Sunday, September 26, 2021

Historical Trivia part 3 of 3--Where Did Those Expressions Come From

This final installment of my Historical Trivia blog series showing the origin of everyday expressions is alphabetical N through Z.

Nick Of Time:  How did we get the expression in the nick of time?

Back in medieval days, a tally was used to register attendance at colleges and churches. The tally was a wooden stick and attendance was indicated by a nick or notch in the stick. The person who arrived on time had his attendance 'nicked', therefore arriving 'in the nick of time.'

On The Carpet:  How did on the carpet come to mean a reprimand?

Originally, only the boss's office had a carpet, the other offices didn't. So, to be called 'on the carpet' meant to be called to the boss's office and this usually meant a reprimand.

Pup Tent:  How did the pup tent get that name?

These smaller than normal tents were named by the Union soldiers in the Civil War. When they were given to the soldiers, they looked so much like dog kennels that one of the men stuck his head out and began to bark. The idea caught on and soon the whole camp was barking. The tents were called dog tents with that name soon morphing into 'pup tent.'

No Quarter:  Why do we say we give no quarter when we mean to show no mercy?

Originally, to give quarter meant to send conquered enemy soldiers to a special section or quarter where they remained until their fate was determined. They could be set free, ransomed, or enslaved. If they were killed instead, they were given 'no quarter.'

Red Tape:  Where did governmental delay get the name red tape?

The expression came from England. For centuries, the British government followed the custom of tying up official papers with red tape. The wasted time spent in tying and untying the red tape used to bind the dispatches and document cases resulted in the men picking it as the symbol of useless delay.

Slush Fund:  How did a slush fund get that name?

Aboard a sailing ship, slush was the waste fat from the galley and was used to grease the masts. All extra slush used to be the property of the cook and he didn't have to account for the money he made from selling it. Likewise, a 'slush fund' is money that doesn't need to be accounted for—and often had best not be.

Taxi:  What is the reason a taxi is called that?

The world originally referred to the meter carried by the cab. It was called a taximeter because it measured the fare or tax and cabs equipped with the meters painted taximeter on their doors. This was soon shortened to 'taxi' and in time all cabs were called by that name.

Upper Crust:  Why do we call high society the upper crust?

The crust was long considered the best part of the bread and the upper or top crust was the best part of all. If high society is the best of all, then it's the 'upper crust.'

Volume:  Why is a book called a volume?

Ancient books were written on sheets of paper which were fastened together lengthwise and rolled up like a window shade. 'Volume' is from the Latin volvere meaning to roll up.

Wild Goose Chase:  How did a wild goose chase get that name?

A wild goose chase was once a sort of game, a horse race in which the second and each succeeding horse had to follow the leader accurately and at a definite interval. Since the horses had to keep their positions like geese in flight, the chase was called a 'wild goose chase.' Since this was not a race in which anyone could win, the phrase was adopted to describe a person following a course that led to no goal.

X-Ray:  How did the X-ray get that name?

The ray was first called the Roentgen ray in honor of the scientist who discovered it. But he preferred to call it 'X-ray' because X is the algebraic symbol for the unknown and at that time he did not understand the nature of this ray.

Yankee:  What is the origin of the term Yankee?

The word comes from a nickname for the Dutch—Jan Kaas meaning John Cheese. In pirate days, English sailors adopted the term as a derisive name for the Dutch freebooters. The Dutch settlers in New York (originally New Amsterdam) began to apply it to the English settlers in Connecticut because they believed the Connecticut English to be far more enterprising than ethical. The term spread to the other colonies, though at first it was almost always used to refer with dislike to the citizens of a colony farther north.

Zest:  Why does zest mean enthusiasm?

In its Greek form, zest meant a piece of orange or lemon peel. The addition of a slice of orange or lemon peel adds 'zest' to a drink or dish and makes us more enthusiastic about it.

And there you have it…a three-part small selection of every day expressions and their origins. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Historical Trivia part 2 of 3--Where Did Those Expressions Come From

Last week I gave you a list of 10 bits of historical trivia dealing with popular expressions everyone uses but whose origins have been obscured by time.  This week I'm presenting a list of an additional 13 such expressions, alphabetically A through M.

