Thursday, October 28, 2004

feeling a little rum-and-water-y?

Still reading Made In America (hey, being in CT for the week and actually having a life is making my reading go a bit more slowly than usual), and still loving it. I just realized it's due back at the library next Tuesday, though, so I don't have much time left, and I'm not very far into it yet! It's a very dense book (like most of Bryson's work where he likes to dole out little-known facts), and often I just want to sit back and let some things sink in, or ponder others.

In any case, here are a few more Fun Facts that I've picked up:

The word "groggy" has its origins in the War of Jenkins' Ear, so named because the Spanish, fed up with British privateers, cut off the ear of an English smuggler named Edward Jenkins. Bryson points out that this war was rather unremarkable (save for its name), but that it was at least etymologically significant: a ration drink of rum and water given to British fleet soldiers by Admiral Edward Vernon - a.k.a. Old Grog. Those who became too drunk on his drink were dubbed "groggy". Hence the title of this entry.

The first metal detector was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, who was called to arms by President Garfield's men when he was shot and the bullets needed to be located. Bell thought that his contraption didn't work because it seemed he was getting readings from all over Garfield's body; it turns out that no one took into account the metal bedsprings the president was lying on. That same incident was also the birthplace of the air conditioner: Washington, D.C. was sweltering that summer, and a way to cool the air in the sick president's chambers was needed. Unfortunately, neither of these inventions helped save the president, but they are still cherished by the beach-residing elderly to this day.

Well, those 2 anecdotes are all I have for now, but I am sure I'll add more later as I continue through this book - it's almost impossible not to share these neat little facts with others! (Which is, I'm sure, what Bill Bryson had in mind when he wrote the book.)

Oh, and one more thing - turns out Dan's birthday (18 November) was "the day of two noons" - the date that the United States adopted the time zone system, and one which in 1883 was widely feared as an apocalyptic event - people worried that their animals would stop producing, and unions went on strike, worried that their workday would be lengthened by 9 minutes on that day. Of course, all people saw when they gathered on the town square was an uneventful clock-resetting...

No comments: