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Why is “colonel” pronounced “kurnel”?

April 10, 2017 | Posted in Language

Colonel is merely the English form of Italian colonello, diminutive of colonna, “column,” and literally means “little column.” At first the little column or company at the head of a regiment was called colonello, which in the course of time was transferred to the leader or commander of the column or regiment. The term passed …

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Was Cleopatra a blonde or brunette?

April 9, 2017 | Posted in Celebrities

There is just as much reason for supposing that Cleopatra was a blonde as there is for supposing that she was a brunette. According to the popu­lar conception, she was a decided brunette, with dark skin, dark eyes and dark hair, and she is frequently referred to as the “dark queen of Egypt.” But historical …

Why is a football field called the gridiron?

April 8, 2017 | Posted in Football

A gridiron is a grated utensil on which food is broiled over a fire. Hence, figuratively, any network, as of pipes, railway tracks, etc., is called a gridiron. The term was applied to a football field because it is rectangu­lar in shape and is traversed every five yards by white lines, which produce a gridiron …

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How many bees are there in a hive?

April 7, 2017 | Posted in Zoology

Authorities differ widely on the number of honeybees comprising a hive or colony. It has been estimated that a swarm of bees when it leaves the mother hive constitutes from one thousand to six thousand bees. A colony of bees has its maximum population during the time of storing surplus honey. Then a good colony, …

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Why is a ten-cent piece called a dime?

April 6, 2017 | Posted in Language

Dime is derived from the Latin decem (“ten”) or decimus (“a tenth”). In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries dime was applied in England to the tithe or tenth part of one’s income paid to the church. According to the King James Version of the Bible, the last part of Genesis 14:20 reads, “He gave him …

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Which is correct, “Haiti” or “Santo Domingo”?

April 5, 2017 | Posted in Geography

Opinion differs whether the second largest West Indian island, which comprises the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, should be called Santo Domingo or Haiti. It is very difficult to fix an official name for any territory occupied by more than one nation except through international agreement. The inhabitants of the Dominican Republic naturally …

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When does a town become a city?

April 4, 2017 | Posted in Commentary

Town and city in the sense of an urban community are relative terms and hard to distinguish exactly. In the most general sense of the terms, a city is merely a municipality with a larger population than a town. There is no uniformity in the legal characteristics of cities and towns throughout the United States …

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What is meant by the black ox?

April 3, 2017 | Posted in Language

The black ox symbolizes old age, ill luck, care, adversity or trouble and misfortune in general. “The black ox has not trod on his nor her foot” is a proverbial expression recorded as early as 1546 by John Hey­wood. It means that one does not know the meaning of sorrow, such as having been visited …

Do bees know their master?

April 2, 2017 | Posted in Zoology

Entomologists hold that there is nothing to the common notion that honeybees recognize the beekeeper and distinguish him from other individuals. Although some of the bees hatched late in the fall survive the winter, the average life of a worker during the active honey season is only about six weeks, two of which are spent …

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How did “not worth a tinker’s damn” originate?

April 1, 2017 | Posted in Language

There is a difference of opinion as to whether the last word in this phrase was originally dam or damn. A tinker’s dam, according to Web­ster’s International dictionary, is a wall of soft mud, clay, dough or the like, raised around a spot that a plumber wishes to cover with solder. The material of the …