Categories
Uncategorized

Week of May 29, 2022

Wolf Down These Facts

Sunday

The story of “The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf,” that timeless cautionary tale to liars and false alarmists, actually goes back to Classical antiquity.

Monday

Fans of werewolves (or maybe Harry Potter) know they are sometimes called “lycanthropes.” This derives from the grizzly Greek mythological Legend of Lycaon, who angered the god Zeus by serving him a meal made with the remains of a human boy. Lycaon was punished when he and his sons were turned into wolves.

Tuesday

They’re called “werewolves” because of the obsolete Old English word “wer” meant “man,” so “werewolf” means “man wolf.”

Wednesday

Domesticated sheep are famously mild and docile, and wild wolves (who often eat livestock) are less so, so the image of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” whether literally or as a metaphor for deceptive people, appears in both Aesop’s fables and the New Testament.

Thursday

The scientist who coined the term “alpha wolf” for the leader (or leading couple) of the pack later abandoned the term. What was called the alpha male and alpha female are the sole breeding pair in the pack, and did not necessarily get the job by fighting or physical dominance, as the name implies.

Friday

You might have heard of a defeated or embarrassed person said to “slink off with his tail between his legs.” Tail position communicates a lot in the animal world, especially with wolves, where down-pointing and tucked tail position is used by the lowest-ranking pack members.

Saturday

For all the human fear of wolves, fatal wolf attacks are exceedingly rare. In all of North America, for example, there have been only two documented deadly wolf attacks since 1970.

Categories
Uncategorized

Week of May 22, 2022

Stocking Up

Sunday

There are many individual stock markets throughout the world, but by volume and total value, the largest is the NewYork Stock Exchange.

Monday

Why are these large animals fighting on Wall Street? A “bull market” is one which is on the rise with stocks increasing in value, while a “bear market” is one of falling stock values, generally a loss of at least 20% below a recent peak. The traditional explanation of invoking these animals relates to how each strikes in battle: a bull thrusts horns upward at an opponent, while a bear swipes its mighty claws downward.

Tuesday

The Nasdaq is the world’s second largest stock market after the NYSE, was fully electronic since its creation in 1971, and tends to trade more tech-intensive and growth-focused stocks.

Wednesday

Business partners Charles Dow and Edward Jones created the Dow Jones in 1896. It is an index of thirty established and consistently-earning companies, traded on both the NYSE and Nasdaq, which serve as a proxy for the broader economy.

Thursday

Another common index is the “S & P 500,” which includes the largest 500 stocks from the NYSE and Nasdaq. S & P is for Standard and Poor’s, a company formed from the 1941 merger of Poor’s Publishing and the Standard Statistic’s Bureau, companies which had been publishing credit ratings, financial data, and market indicators. The McGraw-Hill Company later bought S&P in 1966.

Friday

A stock’s shortened “ticker symbol,” such as “MSFT” for Microsoft Corporation, is named for the pre-digital days when stock prices appeared on ticker tape, a practice which began in 1867.

Saturday

In a three-year period starting in October 1929, the US stock market lost nearly 90% of its value, leading to the Great Depression.

Categories
Uncategorized

Week of May 15, 2022

That’s So Metal

Sunday

“Top brass,” which now indicates the highest-level leaders in an organization, is based on the metal decorations used by officers in European militaries.

Monday

The Bronze Age, which lasted from about 3300-1200BC in the Fertile Crescent, was called that because earlier stone tools were replaced with bronze in many Middle Eastern civilizations. Copper had long been in use by that time, but the addition of tin to make the stronger alloy bronze brought these civilizations out of the “Stone Age” and was followed by the “Iron Age.”

Tuesday

In the classic film “The Wizard of Oz,” the Tin Man is first encountered when immobile with rust, and is thereafter afraid of watery things. However, tin does not rust. Only iron, or metals containing iron, rust.

Wednesday

Winston Churchill coined the term “Iron Curtain” to describe the post-WWII divide between more open democracies in western Europe and the more closed-off Soviet-controlled states.

Thursday

“Tin Pan Alley” refers to types dance music, ballads, and vaudeville songs that began in the late 19th century and were named for the “tin pan” sound of pianos as the musicians promoted the songs for the concentration of music publishers originally found on 28th Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Friday

Only one metal – mercury – also bears the name of a planet and a Roman god. Unfortunately for we mortals, that planet is uninhabitable and that metal is toxic.

Saturday

An accident with real metal played a major role in the birth of heavy metal music. At age 17, future Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi was working as an industrial welder. Assigned to an unfamiliar guillotine-type machine one day, he lost the tips of two fingers in an accident and nearly gave up playing guitar. However, he created his own prosthetics and changed his playing style to accommodate them. This became the deeper, darker sound associated with this pioneering band and the heavy metal genre as a whole.

Categories
Uncategorized

Week of May 8, 2022

It’s All Greek to Me, pt. V

Sunday

“Dinosaur” is derived from the Greek words for “thunder lizard.”

Monday

The name of the water-loving hippopotamus comes from the Greek words for “river horse.”

Tuesday

And “rhinoceros”, fittingly, is Greek for “nose horn.”

Wednesday

“Helium” comes from the Greek “helios” or “sun,” which is full of helium, and is the name of the sun god.

Thursday

“Acrobat” derives from the Greek works for “edge” and “to walk / tread.”

Friday

The three Charities (or Graces) in Greek mythology originated the word “charity.”

Saturday

“Cemetery” derives from the Greek word for “sleeping place.”

Categories
Uncategorized

Week of May 1, 2022

Piping Hot Factoids

Sunday

Plans unlikely to be realized are called “pipe dreams” in a reference to the dreams experienced by opium users, since this drug was often smoked with a pipe.

Monday

Saying “pipe down” to encourage quiet seems to trace back to an officer ordering that a pipe whistle be blown on old sailing ships to either have the crew go to sleep or go below deck after a disturbance.

Tuesday

In an apparent reference to multi-piped musical instruments such as bagpipes and organ, a person with a “set of pipes” has a strong speaking or singing voice.

Wednesday

Despite being traditionally associated with Scotland, the bagpipes were likely introduced to Scotland by the Romans, with roots in ancient Egypt before that.

Thursday

“Pied” in Old English meant multicolored, so in the legend of The Pied Piper, the musician was wearing an outfit of many colors.

Friday

The term “pay the piper,” meaning to finally face consequences, is related to this same legend. When the townspeople of Hamelin reneged on their promise to pay the piper who lured the rats out of their town, he took an awful revenge by luring their children away.

Saturday

Water pipes made of lead, as they had been for decades, are now known to be a serious health hazard. In the US, lead pipes are restricted by federal law and hundreds of millions of dollars have been set aside to replace old lead pipes.