Our guide in Africa warned us that he had just spotted a leopard.
I told him to quit clowning around, that leopards are spotted at birth.
Three hundred stitches later, I realized the magnitude of my error.
Amazing Histories Behind Common Words
Have you ever played a game of dice? Maybe bet a couple of dollars on a game of bunco or a family game of Yahtzee? Most of us know that little rush of adrenaline when you let go of the small cubes, hoping that they will roll in your favor. Usually, playing with dice isn’t dangerous—unless you’ve bet your entire fortune or have a sore loser in the family.
Nonetheless, “a game of dice” has long been one of the principal meanings of the word “hazard.” It was derived from the Old French word hasard, a word for all sorts of dice games. Hasard came from the Spanish azar (“an unfortunate throw of dice”).
Lexicographers are those who compile dictionaries, and they are responsible for cutting off the bloodlines of “hazard” with the Spanish. A theory that azaroriginated from the Arabic word az-zahr (“the die”) has been on the table. But since zahr doesn’t appear in any classic Arabic dictionaries, the rest of the history of “hazard” is unknown.
When the English came along, the word “hazard” suddenly meant that you were in immediate danger—and not being invited to a friendly game of dice.
Today, there are few of us who blame the stars when something goes wrong. Instead of cursing at the sky, we drunkenly rant about our bosses or yell “Bad dog! Bad dog!” until we get the strength to clean up that pile of poop.
The old Italians probably also complained about the crap that they received from dogs and bosses, but they had one major excuse when things were going south: If you were born under certain stars, you were prone to bad luck and misfortune. From that belief came the word disastrato (“born under an ill star“).
So the next time it feels like everything is going wrong, you can do one of two things: Either blame the stars, or cheer yourself up by imagining an old Italian man screaming “Bad star! Bad star!” at the sky.
Do you ever overheat your computer or phone and feel really bad about it? So bad that you plug the charger in, give the device a few gentle strokes, and put it away in a quiet corner? We are working our machines as slaves—and really, why shouldn’t we? They don’t feel fatigue or hunger, and they can’t complain about lousy work conditions.
Maybe that’s what went through Karel Capek’s head in 1920 when he gave the name “robots” to the emotionless, mass-produced workers in his play Rossum’s Universal Robots. The Czech word robotnik means “slave,” as does the Old Slavicrobu and rabota.
Next time your computer dies, be sure to remind it that it serves you and not the other way around. Let’s just remember that when the robot uprising comes, we can all blame Karel Capek for their slavery.
Some people like avocados when they’re turned into guacamole and used as a dip. Others see this fruit as God’s gift to mankind. They put it on their sandwiches, in their smoothies, basically anywhere that they can. However, for this green thing to make its way into our kitchen, it had to go through a variety of odd names.
The word “avocado” originates from the Nahuatlan word
ahuacatl, which was used interchangeably for describing the fruit and describing . . . well, testicles. To be honest, an avocado does sort of resemble a testicle. (Still feel like putting that in your smoothie?)
After being compared to a testicle for God knows how long, the word ahuacatlunderwent a series of misinterpretations. The Spanish changed ahuacatl to “aguacate,” which was then changed by the English to avogato in the 1600s.
“That sounds strangely similar to advocate,” you might think. Well, so did the rest of the 17th-century world, and suddenly, planet Earth was riddled by “advocate-pears.” And if that wasn’t enough, the Englishmen misinterpreted their own word. For a while, avocados were known as “alligator pears.”
So, what would you like to have in your salad today—a testicle, a lawyer, or a reptile?
Countless are those who have drowned their sorrows in a bottle of Scotch and those who have condemned the golden fluid. Did you know that whiskey is called “whiskey” in countries that have an “e” in their name, like Ireland, and “whisky” in countries without an “e,” such as Scotland?
Anyone who has been to Scotland or Ireland knows that the whiskey there flows almost like water. The Gaelic were well aware of this and named their favorite beverage uiscebeathadh (“water of life“). This was shortened to uisce (“water”). Try saying uisce out loud, and you’ll find that it sounds quite similar to our “whiskey.”
