Category Archives: Articles

Standing in a Hurricane- Watching Over the Tomb of the Unknowns

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Ron17 asks: How do they decide who gets to guard the tomb of the unknown soldier? Since 1937, the Tomb of the Unknowns has famously never once been left unattended with there always being at least one guard present to keep vigil. The highly coveted position of Tomb Sentinel is only meted out to truly exceptional soldiers, all of whom must prove […]

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How ‘Gay’ Came to Mean ‘Homosexual’

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Today I found out how ‘gay’ came to mean ‘homosexual’. The word “gay” seems to have its origins around the 12th century in England, derived from the Old French word ‘gai’, which in turn was probably derived from a Germanic word, though that isn’t completely known. The word’s original meaning meant something to the effect of “joyful”, “carefree”, “full of […]

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The First Car Accident

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Car accidents are a sad fact of life. Every day thousands lose their lives in collisions, crashes and accidents. Though the car itself is a fairly recent invention, the first recorded accident involving them could have happened almost 300 years ago. Depending on what your definition of a car is. Though it looked nothing like the modern cars you see […]

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The London Garrotting Panic of the Mid-19th Century

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Although crime in England’s capital was on the decline in the mid-19th century, thanks in part to the relatively recent formation of the London Metropolitan Police Force in 1839, fear of crime was a persistent, reoccurring issue thanks to a few instances of robbery and murder, and, of course, the news media. In particular, the so-called “garrotting” cases, where someone strangles someone else, […]

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Working for Figurative Peanuts and Literal Beer, the Fascinating Story of Jack the Signal”man”

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For most people, saying  “a monkey could do my job” is a roundabout way of saying that their current position of employment isn’t exactly that mentally taxing. For James Wide though, it was more of a statement of fact because for 9 years in the late 19th century, his job of railroad signalman at Uitenhage station in South Africa was literally done […]

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Dollars to Doughnuts

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Kerrey23 asks: Where did the expression “dollars to donuts” come from? The word “doughnut” is American in origin and traces its roots to the early 19th century. It is presumed to have been a combination of the words dough and nut. It first appeared in print in Washington Irving’s 1809 Knickerbocker’s History of New York Sometimes the table was graced […]

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