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Episode
52

The Guinness World Records

First published on
May 8, 2020
Weird World
-
17
minutes
Central Asia
Weird history
Entrepreneurship
Corruption

It's a collection of the biggest, fastest, and weirdest things in the world.

But how much do you really know about The Guinness World Records?

Today we look at the story behind the book, and discover how an argument about a bird turned into one of the best selling books in the world.

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Transcript

[00:00:05] Hello, hello, hello and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can learn fascinating things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:20] I'm Alastair Budge. 

[00:00:22] Today we are talking about a book that I imagine you may have heard of. 

[00:00:28] It's more than a book though.

[00:00:31] It is a cult

[00:00:33] It's something that is turned from an argument between two men in a field into a multimillion pound empire and a feature of popular culture. 

[00:00:46] That's right, today it is time to talk about the Guinness World Records.

[00:00:53] Before we get right into it, for those of you who didn't manage to listen to the last episode, I just wanted to remind you that we are now doing one episode a week that is available to everyone, that's today's episode. 

[00:01:08] We will still make two episodes a week though, so to listen to the other one, you will need to be a member of Leonardo English. 

[00:01:16] If you want to find out more about that change, then you can listen to the last episode that we did where I explained the reason behind it. 

[00:01:25] To celebrate this change though, and the launch of our new Listener membership, you can become a Listener member for just four euros a month, 48 euros a year, if you use the promo code April4 AP R I L 4. 

[00:01:44] Becoming a member of Leonardo English means that you get access to every episode we've ever released, plus the ability to request episode topics and participate in Q and A sessions. 

[00:01:56] So if you are interested, the link to go to is Leonardoenglish.com/subscribe.

[00:02:05] Okay then let's talk about the Guinness World Records. 

[00:02:10] For those of you who are old enough to remember life before smartphones, I imagine you can recall times where you would be chatting with a friend and you would disagree on a particular fact or figure. 

[00:02:27] Maybe that was the capital city of a country, how heavy a particular type of animal was, or how many times a football team won the league.

[00:02:39] You would be sure that the answer was one thing, but your friend would be sure it was something else. 

[00:02:46] Or maybe neither of you had any idea. 

[00:02:50] These kinds of conversations, at least in the UK, tended to happen in a pubover a pint or sometimes more than one pint, I should say, of beer.

[00:03:02] Now, the arrival of the internet and smartphones has removed all of the magic from this situation. 

[00:03:12] People now can just look it up and a conversation barely lasts a minute before someone inevitably says, I'll just Google it. 

[00:03:24] But before smartphones, you will remember that it wasn't quite so easy to solve an argument, to solve these kinds of conversations. 

[00:03:34] You could ask someone, another friend, but then that wasn't normally reliable either. 

[00:03:41] If you had a computer with the internet back home, you could wait until you got back then to Google it.

[00:03:47] But what about before then? 

[00:03:49] You would consult a book, you'd go to the library or try to find some kind of resource with the information in. 

[00:03:59] So what is the connection between this and the Guinness Book Of Records, you may be asking yourself? 

[00:04:07] Well, it is that the history of the Guinness World Records can be traced back to a very similar event.

[00:04:16] In the early 1950s a man called Sir Hugh Beaver was at a shooting event in Ireland. 

[00:04:25] He was the managing director of the Guinness brewery, Ireland's famous dark beer.

[00:04:32] At this shooting event, he and the group he was with couldn't agree on what was Europe's fastest game bird, the fastest bird people would hunt. 

[00:04:47] It was almost half a century until Google and the worldwide web appeared, and so there was no easy way to resolve this debate. 

[00:05:00] They consulted, they looked through, various reference books, but couldn't find anything that answered their question, that told them what the fastest game bird in Europe was. 

[00:05:14] So, Sir Hugh, the boss of Guinness brewery, had an idea. 

[00:05:21] He thought he could create a marketing campaign, a promotion for Guinness, based on the idea of solving these pub arguments, these debates that went on typically in pubs over a pint of beer. 