Maybe your liver would be happier if you drank some actual water. But if someone gets in your face about the “death in a bottle,” you have actual proof that the water of life is served on the rocks.
The mystery of the plural “pants” has fascinated us all at some point. Why more than one pant? What is a pant? Little did we know that the word actually has a fascinating background.
Some people already know that “pants” is an abbreviation of “pantaloons.” But as usual, we have to look further to find the true origin of the word. You see, the type of tight trousers that used to be called “pantaloons” were named after a famous character, much like celebrities get fashion items named after them today.
Pantaleone was his name, and this wasn’t any old trouser-wearing man. He was a well-known character in 16th-century Italian comedies. Due to his thin legs, he wore full-length tights instead of the popular knee breeches. From that came the origin of “pantaloons,” later shortened to “pants.”
But wait, there’s more! Pantaleone represented the stereotype of Venetians onstage, and he was named after a Venetian saint. The name “Pantaleone” is of ancient Greek origin, and as you might suspect, it has something to do with lions. Loosely translated, it mean “entirely lion,” which is an awesome origin for something we use to cover our legs.
It’s a gloomy afternoon. A weary guy in a leather jacket lets out a deep sigh as he sits down at an empty bar. Out of nowhere, an attractive woman leans forward and asks, “What’s your poison?”
“Whiskey,” he says. “Apparently, it’s the water of life.”
The woman gestures to a man cleaning glasses: “Two whiskeys please, on the rocks.”
In general, we do not drink poison. The word itself wakes up some primal instinct inside of us, shouting “Bad! Bad! Bad!” Considering those facts, the scenario above might seem stupid. But even if we ignore the obvious metaphor where “poison” means “drug,” we can make some sense out of it.
“Poison” is directly borrowed from the French, who rewrote the Latin wordpotionem. The Latin word first and foremost meant “a drink.” But it gathered more ominous meanings such as “magical potion” and “medicinal potion” before finally translating into “poisoned drink.”
Most of us just call it “flu”—or simply curse over the blasted thing—but the full-length word “influenza” actually carries some history on its back. It was originally Italian, where it means “influence.”
The name refers to the cause of the disease rather than the illness itself, as the old Italians had the same explanation for illnesses as for disasters. They blamed both on unfortunate astrological constellations.
Later, as medical science evolved, the meaning of the word changed from “influence of the stars” to a general term for diseases with flu-like symptoms. The Englishmen borrowed it, and as time went by, it became the name of a specific, really annoying illness.
So the next time you have a clogged nose and sore throat, you can try blaming the stars or the Italians. Neither will make the flu go away, but it might lift your spirits a little.
Speaking of spirits, is there anything worse than being forced to stand close to someone who has bad breath? Believe it or not, these two have a connection. By that, we mean that the words “spirit” and “breath” have common roots.
The English “spirit” comes from the Latin “spiritus,” which can mean “breath,” “breathing,” or “soul.” Regardless, the word is derived from spirare, which has “to breathe” as its lone translation (apart from “death”). We can even take it one step further: Spirare has its origins in an Indo-European word that means “to blow.”
So if you’re frowning at someone with bad breath and they ask what you’re staring at, just look disgusted and say, “You have a bad spirit.” It’s a perfect low-key insult. You might also gain some wizard points.
“Okay” has one of the most complicated word origins to track down. Although there are dozens of theories, nobody’s sure which one is correct. Here are some of the best suggestions:
Omnis Korrecta—Latin for “all correct.” This was used by teachers who were grading papers long before the modern grading scales were devised.
Och Aye or O Qu’oui—Scottish and French, respectively, for “Ah, yes.” It seems that the Scots and the French do have something in common after all.
“Oll Korrect”—a common misspelling of “all correct” back in the 1800s. This is a terrific example of how even great men make mistakes. Two men famous for this popular theory are Andrew Jackson, the seventh US president, and John Jacob Astor, a wealthy businessman and the first of many great John Jacob Astors. The fourth one was immortalized when he went down with the Titanic.
