#2. Creating a "Father's Day" Out of Thin Air
We know what you're thinking: "But Cracked -- all holidays are just bullshit invented by greeting card companies! You could just as easily have Valentine's Day or Mother's Day on here! The world is a cynical shithole of commercialism, STOP WASTING OUR TIME!"
But that's actually not true at all. Valentine's Day goes back more than 1,500 years, and there were various holidays celebrating motherhood going all the way back to ancient Rome (and a Christian version goes back 500 years or so). It makes sense -- we all think Christmas is commercialized, but nobody thinks toy companies invented it.
All right, so then surely there's some historical Father's Day that has simply been hijacked by the world's necktie and cologne manufacturers.
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
"Gentlemen, we've successfully bottled our urine. Now we just need a market ..."
But It Actually Came From ...
Nope! Father's Day's roots are in fact firmly planted in struggling retailers wanting to sell you more crap (and realizing that guilting kids into spending money to prove that they love their parents was a great way to boost sales).
"Today you girls have learned a valuable lesson: Peer pressure works."
It's true that when a Spokane, Washington, woman named Sonora Dodd came up with Father's Day back in 1908, she might have had good intentions. But her method of spreading the holiday was to go around to local merchants and get them to start setting up "Father's Day" window displays promoting your typical manly staples such as neckties, hats, socks, and rye whiskey (probably). By 1921, the florists were on board. By 1925, tobacco companies were sending out promotional material to retailers, talking about "Father's Day" as if it were totally a holiday everyone was expected to buy gifts for. What we're trying to say is that Father's Day qualifies as a real holiday about as much as Taco Tuesday at your local Mexican joint.
When World War II rolled around, advertisers cranked it up to a whole new douche level by insinuating that Father's Day was the perfect way to celebrate the American troops and support the war effort -- because nothing says "supporting the war effort" like presenting Dad with a pair of cufflinks when all he really wanted was more rye whiskey and for the Nazis to give him his fucking foot back.
Tim Boyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"I saved your asses from fascism and you won't even buy me liquor?"
It's not like people were unaware of what was going on -- for decades the holiday was widely ridiculed as the cynical cash grab that it was. But cash grab or not, you couldn't be the kid who didn't get your dad a Father's Day gift when everybody else was doing it (even if the "everybody else" consisted mainly of kids in commercials), and eventually it just stuck. It finally became an official holiday when Richard Nixon signed off on it in 1972.
Today, more than $12 billion is spent each year on Father's Day gifts, putting it almost on par with Mother's Day. You know, the one that started because people loved their mothers, not because retailers loved their money. So when you forget to send Dad a card next Father's Day, just email him a link to this article instead -- we're sure he'll understand.
Andrew Olney/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"Miss one year, and you'll see how many meals I can 'forget' to feed you."
#1. Changing the Rules of Grammar
As far as definitions go, the one for the word "like" has got to be one of the simpler ones. It's not even a difficult word to use in an example sentence: You should drive like your sister does. It looks like rain. This burrito acts like a bean-flavored enema.
See, this shit ain't hard. Writing sentences using the word "like" is like cake.
But It Actually Came From ...
Did you notice anything wrong with those sentences we just spouted off? No? How about this one: "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should." Notice anything wrong with that? Well, people in 1954 sure did, and they threw an absolute shit fit about it.
Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with them using a children's cartoon to hawk cancer sticks.
Newspapers condemned Winston's slogan, The New Yorker published a poem deriding it, and Walter Cronkite refused to read it on the air. Not because he'd be promoting rolled-up lung rot, but because the slogan used the word "like" instead of "as."
You see, the use of the word "like" as it appears in that slogan was seriously frowned upon back in the day. The word "like" had two uses: You could use it as a preposition (to directly compare two nouns) or as a regular old verb. You couldn't use it as a conjunction, as in the joining of two clauses in a sentence. When conjunctionating, you were supposed to use "as," as in: Winston tastes good as a cigarette should.
"We care as much about grammar as we do about your lungs."
But Winston didn't give a shit about their grammar, or about the public outcry, or about a cranky Cronkite. They gave a shit about sales, and in that respect, their advertisements worked like a charm. The more people complained, the more Winston ran the ads, and the more people saw the ads and talked about them, the more they wanted those sweet, sweet Winston cancer sticks. Winston even put out playful commercials poking fun at the grammar controversy.
As for the word "like," it also became more popular. And yeah, it continued to piss off English teachers everywhere. But the biggest slap in the face to stuffy grammarians came in 1961, when Merriam-Webster changed the definition of "like" to also make it a conjunction, and cited Winston's usage in their reasoning. Today, people don't even notice the incorrect usage. Perhaps Winston's ad executives were deviously tapping into our instinctive love of that word. Hell, today it's one of the biggest verbal tics in the English-speaking world, right up there with "um" and "uh." The word is, like, everywhere.
In fairness, Frank Zappa holds some of the blame.
For more ingrained ideas that were created, check out 5 Styles That Defined Entire Eras (Were Made Up by Movies). Or learn about 6 Disastrous Ways Pop Culture Influences The Real World.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 6 Most Ridiculous Guitar Designs.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover which columnist came up with Prince's wardrobe.
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