How Ponzi Schemes Work


Josh Clark

Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. Chuck, say, "Hi."

Chuck Bryant

Hi. Welcome, people.

Josh Clark

This is Stuff You Should Know.

Chuck Bryant

Indeed.

Josh Clark

Chuck's got his little jug of vodka. I've got my Fresca, and we are ready to go, right Chuck?

Chuck Bryant

No. I don't drink vodka.

Josh Clark

Liar, Chuck. Chuck, do you know how we have these Web logs now? There's like a Stuff You Should Know Web log?

Chuck Bryant

AKA blog, yes.

Josh Clark

Sure. Yeah, if you want to be all hip or whatever!

Chuck Bryant

I do know how we have that because I write on it every day.

Josh Clark

I know. I was just starting a conversation, Chuck. Lay off, will ya?

Chuck Bryant

Sorry.

Josh Clark

Remember that post I put up yesterday that you said you read three times and still couldn't make heads or tails of?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I didn't get it.

Josh Clark

Well, there's a part of it, kind of the crux of the whole thing - I don't know if that's the case or not, but anyway, there's an aspect of it and it was about these two artists. One of them just goes by the name Arakawa, and his partner, and I don't think just artistic partner - I think that they're life partners, maybe - her name is Madeline Gins. And they have been quite successful at creating this architecture that's intended to achieve immortality, right?

Chuck Bryant

How so?

Josh Clark

Well, the way these two have done it is through surprising, disturbing, architectural choices. Basically, their theory is that if you create or if you life in an uncomfortable dwelling, comfort leads to laziness and sedentariness, and then that's ultimately what kills you. Wholly unproven, but they design their architecture based on that theory, so they keep you uncomfortable and it's unfamiliar.

Chuck Bryant

I think I know this. I think we actually have an article on this, like the floors are -

Josh Clark

Undulating?

Chuck Bryant

Undulating floors and yeah, I've heard of that.

Josh Clark

They also like kind of moonscape floors, angled ceilings. It doesn't sound like a very pleasant place to live.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, pretty interesting, though.

Josh Clark

This one guy - and just to build them, they cost millions of dollars - but they have built several. Most of them are lofts in Tokyo, and this one guy, who lives in one with his family, said that he's lost like 20 pounds and doesn't have hay fever any longer since he moved in there.

Chuck Bryant

Really?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Wow.

Josh Clark

But their whole firm is basically in jeopardy because they were heavily invested with one Bernard Madoff, who you may have heard of.

Chuck Bryant

Ah, yes.

Josh Clark

This guy's reach extends everywhere. We're talking Kevin Bacon and there's a six degrees joke in there somewhere. I imagine Kyra Sedgwick, since Kevin Bacon's in there. Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Chuck Bryant

Spielberg.

Josh Clark

Spielberg. And that's just like the tip of the iceberg. Thousands and thousands of people were invested with this guy, and it turned out he was a Ponzi schemer.

Chuck Bryant

That's right. It's the Ponzi scheme.

Josh Clark

Yeah, Chuck likes to say it like that in a tribute to the Italian immigrant Mr. Charles Ponzi?

Chuck Bryant

Uh-huh.

Josh Clark

Who was running around in the '20s. You want to talk a little bit about Mr. Ponzi?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. I didn't know this until I read the article. It's pretty interesting and Ponzi is all over the news, so it's kind of cool to get some background.

Josh Clark

Oh, and also, we should probably say thanks to all the people who wrote in and requested that we do this podcast. This one's for you.

Chuck Bryant

Right. Bernie Madoff, himself, wrote it.

Josh Clark

Yeah, he did. He's like, "Hey, can you tell everybody what I did?"

Chuck Bryant

So yeah, in the 1920s, Charles Ponzi - what he did, was at the time, if you wanted to send mail overseas, you would include what was called an International Reply Coupon.

Josh Clark

Well, if you wanted a reply.

Chuck Bryant

Right. It's basically sort of like when you get something from a magazine and the postage is prepaid to return the card.

Josh Clark

Right. It's prepaid so that you get that back to say, hey, these people got that.

Chuck Bryant

Exactly. So this is what you did back then. He had an idea. He said, hey, if I go over and buy these in a different country where they're cheaper, I can come back and sell them in the United States.

