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Week of January 15, 2023

Train Your Mind Well

Sunday

Need to “let off (or blow off) some steam”? So did early locomotives when their boilers built up dangerous pressure, hence the safety valve and origin of this term.

Monday

Sidetracks are where trains get diverted off the main line for whatever reason, and also the origin of the term for a diversion from a goal among humans.

Tuesday

The term “Hell on Wheels” has railroad origins, and referred to the transient, moving towns that traveled with the westbound construction of the US railroad, attracting the business of the young railroad workers with saloons, gambling, and brothels.

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Week of January 15, 2023

Loosen Yours and Consume More Facts

Sunday

Belts are old. The earliest known belt worn on a person was used in the Bronze Age, which was from about 1200-33oo BC.

Monday

In the US, the “Rust Belt” is an area which includes parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin, and by some accounts Iowa, Kentucky, and Massachusetts. The abundance of iron ore, coal, and natural waterways for transport once made this region a powerful manufacturing center. However, beginning in the 1950s, foreign competition, increased mechanization that replaced workers, increased labor costs, and other causes led to a decline in the region’s industries and population. The name began when presidential candidate Walter Mondale claimed his opponent Ronald Reagan’s trade policies would turn this area into a “rust bowl” (a reference to the “Dust Bowl” of Great Depression times), but “Rust Belt” ended up sticking instead. The US has many other belts, after all, including the Corn Belt, Sun Belt, and Bible Belt.

Tuesday

Though the colors between them and symbolism vary among traditions, each martial art which uses a belt ranking system starts with white and ends with black (although there are degrees of black belt).

Wednesday

On a much larger scale, an asteroid belt circles our sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Although comprised of millions of space rocks of various sizes, the mass of all these combined would still be only 3% that of Earth’s moon.

Thursday

US federal government activities and politicking in the Washington DC metro area are often described as “Inside the Beltway” because this region is surrounded by interstate highways I-495 and I-95, which form a loop known as “The Capital Beltway.”

Friday

While lap-only seat belts were first invented for horse-drawn vehicles, it would be 51 years after the first Ford Model T arrived that the modern 3-point lap/body seat belt appeared in Volvos. By the time inventor Nils Bohlin died in 2002, his concept was estimated to have saved one million lives.

Saturday

Normally one method of keeping one’s pants up is sufficient, so taking a “belt and suspenders” approach to anything indicates extreme safety and caution.

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Week of January 8, 2023

This Week is the Site’s Blue Period

Sunday

The term “blue blood” has some unfortunate racist baggage. It is derived literally from “sangre azul,” a term previously used for the old aristocratic families of Castile whose veins were visible under pale skin because they had not mixed with the Moors, Jews, or other darker-complexion groups of middle-ages Spain.

Monday

A steadfastly loyal or dedicated person is “true blue” because the 17th-century fabric dyers of Coventry, England were known for using blue dye which didn’t fade with washing, staying “true” or “fast.” Over time, the saying “True as Coventry blue” was shortened to just “true blue.”

Tuesday

“Blue Monday,” which is the third Monday in January, is supposedly the saddest day of the year, since it is in the middle of the dark, cold winter, the holiday fun is over, but the holiday bills are starting to arrive.

Wednesday

All blue-eyed people are descended from a single individual who experienced a mutation that caused his or her descendants to have less melanin in their eyes, making them appear lighter. This person lived in Europe between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.

Thursday

The blue whale is not just the largest creature to live on Earth now, but the largest ever known to have lived on Earth.

Friday

The phrase “between the devil and the deep blue sea” derives from translations from other phrases which also indicate choosing between two awful options, including “between damnation and drowning,” “between the devil and the Dead Sea,” “between the sledgehammer and the anvil,” and “a precipice in front, wolves behind.” By some accounts, “the devil” describes a the area “between the deck planking and the topmost plank of the ship’s side,” or a deck’s edge, still a dangerous place.

Saturday

99 years ago, the “Feather River Bulletin” of Quincy, California, declared “If we may call professions and office positions white collar jobs, we may call the trades blue collar jobs.” Blue denim, dungarees, and lighter gingham fabric had long been preferred among manual laborers for their durability, not to mention that darker colors didn’t show stains as readily and thus needed less washing.

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Week of January 1, 2022

Facts That Are Fit to Be Tied

Sunday

The convention of categorizing athletic players as “first string, second string, etc.” goes back to the medieval archer’s practice of carrying backup strings for their bow in case the first string broke.

Monday

Purse strings tighten or loosen the opening of a traditional pouch purse, so one who “controls the purse strings” has authority to dictate finances as they see fit.

Tuesday

Fabric merchants of old times marked flaws in their material for sale by tying a string to the imperfect spot. Hence to get something without condition is to receive it “no strings attached.”

Wednesday

A person who “pulls the strings” controls people or events, often unbeknownst to others. This term originates with marionette puppetry, where characters were controlled by hidden puppeteers holding the strings.

Thursday

Stringed instruments go back to at least 2,550BC, the date of the first known lyre found in 1929 in modern day Iraq.

Friday

String theory, in a very simplified sense, suggests that the various forces among subatomic particles could interact in a more theoretically cohesive way if the particles were conceptualized as vibrating strings instead of individual points.

Saturday

Unsurprisingly, strings are old. Man-made strings found in a cave in southeast France date back 90,000 years.

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Week of December 25, 2022

Everydayus Latin, pt. 6

Sunday

“Prima facia” means “at first appearance / view.”

Monday

“In absentia” means “while absent.”

Tuesday

“Que sera, sera” means “whatever will be, will be.”

Wednesday

“Post mortem” means “after death.”

Thursday

“Rigor mortis” means “the stiffness of death.”

Friday

“Sine qua non” means “that without, not,” but can be better understood as “the essential thing.”

Saturday

“In vino veritas” means “in wine there is truth.”