“Old Kinderhook”—a form of local patriotism for a presidential candidate in the 1840s. Martin Van Buren decided to use his birthplace, Kinderhook, in his presidential campaign. This earned him the nickname “Old Kinderhook,” which was shortened to “OK.” His rivals had some fun with it, though. Soon, misinterpretations like “Out of Kash” and “Orful Kalamity” were making the rounds.
Hogfor—Old English for “seaworthy.” There are many suggestions far more believable than this one, but they’re not half as much fun. You see, this word was abbreviated to “HG,” which was snapped up by Norwegian and Danish sailors. With Nordic pronunciation, it sounds similar to “hah gay.” Now try saying that out loud a few times.
Pete: "The last time I was out hunting, I stepped off a high cliff, and would you believe it, while I was falling every fool deed I'd ever done came into my mind."
Bob: "Must have been a pretty high mountain you fell from."
WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a move to make purchasing congressmen easier and faster for lobbyists, Congress voted to approve a new measure that calls for congressmen to wear barcodes on their foreheads so lobbyists, activists, and corporations can simply scan them and self-checkout.
Self-checkout machines will be installed at all exits of the Capitol Building, so once they've added congressmen to their cart, lobbyists can pay right on the way out.
Purchasing congressmen used to be a time-consuming, expensive process, said a Planned Parenthood representative. Now, we can simply walk through Congress, scan all the congressmen that are for sale, and checkout without having to interact with any humans.
We hate humans - like, a lot, the Planned Parenthood rep added.
One major military-industrial complex lobby group, Americans For Bigger Bombs, said they are also in support of the new move.
When you need to make a quick pit stop at our nation's legislative body to purchase a few congressmen to start a new war, you need to do it fast, said one AFBB lawyer. An attack on Iran can't wait while you wheel and deal, wine and dine, and negotiate endlessly. Now, I can just scan and go.
After the failure of our birth control method and my girlfriend's subsequent pregnancy, the absurdity of it all hit me:
Why do white people even try to use the rhythm method?
Quote of the Times;
The worst thing about taxes isn’t the fact that you lose money, it’s the fact that your money is used to fund a welfare state of people who hate you.
Link of the Times;
Issue of the Times;
Advice Columnist Tells Father to Evict Daughter from His House for Owning a Gun
Amy Dickinson is an advice columnist who, according to the company that syndicates her work, “combines storytelling with advice that is rooted with honesty and trust.” “Ask Amy” appears in newspapers that include The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Tribune, The Lost Angeles Times, and The Washington Post. She is also billed as an “expert on relationships.”
Dickinson may be good at telling stories, but she is hardly honest, trustworthy, or expert in matters of firearms, which she nevertheless feels free to opine on, including in an article published this week that encourages an overwrought father to evict his adult daughter for owning a pistol.
A man identified only as “DUMBFOUNDED FATHER” (who we’ll refer to as “DUMB” for short) wrote Amy to breathlessly report:
This week I discovered that my intelligent, hard-working, responsible 24-year-old daughter (who lives with me) is a gun owner! And it’s not a normal gun either — it is a .40-caliber semi-automatic, and she has hollow point bullets to go with it.
DUMB believes the handgun to be “the kind of weapon a criminal would possess!” He dismisses his daughter’s choice to keep the gun “for emergencies,” arguing that there have been “only two” home invasions in their neighborhood during the last 11 years.
DUMB goes on to tell Amy that he has ordered his daughter to relinquish the gun or move out of his house in three weeks. He admits, “I love my daughter and would be so sad for her to move into a place that she would hardly be able to afford,” but insists, “I have to lock my bedroom door at night because I don’t know what she’s going to do.”
DUMB complains that his daughter now says he doesn’t trust her and will barely speak to him, “How,” he asks Amy, “can I convince her to stop endangering us?”
Needless to say, DUMB’s question embodies a number of false assumptions, as well as a remarkably condescending attitude toward women and firearms.
First, there is nothing “not … normal” about a .40 cal. semi-automatic handgun. Semi-automatic handguns are in fact the most popular category of firearm in America today.
The .40 caliber S&W cartridge, meanwhile, was developed specifically for law enforcement use, following the FBI’s determination in the mid-1980s to replace their standard-issue .38 special revolvers with semi-automatic pistols.
