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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I Can’t Even GIVE History Away

Ticket

Ticket Back

I wrote of finding a little bit of history, a piece of ephemera, a 1942, WW-II ticket for a British bus line, in my first ‘Olio’ post.  It had been used as a bookmark, and fell out of an old hardcover book that I was examining.

I first tried to give it to one of the 2 local museums. Originally called Kids Museum, it might have fared better in Waterloo, our northern Twin City.  They’re a bit more financially and culturally superior. (Pronounced – ‘snooty’)

Museum

When not enough blue-collar kids visited it, they cleaned, repainted and added a bunch of dead machinery from now-closed local manufacturing plants, and called it themuseum – one word, all lower-case.  Can you make out the name in the above photo??  It being a British artifact, they had no interest in the ticket.

Anyway, I contacted the other local museum. It used to be called Doon Pioneer Village, and focused on the local Mennonites in the 1880s, but also recently changed its name, to Doon Heritage Crossroads, showcasing the growing 1920s urban development.

Canada didn’t have the Roaring 20s, flappers, or bathtub gin; although a strong wind might reveal a Mennonite woman’s ankle, or a vat of sweet apple cider might accidently go hard.  The ticket didn’t relate to their theme, and the only suggestion the curator had, was The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

There’s actually another ‘museum’ in Kitchener. It’s the Joseph Schneider Haus, built by one of the first settlers from Pennsylvania, in 1816, and still standing, in downtown Kitchener.  It has people in 1850s period costumes, demonstrating pioneer life, which is one reason why the Pioneer Village became the Heritage Crossroads.

A year ago, the Grandson moved to Ottawa to be with his fiancée as she attended college. In August, the son drove him, and a bunch of his stuff, in the new sport-ute.  Last October the son and I drove up another load of food and trivia.  After a six-hour drive on the Saturday, we barely had time to unload, a quick visit, and back later for a restaurant meal.

JUST as we were leaving the house Saturday morning, the son wondered aloud, if we might have the time to visit The War Museum on Sunday.  I ran upstairs and grabbed the ticket in its display frame, and brought it with us.

We did have time to tour the Museum on Sunday before leaving.  Since it was Sunday, and no office staff was working, I carefully put the ticket in an envelope, and left it and a note, with Security staff.  A couple of weeks later, I got a nice refusal letter from the Director of Acquisitions, who later mailed it back to me.

Northern Lights

It relates to Britain, and World War Two, and The Canadian War Museum is about Canadian wars, starting with French-Indian Wars, then British-Indian Wars, and Indian-Indian wars, etc., etc., etc.  Damn, we’ve had a lot of wars!  It’s back on a shelf on my stairway landing, beneath an impressive photo of the Northern Lights.  I can’t give this thing away.  Perhaps I’ll contact the bus company – they’re still in business.  Maybe they’d like it back.

***

ADDENDUM;

About 30 years ago, one of the wife’s nephews met a girl from Ottawa here at University, and moved there to marry her. We hadn’t begun taking our trips, so we let the most worldly-wise of her sisters, book motel rooms for 7 couples, to attend the wedding.

The motel that the son and I stayed at was an unusual creature, a sprawling old, two-storey, semi-Tudor style building….with a modern, 7-floor tower, epoxy-glued to one end. But the tower was closed off, and not available to guests.  When I asked why, the desk clerk told me that the 50-year-newer section was condemned.

It wasn’t till I got home and thought about it, that I realized that the now-condemned, haunted tower is where we slept, lo those many years ago. I wonder why it was condemned – and when??   😯

Hell’s Gate

hells gate

AKA – Book Review #13

Always distrustful of the Lowest-Common-Denominator effect, I have avoided reading many of literature’s Great Books.  While I reference ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’, or ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, I have not actually read them.  Another book I have declined to read is ‘War and Peace.’

