Category Archives: Articles

The History of Burritos

burrito

Burritos are one of the most popular Tex-Mex items on the menu. Anyone who knows a little Spanish has probably raised their eyebrows at the name, however. In Spanish, a “burro” is a donkey, and “burrito,” the diminutive form, means “little donkey.” As far as we know, donkey was never a popular ingredient in the famous dish, so how exactly […]

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Why There is an Area of New York Called “The Bronx” and Why Ambulances are Called That

bronx

Why There is an Area of New York Called “The Bronx” This is thanks to a seventeenth century Scandinavian man by the name of Jonas Bronck, originally from Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands. In 1639, Bronck immigrated to New Amsterdam in New Netherland, which was right next to what is today called Bronx River, named after Jonas Bronck. Why? In […]

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Where the F-Word Came From

wtf

By necessity, this one contains a bit of profanity. So you may or may not want to read through it first if you normally share these articles with humans of the particularly youthful persuasion. 🙂 In its various incarnations, the F-word can be a noun, verb, adjective, and even an infix. The Crescent wrench of the English language, the F-bomb […]

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Why Do We Need Sleep?

sleep

Karla asks: Why do we need sleep? It left Hamlet’s father vulnerable to fratricide, sent Alice down the rabbit-hole, enabled Delilah’s betrayal of Samson and facilitated Gregor’s transformation into a giant beetle. Yet without sleep, we can become dull, slow and irritable in the short-term, and chronic insomnia can cause migraines, seizures and even, in extreme cases, death. Although we […]

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Why Certain Types of Traps are Called “Booby Traps”

trap

It turns out this has nothing to do with the mammaries of the fairer sex, but rather has its origins in the Spanish word “bobo,” meaning “stupid,” “fool,” or “naïve.” This Spanish word in turn comes from the Latin “balbus” meaning “stammering”, which to the Romans was thought to be a sign of stupidity. So, essentially, a “booby trap” is […]

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Why Police Officers are Sometimes Called “Pigs” and Why “Poindexter” is Slang for “Nerd”

police

Why Police Officers are Sometimes Called “Pigs” Unlike so many other nicknames for the police, such as cops and the fuzz, this particular term has a relatively well known origin. You see, starting around the sixteenth century “pig” began being used in English as a derogatory term for people, whether police or not, as it still sometimes is used today. […]

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Jumping Frenchmen of Maine

jumping-lumberjacks

In the connected 21st century, it can be hard to imagine how, for most of history, different cultures existed in relative isolation from each other. Even as late as the 19th century, those living in self-sustaining and remote rural communities had little commerce with the outside world, and scant news made it in or out. In a handful of these […]

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Why Native Americans Didn’t Wipe Out Europeans With Diseases

native-american-disease

Greg H. asks: Diseases from Europe wiped out most of the Indians, so why didn’t the Europeans also get wiped out by diseases from America? While estimates vary, approximately 20-50 million people are believed to have lived in the Americas shortly before Europeans arrived. Around 95% of them were killed by European diseases. So why didn’t 19 out of 20 […]

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The Unmasking of Moriarty

221B-Baker-Street

Jill T. asks: My dad told me Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes was based on a real person. Is this true and if so, who? Genius and philosopher, with a “brain of the first order,” Professor James Moriarty was the most dangerous criminal Sherlock Holmes ever grappled with. Over the years, several real-life masterminds have been suggested as the inspiration […]

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