What Movie Was Responsible for the Creation of the PG-13 Rating?


Mike Prinke:

It was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Or rather, that one was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Most of the movie was typical PG adventure fare, no different from the previous Indy movie or Star Wars, but then there were a few disturbing scenes like the one where Mola Ram extracts a man’s heart and sacrifices him to Kali. Initially this was deemed enough to give it an R rating,
just as the climactic scene was for Raiders of the Lost Ark before it. In that instance, all Lucasfilm had to do was obscure Belloq’s exploding head with a column of fire to reduce the impact of the scene and they got their PG back, but Temple of Doom was comparatively a lot more pervasive with things that might have been disturbing to young children.

Frustrated with this state of affairs and not wanting to water down the movie, director Steven Spielberg decided to argue with the MPAA over it. He felt that although some of the action and horror was too intense for children, it was still clearly a work of fantasy and, as such, didn’t seem like it should be restricted to audiences 17 and up.

This wasn’t the first movie to struggle with this distinction: a whole class of action and horror movies were emerging that definitely didn’t seem “mature,” but still registered complaints for the PG rating being misleading about their level of gore and violence in some scenes (Joe Dante's Gremlins, which Spielberg produced, was one example). So, Spielberg and company went on to suggest that the MPAA needed some kind of middle rating between PG and R to denote movies appropriate for teenagers but too mature for children.

While Temple of Doom itself remained rated PG, leaving many parents in 1984 rather dismayed, the new rating was instituted that very year as PG-13, and was first applied to the movie Red Dawn several months later.

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What's the Difference Between Straw and Hay?


The words straw and hay are often used interchangeably, and it's easy to see why: They're both dry, grassy, and easy to find on farms in the fall. But the two terms actual describe different materials, and once you know what to look for, it's easy to tell the difference between them.

Hay refers to grasses and some legumes such as alfalfa that are grown for use as animal feed. The full plant is harvested—including the heads, leaves, and stems—dried, and typically stored in bales. Hay is what livestock like cattle eat when there isn't enough pasture to go around, or when the weather gets too cold for them to graze. The baled hay most non-farmers are familiar with is dry and yellow, but high-quality hay has more of a greenish hue.

The biggest difference between straw and hay is that straw is the byproduct of crops, not the crop itself. When a plant, such as wheat or barley, has been stripped of its seeds or grains, the stalk is sometimes saved and dried to make straw. This part of the plant is lacking in nutrients, which means it doesn't make great animal fodder. But farmers have found other uses for the material throughout history: It what's used to weave baskets, thatch roofs, and stuff mattresses.

Today, straw is commonly used to decorate pumpkin-picking farms. It's easy to identify (if it's being used in a way that would be wasteful if it were food, chances are it's straw), but even the farms themselves can confuse the two terms. Every hayride you've ever taken, for example, was most likely a straw-ride.

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How and Why Did Silent Letters Emerge in English?


Kory Stamper:

The easy answer is “"because English can’t leave well enough alone."

When we first started speaking English around 600 AD, it was totally phonetic: every letter had a sound, and we sounded every letter in a word. But English—and England itself—were influenced quite a bit by the French, who conquered the island in 1066 and held it for a long time. And then later by Dutch and Flemish printers, who were basically the main publishers in England for a solid two centuries, and then by further trading contact with just about every continent on the planet. And while we’re shaking hands and stealing language from every single people-group we meet, different parts of the language started changing at uneven rates.

By the 1400s, English started to lose its phonetic-ness: the way we articulated vowels in words like “loud” changed slowly but dramatically, and that had an effect on the rest of the word. (This is called “The Great Vowel Shift,” and it took place over a few hundred years.) Somewhere in the middle of the GVS, though, English spelling became fixed primarily because of the printing press and the easy distribution/availability of printed materials. In short: we have silent letters because the spelling of words stopped changing to match their pronunciations.

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