July 20, 2022–I’ve stumbled on a diversion called Today I Learned That, which I acronym as TILT. Unable to resist exploring my own ignorance, I followed where it led, purposefully seeking holes in my knowledge base. There are many.
Today I Learned That:
Winnie the Pooh is female.
It’s true. Look it up. The Pooh character in E.E. Milne’s children’s stories was based on a real, female bear in a London zoo.
Parenthetically, this does not affect my disaffection for the entire depressed clan in 100-acre Wood, one way or the other.
In the 1860s thousands of homes were built with eight sides. A designer at the time professed it was the most efficient la out. And I’d thought the only one was the Vereins Kirche in downtown Fredericksburg.
There are actual waterfalls at Marble Falls. But they are submerged by the dammed waters of Lake Marble Falls. And they are limestone, but founders believed saying they were marble would make the area more appealing to settlers.
Brewster County, the largest county of Texas (total area 6,000 square miles) is larger than three individual states.
Ice skating terms “axel” and “salchow” were named for real skaters Axel Paulsen and Ulrich Salchow, known for their innovative jumps.
The 7-ELEVEn logo is all caps except for the final “n,” which is lower case.
Same for the ESPn logo.
Our word for “passenger” came from “passager,” the title for the man who ferried travelers, or “provided passage,” across rivers 700 years ago. Over the years the “intrusive ‘n’”–our propensity to insert the “n” sound in front of a spoken “g”–morphed it into “passenger.” The same thing happened with “messager” (“messenger”) and “scavager” (“scavenger”). (The source for this is the NPR podcast A Way With Words. Lots of TILTs on there.)
In the iconic painting Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth, the woman in the foreground is paralyzed from the waist down. She was his neighbor, and preferred to drag herself around rather than use a wheelchair. Talk about changing my whole perspective on this painting that I have always admired.
Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen, and Hasta la Vista literally mean “until I see you again” in French, German, and Spanish, respectively. I think Dasvidaniya means the same in Russian. So it appears every language’s “good-bye” is really, literally, I will “see” you later.
“Good-bye,” of course, is a contraction of “God be with ye.”
That brings up the point that one person’s TILT is another person’s TIAK–Today I Already Knew. Mine include knowing that Zildjian drum cymbals are made in Turkey by a 400-year-old company.
Or that the first submarine was used in the Revolutionary War and was called “The Turtle.” It was built by a guy named Bushnell. This I know only because we had a deli in Iowa City named “Bushnell’s Turtle,” and the story was on the menu.
Finally, I give you the TILINT–Today I Learned It’s Not True.
Exhibit A: “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”
Everyone who has ever watched any sporting event is familiar with this phrase. I don’t care how erudite you think you are, it makes you laugh. I assumed the comment went back to Shakespeare, it was so ingrained in our culture. We’ve all seen Brunhilda come out in the helmet with horns hitting the high C and scattering the hoi polloi.
But I learned that the phrase was coined in San Antonio, by Express-News Sports Columnist Dan Cook, who used it in a 1978 story about the NBA Spurs.
Except, Today I Learned It’s Not True. The line has been documented in use two years earlier by Texas Tech sports information director Ralph Carpenter during a game against the Aggies.
I don’t feel misled, because the same quote has been misattributed to Yogi Berra, Al Capone, and Kate Smith.
And probably Mark Twain. Twain said everything first.
Can’t wait for WILT: What I Learn Tomorrow.