a chance to suffer the effects of oxidation. They are heated soon after being harvested to stop oxidation which allows them to retain the green color.
In direct contrast to green is black tea which endures the most oxidation of the four types. The leaves are allowed to completely wither and then they are crushed to enhance this process. They turn black once fully oxidized.
In the middle between black and green is Oolong. This tea is semi-oxidized, sometimes out in the sun, and just slightly crushed or bruised. They may be between 8% and 80% oxidized, it’s a decision that the maker of the tea will have to make which makes oolong more of a personal recipe than the other kinds.
White tea is harvested before the buds are even fully matured and they still have little white hairs on them. These aren’t crushed or rolled at all.
8. Lychee, Ackee, Maple, and Many More Plants Come From the Same Family
Plant family trees can be somewhat confusing when you discover what’s related to what, but the Sapindaceae family probably takes the cake for the most unlikely cousins. In this single family of trees you’ll find ackee, the national fruit of Jamaica, the small, weirdly hairy fruits called rambutan, their spiky cousins lychee and smoother cousins longan. Guarana, a staple of energy drinks and source of caffeine, is also in the family, as is the sugar maple which is famous for maple syrup in North America.
There are actually 1,600 different species in the family and many of them have commercial value either for fruit, lumber, or other things they produce depending on where in the world you find them.
7. Science, Schizophrenia, and Even Sh** Have the Same Root Word
Word origins can sometimes be very surprising as you learn the roots of certain words or what they may have meant in other languages before they were co-opted to English. It’s rarer to discover that an abundance of words, many of which seem unrelated in current usage, all trace back to the same source. In this case, we’re talking about a proto-Indo-European word “skei,” which means “to cut or split.” The number of English words that stem from this source is baffling.
Schizophrenia starts with skei and adds “phren” which means wits or sanity so the word technically translates to “split wits.” Compare that to ski, as in the sport, which comes from a Norse and/or Old English term meaning “stick of wood” which was reduced to the act of splitting that wood to make the ski or, again, skei.
As pronunciations were tweaked across language and time, the hard “sk” sound was sometimes adapted to the softer “sh” sound and that gave rise to the word sh**. How does that relate to cutting or splitting? Because it’s splitting from your body. So initially, it was actually a polite euphemism and not something vulgar.
Even science came from skei, in the sense that splitting or divide came to be discerning the difference between and then understanding things. No doubt it was a bit of a process to come up with that one.
6. Numerous World Class Runners Come From the Same Jamaican Town
There’s an old saying that goes “there must be something in the water,” and it’s generally used when something unusual occurs multiple times in a small geographic area. Like if a particular town had an unusual number of really tall people, or famous artists. And you could apply that saying to Trelawny Parish, Jamaica as well because the town and surrounding area have given rise to a truly unusual number of incredibly fast people.
With a population of under three million, Jamaica is smaller than many US cities. Despite that, world famous runners like Usain Bolt, Linford Christie, Donovan Bailey, Ben Johnson, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Merlene Ottey, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson all hail from the tiny island nation along with literally dozens of other world champions.
Of those, Bolt, Ottey, Campbell-Brown and many others come specifically from Trelawny Parish. In fact, 37 of Jamaica’s 78 Summer Olympic medals were won by athletes from Trelawny, despite the town having a population of only 75,000.
5. Fuller, Tucker, and Walker as Surnames All Come From the Same Job of Fulling
Once upon a time, a person’s last name was a reflection of their profession. Family names like Smith and Miller and Farmer are pretty easy to figure out. But the names Fuller, Tucker, and Walker all have a unique origin in that they, too, all stem from a profession, but it’s the same one.
The name Tucker comes from an old English word, tukere, meaning “to torment” or “to beat.” Walker, on the other hand, comes from old English wealcere, meaning “one who trampled cloth in a bed of lye or kneaded it to strengthen it.”
Now compare those to Fuller, which was an actual job more properly known as a fuller of cloth. A fuller of cloth had to prepare clothing by cleaning it and thickening it by beating it in water, which was known as either tucking or walking. And that’s how Tucker, Walker, and Fuller all came from the same source and essentially mean the exact same thing.
The different usage of them seems to be geographic more than anything else, with Tucker in the southwest, Walker in the north, and Fuller in the southeast.
4. Dozens of Names Can Be Traced to Yohanan
There are countless websites that will help you name a baby these days, and many have lists of the most popular baby names from the prior year. But arguably the most popular name in history is Yohanan, even if you’ve never heard it. That’s because of all the names that are derivatives of it, and the list is long.
Yohanan is a Hebrew name, and it means “God is Gracious.” At least 33 names can be directly linked to Yohanan, and many of them are very recognizable. John, Jack, Shane, Sean, Jane, Janet, Jean, Evan, Hank, Ivan, Juan, Giovanni, Hanna, Hans and so on come from Yohanan originally.
3. There Have Been at Least 8 Mathematicians Named Bernoulli
If you’ve ever heard of Bernoulli’s Principle, or Bernoulli Numbers, or any of the eight noted mathematicians who were named Bernoulli, then you are familiar with the Bernoulli family. All of those Bernoullis are from the same place.
Jacob, Johann, and Daniel were arguably the most famous members of the family. Jacob was responsible for Bernoulli numbers, while his nephew Daniel (pictured above) gave us the Bernoulli Principle, and Daniel’s father Johann made important contributions to the development of calculus.
In addition to these three there were two Nicolaus Bernoullis, two more Johanns and one more Jacob. The whole family was a dominant force in math from Jacob’s birth in 1654 until Johann III’s death in 1807.
In a curious twist, the Curie family is also related to the Bernoulli’s as Pierre Curie was a descendant of Johann and he and his wife would go on to win a Nobel Prize for their work in physics.
2. Philadelphia Was The Origin Of Many Popular Candy Brands
While there may not be a real life Willy Wonka, for a time the closest you could get to his curious factory was Philadelphia, of all places. By the beginning of the 20th century, Philadelphia was a candy powerhouse with numerous popular brands starting there including Whitman’s, Peeps, Mike and Ike, Dubble Bubble, Good & Plenty, and candy corn. Hershey was also started nearby, as were several others.
So what made Philly, now notorious for cheesesteaks and cream cheese, the candy capital of America? Sugar. Philadelphia was a major port for the sugar trade back in the day. Molasses kept coming into the city and refineries were set up to make refined sugar. Local refined sugar provided a new opportunity for candy makers and it made sense to keep it all local.
1. Football, Basketball and Hockey Are All Linked to Canada’s McGill University
In the grand scheme of things, Canada is not usually recognized on the world stage as being a sports powerhouse outside of hockey. But despite that, Canada can lay claim to being the birthplace of not just hockey but two of America’s greatest pastimes, football and basketball. But it’s not just Canada that claims them. All three sports were either started or chiefly innovated at the same Canadian school: McGill University.
In 1874, the first football game was played at McGill against Harvard. The Harvard team liked McGill’s rules so much they took them home and shared them with Yale before they spread across the nation.
Although they didn’t invent hockey, McGill was the home of the first official hockey team and, as such, helped develop the official rules and gameplay.
Most famously, basketball was invented by McGill grad James Naismith. And yes, he was in Massachusetts at the time, but McGill still laid claim to the man.