[00:05:39] The idea was they could create a book that would solve these pubarguments so that the next time two friends were arguing over what was the heaviest kind of dog or the most goals scored in a world cup match, or the oldest person to have ever lived, they could consult this book made by Guinness and it would make them feel all happy about Guinness and perhaps even order another beer. 

[00:06:12] To do this, Sir Hugh Beaver was recommended to speak to a pair of twins called Norris and Ross McWhirter. 

[00:06:24] These twins, the McWhirters had made a career out of facts and statistics. 

[00:06:32] They had an agency, a small company that supplied facts and statistics to newspapers and advertisers in London. 

[00:06:43] They also, reportedly, both had a photographic memory, which I guess is pretty useful when you're dealing in the business of lots of facts and figures. 

[00:06:56] Beaver, the boss of the Guinness factory, knew he had found the right people for the job, and so he hired the twins to create his book. 

[00:07:09] And they worked tirelessly on the project, reportedly putting in 90-hour weeks over the course of a thirteen and a half week period, working nights, weekends, and bank holidays.

[00:07:25] And after this three month period, the first Guinness Book Of Records was done, it was complete. 

[00:07:35] Around a thousand copies were printed and they were given out for free, the idea being that people could read them while they were enjoying a refreshing pint of Guinness. 

[00:07:50] But when it was first published, neither the twins nor Guinness were to know what they had started.

[00:08:00] It was to go on to become the best selling copyrighted book of all time, having sold more than 140 million copies in 100 different countries. 

[00:08:14] And it is now, almost 70 years later, a huge media empire with millions of subscribers on YouTube, its own TV shows, corporate events, and more. 

[00:08:29] Record-breaking is big, big business.

[00:08:34] If you are wondering how or why there is a record for the most people chewing bubblegum at the same time, or the largest paella, this is because you can now apply to set a Guinness World Record for, well, almost anything. 

[00:08:53] I can remember when I was a kid, we used to always ask for a copy of the Guinness Book Of Records at Christmas, and it was always amazing to leaf through this book, to browse the book, and look for the weirdest records.

[00:09:10] But over the years, the records have got stranger and stranger. 

[00:09:15] Before we go onto the next part, I just wanted to share a few of my favourite records, mainly because they are all quite strange and some pretty gross

[00:09:29] First up is a man called Donald Gorske who set the record for the most McDonald's Big Macs eaten. 

[00:09:38] In 2012 he ate his 26,000th Big Mac, after eating multiple Big Macs every day for 40 years. 

[00:09:51] Amazingly, he has lower than average cholesterol, which I have to say I find quite hard to believe.

[00:10:00] Then there are the weird collectors, people who have managed to get into the record books for the largest collection of slightly unorthodox things. 

[00:10:12] Steve Sansweet, another American, has 300,000 individual Star Wars collection items, while a woman called Charlotte Lee has 5,631 rubber ducks, those strange yellow ducks that you can put in your bath. 

[00:10:35] There are, of course, the physical records, records that are far more fun when you can actually see a picture of the person, but I'm sure you've probably seen a picture of someone like Robert Wadlow, who was the tallest man in the world, at two meters 72 centimetres. 

[00:10:55] Or the woman with the longest fingernails in the world, which I definitely find pretty disgusting. 

[00:11:03] When the Guinness Book Of Records was first created, when it was first thought up as an idea, it was meant to be just this collection of facts that already exist, a collection of records that already existed in the world.

[00:11:19] But it has now created this entire industry of record-breaking - people, companies, and organisations wanting to be a record-breaker for almost anything. 

[00:11:35] And there are big teams now at Guinness World Records that will help you, they will guide you through the process of becoming a record breaker. 

[00:11:47] If you want this guided service, it's certainly not cheap, costing $800 or a lot more if you are a company trying to promote your product, as we will discuss in a minute. 

[00:12:01] And because of how popular becoming a record-breaker has become, Guinness World Records has had to set out some guidelines on what can actually make it into the book, what is a real record and what isn't. 

[00:12:18] According to their website, a good rule of thumb, a general rule, is 'if you can't measure it, you can't weigh it and you can't count it, then it's probably not a record'.

