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 meal, they do cry or have tears. This is because tear ducts near the corners of their eyes automatically release tears when the jaws are opened widely. The croc isn’t sad at all about getting a meal, just shedding crocodile tears.

QUESTION:Why is a skunk called a polecat?

REPLY: The polecat is a member of the weasel family and native to Europe. They look similar to skunks, which were mistakenly called polecats by immigrants. However, the smell helped them to distinguish.

QUESTION:Why do cakes sometimes fall when you bang the oven door shut?

REPLY: Baking powder in the batter releases gas that causes the cake to rise. It rises to a point slightly higher than when it is fully baked. Up to this maximum height, the batter is unstable, with the cell walls holding the gas being very thin and weak. A loud noise or vibration can cause them to break and the cake to fall. When the baking temperature gets high enough, the liquid batter is converted to solid cake structure, and then you can slam the door without fear of a fall.

QUESTION:Why is the lowest-ranking admiral called a rear admiral?

REPLY: Back in the old days, sailing fleets were divided into sections or parts. There was a pecking order, and the top admiral got to sail up front, of course. So, the low admiral on the totem pole got to bring up the rear, and hence was a rear admiral (and maybe they sat a lot, too).

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript):“Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.” -- Elvis Presley

Curious about something? Send your questions to Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, or e-mail jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to curiosity-corner.net.