Josh Clark

Right. And he could do this because these things were internationally recognized. They were the same in any country, but apparently they went for different prices in different countries, so it's not a bad business model, right?

Chuck Bryant

Right. I would say so. And things went pretty well at first. He got a lot of investors and made some pretty good money, but the return that he promised, which what was it again?

Josh Clark

It was a ridiculous promise. It was, I think, 50 percent return in 45-90 days.

Chuck Bryant

That should have been a red flag right there. We'll talk about that later, but yeah, that didn't go as well as he thought, but he kept getting investors and he just kind of kept this all quiet. So what he would do is he would pay back some to the initial investors based on the money that the current investors were giving him, and just kind of kept going in a cyclical way until he had a lot of - he started taking a little money for himself, too, and ended up having millions of bucks off this in the 1920s before it finally crumbled as a big scam.

Josh Clark

Well, the reason he was found out was because somebody apparently calculated that there would have had to have been about 160 million of these things extant for him to be making the money he was making, and the problem is, is there was only 27,000, so that's kind of what found him out. But what I got from reading about Ponzi schemes is that Charles Ponzi didn't appear to be a huckster from the outset. This was actually a legitimate business that he was trying to run -

Chuck Bryant

And he kind of fell into it, I think.

Josh Clark

Sure. I think it was an act of desperation.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

We should probably talk about exactly how Ponzi schemes work, right? They're pretty straightforward and simple, but I can imagine that as they just get bigger and bigger, you start to eat a lot of Rolaids.

Chuck Bryant

Right. That was the original Ponzi scheme, and I'm sure he was nervous as it was going.

Josh Clark

What kind of scheme?

Chuck Bryant

A Ponzi scheme.

Josh Clark

Very nice, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

Thanks.

Josh Clark

So do you want to give some detailed explanation on how Ponzi schemes work?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. It's actually pretty simple. What you do is you come up with an investment, a shell sort of, and you get people to invest in whatever you're saying you're going to invest in. In this case, in the original Ponzi scheme, it was these reply coupons, but nowadays it's usually like a stock thing.

So you get these folks to invest and you take their money, and essentially use that first rung of people to attract other people to invest, and once you start getting other investors, you can pay back those initial folks, and they can go on record and say, "Oh, yeah, I made a great return."

Josh Clark

That's exactly right, and that leads to even more investors, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, and more rungs, and you just kind of - it's sort of robbing Peter to pay Paul the entire time.

Josh Clark

Right, but you're pocketing, like Ponzi did, some for himself, right?

Chuck Bryant

Right. At a certain point, you can start skimming off the top.

Josh Clark

Right, but it's not like a take the money and run proposition; it's a take the money, stick around, and pay people off as much as you can. The problem is, people don't divest very easily when they get an unbelievable return on something. They want to keep investing, so if you're like, "No, no, you can't invest anymore," people are going to start to get suspicious.

So you've got your first rung, you've got your second rung, and then so on and so on and so on, but to sustain it, you have to keep adding more and more rungs, but the more rungs you add, the more difficult it is to pay everybody back.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh C

lark

It's inevitable that it collapses.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, sure, but some people will know they're investing in a Ponzi scheme, some of those first rung people.

Josh Clark

Yeah. From what I understand, people can actually make money off Ponzi schemes if you get in early enough and you're smart enough to get out while the getting's good.

Chuck Bryant

Right, because those are the people that are going to get paid first, so they can vouch and say this is a really great deal.

Josh Clark

Right. Exactly. So that's pretty much a Ponzi scheme, and if it sounds a lot like a pyramid scheme to you, you would be right. It's virtually the same structure. The one big difference is, is that in a Ponzi scheme, you're not asked to do anything. You're just an investor; they just want your money. In a pyramid scheme, generally you have to do something, like you are buying in to sell something.

Chuck Bryant

Amway. No, sorry.

Josh Clark

Well, no, actually on Amway's site, they have like on the FAQ section, it's like, "Is Amway a pyramid scheme?" and they're like, "We're a pyramid model. Scheme is the wrong word to use." And actually, the pyramid model has worked for legitimate businesses - Amway, Mary Kay, Avon -

Chuck Bryant

Pampered Chef. That's another one.

Josh Clark

Pampered Chef. Yeah, so it can work, and it doesn't necessarily have to be illegal. That's the other distinction between Ponzi schemes and pyramid models, is that Ponzi schemes are always fraud.

