# Info that just might come in handy some day

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Dean Cooper, Oct 17, 2002.

1. ### Dean Cooper Supporting Actor

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The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV were Fred and
Wilma Flintstone.

Coca-Cola was originally green.

Every day more money is printed for Monopoly than the U.S. Treasury.

Men can read smaller print than women can; women can hear better.

The percentage of Africa that is wilderness: 28% ( now get this...).
The percentage of North America that is wilderness: 38%.

The average number of people airborne over the U.S. any given hour: 61,000.

The world's youngest parents were 8 and 9 and lived in China in 1910.

The youngest Pope was 11 years old.

The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer.

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:
Spades - King David, Hearts - Charlemagne, Clubs -Alexander the Great,
Diamonds - Julius Caesar.

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the
air, the person died in battle.
If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of
If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural
causes.

"I am" is the shortest complete sentence in the English language.

Q. What occurs more often in December than any other month?
A. Conception.

Q. If you were to spell out numbers, how far would you have to go until you
could find the letter "A"?
A. One thousand.

Q. What do bullet-proof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers and laser
printers all have in common?
A. All invented by women.

Q. What is the only food that doesn't spoil?
A. Honey.

In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes.
When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer
to sleep on.
Hence the phrase "good night, sleep tight".

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month
after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all
the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was
lunar based, this period was called the honey month or what we know today as
the honeymoon.

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts. So in old England,
when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them to mind
their own pints and quarts and settle down.
It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's".

Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim
or handle of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the
whistle to get some service.
"Wet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this practice.

In ancient England a person could not have sex unless you had consent of the
King (unless you were in the Royal Family). When anyone wanted to have a
baby, they got consent off the King. The King gave them a placard
that they hung on their door while they were having sex.
The placard had F.*.*.*. (Fornication Under Consent of the King) on it.
Now you know where that word came from.

In Scotland, a new game was invented. It was entitled Gentlemen Only, Ladies
Forbidden... and thus the word GOLF ntered into the English language.

Dean

2. ### Jared_B Supporting Actor

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3. ### Todd Hochard Cinematographer

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Wouldn't the shortest sentence be "Go."?
The math is right, the pope is right (I think), I think the parents thing is in the Guiness book, and the Honey is correct, although Twinkies aren't far behind.
Todd

4. ### Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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Mind your P's and Q's comes from a saying that typesetters had. A typesetter on a printing press had to read each letter backwards as he set the type. A small 'p' is the opposite of a small 'q' and were often mistaken for each other if the setter was not careful. The pints and quarts thing is false.

I imagine "wet your whistle" with whistles in a cup (???) is also false. How about the explantion that it is easier to whistle through moistened lips than dry?

5. ### Matt Stryker Screenwriter

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An interesting fact I learned the other day: The total force of all the strings in a piano can be over 20 tons!
In American Football, after a team gives up a touchdown, they have the option of receiving a kickoff or kicking the ball back to the scoring team. Evidently this comes from rugby, where field position is more important than possession.

6. ### BrianB Producer

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The GOLF thing is also likely false. Before golf was formalised, there were games in the Netherlands that involved hitting balls with sticks at targets - colf & chole, I believe.

7. ### Jay H Producer

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8. ### Mark Zimmer Producer

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The horse on a statue thing is also wrong. I just read a lengthy piece on this at snopes.com as well.

The key rule that I always tell my quiz team that I coach is "All etymologies are folk etymologies." Almost never do we really know where words come from. The bogus For Unlawful Carnal Knowlege and Ship High In Transit acronyms are prime examples of this.

9. ### Charles J P Cinematographer

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10. ### Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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Nope, the horse thing has no basis in fact, pure fokelore. (In fact, in D.C. you can see several statues of men who definitely did or did not die in battle and all of the legs on their horses are "wrong")
Coke was never green, either. (Was sold in green bottles as one time, maybe that's where this one comes from.) Snopes has a whole page devoted to Coke urban legends, called "Coke-lore"
Nearly everything in the first post is folklore.
General rule: Almost anything claiming the origin of a word is an acronym (Fornication Under Consent of the King, Port Out, Starboard Home, etc.) is an urban legend. Nearly all of these stories involve words coined before the 20th century, and until the very end of the 19th century it was almost unheard of for anyone to form a new word out of the initials of a phrase. The acronym didn't really come into its own until the early 20th century - so a word with a pedigree as old as "posh" or "golf" cannot have originated in that way. This is what is called "folk etymology" - someone making up an origin for a word after the fact, based on nothing more than their own imagination and their sense of what is plausible.
That leads us to rule number two - any complicated and colorful story about the origins of a word or phrase is likely to be so much eyewash. No, "son of a gun" did not come from the practice of putting expectant mothers on British warships next to the canon to induce labor. As a rule there were no women on British warships. No, there were never ceramic whistles built into drinking mugs - as noted, you can't whistle with dry lips, so there is a perfectly sensible and commonplace explanation for the phrase.
Rule #3: Unless you can find it in Bartlett's assume that 90% of the sayings you hear attributed to famous people were never said by them. People are forever putting witty things they've come across, but whose origins they can't remember into the mouth of the famous. If you start off by saying, "As Mark Twain once said..." you're audience is already primed to laugh. Even if what follows is something that you've just made up yourself, or was told to you by your uncle Clyde when you were 11, everyone will think it was Twain's. (And when one of your friends e-mails it to everyone in his address book, it will get added to a list like the one that started this thread, and it will live on the internet forever. )
RE: "Honeymoon" 1) I don't believe the Babylonians ever fermented honey or drank mead. They had beer and presumably wine, since they lived in a climate that supported both. Mead seems to have been exclusively a northern European quaff, developed in countries where there was less surplus grain for beermaking and where grape vines were unknown.
Here's what The Word Detective has to say on the subject:

11. ### andrew markworthy Producer

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12. ### Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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The "F" word has roots going back to ancient Hindu. While the details are somewhat obscure we certainly know it didn't start out as an acronym. I'm not sure when it first appears in a manuscript, but I suspect it predates the monks. "Wet your whistle" as a euphemism for drinking alcohol almost certainly has nothing to do with woodwinds and everything to do with typical male-bonding slang. (Cf. "dip your wick" - yeah, somebody's going to tell me that that comes from ancient British chandlers. )
Regards,
Joe

13. ### Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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Mark Zimmer wrote:

Quote:

[COLOR=orange-red] The key rule that I always tell my quiz team that I coach is "All etymologies are folk etymologies." Almost never do we really know where words come from.[/color]

That may be true if "we" is interpreted as the "naive (as in 'untrained') public". Not true at all of trained historical linguists, who have quite sophisticated ways of deducing the etymologies of large portions of language vocabularies, even from language groups that may not have extensive written histories.

For a reliable popular reference source for English words you should try The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, published by Houghton Mifflin. (It may appear as only a section of the main dictionary or may be sold separately these days. I don't know which.) It won't be of much help with idioms (expressions), however.

Word Detective

Quote:

The most likely explanation of "honeymoon" is the obvious one -- that the first month or so of any marriage is the "sweetest," free of the stresses and strains which later try every marriage. I say "month or so," but there's no evidence that the "moon" in "honeymoon" has anything to do with the lunar cycle. A more plausible interpretation, first proposed by Samuel Johnson, is that "moon" really refers to the waxing and waning of the moon. In this somewhat cynical scenario, the "moon" of marriage is full at its start, leaving only the natural waning to follow. Of course, the moon always waxes full again, so hope springs eternal.

It remains unclear to me from this passage whether the writer understands that, historically, the word month is a derivative of moon, the waxing and waning of which was once used to calculate a month's time. (Some anthropological theory holds that early man developed lunar calendars before solar calendars. The pre-Columbian Mayan calendric system included both.)

The term honeymoon may well originally have designated the first month of marriage. I have no idea about the reference to "honey" in the word---perhaps indeed a folk-etymological deformation of the original---, but it should be clear what the original function of the so-called honeymoon was. A (usually) young couple is given two (or more) weeks right after their wedding to do nothing except "mate" (in every sense of the word!). This, of course, was in order to procreate as fast (and as much) as possible. Of course, the month cycle is also the means by which women measure their menstrual---again, etymologically, derived from the word for 'month'---periods, which will be interrupted in the case of pregnancy.

In some traditional cultures of the world the word for 'pregnant' is a derivative of the word for 'moon' by analogy to the very waning and waxing of that heavenly body.

In short, the whole original point of the honeymoon was to immediately impregnate the female, and some weeks right after the wedding were set aside for just that purpose. "Sweet" it might have been (or be)---at least for the male---, but the reference in the term to monthly cycles pretty clearly betrays its original intended social purpose.

14. ### Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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Andrew Markworthy wrote:

Quote:

The origins of the f-word aren't known (in part because at the time of its invention, written records were kept by monks who might say the word but certainly wouldn't put it in a manuscript). However, it is likely to be from either an early form of Dutch or (more probably) German.

"at the time of its invention . . . "?!? Does that mean "writing" preceded "fucking" (and its designation)? Tell us, pray, when was this word "invented", and precisely how do you know this information?

Quote:

However, it is likely to be from either an early form of Dutch or (more probably) German.

I don't know why this should be so. The English word may simply be cognate with the Dutch and German terms, especially since Dutch and Frisian are most closely related to English in the so-called Anglo-Frisian branch of the Germanic language family.

Joseph de Martino wrote:

Quote:

The "F" word has roots going back to ancient Hindu. While the details are somewhat obscure we certainly know it didn't start out as an acronym.

By "ancient Hindu", I take it you mean Sanskrit. If you mean that the Germanic forms are borrowed from that language, I seriously doubt it. It may be that Sanskrit and its parent language Indo-Iranian share cognates, that is, forms related by descent from the parent language of all of these, Proto-Indo-European (PIE) (which is to be dated to at least 5,000 years ago---more likely 6,000). The English form points to a proto-Germanic base of the shape *fuk- which itself points to something like PIE *pug-, for which I find no likely Sanskrit comparanda. That PIE root looks to go with the root of Latin pugnus 'fist' ===> the verb pugno: 'I fight' (Latinist joke: mei parentes pugnaverunt, ergo sum.) ===> pugna 'fight, battle' (a back-formation). This connexion has been proposed, I am told---though I've never seen it first-hand---in scholarly literature on the subject.

All this may or may not be the relative of Latin pungere 'to stab, pierce' (whence English pungent). The 'stabbing, piercing' metaphor, again, is common, at least in Indo-European languages, for (violent) sexual penetration (e.g., Old Irish goithimm 'futuo (I fuck)' < goth 'spear, javelin'), cf. English prick.

Likewise, the metaphor of violent striking: hence, English boink, bang, etc.

15. ### Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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I recall reading that a language associated with the Indian subcontinent (it may well have been Proto-Indo-European) has a root-word with the original meaning "to strike" which seems to have descended through various language families, and which eventually ended up in English as "f*ck". Sorry, no longer have the reference work around, and it is certainly possible that in the interim further research and new theories have supplanted this one. I don't do this stuff for a living, so I don't really keep up except as interesting articles on word origins come my way.

You're certainly right in rejecting the notion that "all etymologies are folk etymologies" as a general rule, but the fact is that nearly all the "word origin" stories that commonly get passed around the 'net are precisely that, and should be treated skeptically.

Regards,

Joe

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