Annie Oakley: Why do we call a free pass to an event an Annie Oakley?

Free passes were once punched full of holes. Annie Oakley was a famous rifle shot who, as part of her act, would shoot holes in a playing card held by an assistant.

Blurb: What is the origin of the word blurb?

When Gellette Burgess' book, Are You A Bromide, was published, he devised a special dust jacket for 500 presentation copies to be given away at a booksellers' banquet. It was the custom at that time to have the picture of some woman on the jacket of every novel. He featured a sickly-sweet portrait of a young woman and in the accompanying text described her as a Miss Belinda Blurb. From this the usual dust cover jacket 'blow up' of an author and his book came to be called a blurb.

Clerk: How did an office assistant get the name clerk?

At one time only the clergy could read or write so any person with this ability was assumed to be a cleric. From this, the words clerical and cleric were soon shortened to clerk and came to mean written work or one who performed such work.

Dirt Cheap: Why do we say something inexpensive is dirt cheap?

Nothing is of less value. If you gather a big pile of dirt you would not increase your wealth. In fact, you would most likely have to pay someone to haul it away. [Having just had some top soil delivered to my house, I'm now in a position to disagree with this  :) ]

Exception Proves The Rule: What is the origin of the expression the exception proves the rule?

Originally the word 'prove' meant 'test.' The phrase merely means that the exception tests the rule, which makes sense and is logical.

Fall Guy: Why do we call a dupe a fall guy?

The word fall not only means to stumble but also to be lured or entrapped. We call a person a fall guy who is entrapped and left to suffer the punishment while the one who did the actual misdeed escapes.

Geronimo: Why do American paratroopers shout Geronimo as they jump?

Several members of the first unit of parachute troops formed at Fort Benning, Georgia, went to see the movie Geronimo. After, in reference to the mock heroics of their practice jumps, they started calling each other by this name. From this came the paratroopers practice of shouting 'Geronimo' as he leaps from the plane.

Hair Of The Dog: Why is taking a morning-after drink as a hangover cure called taking a hair of the dog that bit you?

The ancients believed one of the best cures for hydrophobia (rabies), or any other disease you might get from a dog bite, consisted of taking a hair of the dog that bit you and putting it in the wound.

Inside Track: Where did we get the expression he's got the inside track?

It came from horse racing. The best position for a horse, the shortest distance around the race track to the finish line, is the one nearest the rail—the inside track.

Jog The Memory: What is the reason we say we jog the memory?

Jog really means shake and when we jog a person's memory, we shake it up.

Killed With Kindness: Where did we get the expression killed with kindness?

This came from the story of Draco, the Athenian legislator, who died because of his popularity. The Greeks used to wave their caps and coats as a sign of approval and when they were extremely enthusiastic they tossed their hats and coats at the object of their enthusiasm. In the 6th century B.C., Draco aroused the enthusiasm of the audience in the theatre of Aegina to such an extent that the entire gathering showered him with caps and coats—and smothered him to death.

Lock, Stock, And Barrel: How did lock, stock and barrel come to mean all?

There are 3 parts to a gun—the barrel, the stock, and the firing mechanism called the lock. By listing all 3, the totality of the rifle is reaffirmed—all of it.

Make The Bed: Why do we say we make the bed when we spread the sheets and blankets?

We speak of making the bed rather than fixing it or doing it because beds were once created anew each night from straw thrown on the floor.

Next week I'll share part 3 of my 3 part blog series, another 13 historical trivia origins of everyday expressions (alphabetically N through Z).

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Historical Trivia part 1 of 3--Where Did Those Expressions Come From

Have you ever wondered about those interesting expressions that have been handed down through the centuries?  Phrases that we all use without giving any thought to where they came from or, for that matter, what they originally meant?  Here's a list of ten such expressions a friend emailed to me.  Let's take a look at the historical origin of these expressions.

1)  God willing and the Creeks don't rise

This expression was originally in reference to the Native American Creek tribe and not a body of water and is attributable to Benjamin Hawkins, a late 18th century politician.  While in the south, he was requested by the President to return to Washington.  In his response, he wrote, God willing and the Creeks don't rise.  Since he capitalized the word Creeks, it was assumed he was referring to interference from the Indian tribe rather than water.