Chuck Bryant

Completely false.

Josh Clark

Because it's an investment, but the money's never invested.

Chuck Bryant

Right. It's so simple. When I read this, I was just like, "God, the beauty is in its simplicity." Just like give me a bunch of money and I will keep it, and get more people to give me money, I'll give you a little bit, and it's just amazing how that works out.

Josh Clark

Can you imagine being such an edgy, savvy investor that you actually knowingly invest in Ponzi schemes?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Who does that?

Chuck Bryant

I don't know. I bet there's some names on the Madoff list.

Josh Clark

Yeah, I'll bet. But no, he did everything alone. We'll get to him in a minute.

Chuck Bryant

Allegedly.

Josh Clark

No, not anymore. He confessed, buddy.

Chuck Bryant

Well, certain things are still alleged at this point.

Josh Clark

All right, well, we'll just go with - you are such a COA, dude, but I appreciate the O because that includes me.

Chuck Bryant

Okay.

Josh Clark

So Ponzi wasn't the guy who came up with the scheme. He did it so well that they named it after him, but the earliest one we know about goes back to the early 1880s in Boston, with a woman named Sarah Howe.

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Chuck Bryant

I don't think I know about this one.

Josh Clark

So she actually actively and purposefully built a Ponzi scheme, although, what with it being 40 years before Charles Ponzi showed up, she probably didn't call it that to herself.

Chuck Bryant

What was her name? Howe?

Josh Clark

Sarah Howe.

Chuck Bryant

The Howe scheme.

Josh Clark

Yes. If she did have enough foresight to know that it would eventually be called a Ponzi scheme, how would it sound in her head when she said, "This is the kind of scheme that I'm carrying out?"

Chuck Bryant

It's a Ponzi scheme.

Josh Clark

That's right, Chuck. Anyway, Ms. Howe basically put together a group of thousands of women investors and invested in women's liberty bonds, I think is what they were called. That's supposedly what the investment was for, but no, it wasn't. She just basically carried out a Ponzi scheme, and she managed to rake in about a half million bucks before she was caught.

And then another guy shortly after, about the turn of the century, his name was William Franklin Miller, and he also bilked investors for about another half million, and this was substantial enough to be remembered 100 years plus later, but Ponzi was the first one, right?

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Ponzi was the first big one, I should say.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

And then you don't really hear about anybody in the world of Ponzi schemes. I'm sure you can, but nobody huge doing it right now, until -

Chuck Bryant

Lou Pearlman, is that where you're going?

Josh Clark

I was going to go to the Balkans first, but let's do Mr. Pearlman.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. This is one of my favorites just because his associations are kind of funny. Lou Pearlman, who I think you have to say his name like Lou Pearlman -

Josh Clark

I got that impression, as well.

Chuck Bryant

And he kind of looks like that kind of guy, too. He kind of funded the boy band craze in the '90s. I know you remember the Backstreet Boys because of the tattoo you have on your neck, and 'N Sync was the other one. I don't know if you have a tattoo of 'N Sync?

Josh Clark

I do. I was covering all my bases.

Chuck Bryant

So he funded these bands, and it turned out in 2006, that he was running a big Ponzi scheme.

Josh Clark

He had been for like 20 years.

Chuck Bryant

Right. And 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys were kind of funded on this Ponzi scheme.

Josh Clark

I don't think funded kind of at all. I think they were fully funded, and this guy created the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, and funded them with illegal money.

Chuck Bryant

So those yahoos kind of owe Ponzi with their careers.

Josh Clark

Yes they do.

Chuck Bryant

I think so.

Josh Clark

Well, their careers, past tense.

Chuck Bryant

Timberlake's done well for himself. Was he in one of those?

Josh Clark

Who?

Chuck Bryant

J.T.

Josh Clark

I don't know who that is.

Chuck Bryant

Shut up. All right! Back to Albania!

Josh Clark

Yes. Albania. Basically, a whole bunch of people were working this big Ponzi scheme, which from what I understand also can extend the life of a Ponzi scheme. Lou Pearlman is an unusual animal in that he could carry it out single handedly for 20 years, but in Albania for a while, a group of Ponzi schemers had one set up that bilked these investors out of $2 billion before it collapsed.

Chuck Bryant

Which is, in Albania that is 30 percent of their gross domestic product? That's huge. Like how to cripple a country, basically.

