Weekly Wrap Volume 53

This is a weekly wrap of our Daily Knowledge Newsletter. You can get that newsletter for free here.

dictionaries-340x533Split Infinitives are Not Incorrect Grammatically

As mentioned in the recent Star Trek “to boldy go” article (check that out here), the majority of modern English grammar guides list split infinitives as being perfectly acceptable.  This has also been the case, not just in modern usage, but throughout most of the history of the English language (since those split infinitives first popped up around the 13th century). Indeed, Oxford Dictionaries states: “People have been splitting infinitives for centuries, especially in spoken… (more)

max-occupancyHow the Maximum Occupancy of a Building is Calculated

Generally speaking, the maximum occupancy of a room or building is primarily determined by the available exits, with each exit accommodating only a certain number of people before bottlenecking occurs. The other key component in determining the max occupancy of a building or room is the intended use of the space, whether it’s, for instance, a restaurant with tables and chairs or a more open event space. More specifically, the International Building Code (IBC) provides an international standard for calculating the maximum occupancy for an area. The IBC defines an exit… (more)

corpse-flowerThe Flower That Smells Like a Rotting Corpse

Deep in the heart of Indonesia’s Sumatra rainforest, where tigers hunt, rhinos stampede, orangutans play, and cuckoos sing, blooms a flower that does its very best to attract more attention than any of the animals. The rare Amorphophallus Titanum, or Titan Arum, or known by its more descriptive nickname the “Corpse Flower,” is described as the world’s largest flower. But that isn’t the plant’s claim to fame. No, this rare, beautiful fauna is really known for its stink. It’s been said that the smell that emits from the Corpse Flower resembles, well, rotten flesh. From personal experience, it smells more like a port-a-potty or garbage that’s been left out in the sun. Either way, it’s not a pleasant aroma. The purpose of this smell is to… (more)

Beatles_She_Loves_You“She Loves You” and The Start of Beatlemania

This is where Beatlemania begins.  Along with the then “shocking” Beatle haircuts, this song is “the” symbol, “the signature tune” of the early Beatles- the four happy, cheerful, chipper, and harmless moptops.  This is the Beatles before drugs, before Yoko Ono, before the facial hair, before the in-house fighting and bickering, before John said they were “more popular than Jesus.“ The song seems to encapsulate the image of the “early Beatles”- an image still held indelibly in the minds of millions of fans the world over.  “She loves you” was written by John and Paul in very unremarkable circumstances.  The two brilliant co-writers sat down in a hotel room on June 26, 1963 and dutifully knocked… (more)

Now-You-KnowWhy “Colonel” is Pronounced “Kernel,” and Why We Say “Stat” When We Want Something Done Quickly

