Week of February 20, 2022

You Crack Me Up


“Crackpot” derives from the term “cracked” for faulty and “pot” as short for brain, head, or skull. Notably, there is a town in England called “Crackpot,” but it was named from Norse words and is not related to the current meaning.


Crack cocaine, which is powder cocaine processed into a smokeable crystal form, has that name from the crackling sound heard during the heating and smoking of the stuff.


A disappointing thing is “not all its cracked up to be” because in an older meaning, the word “crack” means banter, news, or gossip. In other words, it’s not all it’s talked up to be.


One of history’s most famous fractures, on the Liberty Bell, is largely deliberate. When a small crack appeared in the bell, metalworkers employed “stop drilling” in 1846 and intentionally widened it to prevent further cracking and preserve the bell’s original tone. When yet another crack appeared, the bell was permanently retired from ringing.


The term “cracker” was first applied in 1801 to a batch of long-lasting biscuits popular amongst seamen that was accidentally burnt, causing baker Josiah Bent to hear their characteristic cracking noises and apply the name.


“The Nutcracker” is a holiday staple ballet that many dance companies draw reliable income from, but it was originally unsuccessful in 1892. Tchaikovsky’s music from the ballet had better success on its own, however, and even he found the ballet’s first performance dull.


Before the name was attached to the popcorn and peanut snack, the term “cracker jack” referred to things of high quality.