Josh Clark

Yeah. I think Albania's probably Second World, so I think a hit like that is just ginormous.

Chuck Bryant

And that was a big problem when it happened.

Josh Clark

It was because when people found out, they started rioting in the streets, fires broke out -

Chuck Bryant

Right. People died.

Josh Clark

Yeah, so that's the Albania Ponzi scheme.

Chuck Bryant

Right. And we should note that Lou Pearlman went to jail or received a sentence of 25 years for conning $300 million, and apparently, every million he paid back they cut a month off his sentence.

Josh Clark

Which seems really fair?

Chuck Bryant

I think so.

Josh Clark

But Pearlman, $300 million, sounds like a lot - it ain't. It was and then 2008 came along.

Chuck Bryant

The big daddy.

Josh Clark

Dude. This guy, Bernard Madoff -

Chuck Bryant

Right. One of the founders of NASDAQ!

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Which is one reason why it worked so well because he was beyond legit.

Josh Clark

He was beyond legit, although one of the other reasons he was so successful was that he was smart. First of all, like Sarah Howe, he used affinity fraud and affinity fraud is where you are using the inclusiveness of a group against themselves, so he used his membership in an uber wealthy, very exclusive Jewish country club down in Florida to pray on investors at first.< /p>

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

And affinity fraud happens a lot, and usually it happens with religious groups. Somebody comes in and is like, hey, I'm a Lutheran, too, and I've got this great investment. Since he's a Lutheran, he seems upstanding, you trust him, and then that's that, but Madoff very much used affinity fraud at least at first, and then news of his amazing returns got out. But as I was saying, the reason he was so successful is he didn't pull a Ponzi and say, "I'll get you 50 percent return in 45 days." He offered reasonable, I think 11 percent was the average, returns over the long haul.

Chuck Bryant

Believable. That was the key. It was very believable.

Josh Clark

Well, to an extent. Have you ever looked at our prospectus, the T. Rowe Price prospectus?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Have you ever noticed like if you look at it, it's like one year, three years, five years, ten years? It'll be up at one year, down three years, down five years, up - he was offering like a straight, even keel 11 percent return. You couldn't lose, right?

Chuck Bryant

Um-hum.

Josh Clark

So that actually should have been a red flag, but it wasn't, and in 2001, Barron's, the financial rag, they published an article on him specifically saying Madoff can't be offering these returns. Mathematically speaking this isn't possible, and no one listened. But chief among the people, who weren't listening, was the SEC.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, and they've been under a lot of fire lately because they did not listen, they did not investigate even when it was kind of handed to them like, hey, something's going on here.

Josh Clark

Several times, actually. There were like two or three formal complaints to them, and they never followed up.

Chuck Bryant

Well, one reason why, and this is even another reason why he was successful, was he was also running a legit business alongside it, so he could sort of defer when he needed to pay people back and things were getting tight, he could pull a little money out of his legit business and do that.

Josh Clark

Right, and apparently he did so promptly. If somebody wanted to -

Chuck Bryant

Withdrawal.

Josh Clark

Yeah, they got a check like that, no questions asked.

Chuck Bryant

Like when Kevin Bacon was like, "We're heading to Barbados and I need a million dollars because I'm going to buy a hut on the beach."

Josh Clark

Right. "I'm trying to hide my wife from her shame for being in The Closer."

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Yeah. So Madoff was very, very successful to the tune of what, $20 to $50 billion.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, he made off with -

Josh Clark

I know. He's got the perfect name for it. It should have been like, "Wait, what's your last name? No, I'm not investing with you."

Chuck Bryant

I bet every headline has already used that, so this is probably stale by now.

Josh Clark

Yeah, thanks for that, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

So what can you do, Chuck? How do you stay out of a Ponzi scheme unless you're a very savvy investor, who's totally unconscionable?

Chuck Bryant

Well, there's a few things you can look for, and it also should be noted that a Ponzi scheme is pretty much a one way street to collapse. There's really no way to pull it off in the long run, unless - I think a lot of people might start these and think, well, I can get out at a certain point, pay everyone back and make a lot of money, but yeah, it's not a good working model in the end.

Josh Clark

Well, apparently the point to a Ponzi schemer is to keep it going until they die.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, which is considered a big success because you live like a billionaire, and then at the end, you die or you off yourself.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

When the cops are at your door.

