When commoners registered for Cambridge University it was necessary for them to place sine nobilitate, without nobility, after their names. This was shortened to s. nob. and soon became “snob,” a pretender to position.
Soldiers in the Russian army started it when they became bored with service on some far-flung frontier where nothing ever happened. After a wave of “suicides” Russian intelligence officers tracked down the cause and from then on a soldier playing this game was open to court martial on the only charge brass hats could figure out - “wasting ammunition.”
A monk in the year 610 A.D. made the first pretzel to give to the youngsters when they learned to say their prayers correctly. He designed the twist peculiar alone to the pretzel to represent arms folded in the attitude of prayer. In Latin he called it pretiola, meaning “little gift.”
Among the ancient Romans matrons and virgins, the use of wine was unknown and the women were taxed with immodesty whose breath smelled of the grape. Pliny tells us that Cato was of the opinion that kissing first began between kinsmen and kinswomen, that they might know whether their wives, daughters or nieces had tasted of wine.
This is a happy combination of hocus and bunkum and means “a sentimental or melodramatic device for attracting attention, stimulating emotion, or winning support” - often for a questionable proposition.
It is said that this word was born during the American Revolution when a barmaid who served Colonial and allied French officers their evening drinks decided on an extra touch. She garnished the drinks with tail feathers of chickens stolen from a British sympathizer. This so delighted one of the Frenchmen that he shouted bilingually “Vive le coq’s tail!”
“I do my thing and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped.”—Gestalt Prayer by Fritz Perls. 2201 Fascinating Facts by David Louis, 1983.
Nobody knows where the body of Voltaire is. It was stolen from its tomb in the nineteenth century and has never been recovered. The theft was discovered in 1864, when the tomb was opened and found empty.
The champagne used to christen a ship is a substitute for human blood. In bygone times the Vikings and various South Sea tribes sacrificed human beings on the prows of their ships so that the spirits of the murdered victims would guard the craft. Later wine was substituted for blood, and, in our day, champagne for wine.
The Three Kings of the Nativity story were actually sorcerers. They were magicians, priests of the Zoroastrian religion of Persia. The word magi (as in the Three Magi) is the plural of magus, meaning “wizard” in Old Persian. It is from this root that the word “magic” is derived.
In ancient China, towns were often arranged in specific patterns so that if seen from the air the whole community resembled and animal or symbolic design. The city of Tsuen-chen-fu was built in the shape of a carp. Wung-chun was laid out in the shape of a fish net. Other towns were arranged to resemble snakes, stars, sunbursts and dragons.
“To swing an axe at the door of Lu Pan - to teach one’s grandmother to suck eggs; unnecessary instruction - to show off in the presence of an expert.”—Words of Wisdom from Chinese Sages by Chung Park Lum, 1933.