[00:12:34] It is a pretty fascinating concept, the idea that there has been this entire industry created based on encouraging people to do weird things and break records, to be a Guinness world record breaker, even if the thing that they are doing probably is so strange that nobody else will have attempted it before.

[00:13:00] Things like the fastest person to run the hundred metres are of course, perfectly valid records, but the biggest mosaic of postage stamps or the biggest line of cereal boxes that have been knocked over like dominoes? 

[00:13:20] Well, I wonder how many people have ever actually tried that before. 

[00:13:26] But this leads us on to discovering how Guinness World Records has become such a huge industry and a huge business.

[00:13:37] It is the big companies, the sponsors who are using Guinness World Records as a way of marketing or drawing attention to what they do. 

[00:13:48] That world record for the biggest mosaic of postage stamps that I mentioned a minute ago? 

[00:13:54] That was set by the Spanish postal service. 

[00:13:58] The record for the largestloop the loop in a car, you know when a car drives up and around in a circle and it goes upside down? 

[00:14:07] That record was set by the car maker Jaguar to promote the launch of a new model

[00:14:16] And the record for the most cereal boxes that were knocked over in a line like dominoes? 

[00:14:22] Surprise, surprise, that was Kellogg's. 

[00:14:27] And of course, these companies are paying large, large sums of money to Guinness World Records for all this, for the promotion of their products.

[00:14:39] When you think about the history of the Guinness Book Of Records and how this little book was first created as a way to promote Guinness to solve pubarguments, I think it's a fascinating twist that now it is turned into this huge publishing and media empire that relies to a large extent on promoting other companies, allowing them to create their own records and of course pay handsomely for the privilege.

[00:15:14] Even more interesting and quite funny on one level is that Guinness, the company, Guinness the drink, no longer has anything to do really with Guinness World Records. 

[00:15:27] The company itself changed hands several times, it was sold several times, but has kept the iconic name of Guinness. 

[00:15:39] So Guinness - the drink - gets all of this publicity every time someone says the name Guinness World Records, it gets it for free.

[00:15:50] It has certainly come a long way and has had an interesting history for a book that was written in 13 and a half weeks and meant to be given away for free and enjoyed over a cold pint of Guinness. 

[00:16:04] Okay, then that is it for today's episode of English Learning for Curious Minds. 

[00:16:14] As always, I would love to know what you thought of the show, so please do write in, the email is hi H i@leonardoenglish.com.

[00:16:25] As I said at the start of this podcast, we have made a few changes to the way that the podcasts work. 

[00:16:32] So if you want access to every single episode plus two new ones a week, then you should head to the Leonardo English website and until May the 10th which is this coming Sunday, you can save 20% on the normal cost of our Listener membership with the code APRIL4, A P R I L 4, so it's just four euros a month, 48 euros a year. 

[00:16:58] But be quick as that only lasts until midnight on Sunday. 

[00:17:03] [00:17:03] The link to go to is Leonardoenglish.com/subscribe. 

[00:17:09] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:17:14] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I will catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]


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[00:00:05] Hello, hello, hello and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can learn fascinating things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:20] I'm Alastair Budge. 

[00:00:22] Today we are talking about a book that I imagine you may have heard of. 

[00:00:28] It's more than a book though.

[00:00:31] It is a cult

[00:00:33] It's something that is turned from an argument between two men in a field into a multimillion pound empire and a feature of popular culture. 

[00:00:46] That's right, today it is time to talk about the Guinness World Records.

[00:00:53] Before we get right into it, for those of you who didn't manage to listen to the last episode, I just wanted to remind you that we are now doing one episode a week that is available to everyone, that's today's episode. 

[00:01:08] We will still make two episodes a week though, so to listen to the other one, you will need to be a member of Leonardo English. 

[00:01:16] If you want to find out more about that change, then you can listen to the last episode that we did where I explained the reason behind it. 

[00:01:25] To celebrate this change though, and the launch of our new Listener membership, you can become a Listener member for just four euros a month, 48 euros a year, if you use the promo code April4 AP R I L 4. 

