Five High

Last Thursday, my brothers and I took an overnight train from Northern California to Northern Oregon as part of an every-other-year reunion. The trip, which would take eleven hours if you drove from San Jose to Portland instead, took twice that long on the Amtrak Coast Starlight. But the meals come with the ride and everyone gets a bed and a hot shower, so it’s a cozy way to watch the world go by. In hindsight, for all the time sitting and staring out the window, we could’ve been stacking M&M’s. Just five of the colorful candies one atop the other would’ve landed my brothers and me in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  Buy a bag of plain M&M’s (you’ll have zero chance with the peanut variety), count out five, and let the stacking commence.  You’ll get to a tower of two quickly.  You’ll get three one atop the other with time and patience.  But that’s the proverbial end of the line, my friends.  You won’t make it to four.  If you did, you’d join the two co-holders of the former world record.  Last January, Will Cutbill, a twenty-something British engineer, pushed the record to a stack of five.

The “original” M&M’s

The history of M&M’s suggests it’s only appropriate a Brit broke the stacking record.  M&M’s were copied (and somehow uniquely patented) from British-made Smarties, the first candy where a hard-shelled coating protected the chocolate inside from melting.  Here’s another interesting M&M’s factoid.  The first “M” is for Forrest Mars, Sr., the founder of the Mars candy company.  The second “M”?  Bruce Murrie, the son of the president of Hershey’s Chocolate.  No, the companies didn’t join forces to create M&M’s.  During the wartime years of the 1940’s Hershey had a monopoly on rationed chocolate so Mars was forced to use them as their supplier.  Today, M&M’s have evolved to a “fully Mars” product.

It’s safe to say Will Cutbill wouldn’t have broken the M&M’s stacking record without the pandemic.  He was in the middle of the UK’s third lockdown earlier this year when he pondered a lifelong dream of getting into the Guinness book.  He also had a bag of M&M’s in his hand at the time.  Practice led to more practice, and as you’ll see in the video here, the record-breaking moment came as a happy, unexpected surprise.

Marawa Ibrahim – Most hula hoops spun simultaneously

Maybe you’re thinking what I’m thinking.  Why can’t one of us become a world record holder as well?  As I type, I’m munching on Triscuit wheat crackers.  I just built a stack of five on my desk.  What if I went to the store and bought several more boxes, then stacked all those crackers to the ceiling of my double-height living room?  Wouldn’t I and my Triscuits join the Guinness book as well?

Eliud Kipchoge – Fastest marathon

Not so fast, record-setting wannabes.  As you should expect, Guinness has a tried-and-true process, not only to establish world records but to decide if they’re worth pursuing.  You must submit a formal application (even if attempting to break an existing world record).  Your attempt must be deemed ethical (ex. no killing of animals).  Your attempt mustn’t be harmful to the participant (ex. excessive consumption of alcohol).  Your record must be deemed environmentally friendly.  Finally, Guinness must approve the process by which your record will be adjudicated (which in Cutbill’s case included a video instead of an in-person judge). Oh, and unless you’re willing to contribute several thousand dollars to speed things up, plan on a year or more to complete the process.

Mya-Rose Craig – Most northerly climate protest

Now you know why the Guinness book hasn’t grown to a ridiculous number of pages and entries.  The content is regularly reviewed against cultural, societal, and environmental standards.  Records even slightly in question are removed.  For example, Guinness used to list the “largest fish on record” of a given species.  Then people started overfeeding fish just to break the record.  Guinness realized this kind of manipulation was not only cruel but potentially a source of litigation, so they removed the entries.

This quick dive into the pool of Guinness World Records has me thinking my brothers and I made the right choice in not challenging the M&M’s stacking record.  We’d be better off drinking a Guinness than breaking one of their world records (yes, the beer and the book come from the same family).  Besides, how would we stack five M&M’s on a rocking, rolling passenger train anyway?  Nope, not interested in breaking world records today.  But if you don’t mind, I’ll get back to stacking my Triscuits now.