2)  It cost an arm and a leg

Since there weren't any cameras in George Washington's day, the only way to portray someone's image was either through sculpture or painting.  Some paintings of Washington show him standing behind his desk with one arm behind his back while others show both arms and legs.  Prices charged by artists were often calculated according to how many arms and legs were being painted rather than the number of people in the painting.  Therefore, if the subject wanted both arms and legs in the painting, they were told, "Okay, but it will cost an arm and a leg."

3)  Here comes the big wig

As ludicrous as it sounds today, back then men and women took baths only twice a year (usually May after the cold winter and October after a hot summer). Women covered their hair and men shaved their heads and wore wigs. The wealthy could afford good wigs made of wool. Since the wool wigs couldn't be washed, they would hollow out a loaf of bread and put the wig in the shell, then bake it for half an hour.  The heat made the wigs big and fluffy, thus the term big wig.  Today we use the expression when someone appears to be powerful and wealthy.

4)  Chairman of the Board

Many houses in the late 1700s consisted of a large room with only one chair.  A long wide board folded down from the wall and was used for dining.  The head of the household always sat in the chair while everyone else sat on the floor while eating.  To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge and that person was referred to as the chair man.  Today in business, we use the expression Chairman of the Board.

5)  Crack a smile and other related phrases

One result of the lack of personal hygiene back then was that many men and women developed acne scars by adulthood.  Women would spread bee's wax over their faces to smooth out their complexions. If a woman began to stare at another woman's face, she was told to mind your own bee's wax.  If a woman smiled, the wax would crack, hence the term crack a smile.  And when a woman sat too close to the fire the wax would melt, giving us the expression losing face.

6)  Straight laced

Ladies wore corsets which laced up the front.  A proper and dignified woman wore a tightly tied corset and was said to be straight laced.

7)  Not playing with a full deck

Back in the day, a common form of entertainment was playing cards.  When a tax was levied on the cards, it was applicable only to the ace of spades.  To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards and ignore the ace of spades.  Since most card games require all 52 cards, those people were thought to be stupid because they were not playing with a full deck.

8)  Gossip

Long ago, before the creation of mass communication such as phones, radio, and television (and certainly the internet), politicians sent their assistants to local taverns to get feedback from the public and determine which issues people considered important.  They were told to go sip some ale and listen to people's conversations.  The two words go sip were eventually combined into one word, gossip, when referring to the local opinion.

9)  Minding your P's and Q's

In the local taverns, people drank from pint and quart sized containers.  One of the bar maid's jobs was to keep track of which customers were drinking from pints and which from quarts, hence the phrase minding your P's and Q's.

And finally an expression that has often been misinterpreted…

10)  Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey

Back in the day when sailing ships ruled the waves, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons that fired iron cannon balls.  It was necessary to keep a supply of cannon balls near the cannon while at the same time preventing them from rolling around the deck.  The best storage method was a square-based pyramid with one ball perched on four balls resting on nine which sat on sixteen providing a supply of thirty cannon balls stacked in a small area next to the cannon.  There was a problem, though—how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding out from under the others.  The solution was a metal plate called a monkey with sixteen round indentations.  But again, there was a problem.  If the plate was made from iron, the iron cannon balls would quickly rust to it, especially in the damp ocean air.  The solution to the rusting problem was to make brass monkeys.  But still a problem…brass contracts much more and much quicker than iron when it's chilled.  So, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey which means it was literally cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.  Not what you were expecting?  :)

Check back next week for part 2 of my 3 blog series on Historical Trivia--the origins of common expressions.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

7 Bizarre Predictions That Actually Came True

Prophecy…making predictions…seeing into the future—the province of charlatan fortune tellers or a reality to be taken seriously? And those predictions that do turn out to be true—lucky guesses or someone who has the gift?