[00:01:44] Becoming a member of Leonardo English means that you get access to every episode we've ever released, plus the ability to request episode topics and participate in Q and A sessions. 

[00:01:56] So if you are interested, the link to go to is Leonardoenglish.com/subscribe.

[00:02:05] Okay then let's talk about the Guinness World Records. 

[00:02:10] For those of you who are old enough to remember life before smartphones, I imagine you can recall times where you would be chatting with a friend and you would disagree on a particular fact or figure. 

[00:02:27] Maybe that was the capital city of a country, how heavy a particular type of animal was, or how many times a football team won the league.

[00:02:39] You would be sure that the answer was one thing, but your friend would be sure it was something else. 

[00:02:46] Or maybe neither of you had any idea. 

[00:02:50] These kinds of conversations, at least in the UK, tended to happen in a pubover a pint or sometimes more than one pint, I should say, of beer.

[00:03:02] Now, the arrival of the internet and smartphones has removed all of the magic from this situation. 

[00:03:12] People now can just look it up and a conversation barely lasts a minute before someone inevitably says, I'll just Google it. 

[00:03:24] But before smartphones, you will remember that it wasn't quite so easy to solve an argument, to solve these kinds of conversations. 

[00:03:34] You could ask someone, another friend, but then that wasn't normally reliable either. 

[00:03:41] If you had a computer with the internet back home, you could wait until you got back then to Google it.

[00:03:47] But what about before then? 

[00:03:49] You would consult a book, you'd go to the library or try to find some kind of resource with the information in. 

[00:03:59] So what is the connection between this and the Guinness Book Of Records, you may be asking yourself? 

[00:04:07] Well, it is that the history of the Guinness World Records can be traced back to a very similar event.

[00:04:16] In the early 1950s a man called Sir Hugh Beaver was at a shooting event in Ireland. 

[00:04:25] He was the managing director of the Guinness brewery, Ireland's famous dark beer.

[00:04:32] At this shooting event, he and the group he was with couldn't agree on what was Europe's fastest game bird, the fastest bird people would hunt. 

[00:04:47] It was almost half a century until Google and the worldwide web appeared, and so there was no easy way to resolve this debate. 

[00:05:00] They consulted, they looked through, various reference books, but couldn't find anything that answered their question, that told them what the fastest game bird in Europe was. 

[00:05:14] So, Sir Hugh, the boss of Guinness brewery, had an idea. 

[00:05:21] He thought he could create a marketing campaign, a promotion for Guinness, based on the idea of solving these pub arguments, these debates that went on typically in pubs over a pint of beer. 

[00:05:39] The idea was they could create a book that would solve these pubarguments so that the next time two friends were arguing over what was the heaviest kind of dog or the most goals scored in a world cup match, or the oldest person to have ever lived, they could consult this book made by Guinness and it would make them feel all happy about Guinness and perhaps even order another beer. 

[00:06:12] To do this, Sir Hugh Beaver was recommended to speak to a pair of twins called Norris and Ross McWhirter. 

[00:06:24] These twins, the McWhirters had made a career out of facts and statistics. 

[00:06:32] They had an agency, a small company that supplied facts and statistics to newspapers and advertisers in London. 

[00:06:43] They also, reportedly, both had a photographic memory, which I guess is pretty useful when you're dealing in the business of lots of facts and figures. 

[00:06:56] Beaver, the boss of the Guinness factory, knew he had found the right people for the job, and so he hired the twins to create his book. 

[00:07:09] And they worked tirelessly on the project, reportedly putting in 90-hour weeks over the course of a thirteen and a half week period, working nights, weekends, and bank holidays.

[00:07:25] And after this three month period, the first Guinness Book Of Records was done, it was complete. 

[00:07:35] Around a thousand copies were printed and they were given out for free, the idea being that people could read them while they were enjoying a refreshing pint of Guinness. 

[00:07:50] But when it was first published, neither the twins nor Guinness were to know what they had started.

[00:08:00] It was to go on to become the best selling copyrighted book of all time, having sold more than 140 million copies in 100 different countries. 

[00:08:14] And it is now, almost 70 years later, a huge media empire with millions of subscribers on YouTube, its own TV shows, corporate events, and more. 