Some content sourced from CNN Business video, “Good luck breaking this deceptively tough world record”, the Guinness World Records website, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to Life In A Word.

12 thoughts on “Five High”

  1. I must run out and buy some M&M’s and give it a try. I always wondered where the name come from. That train trip sounds interesting Dave – I’ve always wanted to do an overnight train trip, but don’t know if I could sleep on a train.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sleep is fleeting on a train Joni, at least on America’s Amtrak. You’ll hear lots of mechanical noises and the occasional bell from someone requesting assistance from the porter. Honestly, the only time I slept well on a train was on your Royal Canadian Pacific line. Not only are the rooms/beds first-class, but the train stops during sleeping hours. That’s how you do it!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The only person I know who has taken the Canadian Rockies tour chose the one where they stayed in hotels overnight. I still like the idea of sleeping on a train – very Orient Express!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, never thought about WHERE the M&M name came from. I looked Mars up, they are the World’s Largest Chocolate company, family owned. I laughed at your triscuit stacking attempt, I can do five… You could build a house with the grandkids, but it outside for the birds. I wonder if they would eat it?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I learned a lot tonight Dave as I had no idea how rigorous the rules were for gleaning a Guinness World Record award. I”ll have to try that with my Triscuit crackers – i love Triscuits. The video was funny. I imagine it would be difficult as they are not only spherical as the winner says, but they are shiny so ultra slippery – nice to see he put his Masters Degree to good use. How fun to see a picture of a package of Smarties – it’s been a while for me and I just mentioned that I learned to count using Smarties in a recent post. A little flash from the past for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember reading about Smarties in one of your recent posts, Linda – nice coincidence between us bloggers. I love M&M’s, but I’ve got to give credit where credit is due! Smarties came first 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes it is a fun coincidence. Some of that Canadian candy has been around for eons Dave, especially the ones with British influence. Macintosh’s Toffee was on store shelves when I was a little nipper. Though my parents restricted me from all fun candy, my grandmother would slip me a little bar of Mackintosh’s Toffee from time to time and tell me she ate it as a kid when they went into town on a day trip from the farm.

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  4. A fun post, Dave, conjuring up experiences-in-common and memories. First, Triscuits are a staple around here too, though I’ve had to switch to the low salt variety. As for Smarties, looks like the U.S. copied that name too, just changed the spelling. I used to give my students Smartees to munch on during their first test–called them Smart Pills. Someone would invariably say, “This is candy, not smart pills!” To which I would answer, “See how smart you’re getting already?” Made the kids laugh, and hopefully lowered the tension for them. (This idea is also a copy, borrowed from another teacher decades ago!)

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    1. I couldn’t help but think of “Smartees” as well, when I learned the origin of M&M’s, Nancy. The colorful little rolls will always bring back childhood Halloween memories. M&M’s just “plain” taste good (or peanut, ha).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Stacking M&Ms is apparently in the same league as another thing that sounds quite easy but is not – have you ever tried to eat 10 standard pretzels in 1 minute?

    I know one person who made it into the Guinness book- my former next door neighbor who got in as the oldest pilot in the world when he flew a plane at age 96 (I think). His record has been eclipsed by now, but here is my plan: I already hold a (long-expired) license, so all I have to do is hire a flight instructor to take me up and hand me the controls somewhere near my 100th birthday. What could be easier? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My mouth dried out just thinking about the pretzels, but it’s also what I found so interesting about the Guinness Book when I used to leaf through it. The variety of activities people participated in to set records fascinated me. It wasn’t so much about raising the bar as it was “who in God’s name would do that?” Sorry JP, I’ve made a mental note to steer clear of your neighborhood when you’re close to turning 100 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are free to keep your distance as we approach my 100th, but I never said where I might go to set that record. 🙂

        My neighbor explained to me that he could no longer fly without an instructor on board because nobody would insure him to fly solo.


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