Myth Trivia: Carrots, twist ties and Oxford University

Life is filled with trivia.. those interesting things we share at the bar and water cooler. Knowing about bread twist ties could come in handy.

Compilation of creative commons and promotional images

CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 23, 2016 – Trivia has a colorful theme today plus some interesting bits of information about a famous university in England.

1 – Some history of carrots: Odd as it may sound, carrots were not always orange. In fact they have only been that cadmium hue for a few hundred years, since the Dutch took mutant strains from existing plants and developed them into the vegetable we recognize today.

Before the 17th century carrots were purple. By adding yellow and white carrots to the mix, what we know today as a carrot eventually became the most popular version of the strain.

Photo Credit: Flickr user Gnikrj via Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Flickr user Gnikrj via Creative Commons

There is some speculation that the orange carrot became widely accepted in the Netherlands as a tribute to the House of Orange and the struggle for independence. More likely, the reason is because the new creation was sweeter and had more substance than its earlier purple cousins.

One interesting side effect of eating too many carrots is that it can actually turn your skin into a shade of orange, which would probably be better than being purple, but not much.

So next time you’re watching Looney Tunes, try to imagine Bugs Bunny saying “Ehhh, what’s up Doc?” while chomping on a purple carrot.

2 – Let’s do the twist: Speaking of colors, did you know that twist ties on bread are different colors for a reason?

The ties are different shades representing the days of the week on which the bread is baked. While that might sound like a way for customers to identify which loaf is the freshest, it is actually a system created to help the people stocking the shelves to know which batch is the most recent.

There is a slight problem however, because there is no industry standard. Individual bread companies set their own color codes, which means that you have to do a little research on your own to find out what each color represents for any given manufacturer.

Modern technology being what it is these days, the task is not as daunting as it might sound, but it would simplify the process if all bakers would use the same formula.

At any rate, it’s a bit of an obscure little twist on a familiar household item we all use.

3 – Oxford is a lot older than you think: It turns out that Oxford University, that great rival of Cambridge in England, is older than many people realize. Dating to 1096, when teaching began there, and just two decades after the Battle of Hastings, Oxford has a rich and ancient history that predates a number of other things you thought were really old.

For example, Oxford is more than 200 years older than the Aztec civilization, which in our minds at least seems very old. The Aztecs didn’t not thrive until 1325 with the founding of the city of Tenochtitlan at Lake Texcoco in Mexico.

By then, Oxford had been a full-fledged university since 1249, which still beats the Aztecs by several decades.

Of note, Oxford isn’t even close to being the oldest university in the world, however. That honor goes to Nalanda University in India, which opened its doors hundreds of years earlier. That said, Oxford still claims to be one of the oldest universities in continuous operation.

There are some other major things “younger” than Oxford which are not as surprising as the Aztecs. For example, Oxford is considerably older than the United States. The university also lays claim to being older than either the Magna Carta or the printing press.

Oxford University promotional image
Oxford University promotional image

Perhaps of more significance, for Oxford anyway, is that more than an century after the first classes were held there, several professors became disenchanted with the town and journeyed to East Anglia, where they established Cambridge. The rivalry between the two continues today and remains as fierce as ever.

But the biggest jaw dropper comes when you realize that English as we know it today only emerged roughly around the 16th century.

We have all tried to read Old English or Middle English, which was used by Chaucer for the “Canterbury Tales,” but those versions of the language make little sense to us today.

The evolution of the language did not really begin until the House of Plantagenet, which commenced in 1154. Chaucer wrote his collection of tales in the 14th century, but if you use Henry II, the first Plantagenet king, as the starting point for the evolution of our native tongue, it’s easy to see that Oxford is still older than the English language.

Now that’s some noteworthy trivia!

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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