[00:08:29] Record-breaking is big, big business.

[00:08:34] If you are wondering how or why there is a record for the most people chewing bubblegum at the same time, or the largest paella, this is because you can now apply to set a Guinness World Record for, well, almost anything. 

[00:08:53] I can remember when I was a kid, we used to always ask for a copy of the Guinness Book Of Records at Christmas, and it was always amazing to leaf through this book, to browse the book, and look for the weirdest records.

[00:09:10] But over the years, the records have got stranger and stranger. 

[00:09:15] Before we go onto the next part, I just wanted to share a few of my favourite records, mainly because they are all quite strange and some pretty gross

[00:09:29] First up is a man called Donald Gorske who set the record for the most McDonald's Big Macs eaten. 

[00:09:38] In 2012 he ate his 26,000th Big Mac, after eating multiple Big Macs every day for 40 years. 

[00:09:51] Amazingly, he has lower than average cholesterol, which I have to say I find quite hard to believe.

[00:10:00] Then there are the weird collectors, people who have managed to get into the record books for the largest collection of slightly unorthodox things. 

[00:10:12] Steve Sansweet, another American, has 300,000 individual Star Wars collection items, while a woman called Charlotte Lee has 5,631 rubber ducks, those strange yellow ducks that you can put in your bath. 

[00:10:35] There are, of course, the physical records, records that are far more fun when you can actually see a picture of the person, but I'm sure you've probably seen a picture of someone like Robert Wadlow, who was the tallest man in the world, at two meters 72 centimetres. 

[00:10:55] Or the woman with the longest fingernails in the world, which I definitely find pretty disgusting. 

[00:11:03] When the Guinness Book Of Records was first created, when it was first thought up as an idea, it was meant to be just this collection of facts that already exist, a collection of records that already existed in the world.

[00:11:19] But it has now created this entire industry of record-breaking - people, companies, and organisations wanting to be a record-breaker for almost anything. 

[00:11:35] And there are big teams now at Guinness World Records that will help you, they will guide you through the process of becoming a record breaker. 

[00:11:47] If you want this guided service, it's certainly not cheap, costing $800 or a lot more if you are a company trying to promote your product, as we will discuss in a minute. 

[00:12:01] And because of how popular becoming a record-breaker has become, Guinness World Records has had to set out some guidelines on what can actually make it into the book, what is a real record and what isn't. 

[00:12:18] According to their website, a good rule of thumb, a general rule, is 'if you can't measure it, you can't weigh it and you can't count it, then it's probably not a record'.

[00:12:34] It is a pretty fascinating concept, the idea that there has been this entire industry created based on encouraging people to do weird things and break records, to be a Guinness world record breaker, even if the thing that they are doing probably is so strange that nobody else will have attempted it before.

[00:13:00] Things like the fastest person to run the hundred metres are of course, perfectly valid records, but the biggest mosaic of postage stamps or the biggest line of cereal boxes that have been knocked over like dominoes? 

[00:13:20] Well, I wonder how many people have ever actually tried that before. 

[00:13:26] But this leads us on to discovering how Guinness World Records has become such a huge industry and a huge business.

[00:13:37] It is the big companies, the sponsors who are using Guinness World Records as a way of marketing or drawing attention to what they do. 

[00:13:48] That world record for the biggest mosaic of postage stamps that I mentioned a minute ago? 

[00:13:54] That was set by the Spanish postal service. 

[00:13:58] The record for the largestloop the loop in a car, you know when a car drives up and around in a circle and it goes upside down? 

[00:14:07] That record was set by the car maker Jaguar to promote the launch of a new model

[00:14:16] And the record for the most cereal boxes that were knocked over in a line like dominoes? 

[00:14:22] Surprise, surprise, that was Kellogg's. 

[00:14:27] And of course, these companies are paying large, large sums of money to Guinness World Records for all this, for the promotion of their products.

[00:14:39] When you think about the history of the Guinness Book Of Records and how this little book was first created as a way to promote Guinness to solve pubarguments, I think it's a fascinating twist that now it is turned into this huge publishing and media empire that relies to a large extent on promoting other companies, allowing them to create their own records and of course pay handsomely for the privilege.

