dog days of summer are upon us. The heat in the east has been
oppressive and at times downright unbearable—unless you have air
conditioning, and or a pool, and the ability to transport to the
Aleutians. The humid heat is annoying because every time I step out of
my car into the volcanic winds, my glasses fog up. My ice cream melts
before I get it home from the grocery store, and on one hot day, the
bacon sizzled itself on the drive home. It’s been hot, pretty much
everywhere in the United States.
But now that it’s August, we can
look forward to fall. For writers, fall is a great time. I purchase
office supplies along with the kids’ school supplies. There’s nothing
like fresh legal pads and pens, pencils and Post-it Notes. And I get
fresh ideas for new books. Let me be the first to wish you a much
needed and productive autumn season.
Toward that end and in honor of
your new projects, I compiled a list of interesting facts (I think this
stuff is true!).
• The dollar symbol ($) is a U
combined with an S (U.S.).
• The slogan on New Hampshire license plates is “Live Free or Die.”
These plates are manufactured by prisoners in Concord.
• Drinking straws were probably invented by Egyptian brewers to drink
beer without removing the fermenting ingredients, which floated on the
top of the container.
• The United States government keeps its supply of silver at the U.S.
Military Academy at West Point, NY.
• There are only thirteen blimps in the world.
• Nine of the thirteen blimps are in the United States.
• The biggest blimp is the Fuji Film blimp.
• Naugahyde, plastic “leather,” was created in Naugatuck, Connecticut.
• The word pound is abbreviated lb. after the
constellation Libra, which is Latin for “pound” or “scales.” The
abbreviation for the British pound sterling comes from the same source:
it is an L for Libra/Lb. with a stroke through it to indicate
• The monastic hours are matins, lauds, prime, tierce, sext, nones,
vespers, and compline.
• No animal, once frozen solid survives when thawed, because the ice
crystals formed inside cells break open the cell membranes. However,
certain frogs can survive being frozen. They make special proteins that
prevent the formation of ice (or at least keep the crystals from
becoming large), so that they actually never freeze, even though their
body temperature is below zero Celsius. The water in them remains
liquid, a phenomenon known as supercooling. If you disturb these frogs
(even touching), the water quickly freezes and they die.
• The white part of your fingernail is called the lunula.
• It is believed that Shakespeare was forty-six around the time the
King James Version of the Bible was written. In Psalm 46, the
forty-sixth word from the first word is shake and
the forty-sixth word from the last word is spear.
• The word posh, which denotes luxurious rooms or
accommodations, originated when ticket agents in England marked the
tickets of travelers going by ship to the Orient. Since there was no
air conditioning in those days, it was always better to have a cabin on
the shady side of the ship as it passed through the Mediterranean and
Suez areas. Since the sun is in the south, the wealthy who were
traveling to the Asia paid extra to get cabins on the left, or port,
and when returning to Europe on the right, or starboard. Hence, their
tickets were marked with the initials for Port Outbound Starboard
Homebound, or POSH.
• Kaiser Wilhelm II had a withered arm and often hid it by posing with
his hand resting on a sword, or by holding gloves.
• A kind of tortoise in the Galapagos Islands has an upturned shell at
its neck so it can reach its head up to eat cactus branches.
• When a coffee seed is planted, it takes five years to yield its first
• Des Moines has the highest per capita Jell-O consumption in the U.S.
• The westernmost point in the contiguous United States is Cape Alava,
• Only three animals have blue tongues: the black bear, the Chow Chow,
and the blue-tongued lizard.
• Pinocchio is Italian for “pine head.”
• The infinity sign is called a lemniscate.
• Most American car horns beep in the key of F.
• The ball on top of a flagpole is called the truck.
• The Madagascan hissing cockroach is one of the few insects who give
birth to live young rather than laying eggs.
• The name Jeep came from the abbreviation used in the army for the
“general purpose” (GP) vehicle.
• The little lump of flesh just forward of your ear canal, right next
to your temple, is called a tragus.
• Murphy’s Oil Soap is the chemical most commonly used to clean
• The United States has never lost a war in which mules were used.
• No squirrels inhabited Nantucket until 1989.
The ridges on the sides of coins are called reeding.
• Roman emperor Caligula made his horse a senator.
• At latitude 60 degrees south, you can sail all the way around the
• Sunbeams that shine down through the clouds are called crespucular
• Very small clouds that look like they’ve broken off of bigger clouds
are called scuds.
• The correct response to the Irish greeting “Top of the morning to
you” is “and the rest of the day to yourself.”
• Giraffes have no vocal cords.
• The Chinese ideogram for trouble symbolizes two
women living under one roof.
• No word in the English language rhymes with month.
• Anne Boleyn had six fingernails on one hand.
• Woodward Ave. in Detroit, Michigan, carries the designation M-1, so
named because it was the first paved road anywhere.
• The only person ever to decline a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was
Sinclair Lewis for his book Arrowsmith.
• Isaac Asimov is the only author to have a book in every Dewey decimal
• Leonardo da Vinci invented the scissors.
• Ham radio operators got the term ham from the
expression “ham-fisted operators,” a term used to describe early radio
users who sent Morse code (i.e. pounded their fists).
• Dudley Do-Right’s horse’s name was Horse.
• Nutmeg is extremely poisonous if injected intravenously.
• The expression What in tarnation comes from “What
in eternal damnation.”
• Winston Churchill was born in a ladies’ room during a dance.
• The housefly hums in the middle octave, key of F.
• The two lines that connect your top lip to the bottom of your nose
are known as the philtrum.
• Facetious and abstemious contain all the vowels in the correct order.
• The name Wendy was made up for the book Peter
• Hummingbirds are the only animals able to fly backward.
• Al Capone’s business card said he was a used-furniture dealer.
• Cockroaches’ favorite food is the glue on envelopes and on the back
of postage stamps.
• Cranberries are sorted for ripeness by bouncing them. Fully ripened
cranberries can be dribbled like a basketball.
• A “jiffy” is 1/100th of a second.
• Virginia Woolf wrote all her books while standing.
• Cleopatra used pomegranate seeds for lipstick.
• First novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer.
By the way, I found this here:
Prayers of Agnes
Sparrow has been selected as one of the top five Christian
Inspirational titles of 2009 by Library Journal.