Category Archives: Answers

Is “Peanut Gallery” a Racial Term?

peanuts

Matt J. asks: Was the peanut gallery expression really originally a racial term? Used to refer to those giving unsolicited (and unvalued) advice, the expression “peanut gallery” has its roots in late 19th century vaudeville, although for some, the phrase is considered a racial slur. A typical vaudevillian show of music, drama, comedy, acrobatics, dance and other acts was performed […]

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How Do Other Animals Deal with the Umbilical Cord and Placenta When the Baby is Born?

horse-birth

Brandi N asks: How do other primates deal with the umbilical cord and placenta when the baby is born when they don’t have any sort of medical help to make sure everything’s handled right? Other than certain modern humans, some marine mammals (like whales and dolphins), chimpanzees and a few domesticated animals, mammal mothers typically eat the afterbirth. While most […]

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Origin of Lo and Behold

vision

Richard G. asks: What does the “lo” in lo and behold mean? Like a wordy exclamation point, the two defining words in “lo and behold” mean basically the same thing. Specifically, the word lo!, meaning “look!” first appeared in Middle English (1100-1500 AD) in the 1200s, and essentially was clipped from the early English imperative word for “look,” lok. An […]

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Do Road Hazard Signs Like “Deer Crossing” and “Falling Rocks” Actually Prevent Accidents?

deer-crossing

Sanvi F. asks: It costs thousands of dollars to install even one road sign, so why do they bother putting “warning deer” and “falling rock” warning signs when nobody pays attention to them? Warning of an upcoming curve, playing kids, falling rock, icy roads and, of course, deer, traditional static warning signs litter the sides of our roadways to the […]

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The Origin of the Word Bimbo

bimbo

Jillian A. asks: Who invented the word bimbo? Depending on whom you ask, bimbo can be an insult or just a description. Usually implying a lack of intelligence, and often combined with physical attractiveness and promiscuity, today bimbo is often used to describe someone who isn’t that bright, and gets by on her (or his) looks (or wealth). And this […]

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Duty Free

duty-free

Jeremy W. asks: Why do we call non-taxed items duty free? Why is this allowed? Is this really the case or are you supposed to pay taxes anyway on items to your home country? Providing shoppers with a chance to buy and transport goods across international boundaries without paying local and national taxes, duty-free shops are found in airports and […]

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Why Gnats Swarm

gnats

Gerry D. asks: Why do nats swarm in a ball in the air? A common sight in the spring and summer, the seemingly unprofitable and pointless habit of gnats to hover in a cloud is, in fact, the single most productive thing they’ll ever do with their short lives. Although there are a wide variety of non-biting, but eminently annoying, […]

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