Josh Clark

Speaking of that, did you know that after he was found out, Madoff was spending $160,000.00 a month on personal security at his penthouse?

Chuck Bryant

Really? Wow.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Where did he live?

Josh Clark

In Manhattan. Do you know how many bodyguards that buys you? That's like Delta Force money.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. So yeah, some things you can look for - the obvious, of course, is if it sounds too good to be true, it is. That's the oldest adage in the book and it's true across the board. So if someone's making you promises on big returns, then you should probably turn around and walk away. Don't let anyone pressure you into doing this kind of thing.

Josh Clark

Well, pressure, that's another point, too. It's usually going to be a high-pressure pitch, like you have a very limited time window, maybe for as long as the person's standing there and you're made to feel like a jackass if you don't take them up on it, but yeah, pressure is definitely one of the factors, as well.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, and even one, like you said, like Madoff's scam, where he would not promise huge returns. That might make it a little more believable, but everything, like you said, fluctuates, so even if it's a consistent like 5 percent growth for years, then that should be a red flag right there.

Josh Clark

And also, you should ask questions and demand answers, as well, because if you have a friend who has a friend that has this great investment, and you cut him a check and it turns out to be a Ponzi scheme, well, TS for you. That was a stupid thing to do. You should know what your money is being invested in. You should know who's investing it.

And even if it's legitimate, you should be asking these questions. If it's through any of the major brokerages, find out how many fees there are. That's a good habit no matter what, right?

Chuck Bryant

Sure. And the other thing is even if you're involved in a Ponzi scheme, even if you get sucked in, it should never break you and leave you bankrupt.

Josh Clark

Right. Excellent point, Chuck. I think this is probably the most important point.

Chuck Bryant

Well, and they always say diversification is the key to a good portfolio, and this is definitely true here. You should not invest all your money in one thing. You're just setting yourself up for bankruptcy and collapse.

Josh Clark

Right. Whether it's a Ponzi scheme or not?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, exactly.

Josh Clark

If you do all real estate and you're just totally invested in real estate in 2007, you're in big trouble.

Chuck Bryant

Even Donald Trump hit the lowest of the lows at one point, we all forget.

Josh Clark

I think he's lost a lot of his old edge that he used to have. He's made some bad decisions.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, like the TV show.

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

No one needs to see that guy.

Josh Clark

No, they don't. And if you do find yourself in a Ponzi scheme and you're not the type to take the law into your own hands with a tire iron or anything like that, you could always contact the SEC. I don't know that they'll do anything and they probably won't, but it's worth a shot anyway, right?

Chuck Bryant

Right. Oh, and we should, just as a sidebar here, I know that Madoff did confess, but the SEC is still coming under fire because he's claiming that he acted alone, and didn't have any help with this, which is really, really hard to believe just because paperwork alone for a scheme this size would be huge. Some people think out there that he probably had his family involved, and then did everything he could to cover for them and take the hit, so that's yet to come out.

Josh Clark

Right. Well, also, even if they weren't involved, their salary came directly from the bilking of other people. Even if they somehow were just totally unaware of it, it makes it kind of - I don't know. It puts their own wealth in question.

Chuck Bryant

Right. So that's a Ponzi scheme.

Josh Clark

That was very good, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

Thank you. That's the last time I'll say that.

Josh Clark

Are we going to talk about our spoken-word album?

Chuck Bryant

Yes. I think we should.

Josh Clark

Yeah, and then maybe we'll talk about blogs and then listener mail?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, stick around for listener mail.

Josh Clark

So we do have a spoken-word album.

Chuck Bryant

Our first one.

Josh Clark

And it is about the economy and economics. Everyone knows that we are in the second Great Depression, and we just kind of decided to make a spoken-word album about that. That's a slightly off-kiltered description - it's more like a guide, right?

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Possibly a guide to the economy.

Chuck Bryant

That's what it's called.

Josh Clark

But it's very big, right? There's a lot of stuff in it, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yes. It's called the Stuff You Should Know Super Stuffed Guide to the Economy, and it's got expert interviews. Josh and I get out of studio, we go around the world, to a chicken farm - don't spoil it - and Geri, our awesome producer, she did excellent sound design and it's got more bells and whistles, and it's definitely a cut above the silliness we do here each week.

