Monday, December 21, 2009

Now You Know Almost Everything

Q: Why are many coin banks shaped like pigs?
A: Long ago, dishes and cookware in Europe were made of a dense orange clay called 'pygg'. When people saved coins in jars made of this clay, the jars became known as 'pygg banks.' When an English potter misunderstood the word, he made a bank that resembled a pig and it caught on.


Q: Did you ever wonder why dimes, quarters and half dollars have notches, while pennies and nickels do not?
A: The US Mint began putting notches on the edges of coins containing gold and silver to discourage holders from shaving off small quantities of the precious metals. Dimes, quarters and half dollars are notched because they used to contain silver. Pennies and nickels aren't notched because the metals they contain are not valuable enough to shave.


Q: Why do men's clothes have buttons on the right while women's clothes have buttons on the left?
A: When buttons were invented, they were very expensive and worn primarily by the rich. Because wealthy women were dressed by maids, dressmakers put the buttons on the maid's right! Since most people are right-handed, it is easier to push buttons on the right through holes on the left and that's where women's buttons have remained since.


Q: Why do X's at the end of a letter signify kisses?
A: In the Middle Ages, when many people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using an X. Kissing the X represented an oath to fulfill obligations specified in the document. The X and the kiss eventually became synonymous.


Q: Why is shifting responsibility to someone else called 'passing the buck'?
A: In card games, it was once customary to pass an item, called a buck, from player to player to indicate whose turn it was to deal. If a player did not wish to assume the responsibility, he would 'pass the buck' to the next player.


Q: Why do people clink their glasses before drinking a toast?
A: It used to be common for someone to try to kill an enemy by offering him a poisoned drink. To prove to a guest that a drink was safe, it became customary for a guest to pour a small amount of his drink into the glass of the host. Both men would drink it simultaneously. When a guest trusted his host, he would then just touch or clink the host's glass with his own.


Q: Why are people in the public eye said to be 'in the limelight'?
A: Invented in 1825, limelight was used in lighthouses and stage lighting by burning a cylinder of lime which produced a brilliant light. In the theatre, performers on stage 'in the limelight' were seen by the audience to be the center of attention.


Q: Why do ships and aircraft in trouble use 'mayday' as their call for help?
A: This comes from the French word m'aidez -meaning 'help me' -- and is pronounced 'mayday'.


Q: Why is someone who is feeling great 'on cloud nine'?
A: Types of clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest cloud. If someone is said to be on cloud nine, that person is floating well above worldly cares.


Q: Why are zero scores in tennis called 'love'?
A: In France, where tennis first became popular, a big, round zero on scoreboard looked like an egg and was called 'l'oeuf,' which is French for 'egg.' When tennis was introduced in the U.S. , Americans pronounced it 'love.'


Q: In golf, where did the term 'Caddie' come from?
A. When Mary, later known as Queen of Scots, went to France as a young girl (for education & survival), Louis, King of France, learned that she loved the Scot game 'golf.' So he had the first golf course outside of Scotland built for her enjoyment.
To make sure she was properly chaperoned (and guarded) while she played, Louis hired cadets from a military school to accompany her. Mary liked this a lot and when she returned to Scotland (not a very good idea in the long run), she took the practice with her. In French, the word cadet is pronounced 'ca-day' and the Scots changed it into 'caddie.'

Now you know almost everything!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bumper Snickers #4

  1. I have kleptomania. When it gets bad, I take something for it.
  2. Sometimes too much to drink isn't enough.
  3. Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!
  4. Just 2 days from now tomorrow will be yesterday.
  5. Bartenders are just pharmacists with limited inventories.
  6. The next statement is true. The last statement is false.
  7. I may be schizophrenic, but at least I have each other.
  8. I am a nobody. Nobody is perfect. Therefore, I am perfect.
  9. Dyslexics have more nuf.
  10. I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.
  11. Money isn't everything, but it sure keeps the kids in touch.
  12. Reality is only an illusion that occurs due to a lack of alcohol.
  13. Red meat isn't bad for you. Fuzzy green meat is bad for you.
  14. I'm having an out-of-money experience.
  15. Don't sweat the petty things. Don't pet the sweaty things.
  16. I found Jesus! He was in the trunk when I got back from Mexico.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

You Could Have Heard A Pin Drop

When in England , at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of 'empire building' by George Bush.

He answered by saying, 'Over the years, the
United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.'

You could have heard a pin drop.


There was a conference in
France where a number of
international engineers were taking part, including French and American. During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying 'Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to
Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intended to do, bomb them?'
A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: 'Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does
France have?'

You could have heard a pin drop.


A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the
U.S. , English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of Officers that included personnel from most of those countries.
Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped
their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that,

whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English.' He then asked, 'Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?'
Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied 'Maybe it's because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans arranged it so you wouldn't have to speak German.'

You could have heard a pin drop.


Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in
by plane. At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on. 'You have been to France before, monsieur?' the customs officer asked sarcastically. Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.
Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.'
The American said, ''The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it.

'Impossible. Americans always have to show your passports on arrival in
France !'
The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained, ''Well, when I came ashore at
Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn't find a single Frenchman to show a passport to.'

You could have heard a pin drop.


Marine Corps General Reinwald was interviewed on National Public Radio by a typical female progressive broadcaster about his sponsorship of a Boy Scout Troop visiting his military base.

Female Interviewer: "So, General Reinwald, what things are you going to teach these young boys when they visit your base?"
General Reinwald: "We're going to teach them climbing, canoeing, archery, and shooting."
Female Interviewer: "Shooting! That's a bit irresponsible, isn't it?"
General Reinwald: "I don't see why, they will be properly supervised on the rifle range."
Female Interviewer: "Don't you admit that this is a terribly dangerous activity to be teaching children?"
General Reinwald: "I don't see how. We will be teaching them proper rifle discipline before they even touch a firearm."
Female Interviewer: "But you're equipping them to become violent killers!"
General Reinwald: "Well, ma'am, you're equipped to be a prostitute, but you're not one, are you?"

