Weekly Wrap Volume 154

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

chanel no 5Chanel No. 1

You’ve heard that clothes make the man? Meet the suit that made the woman. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was born in Samur, France, in 1883. Her life got off to a rocky start. Her mother died shortly after Gabrielle’s birth, and her father took off, abandoning the five Chanel children. Gabrielle was raised in a local Catholic orphanage until she came of age, at which point the nuns found her a job at a local boutique, the House of Grampayre. The little shop assistant honed her skills as a seamstress, and soon she had a faithful following of customers who came directly to her for alterations. She also worked at a tailor shop once a week. And in addition to…(more)

YorktownWhy Yankee Doodle Called the Feather in His Cap Macaroni

As with a lot of older songs, the tune and music that we today associate with “Yankee Doodle” was actually written much earlier than the 18th century. The melody may have been heard as early as the 1500s in Holland, with rather nonsensical lyrics about the harvest and farmers receiving their wage in buttermilk. Over the next two centuries, that particularly melody bounced around Europe and was re-appropriated for various other little jingles – like describing the struggles of English… (more)

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Bonus Quick Facts

  • Ever wonder why Mr. T is called that? He first acquired the moniker (a shortening of his real name Lawrence Tureaud) in backlash for the once common practice of calling a black man “boy.” Said Mr. T, “I think about my father being called ‘boy’, my uncle being called ‘boy’, my brother, coming back from Vietnam and being called ‘boy’… So when I was 18 years old, when I was old enough to fight and die for my country, old enough to drink, old enough to vote, I said I was old enough to be called a man. I self-ordained myself Mr. T so the first word out of everybody’s mouth is Mr.”
  • In the UK “trump” has been another word for “an especially loud fart” since the early 15th century, with the first known documented instance appearing in 1425. The word “trump” appears to have previously entered the English language sometime around the 14th century in reference to blowing a horn. Besides these definitions, it eventually came to mean “to deceive” or “cheat” in the early 16th century from the Old French “tromper” of the same definition. As for the other common meaning for the word- “surpass” or “beat”- that appears to have first popped up in the late 16th century, first referenced in card games. As for how the surname, “Trump,” came about, this is in many cases from the Old French “Trompeor” meaning “maker of trumpets.” However, perhaps the most famous “Trump,” Donald Trump, appears to have gained his surname from the German “Drumpf” meaning “drum.” His ancestors later changed the name to Trump.
  • A few years after dropping out of community college in 1974, James Cameron found himself working as a truck driver. That all changed when he first watched Star Wars in 1977. After seeing it, he decided to quit his day job and see if he couldn’t make it in the film industry. A few Oscars and several blockbusters later, we can safely assume he doesn’t regret his decision.
  • According to the BBC, a Swedish woman named Lena Paahlsson lost her engagement ring while doing some Christmas baking with her daughters back in 1995. Sixteen years later (2011) and after Mrs. Paahlsson had lost any hope of finding the ring, she was pulling up carrots in her garden when she amazingly found her ring with a carrot growing through it. Her theory on how it got out there was that it must have fallen in the sink when she’d been peeling vegetables. She then would have used the peelings to either feed her sheep or as compost. Either way, it ultimately ended up in her garden and, sixteen years later, on a carrot.
  • The character of Guinan on Star Trek the Next Generation (played by Whoopi Goldberg) was named after famed early 20th century performer and nightclub owner Texas Guinan who died of dysentery in 1933 at the age of 49. The character Guinan is of the race El-Aurians. “El-Aurians” derives from the Latin “Auris,” meaning “ear.” This is in reference to Guinan’s character being a good listener and why Soran from Star Trek Generations, who was also of that race, said they were a “race of listeners.”
  • While most cheetahs have spots, very rarely one will be born with stripes as well. A cheetah with this characteristic was first documented in 1926 by Major A. Cooper who spotted and killed said cheetah in the region of modern day Zimbabwe. Since then, these so called “king cheetahs” (they were originally thought to be a separate species) have been spotted in the wild just five times, though some have also been born in captivity. In 2012, it was discovered that king cheetahs have a recessive mutation in their transmembrane aminopeptidase Q (Taqpep) gene causing the distinctive fur patterns.

Other Interesting Stuff

allergiesWhy Do We Get Allergies?

It’s that time of year when tissue companies nationwide rejoice at the excessive mucus caused by allergies. If you’re one of the unlucky, you might ask yourself why we get them anyway? Why would our immune systems react to seemingly harmless things like pollens, dust mites, and the dander from cats and dogs? There are two proposed theories here; the most widely accepted involves an evolutionary mechanism for expelling parasitic worms, a frequent problem for our ancestors before the advent of modern medicine and potentially…(more)

stretching-womanWhy do Humans Need to Warm Up Before Exercise?

There isn’t a respectable personal trainer in any sport that doesn’t stress the importance of warming up before you begin a workout or athletic endeavor. Most people seem to know you can prevent injuries and allow for better performance should you follow their advice. So, what about warming up allows for these benefits? What exactly is going on in the body when you more slowly prepare it for strenuous activity, rather than just jumping right into it? The simple answer is that warming up increases blood flow to muscles, allowing for an elevated amount of oxygen and…(more)

full-moon-340x340Why the Same Side of the Moon Always Faces the Earth

One Moon “day” is approximately 29 1/2 Earth days. This rotation coincides with its orbit around the Earth so that we only see about 59% of the surface of the Moon from Earth. When the Moon first formed, its rotational speed and orbit were very different than they are now. Over time, the Earth’s gravitational field gradually slowed the Moon’s rotation until the orbital period and the rotational speed stabilized, making one side of the Moon always face the Earth. How does this work? Simply put -tidal friction. For a slightly less simple explanation, we’ll have to put our science caps on. But stick with it; it’s fascinating. I promise…(more)

mcdonaldsDoes McDonald’s or Burger King Really Hand Out Cards Granting You Free Food For Life?

Like the American Express Centurion Card – a hyper-exclusive charge card only gifted to the wealthiest of individuals – there exists equivalently exclusive cards issued by both McDonald’s and Burger King granting the bearer unlimited free food for life from any establishment of the respective chain that issued them. So who on Earth is lucky enough to own such a card and how would you possibly go about getting one yourself? Starting with McDonald’s- the company has given out cards, or at least pieces of paper, granting people free food ever since Raymond Kroc joined the McDonald’s brand in…(more)

destroyed-ancient-pottery-340x227What Happens if You Accidentally Damage of Destroy a Priceless Work of Art in a Museum?

If you’ve ever walked through a museum or an art gallery you may have noticed that a lot of the art and historical treasure on display is completely exposed. In fact, with the exception of some of the world’s more famous pieces of art, you could easily fall over and damage much of the artwork on display worldwide, right now. So, what would happen if you did trip and accidentally damage an irreplaceable priceless piece of art? As it turns out, not all that much. This is mainly because of two things- first, museums and galleries will almost always have insurance to cover any such damage. Second, accidents happen and the people…(more)

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