The first three hundred pages are a boring family lineage tree that makes the Utah Mormons look like amateurs. While epic in scale, the book then plods to a conclusion after almost 1200 pages.  I did read the 5000 page John Jakes’ Bicentennial Saga series, but that was eight 600/700 page books, over five years.

Especially since I have retired, I read to pass time as much as for the enjoyment of a good story. I recently filched a book from the library in the son’s room.  It’s a Science Fiction book that runs to 1208 pages, before a thirty page glossary of all the terms.  It’s a ‘War and Peace’ equivalent that took me almost a month to get through.

The Book – Hell’s Gate

The Authors – David Weber/Linda Evans

The Review –

Like War and Peace, this is an epic saga of two mighty empires, entire planets. They’re both ‘Earth’, although neither of them call themselves that.  This is a tale of parallel dimensional worlds.

About two hundred years ago, portals began appearing, which allowed them to travel to a string of other ‘Earths’ where everything except mankind exists. They have been mining the metals, cutting the lumber, and fishing the seas.

In one group, a minority have Psi powers. They can broadcast and receive thoughts, feel when someone is lying and ‘See’ territory miles away.  They have firearms.

The other side has learned to harness Galactic quantum energy, effectively creating magic. They can throw ball lightning, heal wounds, use crystals loaded with power like computers, and have bred Dragons.  They arm with crossbows, swords and axes for close combat.

The story begins when they arrive at the same alternate Earth, from opposite directions. Each group has 200 years of never seeing any other people.  Two startled scouts meet in a dark forest, and manage to shoot each other.  One crawls back to camp before dying.

Each is convinced the other started it, and the story follows the inevitability of war. Each planet has several nations, benevolent kingdoms and democratic empires.  The story traces the good guys trying to prevent destruction and death, and shows the countries, industries and individuals who cheat, betray and lie to cause war, for personal, group, and national advantages, on both sides.

While the action moves along steadily, there never seems to be any urgency or suspense in the story. It just plods along for the 1200 pages – and doesn’t come to an end.  The author and/or publisher seem intent on capturing readers with a serial.  I have checked out the next book.  I don’t like spoilers, and read a book from front to back, but I checked to see how long Hell Hath No Fury is.  It’s only 678 pages, and I unintentionally got a look at the last page – and it still doesn’t seem to be resolved.

It’s a great book for someone like me. It ate up a lot of spare time – not that I have a lot of ‘spare time’ sometimes.  You’ll have seen it in my yearly list of Books Read, and you’ll see its sequel, and possibly a review, next year – the good Lord willin’, an’ the creek don’t rise.   🙂

Flash Fiction # 72

Graveyard

PHOTO PROMPT – © J Hardy Carroll

CHILDISH INNOCENCE

C’mon Carol!  Ya don’t gotta be scared.  There’s no ghosts out here, an’ even if there was, they’d be good ghosts, that’d help you.

This is where they bury Army sojers who died gettin’ us peace an’ freedum.  Daddy says they went all over the world.

Some peepul put up little flags to honor them.  Daddy says up in Canada, sometimes they put up little red flowers called poppies.

It’s okay, we can play here.  They don’t mind.  In fack they’re happy that we can.  Whenever I come here, I always feel nice an’ safe an’ potected.  Happy Veterans’ Day!

***

Childhood innocence, and the freedom to play, and feel safe and protected, perhaps some of the most important, but only a few of the many things in my November 11th post, that we should remember are guaranteed to us by the selfless actions of those in our Armed Forces.  SALUTE!

***

If you’d like to try this 100 word Flash Fiction, go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete story in the hundred words, (More or less) and join the Friday Fictioneers.

 

Book Review #9

 

inferno

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This will be a review of Dan Brown’s most recent book, Inferno – but first, a word from our author – as usual.

I am always leery of “Best Sellers.”  That just means that marketing has appealed to the lowest common denominator, including people who write things that I rant about and make fun of in my usage blogs.  Take out the prurient porn, and Fifty Shades of Grey is really just a shit piece of prose.