Josh Clark

Yeah, and you can find it by typing 'super stuffed' in the search bar at iTunes. It's $3.99. Frankly, Chuck and I think it's worth it.

Chuck Bryant

I think so.

Josh Clark

So if you want to get it, knock yourself out. Get it a couple times if you like.

Chuck Bryant

Right, support us.

Josh Clark

Yeah, because it blows your computer after 48 hours unless you keep downloading it fresh each time, and paying for it over and over again.

Chuck Bryant

Not true at all.

Josh Clark

All right, so there was that plug. Now, let's plug the blog.

Chuck Bryant

Yes, we've been plugging the blog now. Hope you guys aren't sick of it yet, but Josh and I blog a couple of times a day. He posts once, I post once, and it's called Stuff You Should Know. You can find it on the right hand side of our homepage at HowStuffWorks.com, and we just cherry pick interesting news items and kind of what we do here, except it may not be enough to flesh out a full show.

Josh Clark

Yeah, and a couple of times we've posted on listener suggestions, like, "Why don't you guys do this?"

Chuck Bryant

Absolutely.

Josh Clark

So yeah, keep the ideas coming. We love them. It keeps us from having to do any real research.

Chuck Bryant

That's true.

Josh Clark

And you know what that leads us to? Listener mail time.

Chuck Bryant

That's right. Okay, Josh, this is an installment of Stuff We Should Know.

Josh Clark

Stuff We Should Have Known.

Chuck Bryant

No, it's not because - sometimes it's additional things. It's not things we messed up.

Josh Clark

Oh, okay. All right.

Chuck Bryant

Quit saying that. This one is from Sarah, and Sarah wrote in about the word theory versus hypotheses. Sarah is a teacher, and we say all the time, "Someone's theory, someone's theory," and she says we've been misusing it. She says, "In the Thinking Cap podcast, you repeatedly referenced theories about savantism and left hemisphere damage, and scientifically speaking, these are not theories; they're hypothesis.

So her basic point is that a theory is not just an educated guess; it's something that a lot of detail and research has gone into to get to the point where you can call it a theory, like the Theory of Evolution, which is often dismissed as, oh, it's just a theory, but a theory has actually got a lot to it.

Josh Clark

Okay.

Chuck Bryant

So Sarah wanted us to set the record straight, so we did that. Another little minor correction here - Josh said at one point we were the only country that uses the Imperial system -

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Josh Clark

I thought we got this out of the way with the Bodies on Everest podcast?

Chuck Bryant

We did not officially. U.S., Burma, Liberia, and Myanmar!

Josh Clark

Myanmar and Burma are the same place.

Chuck Bryant

Okay, there you have it.

Josh Clark

Ever since the junta, it's now Myanmar.

Chuck Bryant

Wow, look at you. So Rich from Omaha, Joshua from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Stephen from Newark, Delaware, and Jeanne, they all wrote in and told us that. And I have one more, and I like this one - Stephanie wrote in and told us that on our Aphrodisiacs podcast, we were talking about phallic symbol and phalluses, and we were talking about an oyster. Apparently, there is a word for something that resembles the female genitalia.

Josh Clark

Yeah. I was interested to hear this because we kept saying, "female genitalia," and I wish that she had written in before then.

Chuck Bryant

And we knew that phallus only represented the male genitalia, but I did not realize there was one for females.

Josh Clark

Lay it on us, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

It's called yonic, Y-O-N-I-C, and she said yoni is Sanskrit for the word womb, vulva, and place of origin, and she said she just wanted to tell us this because for one of the first times in her life, she actually knew something.

Josh Clark

Yonic.

Chuck Bryant

So thank you, Stephanie, for that.

Josh Clark

Yeah, thanks Stephanie. Yonic. Getting it. I'm processing it right now.

Chuck Bryant

So Yannick Noah - remember the famous tennis player?

Josh Clark

Yeah, I knew that there was somebody out there.

Chuck Bryant

His first name was actually referenced to female genitalia. Odd.

Josh Clark

I wonder if he knows that?

Chuck Bryant

I'm sure he's heard it a time or two.

Josh Clark

So if you want to point out that there are other words Chuck and I are unfamiliar with, basically let me know that I shouldn't call my crackpot theories theories, but hypotheses instead, or just say hi, you can send us an email to stuffpodcast@HowStuffWorks.com.