Believe it or not, “colonel” was pronounced more or less the way it originally looked when it was introduced to English. The spelling changed over time to “colonel”, while the pronunciation stayed the same as it was before. “Colonel” ultimately derives from the Latin “columna,” meaning “pillar.” This gave rise to the Old Italian “compagna colonnella,” meaning “little-column company.” This, in turn, gave us the rank of “colonnello” -the leader of a column… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • At the young age of 15, Jim Carrey began working full time as a janitor to support his family who were living out of a VW van at the time after his father had lost his job. In their free time, Carrey’s father helped his son put together a comedy stage act… which ultimately bombed. Despite this, over the next 13 years Carrey continued to pursue a career in comedy. He revealed in an interview with Oprah, after years of struggling along, in 1990, he reaffirmed his commitment to his dream by writing himself a $10 million check to be cashed on Thanksgiving of 1995.  Of course, he was completely broke at the time, but kept the check anyway.  In 1994, he landed his breakout role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, vaulting him into the world-wide spotlight. He followed this up with The Mask, and then one of the greatest comedy films of all time- Dumb and Dumber that same year.  His pay for the latter film put him over the $10 million earnings mark, reaching his goal just weeks before the date he’d written on the check five years before. Today, Carrey has an estimated net worth of around $150 million.
  • In 1928, a German sailor named Franz Romer crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Lisbon, Portugal to the Virgin Islands, a trip lasting fifty-eight days.  This is nothing special, even for the early twentieth century, except for the fact that he made this trip by himself in a small kayak.
  • The Ancient Greeks commonly exercised naked. This is actually where the modern words “gymnasium” and “gymnastics” come from; γυμνός (gymnos) in Greek means “naked.”
  • Thomas Fitzpatrick had two passions: drinking and flying planes. On September 30, 1956, on a bet after a night of drinking, Fitzpatrick stole a small plane from New Jersey and landed it on an extremely narrow Manhattan street, in the dark, in front of the bar he had been drinking at on St. Nicholas Avenue. Then, two years later, he did it again.  In this latter police report, it was noted he said he had to do it again because a man at the bar openly doubted he really did it the first time.
  • As of November 2013, the Washington Post Database of U.S. Service-Member Casualties reports that the number of American soldiers dying in war is 1,343,812. On the other hand, the number of American citizens who died in automobile accidents between 1899 and 2012 is 3,572,812, once again showing that the most dangerous thing the vast majority of people do, despite rarely thinking anything of it, is get in a car.
  • In 2011, a 17 year old Chinese man, Xiao Zheng, made headlines when he purchased an iPad and an iPhone.  Why was this newsworthy?  In order to be able to afford it, he sold one of his kidneys for 20,000 yuan or just a bit over £1,900 or about $3000. As he said, “I wanted to buy an iPad2, but I didn’t have the money. When I surfed the internet, I found an advert posted online by an agent saying they were able to buy a kidney.”
  • Former Major League baseball player Benji Molina was one of the slowest base runners in baseball during his career.  So slow that he once hit a home run that he never scored on, with a pinch runner put in after Molina made it to first base…  What happened was Molina hit a home run that initially was ruled a single and a pinch runner, Emmanuel Burris, was put in.  However, manager Bruce Bochy challenged the call and it was ultimately ruled a home run, but because the pinch runner had already been put in, the umpires eventually ruled that Molina could not go back out to complete the home run trot. So Burris, not Molina, was given credit for scoring the run, while Molina was credited with hitting the home run.  This makes Benji Molina the only player in MLB history to hit a home run and not score on it.

Other Interesting Stuff:

ferruccio_lamborghiniLamborghini Cars Were A Result Of A Tractor Company Owner Being Insulted by the Founder of Ferrari

the creator of Lamborghini S.p.A. originally owned a tractor company, Lamborghini Trattori S.p.A., which produced tractors from surplus military hardware. He decided to get into making cars as a result of frustrations he had with a Ferrari he had purchased which ultimately resulted in him being insulted by Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the famed Ferrari brand car company. Having always been interested in car engines, during World War II, Ferruccio… (more)

monopoly-e1354009947813-340x215Why the Monopoly Player Pieces (Thimble, Top Hat, Etc.) are What They Are

What do a thimble, a sack of money, a battleship, and a top hat have in common? Not much, other than that they are among the eleven playing tokens you receive in a standard Monopoly set. And don’t forget the wheelbarrow, which you’ll need to carry all that cash you are going to appropriate from your hapless opponents. The history of Monopoly is fraught with controversy and contention, for it seems that its inventor, Charles Darrow, at the very least borrowed liberally from two already existing games when he first marketed Monopoly in the early 1930s. After Darrow self-published the game to great success, Parker Brothers bought the rights to Monopoly in 1934. While the early history is contentious, on one thing all Monopoly historians can agree- when Parker Brothers introduced… (more)

Ambrose_Burnside-340x448Why Sideburns are Named as They Are

It turns out, despite this particular brand of facial hair style being around as far back as at least 100 BC (with one of the earliest known instances being in a mosaic of Alexander the Great), sideburns were named after a specific man in the late 19th century. The man was politician, businessman, and Union Army General, Ambrose Burnside. Burnside sported a slightly unusual facial hair style with particularly prominent “mutton chop” sideburns connected to a moustache, while keeping his chin… (more)

migrant-motherWho was the Woman in the Famous Great Depression Photograph?

The Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in the history of the United States and the Western world, began on October 24, 1929, a day that has gone down in the history books as Black Thursday. The economy went into a tailspin with businesses laying off workers and wages for those still employed plummeting. Between 13 million and 15 million Americans were unemployed (about 11%-13% of the population) and couldn’t find work at the peak of the Great Depression in 1933. Farmers in the Plains states were hit the hardest. The drought of the 1920s put them in a tight spot where a number of farmers couldn’t afford to harvest… (more)

This Week’s Podcast Episodes:

Quote of the Week:

  • “Failure is the path of least persistence” ~Author unknown
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