You could have heard a pin drop.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

10 Common Sayings

10 Strange Common Sayings - How They Originated

1. Scot Free

Many people think that this saying refers to Scottish people being tight with money - hence something being free, but in fact the word “scot” is an old Norse word which means “payment” - specifically a payment made to a landlord or sheriff. So this phrase - while meaning what most people think it means, has no connection to the Scottish people - it just means to get off without having to pay.

2 Fit as a Fiddle

This is another phrase where a single word has confused people - “fit” in the context of this saying does not mean “healthy” which is a 19th century definition. Its original meaning was “suitable” - and it is still used in that context in the sentence “fit for a king”. As fit as a fiddle means “as appropriate as can be” - not “in excellent health”. The first use of the phrase, incidentally, was in the 16th century and it was originally “as right as a fiddle”.

3 Another Thing Coming

Common Saying: If you think that, you have another thing coming

This is a complete aberration of the original phrase because of the sound of English. The correct phrase is “if you think that, you have another think coming” - in other words, “what you think is wrong so think again”. Because the “k” in “think” often ends up silent when saying “think coming” people have changed the phrase over time. Of course, “another thing coming” makes no sense at all. To illustrate how global this error is, when you google “another thing coming” it returns 139,000 results; when you google “another think coming” it returns a mere 39,000 results.

4 Eat Humble Pie

This phrase means “to be humble in apologizing for something.” I was slightly reluctant to put it on the list because it actually does mean what people think it means, but there is still a misconception here; people think that this phrase means to eat a pie made of humbleness but it actually means to eat a pie made with umble (pictured above). Umble is an old English word for offal - the bits of the animal seldom eaten today (sadly). It was a pie that was normally eaten by the poor as the finer cuts of meat were left for the rich only. “To eat a humble pie” is an example of metanalysis (words being broken down into parts or meanings that differ from the original) as it sounds just like “to eat an umble pie”. Other examples of this in English are “an apron” which used to be “a napron”.

5 Rule of Thumb

People commonly think that this saying is a reference to a law allowing a man to beat his wife as long as he uses a rod no thicker than his thumb. It is, of course, completely untrue. There is no record of any judge in Britain ever making a ruling like this - or any lawmaker passing a law. The phrase actually refers to doing something by estimates - rather than using an exact measure.

6 On Tender Hooks

This phrase is very commonly misspelt. First off, what exactly is a tender hook? It doesn’t seem logical does it? Well - that is because it isn’t. The phrase is actually “on tenterhooks”. A tenter was a medieval tool used for making cloth - the tenterhooks (pictured above) were small hooks to which the fabric would be stretched in the manufacturing process. To be on tenterhooks means to be left hanging - or to be in a state of suspense.

7 Take a Raincheck

This phrase is usually meant to mean “I won’t do it now but I will later”. This is the commonly accepted meaning (and has been for a long time) so it is now considered to be correct. It is included here merely out of interest because its original meaning was slightly different. Initially, a raincheck was offered to people who had tickets to a baseball game that was rained out - they would offered a “raincheck” which was a ticket for a game at a later date to make up for the missed game. This eventually found its way into shopping jargon in general where a raincheck was an offer to sell an out-of-stock good when it arrived back in stock. The meaning has eventually broadened to a point that it is not an offer any longer but a response.

8 Free Reign

This is a spelling error that leads to a misunderstanding - though the meanings remain the same fundamentally. Many people presume this phrase to mean that a person given free reign, has the “royal” power to do anything they want. In fact, the correct phrase is “free rein” and it comes from the days before cars when horses were used as our main mode of transport. When navigating a steep or winding path, one would relax the reins so that the horse could pick the safest path as he was more likely to do a better job than the rider.

9 Wreck Havoc

Havoc means chaos - and to wreck something is to put it into a state of chaos. So why would you make chaos out of chaos? You wouldn’t. What you might do is wreak havoc though - because “to wreak” means “to cause to happen”. The two words are pronounced differently - wreck sounds like “rek” while “wreak” sounds like “reek”. It is a small - but common, error.

10. Beg the Question

Let’s face it - 99% of people reading this list will not know the correct meaning of “beg the question”, but that implies that the mistaken meaning should really be considered correct through common usage - so let us not fight about right or wrong - I will just state the facts: “to beg the question” does not mean “to raise the question”. Originally the phrase was “to begge the question” and it appeared in English around the 1580s. It is a reference to a question (or phrase) which implies the truth of the thing it is trying to prove. Confusing? Okay - here is an example: “why does England have fewer trees per acre than any other country in Europe?” This is a “begged question” - the person asking is implying that England has fewer trees - when in fact, it may not. Another example is “he must be telling the truth because he never lies”. Decartes was begging the question when he said “I think, therefore I am”. Oh - and for those of you who are used to using the term in the wrong way, consider using “prompt the question” as a correct alternative.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Alternate Meanings Contest

These are the entries submitted to the Washington Post's yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings to common words:

1. Coffee (n):
The person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj): Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. Abdicate (v): To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v): To attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj): Impotent.

6. Negligent (adj): Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. Lymph (v): To walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n): Olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n): Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n): A rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n): A humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n): The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n): A Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n): A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n): The belief that after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n): An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.


The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are the winners:

1. Cashtration (n): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus (n): A person who is both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication (n): The euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts only until you realize it was your own money to start with.

4. Reintarnation (n): Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking up in the near future.

6. Foreploy (n): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

8. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease.

11. Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everyone is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like. a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido (n): All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit: The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor (n): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.