Michel de Nostredame, better known today as Nostradamus, is probably the most famous prognosticator of all time. He lived in 16th century France and in 1555 published a book of his predictions written as quatrains (a poem or stanza using 4 lines). He seemed to write in some sort of code, not saying exactly what he meant. This has allowed people down through the ages to attach interpretations of his predictions to all kinds of happenings and always after-the-fact rather than prior to the event. Prediction is supposed to relate to something that has not yet happened. Is it valid to take an event that has already happened then back track it to a prediction?

Here are 4 of his predictions that, many centuries later, were applied to specific historical events. And after these, I have 3 more bizarre predictions that actually came true.

PROPHECY:  "The blood of the just will be demanded of London, Burnt by the fire in the year 66."

EVENT:  1666 is the year of the Great Fire of London. It is estimated to have burned the homes of 70,000 of the city's 80,000 inhabitants. Yet there were few deaths reported.

PROPHECY:  "From the enslaved people, songs, chants and demands. The princes and lords are held captive in prisons: In the future by such headless idiots. These will be taken as divine utterances…before the war comes the great wall will fall. The king will be executed; his death, coming too soon, will be lamented. [The guards] will swim in blood. Near the River Seine the soil will be bloodied."

EVENT:  The French Revolution, a bloody rebellion in 1789, resulted in aristocrats and royalty being arrested and beheaded. The Bastille (a great walled fortress) was demolished and LouisXVI was executed in 1793.

PROPHECY:  "From the depths of the West of Europe a young child will be born of poor people. He who by his tongue will seduce a great troop; his fame will increase towards the realm of the East."

EVENT:  The person referred to in this prophecy is invariably taken to be Adolph Hitler, chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and the person responsible for World War II and the Holocaust.

PROPHECY:  "Volcanic fire from the centre of the earth will cause trembling around the new city: Two great rocks will make war for a long time. Then Arethusa will redden a new river…"

EVENT:  Dedicated Nostradamus followers interpret this prophecy as being a prediction of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. These avid believers in Nostradamus' predictive powers claim 'centre of the earth' as the trade center and 'new city' as New York and the 'two great rocks' as either the WTC towers or the religions of Christianity and Islam.

PROPHECY:  Spanish conquistadors in Mexico.

EVENT:  The power of prophecy definitely worked in favor of the Spanish. In 1519 Hernan Cortes was sent to conquer and claim Mexico for the Spanish crown. Luckily for Cortes, his arrival coincided with the Mayan calendar that said a man-god named Quetzalcoatl was due to return in order to reclaim the city of Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs believed Cortes was that god—a mistake that aided Cortes in capturing Mexico with relative ease. [I have read information that refutes the fact of the Aztecs mistaking Cortes for Quetzalcoatl)

PROPHECY:  Lincoln's assassination.

EVENT:  Three days before his death, Lincoln had an eerily prophetic nightmare. To quote his words about this experience, "There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. 'Who is dead in the White House?' I demanded of one of the soldiers. 'The President,' was his answer; 'He was killed by an assassin.' Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream."

PROPHECY:  Kennedy's assassination.

EVENT:  The morning of November 22, 1963, Jackie Kennedy saw a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News. It unnerved her…more for its appearance than its content. The ad accused Kennedy of being a communist sympathizer. The part that concerned her was the black border around the ad which she thought resembled a death notice. JFK tried to calm her by saying if someone wanted to shoot him from a window with a rifle that no one could stop it so there wasn't any reason to worry about it. The fact that Kennedy made such a comment on the day he was assassinated is coincidence enough but his mention of the precise method of his death is truly bizarre.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

History Of Labor Day Holiday

The Labor Day holiday is celebrated on the first Monday in September.  This is the same day that Canada celebrates their Labor Day holiday.  This year, that date is September 6, 2021.

The history of Labor Day in the U.S. goes back to the labor movement of the late 1800s and became an official federal holiday in 1894, celebrated with parties, parades, and athletic events. Prior to 1894, workers who wanted to participate in Labor Day parades would forfeit a day's pay.

Over the ensuing decades, Labor Day has come to symbolize something else, too. In defiance of the Summer Solstice and Autumnal Equinox signaling the official beginning and ending of the summer on the calendar, Labor Day has become the unofficial end of the summer season that unofficially started on Memorial Day weekend (the fourth Monday in May in the U.S.).

