Patent pre­tend­ing: in­ven­tion fic­toids

The Washington Post Sunday - - DIVERSIONS - BY PAT MY­ERS

In Week 1209 we asked for to­tally bo­gus al­ter­na­tive ex­pla­na­tions for the ori­gins of var­i­ous prod­ucts or their names. 4th place Stealth tech­nol­ogy for war­planes came about when an aero­space en­gi­neer dis­cov­ered that the ma­te­rial used to make laun­dry ham­pers was in­vis­i­ble to her hus­band and chil­dren. (John Hutchins, Sil­ver Spring)

3rd place Al­though the turn sig­nal was in­vented more than 100 years ago, it seems that BMW en­gi­neers still con­sider it too ex­per­i­men­tal to in­stall in their cars. (Dal­las Baker, Ar­ling­ton)

2nd place and the al­ter­na­tive-fact board game Fact or Crap? Bath­tub mats were ac­tu­ally in­vented as work­sta­tion floor­ing for Chiq­uita em­ploy­ees in their pack­ing plants. (Marni Pen­ning Cole­man, Falls Church)

And the win­ner of the Inkin’ Memo­rial:

Trav­el­ing down In­ter­state 40 in early 1967, a marsh­mal­low truck driver dis­cov­ered that his truck’s back door had sprung open, spilling out boxes of his cargo — just when a high­way crew was paint­ing yel­low lines on the asphalt. The first Peeps hit the shelves that year in time for Easter. (Rob Huff­man, Fred­er­icks­burg, Va.)

Oth­ers of in­ven­tion: hon­or­able men­tions “Kleenex” comes from the Swedish word for “shirt sleeve.” (Sarah Jay, Churchville, Md.) The mo­tor­ized ca­noe was patented just weeks af­ter the re­lease of the movie “De­liv­er­ance.” (War­ren Tan­abe, An­napo­lis)

A Ne­braska woman named Anna Gra­ham de­vel­oped the pro­to­type for what would be­come the game of Scrab­ble. (Hildy Zam­pella, Falls Church)

The adding ma­chine was de­vel­oped in re­sponse to the Great Legume Fail­ure of 1931, when ac­coun­tants in Chicago were un­able to do their work be­cause they did not have enough beans to count. (Mark Raffman, Re­ston)

Amer­i­can cheese came about one Satur­day when a Kraft R&D sci­en­tist, hav­ing left his 3-year-old unat­tended for a few min­utes, re­turned to the kitchen to find a melted pool of mar­garine and orange crayons on the stove. (Colin Schatz, Oak­land, Calif.)

Bos­ton-based baker Clyde Dunkin ran out of dough one day, punched out the mid­dle of each of his buns to make a few more, and re­al­ized he could sell “dough nuts” for a higher price AND less cost. (Neal Stark­man, Seat­tle)

Bo­tox was in­vented by a mor­ti­cian in Utah who no­ticed that dead peo­ple looked much nicer than their pass­port pho­tos. (John O’Byrne, Dublin)

Count Choc­ula ce­real was named af­ter the leg­endary vam­pire whose bite turned his vic­tims into di­a­bet­ics. (Lawrence McGuire, Wal­dorf, Md.)

Cow­boys of the Plains states in the 1800s would pull ticks off their leather chaps and ap­ply them to their parched lips to draw blood and re­hy­drate them. The de­vel­op­ment of a waxy balm even­tu­ally re­placed this prac­tice, but the name, Chap­stick, re­mained. (John McCooey, Re­hoboth Beach, Del.)

First pre­sented at the Iowa State Fair in 1932, the orig­i­nal candy corn was hand­made from corn syrup and ear­wax. (Mary Kap­pus, Wash­ing­ton)

The for­tune cookie: Twelve-yearold Em­peror Pu Yi, de­nied ac­cess to sooth­say­ers by the Im­pe­rial Re­gent, de­vised this se­cret method for them to send him pearls of wis­dom, and lot­tery num­bers. (Mark Raffman)

Gleb Kotel­nikov in­vented and tested the first knap­sack parachute in April 1911; Gleb Kotel­nikov Jr. suc­cess­fully tested the first knap­sack parachute with non­slip shoul­der straps in May 1911. (Kevin Dopart, Wash­ing­ton)

Jose An­gos­tura was ex­tremely re­sent­ful that his girl­friend ran off with a bar­tender. (Jeff Con­tom­pa­sis, Ash­burn)

You're sure to sleep soundly with this 3-D-look­ing Death Star lamp next to your bed. This week's sec­ond prize.

Just as its po­lice com­pan­ion is called the walkie-talkie, the Taser was orig­i­nally known as the run­ni­es­tun­nie. (Jeff Brech­lin, Ap­ple Val­ley, Minn.)

Moun­tain Dew is ac­tual moun­tain dew, col­lected each morn­ing out­side the bot­tling plant on Three Mile Is­land, Pa. (John Hutchins)

Opera glasses be­came prac­ti­cal only af­ter 18th-cen­tury Vi­en­nese in­ven­tor Fritz Zauberkün­stler stum­bled on a for­mula for lenses that could not be shat­tered by the hu­man voice. (Lawrence McGuire)

Sheared from spe­cially bred sheep dur­ing World War I, steel wool was de­vel­oped in Bri­tain for knit­ting army hel­mets. (Mary Kap­pus)

The Brazil­ian wax came about when a clumsy eye­brow aes­theti­cian spilled a huge glob in the wrong lo­ca­tion, claim­ing to the stunned, scream­ing client, “No, re­ally — every­one’s do­ing it this way . . .” (Marni Pen­ning Cole­man)

The ear­li­est shoes had no laces but had holes for them: DNA ev­i­dence indi­cates that cave men would in­stead se­cure them with their braided foot hair. (War­ren Tan­abe)

The first air­plane seat was de­signed for Wil­bur Wright, who was 5-2 and weighed 126 pounds. In honor of his con­tri­bu­tions to avi­a­tion, mod­ern en­gi­neers use the same spec­i­fi­ca­tions to this day. (Jesse Frankovich, Lans­ing, Mich.)

The first ceil­ing fans were in­stalled in the palace of the Mughal Shah Jag­pur II, who was renowned for his love of lentils. (Dal­las Baker)

The toi­let was orig­i­nally named the “wa­ter closet” be­cause of how very wet it would be­come. The fix­ture was even­tu­ally re­designed so that the flush­ing wa­ter would go down. (War­ren Tan­abe)

Cindy Gunn, in­ven­tor of the T-shirt can­non, says she was in­spired by her Great Dane: “Af­ter I’d seen Horst pro­jec­tile-vomit ev­ery­thing from a knee sock to half a couch cush­ion, the patent ap­pli­ca­tion pretty much wrote it­self.” (Melissa Bal­main, Rochester, N.Y.)

Your Mama jokes were first pop­u­lar­ized in 1950, when an At­lantic City co­me­dian got stuck for two hours be­hind her in a buf­fet line. (John Hutchins)

Wil­liam Stan­ley in­vented the in­duc­tion coil in 1893. To this day no one knows what it does, though sci­en­tists sus­pect it in­duces some­thing or other. (Jeff Brech­lin)

More hon­or­able men­tions in the on­line In­vite at bit.ly/in­vite1213.

Still run­ning — dead­line Mon­day, Feb. 6: Our Scrab­bleGrams ne­ol­o­gism con­test. See bit.ly/ in­vite1212.

PAT MY­ERS/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

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