You Didn’t Really Mean That

Dictionary

Words and phrases that don’t mean what you think they do

The truth about fireflies

Starting with the insects: Fireflies are not flies but flying beetles with luminous tails, and glow-worms are closely related to them, being the larvae of four different kinds of luminescent beetles (but flightless ones).

Serious sea creatures

Misnomers abound in the ocean too: starfish aren’t fish at all; they’re echinoderms, boneless creatures with a hard outer shell, like sea urchins and sand dollars. And jellyfish aren’t fish either; they’re cnidarians—the perfect otherworldly name for these gelatinous alien forms with drifting tentacles. On the other hand, electric eels apparently really are fish—they’re close relatives of boring old varieties like carp and catfish.

Guinea pigs

I can’t possibly name all the misnamed animals further up the food chain. But here are a few favorites: Neither flying foxes nor flying squirrels fly; they hop and glide instead. Guinea pigs are neither pigs nor from Guinea; they’re rodents that originated in the Andes where they’re considered a delicacy (yep, they’re food in Peru). The cuddly koala bear, symbol of Australia is not only not a bear, it’s a marsupial. Mountain goats are actually antelopes. But sometimes scientists do change their minds about this stuff: until recently the giant panda was considered a relative of the raccoon, but now researchers have placed it back in the bear family.

Faux chocolate

In the man-made category, white chocolate isn’t chocolate at all; it’s mainly flavored cocoa butter and cream. But head cheese has nothing to do with milk products; it’s made of chopped pork or beef scraps in an aspic jelly.

In the international food hall

Then there’s the question of where foods are from. French fries are probably from 17th century Belgium. Recipes for French toast is first recorded in the Middle Ages, well before there was a France, and the French themselves call it ‘pain perdu’ or lost bread—probably because it’s a good way to use up those stale scraps which would otherwise be lost. Jerusalem artichokes are neither artichokes nor from Jerusalem. They proliferate everywhere from Canada to Florida, but nowhere near the Middle East. Some say the name is derived from ‘girasole,’ or sunflower in Italian. German chocolate cake is reportedly from 19th century America, invented by a man with the last name German. And Danish pastries are actually Austrian in origin.

Giving credit where it’s not due

Pythagoras was by no means the first to come up with the theorem that allows us to solve for the sides of a right triangle: the Babylonians, ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Indians all recorded their own versions of it hundreds of years before him. Chinese checkers are neither checkers nor from China; they were invented in Germany in the late 19th century. Authentic Panama hats are made in Ecuador but were first marketed and sold in Panama. And Arabic numerals were first used in India.

Hitting the right note

Musical misnomers form their own small special category: Both the French horn and the English horn are really variants of the German horn. The name Jews harp is a corruption of ‘jaws harp,’ since the instrument is gripped between the teeth while being played. Violin strings are known as catgut but they’re really made from the intestines of sheep.

Islands in the stream

America has no monopoly on misleading names. For example, London’s Isle of Dogs isn’t really an island; it’s a spit of land jutting out into the Thames and surrounded by water on three sides. The Canary Islands do have lots of canaries but they also once had a lot of wild dogs, so the name is actually a corruption of canis, meaning dog in Latin.

A question of numbers

The Thousand Days’ War in Colombia was 1,130 days long. The Hundred Years’ War between England and France went on for 116 years. And there are 1,864 islands in the Thousand Islands archipelago along the U.S.-Canadian border. But the Thirty Years’ War in central Europe really did only last 30 years.

Close but no cigar

Lastly, I just can’t leave out our favorite misnomer: however hard you may howl when you hit it, your funny bone is the ulnar nerve, not a bone.

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Flash Fiction #85

Hourglass

PHOTO PROMPT – © Sandra Crook

DUMBSDAY

That there cockeyed hourglass were put up there coupla years ago by Mr. Lillington….excuse me, Doctor Arnold Lillington, ass-tronomer.  Silly old coot.  Crazy as that Doc Brown in them ‘Back To The Future’ movies.

He put it up on that funny angle on purpose. Says he’s got proof – mathematical proof – that an asteroid is gonna smack into Earth, November, 2018.  When it does, it’s gonna tilt the whole world on its axis by just enough to straighten that thing up long enough to count down our extinction.

Yeah, right! Hope it hits them Mayans first, and busts their calendar.

***

When the first experimental atomic bomb was exploded for the Manhattan Project, the builders watched from, what was thought to be, a safe distance. As the shock-wave approached, Enrico Fermi, the great physicist, tore half a small envelope into tiny pieces, and dropped them like confetti as it arrived.