What led up to the creation of a holiday specifically designated to honor and celebrate the workers and their accomplishments? The seeds were planted in the 1880s at the height of America's Industrial Revolution when the average American worked 12 hour days/7 days a week in order to manage a basic living. Although some states had restrictions, these workers included children as young as 5 years old who labored in the mills, factories, and mines earning a fraction of the money paid to the adults in the same workplace. Workers of all ages were subjected to extremely unsafe working conditions in addition to insufficient access to fresh air and sanitary facilities.

Labor Unions had first appeared in the late 1700s. As America changed from an agrarian society into an industrial one, these labor unions became more vocal and began to organize rallies and strikes in protest of poor working conditions and low wages. Many of these events turned violent. One prominent such incident was the Haymarket Riot of 1886 where several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Other rallies were of a more positive nature such as September 5, 1882, when 10,000 workers took unpaid time off from their jobs and held the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history when they marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York City.

It was another 12 years before Congress legalized the holiday. This was primarily brought about on May 11, 1894, when employees at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives. Then on June 26, the American Railroad Union called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars thus crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the government sent troops to Chicago. The resulting riots were responsible in the deaths of more than a dozen workers. As a result, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in all states, the District of Columbia and the territories (several of which later became states).

And now, more than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day still hasn't been identified.  But there are still places in the world that have seriously unsafe conditions for workers.

So, for everyone enjoying this 3 day holiday weekend, now you know why you have that additional day. And why the banks are closed and you don't have any mail delivery.  :)

Sunday, August 22, 2021

5 Lost Cities—Found

This week's blog is about 5 cities that were believed to be myths but later proven to be real.

1. Lagunita

An archeologist from the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts rediscovered the lost Mayan city of Lagunita. He identified a Mayan doorway, the remains of massive buildings, plazas, ball courts, a pyramid and three altars that date back to 711 AD.

The above picture was taken on Oct. 28, 2013 and released by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).  The ruins belonging to the ancient Maya city called Lagunita stand out in the jungle on a remote location in the southern state of Campeche, Mexico. Archaeologists in Mexico first stumbled upon this site in the 1970s and it was rediscovered in 2013.

2. Helike

In the year 373 BC, a giant earthquake hit off the coast of Greece, which created a giant tsunami that swallowed the ancient city of Helike. Then, in 2001 a team finally rediscovered Helike, digging up coins, pottery and ruins. The reason it took them so long to find it? They were looking under water, but it was actually under dirt. The water had long ago dried up.

3. Troy

The famous city of Troy was once believed to be a mythical place, a location, one that never existed in real life. The place that gave us Helen of Troy (the face that launched a thousand ships) and the Trojan Horse. But in 1870, Heinrich Schliemann followed clues laid out in Homer's ILIAD and found the ruins of the fabled city in Turkey, thus moving Troy from myth to reality.

I read a book about Schliemann's discovery of Troy and then by coincidence a few months later the university's art museum hosted an exhibition of photographs taken at his archeological dig. I definitely made it a point to see it.

4. Pavlopetri

Many believe this city, underwater off the coast of southern Laconia in Peloponnese, Greece, is the real life Atlantis. This 5,000-year-old lost city was found in 1967 and is thought to have been submerged for about 3,000 years, giving it an impressive lifetime of 2,000 years. Archeologists found roads, buildings, courtyards and pottery.

5. Machu Picchu

Maybe the greatest of the lost cities sits on top of a mountain in Peru. It wasn't rediscovered until 1911, mostly because of its remote location. People are always digging for lost cities, looking under the oceans or trekking through the jungle. No one thinks to look up to the high mountain tops.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Crazy Things Confiscated By Customs Inspectors

Excluding the current disruption created by the Coronavirus pandemic, just getting on an airplane under normal circumstances is a cause for nervous tension due to full body scanners, intrusive pat-downs, long lines at security check points, and what seems to be a constantly changing list of what you can and can't take on the plane.  All-in-all, flying is not the fun experience it used to be.

And that's just on domestic flights.  You add to that the need to clear passport control and customs on international flights, both entering a foreign country and coming home, and it's enough to make your head spin.