So, when The DaVinci Code burst on the scene, I waited till I got a few actual readers and professional reviewers who said it was worth the read, before I dived in.  Lots of action and suspense, it all took place in one, 24-hour period (cute gimmick, that).  I caught many of the background references, but felt there must be more.

A book-reading co-worker lent me his copy of The DaVinci Code Decoded, an explanatory companion volume.  Sure enough, page by page, hundreds of little details turned a rock concert poster into the Bayeux Tapestry.  For example, if you spoke Italian, you would know that Bishop Aringarosa’s last name translated into “red herring.”

I went back, and read his Digital Fortress, and Deception Point.  Not as frenetic as The Code, these were still good solid books.  Later, Angels and Demons had that “many things happening” feeling, while The Lost Symbol was less so, but very enjoyable.

The Book – Inferno

The Author – Dan Brown

The Review

This is another Carnival ride novel, beginning with that reliable old cliché, amnesia.  It all occurs in a couple of days, until returning memory flashes and characters’ comments show the hero (and us) how we got here over the previous three days.

As with The DaVinci Code, I felt that I could use a lot of explanation.  The bad guy is six foot–five, with vivid green eyes.  I thought Brown might be referring to Osama bin Laden, but he was long dead before this book was written, and he personally did not possess bio-engineering abilities.

The plot turns on overpopulation, and how society must collapse if we don’t control it.  It took until 1820, for the world population to reach one billion. In a hundred years, by 1920, the numbers had doubled, to two billion.  In only fifty years, by 1970, the numbers doubled again.  Not merely “added another billion”, but doubled, to four billion, and it appears that, after only another fifty years, 2020, we’ll be hip deep in eight billion of our “loving neighbors.”

Being restrained and “civilized” is all very nice but, if we don’t have a good war or two soon, we’re going to have a bad plague.  As I finished this book, the news spoke of 20,000 dead to Ebola.  You may not get to read this review.

Although Professor Langdon doesn’t remember it, he traveled without a passport from Boston to Florence, Italy.  He goes by train to Venice, and is flown to Istanbul for the grand finale.  The world-travelling author provides great descriptions of many beautiful buildings and locations.

Brown always keeps our mind spun around.  The hero’s amnesia – isn’t.  The “good guys” aren’t always good.  The “bad guys” aren’t really bad.  The perils are only imagined, and the quiet, safe periods often have an avalanche bearing down on them.

one shot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concurrent with this book, I was simultaneously reading Lee Child’s, One Shot, and remarked upon the difference of construction.  While far from plodding, Child’s books move in one direction till that plot point is achieved.  Chapters end on one page, and a new one begins on the next page.  They can be 30, 40, 50 pages long, taxing my attention span.

Dan Brown flits and flutters from thought to thought to thought – the hero, the villains, the damsel, the cavalry, the Blue Mosque, and then back around again, perfect for my Adult ADD.  Chapters end where they end – and the next one begins two lines below.  They are often only a few pages in length.  One chapter began on line 40 of the left-hand page, and ended on line 20 of the right-hand page, an entire chapter, less than a complete page long.

The plot-line centers around Dante’s Inferno trilogy poem, and a couple of well-known paintings which illustrate it.  The action and suspense are well built.  While nothing in the book is really what it seems, it still feels believable.  As many good books do, it describes a social problem, and causes the reader to think about both large-scale, and personal solutions to it.

If you haven’t read it already – and this literary Smoothie hasn’t ruined it for you – I suggest you give this book a try.

What Canada Isn’t

Canada is a great country, whose one identifying characteristic is, that it doesn’t have an identifying characteristic. Those of us who deal with non-Canadians, spend great amounts of time and effort explaining to the rest of the world, what Canada isn’t.

We are like the middle child in a family. We have to explain to the Americans, that we are not English. We have to explain to the British, and the rest of the world, that we are not Americans. We explain to the French, that even the Quebec portion isn’t French. Vive le Quebec libre somewhere else, monsieur DeGaulle. De gall of dat man, heh?