[00:15:14] Even more interesting and quite funny on one level is that Guinness, the company, Guinness the drink, no longer has anything to do really with Guinness World Records. 

[00:15:27] The company itself changed hands several times, it was sold several times, but has kept the iconic name of Guinness. 

[00:15:39] So Guinness - the drink - gets all of this publicity every time someone says the name Guinness World Records, it gets it for free.

[00:15:50] It has certainly come a long way and has had an interesting history for a book that was written in 13 and a half weeks and meant to be given away for free and enjoyed over a cold pint of Guinness. 

[00:16:04] Okay, then that is it for today's episode of English Learning for Curious Minds. 

[00:16:14] As always, I would love to know what you thought of the show, so please do write in, the email is hi H i@leonardoenglish.com.

[00:16:25] As I said at the start of this podcast, we have made a few changes to the way that the podcasts work. 

[00:16:32] So if you want access to every single episode plus two new ones a week, then you should head to the Leonardo English website and until May the 10th which is this coming Sunday, you can save 20% on the normal cost of our Listener membership with the code APRIL4, A P R I L 4, so it's just four euros a month, 48 euros a year. 

[00:16:58] But be quick as that only lasts until midnight on Sunday. 

[00:17:03] [00:17:03] The link to go to is Leonardoenglish.com/subscribe. 

[00:17:09] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:17:14] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I will catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]


[00:00:05] Hello, hello, hello and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can learn fascinating things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:20] I'm Alastair Budge. 

[00:00:22] Today we are talking about a book that I imagine you may have heard of. 

[00:00:28] It's more than a book though.

[00:00:31] It is a cult

[00:00:33] It's something that is turned from an argument between two men in a field into a multimillion pound empire and a feature of popular culture. 

[00:00:46] That's right, today it is time to talk about the Guinness World Records.

[00:00:53] Before we get right into it, for those of you who didn't manage to listen to the last episode, I just wanted to remind you that we are now doing one episode a week that is available to everyone, that's today's episode. 

[00:01:08] We will still make two episodes a week though, so to listen to the other one, you will need to be a member of Leonardo English. 

[00:01:16] If you want to find out more about that change, then you can listen to the last episode that we did where I explained the reason behind it. 

[00:01:25] To celebrate this change though, and the launch of our new Listener membership, you can become a Listener member for just four euros a month, 48 euros a year, if you use the promo code April4 AP R I L 4. 

[00:01:44] Becoming a member of Leonardo English means that you get access to every episode we've ever released, plus the ability to request episode topics and participate in Q and A sessions. 

[00:01:56] So if you are interested, the link to go to is Leonardoenglish.com/subscribe.

[00:02:05] Okay then let's talk about the Guinness World Records. 

[00:02:10] For those of you who are old enough to remember life before smartphones, I imagine you can recall times where you would be chatting with a friend and you would disagree on a particular fact or figure. 

[00:02:27] Maybe that was the capital city of a country, how heavy a particular type of animal was, or how many times a football team won the league.

[00:02:39] You would be sure that the answer was one thing, but your friend would be sure it was something else. 

[00:02:46] Or maybe neither of you had any idea. 

[00:02:50] These kinds of conversations, at least in the UK, tended to happen in a pubover a pint or sometimes more than one pint, I should say, of beer.

[00:03:02] Now, the arrival of the internet and smartphones has removed all of the magic from this situation. 

[00:03:12] People now can just look it up and a conversation barely lasts a minute before someone inevitably says, I'll just Google it. 

[00:03:24] But before smartphones, you will remember that it wasn't quite so easy to solve an argument, to solve these kinds of conversations. 

[00:03:34] You could ask someone, another friend, but then that wasn't normally reliable either. 

[00:03:41] If you had a computer with the internet back home, you could wait until you got back then to Google it.

[00:03:47] But what about before then? 

[00:03:49] You would consult a book, you'd go to the library or try to find some kind of resource with the information in. 