There's certainly been enough written about what seems to be the ever changing TSA restrictions and requirements, so I won't dwell on those.  But I did find an interesting list of contraband seized by Customs inspectors around the world…a bit more than trying to sneak in an extra bottle of wine hidden in your suitcase.

And here is that list.

10)  Shoes Stuffed With Heroin:  Smugglers might be a scheming lot, but that doesn't mean they always use their brains.  In October 2010, a 32 year old US citizen and her younger brother disembarked from a Caribbean cruise and were tagged by Customs for a secondary screening process.  When they opened the woman's luggage they found 15 pairs of 1980s style men's shoes…definitely suspicious items for a woman to be bringing back from the Caribbean.  They discovered over 6 kilos of heroin duct taped inside the shoes.

9)  Human Skulls:  Not the creepy Halloween decorations.  In September 2010, two American tourists had 6 human skulls confiscated from their luggage at the Athens International Airport in Greece.  They had purchased the 6 skulls at a souvenir shop on the island of Mykonos and thought they were fake.  They were charged with desecrating the dead.

8)  Tiger Cub:  The 3 month old tiger cub was found sedated and hidden among stuffed animal tigers inside a woman's luggage at Bangkok International Airport when the oversize suitcase went through an X-ray machine.  The woman was headed to Iran where the tiger cub could have brought in more than $3,000 on the black market.  The cub was sent to a wildlife conservation center and the woman faced wildlife smuggling charges and fines.

7)  Fake $100,000 Bills:  In 2009, agents confiscated two $100,000 counterfeit bills from a passenger arriving at New York's JFK Airport from Seoul.  In 1934, rare $100,000 bills were printed to be circulated between the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve Banks.  The bills were never put into general circulation.  The man claimed to have found the bills in an old book belonging to his father.  The bills were turned over to the Secret Service.

6)  Cocaine Cast:  A leg in a cast can garner some sympathy, but it didn't work for a Chilean passenger arriving at the Barcelona, Spain, airport from Santiago.  Customs agents decided to spray the cast with a chemical that turns bright blue when it comes in contact with cocaine.  And it did.

5)  Bear Paws:  And I'm not talking about the pastry, either (which are actually bear claws).  In October 2010, a dozen genuine furry bear paws were confiscated from a Vietnam man's luggage in Ho Chi Minh City Airport upon his return from Hong Kong.  Bear paw soup is considered a delicacy.

4)  Snakes and Lizards:  You're familiar with the movie, Snakes On A Plane?  Well, in 2009 a would be smuggler taped 14 snakes and 10 lizards onto his body in an attempt to sneak them into Norway.  Oddly enough, it was a tarantula spotted in his luggage that led to a full body search.

3)  Bonytongue Fish:  Having an airline lose your luggage is an inconvenience.  However, it's even worse when you're smuggling fish in your suitcases.  In 2009 a man returning from Malaysia to his home in Queens, New York City, unfortunately did not have his luggage arrive on the same flight.  The next day a Customs agent doing random checks on lost luggage discovered 16 fish packed in individual plastic bags and cushioned with Styrofoam.  Considered good luck charms in Asian cultures, they sell for $5,000 to $10,000 apiece.

2)  Rhinoceros Horns:  Ireland is not where you'd expect to find pieces of safari animals.  Over a period of time in late 2009 and 2010, three Irish passengers were busted at Shannon Airport for smuggling 10 rhinoceros horns valued at approximately 500,000 Euros at the time, which at today's exchange rate (today being April 14, 2021, with the exchange rate of 1 Euro = $1.17 U.S.) is $585,000.  Rhino horns are often ground down and used as a prized ingredient in Chinese medicine.

1)  Snake Wine:  A glass of snake wine might not have the same appeal as a nice Merlot or Chardonnay.  But in Southeast Asian countries, a whole snake soaking in alcohol is a specialty.  In May 2009 a routine Customs inspection in Miami revealed a cobra and other poisonous snakes packed into a jar of liquid in an express mail package from Thailand.

It makes that additional bottle of Merlot or Chardonnay wrapped inside the sweater and stuffed into the corner of a suitcase not seem as bad.