He then measured where they fell with his foot, and by eye, and wrote a number on the other half of the envelope. When the ‘experts’ later calibrated how large the blast was in kilotons, he set the paper in front of the general in charge.  His ‘guesstimate’ was correct to three decimals.

As late as the day before the Trinity blast, the team of scientists were still arguing about whether exploding the bomb would set the entire atmosphere on fire, destroying all life on the planet. Later, perhaps regretting what he had helped create, J. Robert Oppenheimer is quoted as saying, “I am Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds.”

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Serenity

 

MAY THE LORD GRANT ME:

THE SERENITY TO ACCEPT THOSE THINGS I CANNOT CHANGE.

THE COURAGE TO CHANGE THOSE THINGS THAT I CAN CHANGE.

AND THE WISDOM TO HIDE THE BODIES OF THOSE PEOPLE THAT I HAD TO KILL,

BECAUSE THEY REALLY PISSED ME OFF!!

****

 

It Pays To Advertise

A woman about seven months pregnant got on a street car and sat down.  She noticed a man opposite her was smiling, so she indignantly moved.  This time, the man’s expression changed to a grin, so she moved again.  The man seemed even more amused.  When, on the fourth move, the man burst out laughing, she complained to the conductor, and had the man arrested.

The case came up in court, and the judge asked the man if he had anything to say.  He said, “Well Your Honor, it was like this.  When the lady got on the street car, I could not help but notice her condition.  She sat under a sign that read ‘The Gold Dust Twins Are Coming Soon’, and I had to smile.  Then she sat under a sign that said ‘Sloan’s Liniment Will Reduce The Swelling’.

Then she placed herself under a sign that read ‘Williams Big Stick Did The Trick’, and I could hardly control myself.  When she moved the fourth time and sat under a sign that read ‘Goodyear Rubber Could Have Prevented This Accident’ I laughed out loud.”

THE JUDGE DISMISSED THE CASE!

***

 

Break Time

Four union workers were discussing how smart their dogs were.  The first was a United Auto Worker, who said his dog could do math calculation.  His dog was named T-Square, and the owner told him to go to the blackboard and draw a circle, a square, and a triangle, which the dog did with no sweat.

The United Steel Workers member thought his dog was better.  His dog, named Slide-rule, was told to fetch a dozen cookies and divide them into 4 piles of 3, which Slide-rule did with no problem.

The Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers member said, that was good, but he felt his dog was even better.  His dog, named Measure, was told to go get a quart of milk, and pour seven ounces into a ten-ounce glass.  The dog did this with no problem.  All three agreed that this was very good, and all the dogs were smart.

They all turned to the Teamsters member, and said, “What can your dog do?”  The Teamsters member called his dog, which was named Coffee Break, and said, “Show the fellows what you can do!”  Coffee Break went over and ate the cookies, drank the milk, and screwed the other three dogs.  Then he claimed he had injured his back, filed for Workers Compensation and went home on sick leave.

***

 

As we get older, we need to be more aware of medical terminology.

MEDICAL DICTIONARY

Anally – Occurring yearly

Artery – Study of paintings

Bacteria – The back door to the cafeteria

Barium – What doctors do when treatment fails

Bowel – Letters like A, E, I, O and U

Caesarean Section – An area in Rome

Cauterize – Made eye contact with her

Colic – A sheep dog

Congenital – Friendly

D & C – Where Washington is

Diarrhea – Journal of daily events

Dilate – To live long

Enema – Not a friend

Fester – Quicker

Fibula – A small lie

G.I. Series – Soldiers ball game

Grippe – Suitcase

Hangnail – Coat hook

Impotent – Distinguished, well known

Medical Staff – Doctor’s cane

Morbid – Higher offer

Nitrate – Cheaper than day rate

Node – Was aware of

Outpatient – Somebody who has fainted

Pap Smear – Fatherhood test

Pelvis – Cousin of Elvis

Placenta – Christmas flower

Post Operative – Letter carrier

Prostate – Flat on your back

Protein – Favoring young people

Recovery Room – Place to do upholstery

Rectum – Damn near killed ‘em

Rheumatic – Amorous

Sear – Rolled tobacco leaf

Secretion – Hiding anything

Seizure – Roman Emperor

Serology – Study of Knighthood

Tablet – Small table

Terminal Illness – Getting sick at the airport

Tibia – A country in North Africa

Tumor – An extra pair

Urine – Opposite of yer out

Varicose – Located nearby

Vein – Conceited