Labor Day is the semi-official end of summer. The shadows of autumn are getting more pronounced. Oktoberfest brews are on store shelves. Football season is underway. The crate beneath my desk is overflowing with a hodgepodge of items accumulated over the summer. It's time to clear out the clutter. 


Here's an interesting Labor Day factoid. August 24 is America's sickest day of the year. “This is when the greatest number of employees around the U.S. call in to work with some real, imagined or totally bogus ailment.” Coincidentally, this allows for an extended Labor Day holiday week. 


Americans are also “sick” at another key time of the year. “February 13, ranked second for sickest day of the year which happens to be right around the time of the Super Bowl. “ (


High school sports are back in full swing. An article in the Petoskey News-Review focused on a unique aspect of this – school nicknames. “Everyone knows the most common mascot names used across the country. Michigan is home to quite a few unique mascots.” 


Counting down the the top ten: St. Louis Sharks, Mt. Clemens Battling Bathers, Ann Arbor Huron River Rats, Gaylord St. Mary Snowbirds, Detroit Pershing Doughboys, Bessemer Speedboys/Speedgirls, Kingsford Flivvers, Watersmeet Nimrods, Midland Chemics, and (number one) Houghton Gremlins. (


Nothing says fall like Pumpkin Spice everything. People magazine warns: “Ready or not, pumpkin spice season is back and in full swing at supermarkets everywhere.” They list twenty-seven products (I am sure) you will be rushing out to purchase. 

Some intriguing items are: Pumpkin Spice Twinkies, Goldfish, Cream Cheese, Cookie Dough, Yogurt, and Empanadas. (


You may be driving somewhere this holiday weekend. A common game to play in the car is the license plate game. This is where everyone in the vehicle competes to see who can spot the most out-of-state plates. 


This seems to be an easy game, but now it could become complicated. In the past is was simple. “There were 50 possible plates to see (plus D.C.) each with distinct colors and often the state motto. Today the game of license plate bingo has gotten incredibly complex. There are currently 8,291 different vehicle license plates offered by the 50 states and the District of Columbia.” 


This is because states are now issuing specialty plates for various causes and organizations. “Maryland leads the pack with 989 distinct plates listed on the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles’ website.” By comparison, Michigan offers 73 plates. To see a picture of many of these plates (by state), go to:


As far as Michigan goes, there's a proposal to add a couple of “new” retro plates to the mix. “State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) has a fresh idea to help Michigan bring in more cash for road repairs. McMorrow announced legislation that would allow the Secretary of State’s office to reissue two old license plate designs that were used in Michigan back in the 1970s and 80s. Michigan’s old blue license plates were used from 1983 until 2007. And the all-black plates were only issued for a few years—between 1979 and 1983.” 


These would join the current retro blue and gold plates being sold right now. “The extra cash raised from the retro plates (which would be totally optional) would then head back to the state’s transportation fund and ultimately be used to fix the state’s roads.” (


As long as we're thinking retro, it might be fun to sprinkle in a few 1930s slang words into your Labor Day conversations. Luckily, Mental Floss has given us a list of twenty of these. (


For example, you don't want to encounter a “nogoodnik” this weekend. This is someone who’s nothing but trouble. There's a good chance that person is full of “ackamarackus,” which is a load of pretentious nonsense. Of course, such a dolt will be brimming with nitwittery (stupidity). Feel free to “floss” this individual, which means showing them how smart you are. They will benefit if you give them a good “flossing.” 


Finally, with the NFL season beginning, it's fun to learn how each team got its name. Mental Floss says: “Here are the stories behind the names of the NFL’s 32 teams—and what they were almost called.” (


As for the Detroit Lions: “Radio executive George A. Richards purchased and moved the Portsmouth Spartans to Detroit in 1934 and renamed the team the Lions. The moniker was likely derived from Detroit’s established baseball team, the Tigers, who won 101 games and the AL pennant that year. As the team explained it, 'The lion is the monarch of the jungle, and we hope to be the monarch of the league.'”


Well, the Detroit Lions have won only a single post-season game since 1957.  That win was in 1991 and is a longer stretch than many fans have been alive. The Lions have now lost nine consecutive playoff games. Apparently, “monarch” has a new retro meaning – exasperating futility. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and