[00:03:59] So what is the connection between this and the Guinness Book Of Records, you may be asking yourself? 

[00:04:07] Well, it is that the history of the Guinness World Records can be traced back to a very similar event.

[00:04:16] In the early 1950s a man called Sir Hugh Beaver was at a shooting event in Ireland. 

[00:04:25] He was the managing director of the Guinness brewery, Ireland's famous dark beer.

[00:04:32] At this shooting event, he and the group he was with couldn't agree on what was Europe's fastest game bird, the fastest bird people would hunt. 

[00:04:47] It was almost half a century until Google and the worldwide web appeared, and so there was no easy way to resolve this debate. 

[00:05:00] They consulted, they looked through, various reference books, but couldn't find anything that answered their question, that told them what the fastest game bird in Europe was. 

[00:05:14] So, Sir Hugh, the boss of Guinness brewery, had an idea. 

[00:05:21] He thought he could create a marketing campaign, a promotion for Guinness, based on the idea of solving these pub arguments, these debates that went on typically in pubs over a pint of beer. 

[00:05:39] The idea was they could create a book that would solve these pubarguments so that the next time two friends were arguing over what was the heaviest kind of dog or the most goals scored in a world cup match, or the oldest person to have ever lived, they could consult this book made by Guinness and it would make them feel all happy about Guinness and perhaps even order another beer. 

[00:06:12] To do this, Sir Hugh Beaver was recommended to speak to a pair of twins called Norris and Ross McWhirter. 

[00:06:24] These twins, the McWhirters had made a career out of facts and statistics. 

[00:06:32] They had an agency, a small company that supplied facts and statistics to newspapers and advertisers in London. 

[00:06:43] They also, reportedly, both had a photographic memory, which I guess is pretty useful when you're dealing in the business of lots of facts and figures. 

[00:06:56] Beaver, the boss of the Guinness factory, knew he had found the right people for the job, and so he hired the twins to create his book. 

[00:07:09] And they worked tirelessly on the project, reportedly putting in 90-hour weeks over the course of a thirteen and a half week period, working nights, weekends, and bank holidays.

[00:07:25] And after this three month period, the first Guinness Book Of Records was done, it was complete. 

[00:07:35] Around a thousand copies were printed and they were given out for free, the idea being that people could read them while they were enjoying a refreshing pint of Guinness. 

[00:07:50] But when it was first published, neither the twins nor Guinness were to know what they had started.

[00:08:00] It was to go on to become the best selling copyrighted book of all time, having sold more than 140 million copies in 100 different countries. 

[00:08:14] And it is now, almost 70 years later, a huge media empire with millions of subscribers on YouTube, its own TV shows, corporate events, and more. 

[00:08:29] Record-breaking is big, big business.

[00:08:34] If you are wondering how or why there is a record for the most people chewing bubblegum at the same time, or the largest paella, this is because you can now apply to set a Guinness World Record for, well, almost anything. 

[00:08:53] I can remember when I was a kid, we used to always ask for a copy of the Guinness Book Of Records at Christmas, and it was always amazing to leaf through this book, to browse the book, and look for the weirdest records.

[00:09:10] But over the years, the records have got stranger and stranger. 

[00:09:15] Before we go onto the next part, I just wanted to share a few of my favourite records, mainly because they are all quite strange and some pretty gross

[00:09:29] First up is a man called Donald Gorske who set the record for the most McDonald's Big Macs eaten. 

[00:09:38] In 2012 he ate his 26,000th Big Mac, after eating multiple Big Macs every day for 40 years. 

[00:09:51] Amazingly, he has lower than average cholesterol, which I have to say I find quite hard to believe.

[00:10:00] Then there are the weird collectors, people who have managed to get into the record books for the largest collection of slightly unorthodox things. 

[00:10:12] Steve Sansweet, another American, has 300,000 individual Star Wars collection items, while a woman called Charlotte Lee has 5,631 rubber ducks, those strange yellow ducks that you can put in your bath. 

[00:10:35] There are, of course, the physical records, records that are far more fun when you can actually see a picture of the person, but I'm sure you've probably seen a picture of someone like Robert Wadlow, who was the tallest man in the world, at two meters 72 centimetres. 

