Under the Influence

Three products you didn't know were named after their inventors

Did you know there was a man named Nacho? What about a Mrs. Granny Smith? Or how about a Mr. Leotard? Some products are so cemented in our minds we forget their names once belonged to real people.
Nachos - a favourite snack across the globe. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Did it ever occur to you that nachos were created by a guy named Nachos?

The dish originated in northern Mexico back in the 1940's. There was an army base near Eagle Pas in Texas, and right across the border was a town called Piedras Negras.

One day, the wives of the U.S. soldiers went over to the Mexican town to do some shopping. After a few hours, the ladies got hungry and walked into a restaurant just as it was closing. The chef had gone home, but the maître d' didn't want to turn the wives away. So he quickly created a snack for them from whatever he could find in the kitchen.

Today there are countless different nacho recipes. ( Julie Van Rosendaal)

He took tortillas and cut them up into triangles, fried them, grated some cheese, put it all in a broiling oven to brown, then added some sliced pickled jalapeno peppers. The ladies loved the dish and asked the maître d what it was called. His name was Ignacio Nachos Anaya. So he said: "They're Nacho's special."

As the word spread about this delicious creation, more and more people came into the restaurant to ask Nachos for his special dish. And over time, the name got shortened to Nachos.

The rest is crunchy finger food history.

Many years after Nachos' death in 1975, his son tried to trademark the dish – but too much time had passed since its creation – and the recipe was now in the public domain. Who knew – that nachos were created by Nachos.


Did you know that "leotard" isn't just a funny word? Back in the 1800's, it was a famous name.

Jules Leotard was born in France in 1842.

He did well in school and was on track to become a lawyer, when he began to experiment with trapeze bars, ropes and rings. Jules was instantly hooked. He was originally trained by his father, who taught gymnastics and managed a swimming pool. Jules would practice his trapeze stunts suspended over the pool.

In 1859, Jules invented the flying trapeze act. He became the first person to complete a somersault in mid-air and the first to jump from one trapeze to the next (with no safety net, by the way). In fact, it was Jules who inspired the song: "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" by George Leybourne.

Jules Leotard sporting his invention. (Wikimedia)

But Jules Leotard's other great legacy was his performance outfit. It was a skin-tight, knitted one-piece he invented to allow him total freedom and aerodynamics. Because it was so form fitting, there was no danger of any fabric catching or flapping as he performed. It was also intended to put Jules' masculinity on full display.

Jules sported his skin-tight uniform for the rest of his career. And sixteen years after his death, the name "leotard" caught on.

Paris ballet schools were the first non-circus performers to adopt the leotard. And over a century later, leotards are still sold and used at dance and gymnastics schools to this day. And we owe it all to Jules. Leotard – who flew through the air with the greatest of ease, all thanks…to his leotard.


Have you ever enjoyed a crisp Granny Smith apple? They're one of the most popular varieties sold round the world. But did you know there was a real life Granny Smith?

Maria Sherwood was born in 1799 in Sussex, England. In 1819, she married farm labourer Thomas Smith, and changed her name to Maria Smith. Together, they migrated to Ryde, Australia and bought 24 acres of land.

One day in 1868, Maria discarded the peels and seeds from a box of French crab apples she'd purchased at the market. She threw them onto a compost heap near a creek on their farm. Some months later, she noticed a little tree growing from the pile. She tended to it, and eventually it bore – not red apples – but green apples. She took care of the tree until the day she died in 1870, at the age of 71.

Six years later, an orchardist named Edward Gallard bought part of the Smith farm. He noticed this unusual tree and its green apples, and developed the seedling into an orchard.

As it turned out, the trees weren't French crab apple trees. They appeared to be producing a brand new hybrid variety - a cross between a crab apple and a Cleopatra apple. So Gallard decided to name the fruit the "Granny Smith," in honour of the little old lady who first cultivated it.

In 1895, the Australian department of agriculture named Granny Smiths suitable for export and the first major cultivation of the apple began. After WWI, Granny Smiths were being exported all over the world. The apple's thick skin and firm centre gave it good shelf life in supermarkets. It's also what made the apple so popular with consumers.

Part of the Smith farm is now commemorated as the Granny Smith Memorial Park. And there, every year, the locals hold the Granny Smith Festival.

The Granny Smith apple - named after Granny Smith.


For more stories from Under the Influence, click or tap the "Listen" tab above to hear the full episode. You can also find us on the CBC Listen app or subscribe to our podcast.


Under the Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio, a 1969 Airstream trailer that's been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O'Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

Follow the journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and search the hashtag: #Terstream.

Granny Smith apples are among the most popular varieties. (Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)

now