Visit A&E Television's online store.

  Issue 167, page 4

Search Home FAQ Links Site map Book Store


New Ask Us Theory About
Sez You...

From Richard Scott:

Just found your site, and I AM impressed. I was looking for Red Ingles Serutan Yob, and you had one of the best documents about it I have found. Your site is now on my permanent list, and is going out to the Bozos (email group I started a million years ago), as a resource.  PLEASE keep up the good work!

[blush] Thank you!

From Paul Burns:

Mica is a thin sheet of mineral that is found pressed together in books.  Thin layers are translucent. It is used as peephole windows on boilers because of its ability to withstand heat. It is also used for insulation and electrical components.

It is called isenglass when used as a boiler window. My guess is the surrey had small port holes of isenglass to look out of on rainy days when the side walls would be down, and not of isinglass which would only be handy if they decided to decant elderberry wine on their picnic or wanted to catch catfish at the ol' swimmin' hole.

From Ralph Pinkerton:

If Mr. Little had gone to a good encyclopedia he would have found that isinglass is the name for two very different substances. The surrey curtains would have been manufactured from mica which can be processed into thin, translucent sheets that can be "rolled right up". Mica was also in the old living room stoves as it could take the heat. On a cold winter's day it was great sitting with your feet up on the fender watching the flame through the isinglass window.

From 'beth Hayes:

Isinglas is still available to the mineral collecting public from Ruggles Mine in Grafton, New Hampshire. Of course, the mine is below Isinglass Mountain.

Isinglass (or mica) was originally taken from the mine and used for the little window in wood-burning stoves, lamp chimneys and surrey windows. 

We seem to recall that Oscar Hammerstein, who wrote the lyric, chose the word for its quaint, archaic flavor without really knowing what it meant.  (The only spelling, no matter the meaning, is isinglass.)

From Gene Fellner:

I just discovered your marvelous website, so forgive me if some of my comments are on older topics. At least I'm reading the archives backwards, so I know that my questions weren't already asked and answered. It's a relief to find a charming oasis of proper writing and sheer love of language.

Choosing the right plural ending for a word that has passed through multiple borrowings: My dear friend, Prof. Richard Dolen, insists that if the plural of opus is opera, then the plural of walrus must be walrera.

Words borrowed from the Afghanis: In his novel, "Caravans," James Michener states that the people of Afghanistan inexplicably fixated on the English word, foreigner. They could never reconcile the spelling with the sound, so they always pronounced it as "ferengi." Gene Roddenberry borrowed the word and introduced the Ferengi, arguably the most entertaining alien species in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and its sequels. 

Lobelias: They couldn't possibly be named after an 18th Century botanist. Frodo Baggins had an aunt, Lobelia Baggins, in "Lord of the Rings," which as we all know takes place several millennia earlier.

Wisteria/Wistaria: Some authorities claim that the genus really is spelled Wistaria, and we just mispronounce it. (Like saying "poinsetta" instead of "poinsettia.") Who's right?

Overcorrection by leaving all pronouns in the nominative: People who talk that way would feel at home in Jamaica, where it's a matter of individual taste and mood in either the nominative or accusative position, e.g., "Them tell I to go." You often hear "I and I" instead of "we."

Synecdoche - isn't that a city in upstate New York?

How to give a cat a pill: On a serious note, a device called a "piller" was invented many years ago. Its operation is roughly similar to a syringe. It doesn't upset the cat nearly as much as sticking a giant human finger in his mouth, and it deposits the pill so far back that it has nowhere to go but down. Quick and painless for both parties.

The reason you gave for calling female dogs promiscuous doesn't do them justice. When a bitch is in estrus, she will mate with every available male during that one cycle. It's quite possible for each puppy in the litter to have a different father. Not knowing which is which, all the males have a paternal instinct toward the whole litter and protect them from the pack's bullies, giving them a better chance of growing up. A bitch's "promiscuity" is actually a survival trait for her genes.

Thank you for your kind words and interesting comments.  It's James Michener's fixations that are inexplicable, not those of the Afghanis. Ferengi is borrowed from Arabic and is quite unrelated to the English word foreigner. In fact, it dates from the crusades and is a version of Frank, the name of the Teutonic tribe that occupied France.

From Dan Schechner:

This morning on The Weather Channel, one of the resident forecasters stated that there was a possibility of a scattered shower. To be scattered, shouldn't there be more than one shower, or at least intermittent ones? 

Actually, the vaguest forecast I've ever heard was, a possibility of widely scattered showers in some areas. Can one hedge any more than that? 

Yes, that is a bit silly, isn't it.  It's rather difficult to scatter one thing, even if it is a shower!  What a 20 percent probability of rain actually means is that 20 percent of the forecast area will get rain, not that each location has a twenty percent chance of rain (this from resident meteorologist Melanie).  She does have to say that the latter phrase, though noncommittal on its face, can actually be an accurate forecast!

Do you enjoy reading Take Our Word For It?  Give us a small token of your appreciation and help keep the site running by making a donation.  It's easy, and you can pay via credit card.  To donate, just click the button.

From Phillip Valdez:

I saw an email from a friend about the origin of the word "shit." His version refers to the word as an acronym. When goods were shipped all over, one cargo was dried manure. It was found that if the manure was transported at the bottom of the ship, leaked in water would hit the manure and the manure would ferment and produce methane. After a while, the whole cargo bay would fill with methane and sometimes come in contact with open flames and disaster. So to fix this problem, they stamped the cargo with the acronym S.H.I.T. "Ship High in Transit."

Wanting to get a more detailed story, I came across your site. I was wondering if there was some truth to this story or just like the urban myth of the word "f*ck." thanks 

Yep... pure S.H.I.T.  We do discuss this word elsewhere.


Or read last week's issue to see what all of these people are talking about!

Comments, additions? Send to Melanie & Mike:
Copyright 1995-
2002 TIERE
Last Updated 08/23/02 10:21 PM