[00:10:55] Or the woman with the longest fingernails in the world, which I definitely find pretty disgusting. 

[00:11:03] When the Guinness Book Of Records was first created, when it was first thought up as an idea, it was meant to be just this collection of facts that already exist, a collection of records that already existed in the world.

[00:11:19] But it has now created this entire industry of record-breaking - people, companies, and organisations wanting to be a record-breaker for almost anything. 

[00:11:35] And there are big teams now at Guinness World Records that will help you, they will guide you through the process of becoming a record breaker. 

[00:11:47] If you want this guided service, it's certainly not cheap, costing $800 or a lot more if you are a company trying to promote your product, as we will discuss in a minute. 

[00:12:01] And because of how popular becoming a record-breaker has become, Guinness World Records has had to set out some guidelines on what can actually make it into the book, what is a real record and what isn't. 

[00:12:18] According to their website, a good rule of thumb, a general rule, is 'if you can't measure it, you can't weigh it and you can't count it, then it's probably not a record'.

[00:12:34] It is a pretty fascinating concept, the idea that there has been this entire industry created based on encouraging people to do weird things and break records, to be a Guinness world record breaker, even if the thing that they are doing probably is so strange that nobody else will have attempted it before.

[00:13:00] Things like the fastest person to run the hundred metres are of course, perfectly valid records, but the biggest mosaic of postage stamps or the biggest line of cereal boxes that have been knocked over like dominoes? 

[00:13:20] Well, I wonder how many people have ever actually tried that before. 

[00:13:26] But this leads us on to discovering how Guinness World Records has become such a huge industry and a huge business.

[00:13:37] It is the big companies, the sponsors who are using Guinness World Records as a way of marketing or drawing attention to what they do. 

[00:13:48] That world record for the biggest mosaic of postage stamps that I mentioned a minute ago? 

[00:13:54] That was set by the Spanish postal service. 

[00:13:58] The record for the largestloop the loop in a car, you know when a car drives up and around in a circle and it goes upside down? 

[00:14:07] That record was set by the car maker Jaguar to promote the launch of a new model

[00:14:16] And the record for the most cereal boxes that were knocked over in a line like dominoes? 

[00:14:22] Surprise, surprise, that was Kellogg's. 

[00:14:27] And of course, these companies are paying large, large sums of money to Guinness World Records for all this, for the promotion of their products.

[00:14:39] When you think about the history of the Guinness Book Of Records and how this little book was first created as a way to promote Guinness to solve pubarguments, I think it's a fascinating twist that now it is turned into this huge publishing and media empire that relies to a large extent on promoting other companies, allowing them to create their own records and of course pay handsomely for the privilege.

[00:15:14] Even more interesting and quite funny on one level is that Guinness, the company, Guinness the drink, no longer has anything to do really with Guinness World Records. 

[00:15:27] The company itself changed hands several times, it was sold several times, but has kept the iconic name of Guinness. 

[00:15:39] So Guinness - the drink - gets all of this publicity every time someone says the name Guinness World Records, it gets it for free.

[00:15:50] It has certainly come a long way and has had an interesting history for a book that was written in 13 and a half weeks and meant to be given away for free and enjoyed over a cold pint of Guinness. 

[00:16:04] Okay, then that is it for today's episode of English Learning for Curious Minds. 

[00:16:14] As always, I would love to know what you thought of the show, so please do write in, the email is hi H i@leonardoenglish.com.

[00:16:25] As I said at the start of this podcast, we have made a few changes to the way that the podcasts work. 

[00:16:32] So if you want access to every single episode plus two new ones a week, then you should head to the Leonardo English website and until May the 10th which is this coming Sunday, you can save 20% on the normal cost of our Listener membership with the code APRIL4, A P R I L 4, so it's just four euros a month, 48 euros a year. 

[00:16:58] But be quick as that only lasts until midnight on Sunday. 

[00:17:03] [00:17:03] The link to go to is Leonardoenglish.com/subscribe. 

[00:17:09] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:17:14] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I will catch you in the next episode.

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