Weekly Wrap Volume 5

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cigarWhere the Phrase “Close But No Cigar” Came From

This popular idiom, which means “to fall short of a successful outcome” or “close call,” was first coined in the United States in the late 19th or early 20th century. While it can’t be proven definitively, it’s likely that the phrase originated at fairgrounds around this time. Much like fairs today, booths would be set up and fair workers would host overpriced, nearly-impossible-to-win games for… (more)

last-will-and-testamentWhat Happened to Howard Hughes’ Money When He Died

Over his lifetime, Howard Hughes’ wallet became one of the fattest of his time. It isn’t known exactly how much he was worth at the time of his death, but ten years before he died, he was forced to sell his shares in the airline company TWA. The payout? $546 million (about $3.8 billion today), estimated by some to have been about 1/3 of his net worth.  When he died, there was one major problem: Hughes had no direct descendants or immediate family, and he didn’t leave behind a will. (more)

hedy-lamarrHow One of the Most Beautiful Women in 1940s’ Hollywood Helped Make Certain Wireless Technologies Possible

Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, better known as “Hedy Lamarr”, once really did patent a “Secret Communication System” for radio communication, meant to foil the Axis during WWII. It was specifically designed to be used as a remote control system to securely guide torpedoes while getting around the problem of jamming.  Her idea at its core was really part of the larger concept of “frequency-hopping”, with her device developed with composer George Antheil… (more)

ship2Ferdinand Megellan was Not the First Person to Circumnavigate the Globe

There’s no doubt that Magellan intended to have a successful journey when his expedition set off from Spain on September 20, 1519. He had planned for the departure meticulously, hoping to prove that people could sail all the way around the world, and to be the first to do it. His ambition was spurred on by the adventures of previous explorers, such as Christopher Columbus and Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the man who marched across the Panamanian isthmus to the Pacific Ocean. There was little doubt in Magellan’s mind that it could be done. Five ships left Spain towards this goal, but only three made it to the Pacific Ocean… (more)

cop-donutHow the “Cops Eating Donuts” Stereotype Started

Members of law enforcement stuffing their faces full of donuts is one of the most enduring stereotypes about the boys and girls in blue. In virtually every media representation of the police that isn’t deadly serious, the stereotype is played out in some way- Police Academy, The Simpsons, Family Guy, hell, in Wreck-it Ralph the police officers are literally sentient donuts. So where and when did this stereotype start? As to the “when”, that isn’t clear. However, I was able to find one person who said his grandfather,… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • “Seuss” in “Dr. Seuss” is actually pronounced “Zoice” (think “voice”). Theodor Geisel used the name in honor of his mother, whose maiden name was “Seuss”. As most Americans mispronounced the Bavarian name, Geisel eventually gave up correcting people on the correct pronunciation.
  • Adolf Hitler’s surname is thought by many etymologists to derive from “Huettler” or “one who lives in a hut”.
  • “Nazi” isn’t just the name of a one-time prominent political party, but also the Swahili word for “coconut”.
  • Twilight was rejected by fourteen publishers before finally getting published.
  • “Cockshut” isn’t anything dirty. It’s simply another word for “twilight” which first popped up in the late 16th century in English.
  • If you live in the U.S., you are nearly four times as likely to be killed by a vending machine as a shark, with an average annual death rate of 2.18 for vending machines and .6 deaths from shark attacks.
  • The name “Barbara” derives from the Latin “barbarus”, meaning “strange” or “foreign”.
  • You are about 40% more likely to survive a commercial plane crash if you sit in the back row of the plane compared to the front row, according to a study done by Popular Mechanics covering every accident aboard commercial planes from 1971 to 2007.
  • Oscar Wilde once dated Bram Stokers wife, Florence Balcombe… before they were married of course.
  • Oprah Winfrey’s real name is “Orpah”, named after the sister of the biblical character of Ruth. She changed it simply because most people mispronounced it as “Oprah”.
  • The Red Sox and White Sox MLB teams have the “Sox” spelled that way as at the time the teams were named such, there was a movement to simplify the spelling of English words; thus, “socks” became “sox” for a time, even in such publications as the Chicago Tribune.

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turkey-strut-e1288834018876Why Turkeys are Called Turkeys

In the 16th century, when North American turkeys were first introduced in-mass to Europe, there was another bird that was popularly imported throughout Europe and, most relevant to this article, England, called a guinea fowl.  This guinea fowl was imported from Madagascar via the Ottoman Empire.  The merchants who did this were, thus, known as “turkey merchants”.  The guinea fowl themselves eventually were popularly referred to as “turkey fowl”, similar to how other product imported through the Ottoman Empire acquired their names, such as “turkey corn”, “turkey wheat”, etc…. (more)

puddingThe Engineer Who Bought Over 12,100 Cups of Pudding to Earn 1.25 Million Air Miles

Air Miles are awesome, they can be used to score free flights, hotel stays and if you’re really lucky, the scorn and hatred of everyone you come in contact with who has to pay full price when they travel. The king of all virtually free travelers is one David Phillips, a civil engineer who teaches at the University of California, Davis. David came to the attention of the wider media when he managed to convert about 12,150 cups of Healthy Choice chocolate pudding into over a million Air Miles… (more)

BuzkashiBuzkashi: The National Sport of Afghanistan Played with a Headless Animal Carcass

Beloved by Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgz, Kazakhs, Pashtuns and Turkmens as well as Afghans, the equestrian sport known as Kokpar or Buzkashi is a rugged, and traditionally extremely violent, game similar to polo with one surprising twist; rather than hitting a ball with mallets toward a goal, players vie for control of a headless animal carcass. While at first glance this may seem a tad barbaric, it’s really not all that strange when you consider footballs used to be made with pig bladders and baseballs are covered… (more)

baby-bird-340x255Handling a Baby Bird Will Not Cause the Parent Birds to Reject It

You’ll often hear this myth stated that if you touch a baby bird, the parents will completely abandon it and it will die. In fact, most birds have a very poor sense of smell, so in most cases are unable to even notice human scent on baby birds (even a skunk’s spray doesn’t seem to bother many types of birds). Not only that, but most types of birds aren’t so quick to abandon their young when they sense danger. Some types will even do their best to defend… (more)

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