Issue 118, page 1
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CORRECT. The X performed double-duty as it both symbolized the cross of Christ and resembled the Greek letter Chi, first letter of Christos. See our discussion of this practice.
CORRECT. See our discussion of how that buck came to refer to an American dollar.
Hmm... Actually, the host would be the first to drink wine poured from the container that would be used to fill everyone else's glasses. This dates back to ancient Greece. The Romans adopted the practice, as well. Everyone raised their glasses (drinking vessels) to the host after he'd drunk and they'd been served. Clinking the drinking vessels probably did emerge from this custom. As an aside, the Romans put burnt toast in their wine - charcoal can rehabilitate a bad wine fairly well, and burnt toast was the charcoal of choice, according to one source. Our word toast in the drinking sense comes from this custom. The Latin word was tostus "roasted". John Ayto says that gentlemen of the 16th century often drank to the health of a lady, and in doing so would say that the lady's name flavored their wine better than toast did.
CORRECT. Thomas Drummond, a royal engineer from Scotland, invented the Drummond light for use while performing land surveys, and it was soon adapted for use in lighthouses. He had died before the light was first used in the theater in 1840, when the Drummond light came to be known as the limelight.
CORRECT. As an aside, SOS,
the Morse code for "help", does not stand for "save our
ship" or anything else. It was chosen over CQD because
it was easy to remember (three dots and three dashes). CQD
came from CQ, a general Morse code sequence indicating that a
message would follow, plus D for "danger".
This sounds awfully suspect to Melanie, our resident meteorologist. First, how would the general public know that the highest clouds are in "group nine", especiallly back in the 19th century when this phrase originated? Another source gives a similar explanation, stating that cloud nine was the cumulonimbus. However, in meteorology, the cumulonimbus is considered a low level cloud as its base is quite low. Cirrus are the highest clouds. Further, there's no cloud numbering system that goes to nine; in general, meteorologists recognize low-level, mid-level, and high-level clouds. Actually, it seems that cloud nine's predecessor was cloud seven, and some suggest that cloud seven derives from seventh heaven. How it became cloud nine is anyone's guess, and one of those guesses is that nine was simply more, and therefore better, than seven. The term cloud nine may have been popularized in the U.S. by a 1950s radio show called Johnny Dollar. The hero was apparently taken to cloud nine every time he was knocked out cold. On cloud nine he regained consciousness.
Quite unlikely. Instead, this is one of those spurious etymologies we love so well! It certainly makes sense that the French might call a zero score "an egg", just as we might say "a goose egg" for the same thing. However, love in this sense goes back to at least the 18th century, when it was applied to many games other than tennis. The OED thinks it is the same love as the romantic one, and another source suggests that it comes from the phrase play for love. While we find that explanation lacking, we must stress that there is no proof that love "zero score" comes from French l'oeuf. Also, to add insult to injury, the creator of this lovely little e-mail blames Americans for corrupting l'oeuf into love, but it did not originate in America.
There's no real foundation for this explanation, either. The word pygg, which eventually became pig, referring to an earthenware container, became obsolete in the 19th century. Piggy bank doesn't make an appearance until almost 100 years later, in the 1940s. One source notes that banks in the shape of pigs first turned up in about 1909. If they were already being called pigs (from pygg) before they were made in the shape of a pig, we should have an earlier record of the term.
Mary had nothing to do with caddie being the name of a golfer's assistant. The word was first applied to golf in the early to mid-19th century! Mary had been long dead. It is true, however, that it does come from cadet (17th century). It originally meant just that - "cadet". Later it came to mean "errand boy" and that is probably how it came to be applied to a golfer's assistant.
Hey, that was fun!
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Last Updated 05/02/01 09:00 PM