Pistols chambered in the round went on to become a popular choice with law enforcement agencies across the United States, with civilians adopting them in large numbers during the Clinton “assault weapon” ban in effect from 1994 to 2004, which also imposed limits on magazine capacity.
Putting aside the technicalities, however, there is no evidence that the round – which is somewhat more expensive than other common handgun rounds – is especially popular with criminals.
Moreover, DUMB provides no information that would justify his need to lock himself into his bedroom at night to protect himself from his daughter or her firearm. That seems like a gross overreaction to a daughter he says he loves possessing a lawful and constitutionally protected firearm for emergency use. Indeed, in the event such an emergency arises, DUMB’s daughter will likely be the one protecting him.
Finally, DUMB is so irrationally fearful and controlling that he threatens to evict his daughter in three weeks unless she gets rid of the firearm, including by giving it to him. Why he thinks he is any safer with it than her is not explained, especially given his evident unfamiliarity with handguns.
DUMB’s letter is so over-the-top, in fact, that it comes across more like a parody of a narrow-minded, irrational, gun-phobic control freak than a serious question from a concerned parent.
Amy, however, not only takes the letter at face value, she ups the ante with additional misinformation and emotionalism of her own.
The very first sentence of her reply states, “According to my research, possessing hollow point bullets is illegal in 11 states; is it legal in your state to own this sort of exploding ammunition?”
Actually, only one state – New Jersey – and one city – San Francisco – bans the possession of hollow point ammunition. Amy’s “research” is completely erroneous.
And, needless to say, hollow point bullets do not “explode.” Rather, they are designed to stay intact and expand upon impact, which actually protects the safety and property of bystanders by reducing the tendency of the round to penetrate through the intended target and hit something else.
If anything, Amy’s faulty statistic would still suggest an 78% probability that the ammunition DUMB’s daughter possesses is legal. But is Amy suggesting that DUMB should solve his “problem” by seeking to have his own daughter arrested?
Next, Amy cites additional “research” which she claims shows that since 1980, the number of guns has risen in America, while the percentage of households with a firearm has fallen, concentrating the guns into fewer homes. “Why,” she asks irrelevantly, “must your household be one of them?”
Amy then starts casting aspersions on the daughter. “Where did your daughter get this weapon and ammunition?” she asks. “Is she perhaps engaged in another activity outside of your household that exposes her to increased risks and makes her believe she needs to have a weapon?”
Rather than chide DUMB for overreacting to the common, presumptively lawful, and constitutionally protected conduct of his daughter, Amy tries to terrify him even further with a single, non-representative anecdote. “I have news for you,” she warns. “A locked bedroom door is no match for this weaponry; as I write this, just five days ago a father in South Carolina tragically shot and killed his own 23-year-old daughter through a closed door — when he mistook her for an intruder.”
Of course, family members have also been known to tragically back over each other with their cars.
But those highly unusual and infrequent events do not suggest an intelligent and responsible 24-year-old woman cannot handle a firearm (or automobile) safely.
Ultimately, Amy encourages DUMB to enforce his “ultimatum,’ adding, “I also weep that there is yet another (likely unsafe) gun owner in this country.”
Again, DUMB’s letter provides absolutely no reason to suggest his daughter is an unsafe gun owner. Like DUMB himself, Amy apparently just assumes that a young woman – even an intelligent and responsible one – is incompetent to handle a firearm.
For an “expert” on relationships, Amy also seems unusually quick to suggest a father throw a beloved daughter out of his home for taking the responsible, adult step of seeing to her own protection. Worse, she advocates this potentially life-altering course of action based on poor research, false assumptions, and faulty reasoning.
Indeed, the advice Amy gives to DUMB is startlingly at odds with the advice she typically gives to family members who disagree with their relatives’ lifestyle and choices; more often she counsels empathy and tolerance, rather than condemnation and alienation.
The irony here is that bad advice delivered by an incompetent researcher with no appreciation of her own ignorance or bias is the only real danger in this situation.
But we’re told DUMB’s daughter is intelligent, hardworking, responsible … and well-armed.
Something tells us she’ll do just fine on her own.