We are not a colony anymore, and we are not ruled or led by a European county. We are an independent democracy, but we are not Jingoistic about it. We provide socialist support for our citizens, but we are not communist. Although we are a country of large geography and small population, and have acquired the reputation for being a well-mannered Mr. Niceguy, we are not a pushover. Anyone who saw the movie Argo, viewed a piece of American-made hype, but got that message.

We aren’t equipped with a huge set of Armed Forces, but we aren’t afraid of getting our hands dirty, and the job done, to the point that we aren’t often called on to prove it.

One of our home-grown comics, who moved to The States because we aren’t rich enough to afford to pay our best performers what they deserve, said that Canada is a subtle flavor – like celery. But remember, celery is strong and crisp, with lots of fibre….and so are we.

Some of our Provinces, Territories and areas have their complaints and demands, as the siblings in any family do, but we are not coming apart at the seams as the Balkans, and other SSRs did. Canada is not a country which imprisons, executes or oppresses social, ethnic, political or religious minorities.

Canada is not perpetually covered with ice and snow. It is not inhabited by toque-wearing lumberjacks, living in igloos. Canada is not an exporter of wars, aggression, terror or ideology. Canada is not a bucolic backwater, because Canada is not afraid or incapable of adapting to rapidly changing, social and technological climes.

Canada isn’t a troublemaker, or a creepy neighbor, partner, or ally. All in all, what Canada isn’t….is a bad place to live, work or visit. Y’all come now, y’hear?

Canadian Flag

 

But ……………………………Canada Kicks Ass

The preceding political message has been brought to you by a Citizen and booster, as proud of the many things that Canada isn’t, as the many exemplary things that his country is.

 

Never Surrender

This year, in this area of Ontario, there was a fuss going on a couple of weeks prior to Remembrance Day/Veterans Day.  I didn’t want to add it to my one-topic November 11 post, but I do want to rant about it, and find out your opinions, and how wide-spread it is.

Canada’s red poppy, a symbol of Remembrance Day, is under attack from pacifists pretending to be defence analysts.  In the run-up to Nov. 11, activists launched a campaign called, “I Remember For Peace,” that used a white poppy.

White is the color of surrender, and the white poppy was started by pacifist groups in Britain in the 1920s.  It’s been associated with the pacifist cause ever since.

One of the organizers of the campaign, claims that the red poppy worn by generations of Canadians glorifies war, while his poppy is for peace.  In my usual subtle, understated way, I say Bullshit!

The white poppy campaign was started by Ceasefire.ca, a project of the Rideau Institute, a small Ottawa lobby group which claims to be defence analysts, although they are consistently against any and every military purchase.

A newspaper columnist accused the main spokesman of the group of being a pacifist – not that there’s anything wrong with being one, just admit what you are.  He denied being a pacifist, and said that he would have taken up arms in 1939 – not to have resisted the Nazis, but to have fought for the communists in the Spanish Civil War.

He doesn’t like Canada spending on the military, he pushes the white pacifist poppy, and he would have fought for the Communists….what a winner. (Sarcasm strongly implied!)

The group claims to be against war all around the calendar, but the only time we hear from them is right around Remembrance Day.  Apparently the rest of the year is not controversial enough to get them the attention they crave.

They seem too dense and narrow-minded to realize that the red poppy is the sign of peace through the sacrifice of our veterans.  They could have chosen any other symbol of peace, but picked the white poppy with the tiny words, “I Remember For Peace” printed on the center button, because it denigrates the red poppy, and insults the efforts of our veterans.

I’m all for freedom of speech, even freedom of stupid speech, but this insulting behavior is so egregious, that I’m all for some woodshed time for some of these fools.  Has this little side-show reached your area??  Yes/No, where?  What do you feel about this rejection of peaceful, respectful values?  Could a valid point have been made another way, another day?