Origins of common terms and sayings

Let’s take a look at the origins of some common terms and sayings. — The best man: Well, it seems that the groom should be the “best man” for the moment. Other than the guy wh ...

Ketchup and covered bridges

QUESTION: Is that tomato stuff we eat on hamburgers “ketchup” or “catsup”? REPLY: Well, it tastes the same regardless of how you spell it, but it is ketchup. English sailors br ...

Collection of curiosities

QUESTION:Why do we say someone is crying crocodile tears? REPLY: When someone cries “crocodile tears,” it means they are faking sadness or the reason for crying. When crocodiles eat a big ...

Calculating sunrise and sunset

QUESTION:There seems to be a discrepancy between the time of sunrise given in the paper and my actual observations. Do the papers print one time for the Eastern Time Zone, or do papers in Charleston, ...

How eggs make the grade

QUESTION:I note that you can buy grades “AA” and “A” eggs. What’s the difference? (Asked by a curious column-reader near the dairy section.) REPLY: The U.S. Department of ...

Blue veins and red blood

QUESTION: Blood is red, so why do veins in your arm look blue? (Asked by a curious elementary school student.) REPLY: This is an old one. Yes, blood is red, but how red depends on where you find it. L ...

Insight on how money circulates

QUESTION: How is money put into circulation, and is the amount of money in circulation constant? (Asked by a curious money-changer.) REPLY: Well, money is an interesting topic, but it is not the root ...

Giving tennis balls their bounce

QUESTION: Many balls used in sports are pressurized. Some balls have valve stems for pressurizing. How are balls such as tennis balls pressurized? (Asked by a curious tennis player.) REPLY: This quest ...

Getting oriented on tablet rotation

QUESTION: What causes the screen on my iPad to rotate when I turn it? How does it do that? (Asked by a column reader with an iPad.) REPLY: One of the most interesting features of a tablet (iPad) is th ...

'Tis the season for food curiosities

Q:Isn’t plum pudding a cake rather than a pudding? (Asked by a curious cook.) R: Well, the holidays are coming and so is plum pudding for a lot of folks. The pudding sort of looks like and has t ...

A few differences in terms

Here are some interesting questions on the differences between terms you may have wondered about. Q:What is the difference between a state and a commonwealth? R: Commonwealth is an old term referring ...

Right side of the road

QUESTION: Why do we drive on the right side of the road and not on the left, like the British? (Asked by a curious traveler.) REPLY: If you have driven in Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia or mos ...

It's quiz time!

It’s quiz time! Here are a few short-answer questions I’ve put in the form of a quiz – and there’s a little something for everyone. Grade yourself. 1. How many different langua ...

Cold truth about bananas

QUESTION:Should you put bananas in the refrigerator? (Asked by a curious column-reader.) REPLY: This is an old one – but first, a little banana background. The banana was native to Southeast Asi ...

Ostriches vs. emus

QUESTION:What is the difference between an ostrich and an emu? (Asked by a column reader.) REPLY: Well, one thing they have in common is that they are both big birds. However, the ostrich is a bit big ...

Pass me the pasta, I'm in a noodle

QUESTION:Would you please tell me the differences among the various types of pasta? I get confused with all the names on the menu. (Asked by an Italian food lover.) REPLY: It’s no wonder that yo ...

Reader flies this question by the Corner

QUESTION:Airplane seats have lap seat belts, like automobiles, but not shoulder straps. Why is this? Wouldn’t it be safer? (Asked by a frequent flyer.) REPLY: Well, there is probably a combinati ...

Don't blame your liver for liver spots

QUESTION: My granddad has brown spots on his skin that he calls "liver spots." What are they, and what causes them? (Asked by a curious young'un.) REPLY: These flat, brown or brownish-black blemi ...

It's quiz time

Here's a pop quiz on some curious geographical facts. See how many you know, and have your Atlas handy.1. The world's longest, undefended border is between what two countries? (Bonus points if you kno ...

Good spirits and bad luck

QUESTION: I'm curious about sayings. Where did "knock on wood" and "bad luck walking under a ladder" come from? (Asked by a superstitious reader.)REPLY: Knocking on wood, or merely stating to do so, i ...

Too much of a good thing

QUESTION: You are told to drink a lot of water. Can you drink too much water? (Asked by a fluid-conscientious reader.)REPLY: The answer is yes, in some special instances. Drinking too much water can l ...

Nature's curiosity: The white squirrel

Q: I have recently noticed white squirrels in the trees across from my porch and have never seen them before. I remember a colony at Lander many years ago. Are they as rare as I was thinking, and why ...