Why Are There Two National Doughnut Days?

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iStock

For those of us who prefer our blood sugar to remain relatively stable, doughnuts are an occasional treat—nutritionally bankrupt but delicious fried dough laced with flavors from chocolate to bacon. You might even choose to indulge only in honor of National Doughnut Day, which is observed each year on the first Friday of June.

Curiously, a second National Doughnut Day pops up just five months later, on November 5. We don’t have two Thanksgivings, two Halloweens, or even two National Hot Dog Days. So why do doughnuts get to claim two dates?

It helps to know how the June date originated: During World War I, volunteers who wanted to support troops were charged with preparing food to deliver to soldiers on the front lines in France. The Salvation Army dispatched over 250 women there, who found that battle-tested helmets were perfect for frying up to seven doughnuts at a time.

In 1938, the Salvation Army decided to honor these proclaimed “doughnut lassies” by recognizing an annual pastry holiday that could also raise awareness (and money) for their charitable efforts. National Doughnut Day was born.

Its calendar doppelgänger is harder to trace. According to food holiday historian John Bryan Hopkins, who cataloged several fringe holidays for his site Foodimentary beginning in 2006, mentions of the November Doughnut Day could be found as early as the 1930s in copies of Ladies' Home Journal. Hopkins speculated that the November 5 date is close enough to Veterans Day on November 11 that a retail outlet likely introduced the date to acknowledge their service.

But which date do the major doughnut industry forces recognize? Entenmann’s tells us they don’t participate in November 5 celebrations. In a statement, a Dunkin’ Donuts spokesperson told Mental Floss:

Dunkin' Donuts celebrates National Donut Day which is traditionally celebrated on the first Friday of June, which was originally established in 1938 by the Chicago Salvation Army to honor women who served donuts to soldiers during World War I.”

Krispy Kreme likes to remain the Switzerland of doughnut delegating, having been known to give doughnuts away on both dates. But considering June’s date has a proven—and noble—lineage, you might want to side with Dunkin’ and consider it the more official of the two holidays. And if you manage to miss both days, don’t be concerned: June 8 is National Jelly-Filled Donut Day, and National Cream-Filled Donut Day lands on September 14.

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What's the Difference Between Straw and Hay?

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iStock.com/dusipuffi

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?

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iStock/Bychykhin_Olexandr

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.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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