Sunday, September 25, 2011

10 Bits of Historical Trivia or Where Did Those Expressions Come From?

Ever wonder 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 and their original meaning? 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 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? :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

6 Lusty Gods Of Mythology And Their Sexy Pursuits

Whether Deity or Demon, the supernatural entities of the ancient world had one thing in common. More often than not, they used their magical skills for the pursuit of sex…lots of it.

In today's world, someone with the powers attributed to the gods and monsters of ancient mythology might use those abilities to banish ignorance, intolerance, and hate to make the world a better place for everyone. But in the ancient world, the rulers of mythology used their special powers for a far more down-to-earth human type pursuit—that of participating in hot sex as often as possible.

Here are six such immortals from the ancient world who seem to be in a perpetual state of heat, always chasing after the pleasures derived from seducing mortals.

6) Zeus: The ancient Greeks didn't have reality television, but they did have the exploits of Zeus, king of the gods, to keep them entertained. Zeus wasn't at all picky. He engaged in sex with goddesses, nymphs and mortals and did whatever it took to get what he wanted. Kinky, freaky, voracious. It all described his sexual appetite. On one occasion he even took on the physical appearance of the husband of a human woman named Alcmene and they had a son named Heracles (Hercules in Roman mythology). But even the king of the gods ended up in trouble on the home front. High up on Mt. Olympus, his wife, Hera, was a woman of earth-shattering powers and didn't hesitate to use them.

5) The Incubus/Succubus: Today wet dreams are easily explained. In medieval times, however, they were believed to be the result of demonic forces. Folklore from centuries ago says there was a demonic creature whose sole purpose was to have sex with people during their sleep. The incubus put a spell on a woman to make her compliant then proceeded to have his way with her. The succubus was the female version of this demon who seduced men in their sleep. Sex with an incubus or succubus was considered dangerous for the mortal, but not always lethal. A one time only encounter said the mortal would most likely survive. But continued encounters with the same mortal were definitely bad for the mortal's health.

4) Odin: King of the Norse gods, Odin only had one eye. He traded the other one for infinite wisdom. And what knowledge did this infinite wisdom impart to him? That hot sex was a lot of fun. One time he found himself really turned on by a female giant named Jord. He refused to allow the fact that his non-giant manhood was dwarfed by her giant body to stand in his way. He figured out a physical means for them to have sex. Nine months later Thor was born.

3) Krishna: The Hindu god Krishna wasn't only about hot sex and good times. When his good-for-nothing uncle, Kamsa, crossed that hypothetical line in the sand one too many times, Krishna put him six feet under the sand without giving it a second thought. Krishna loved to get freaky with the ladies. He had a flute and when he played it women would flock to him.

2) Pan: The Greek god, Pan, had a goat-like appearance. He would have fit in perfectly with one of today's college frat houses—he was all about partying. He liked to drink and was cursed (or blessed, depending on how you look at it) with an intense sex drive. He often ran around with his bare erection visible for all to see. Like Krishna, he used his magic flute to draw in the ladies. He seduced Selene, the moon goddess, and convinced her that having sex with him was a great idea.

1) The Meek-Moos-Ak: The Native American tribe known as the Abenaki believed in these short twin creatures called the Meek-moos-ak. They ran around drunk, killing hunters and having sex with women. Their legend said that once a woman had sex with them, she was cursed to never desire marriage.

So, the moral of this story is that should you find yourself covered in a strange substance and it gives you the power to shape-shift or play a mean flute, use it for sex. Apparently everyone else did.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Emails That Could Get You Fired

We all know the internet has given us instant communication…in fact, instantaneous communication, which seems to me to be even quicker than instant :). When sending emails, the moment we click that send button whatever we wrote is gone—it's winging its way through cyberspace, out there for the recipient (or recipients) to receive. If we have second thoughts, it's too late to stop the message from reaching its destination.

And as we also know, sometimes we click that send button when we shouldn't. The results can be troublesome when it's something personal we're sending from our computer at home. But when it's work related, it can put our job in jeopardy. And the situation can be compounded by the fact that facial expression, tone of voice, and body language don't show up in the written word. We can add our emoticons and smiley faces to convey a light or teasing intent, but that doesn't always change the words we've chosen.

There are some basic, common sense rules that apply to sending email, especially work related messages. I recently found a list of 10 such rules that I'd like to share with you.

1. All capped email: Messages typed in all capital letters are considered CYBER SHOUTING. You can use quote marks or italics if your intention is to merely emphasize certain words or phrases.

2. Personal email: If your intention is to send confidential or time-sensitive information, perhaps you would be better off using the phone or meeting in person. Emails can be printed, copied, and/or forwarded to any number of people unknown to the original sender. Don't say anything in an email that you wouldn't want to eventually end up in the company newsletter.

3. Sloppy email: Take an extra moment before clicking send so that you can check spelling, grammar, punctuation and to make sure that what you've written is clear so that it cannot be misunderstood.

4. Joke email: What is funny to you and said without any malice or bad intention might be offensive to others. What you've put into a written communication is permanent and can easily be forwarded to any number of people without your knowledge.

5. Long email: Keep it short. If work related, you might want to consider putting your entire message in the subject line. "Budget meeting at 3pm today." Follow this with the acronym EOM for end of message. That way the recipient won't need to take the time to open the email. However…only use acronyms when you're sure the recipient knows that they mean.

6. Buddy-buddy email: In a business situation, sometimes it's counter-productive to be too casual or personal.

7. Congratulatory email: A congratulatory email for something like a job promotion doesn't convey the same type of personal feeling as a special card or hand written note. Sending out the congratulations wishes via email has a very impersonal feel to it, something more akin to a duty that can be dispatched in a matter of seconds rather than a sincere gesture that required thought and a personal effort.

8. Over-shared email: When sending a message to a large number of people, especially employees scattered around different locations of the company, using the bcc feature will guarantee that the only email address showing up will be that of the recipient only rather than a long list of email addresses.

9. Oops email: When receiving an email at work that was distributed to a large number of people, only respond to those who require your input. That reply all button isn't always necessary, especially if the only person needing your response is the sender.

And finally, the most obvious of all.

10. Moody email: It should go without saying that you should never send an email when you're angry. It's way too easy to say something in the heat of the moment that you will regret later. Possibly even something that could get you fired.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

10 Weird Allergies

Allergies are caused by the body's defense system overreacting to some substance it comes in contact with. We're all familiar with the allergies to everyday things such as mold, pollen, specific foods, and animal dander. There are 40 to 50 million Americans allergic to these common bad guys. But you'd be surprised at the uncommon allergies people can develop.

Here's a list of 10 (in no particular order) weird and unusual allergies.

1) Water Allergy
Water is absolutely mandatory for our survival, but there are those rare people who get the hives from water. The hives and itching usually go away in 15 to 30 minus and antihistamines will relieve the symptoms.

2) Exercise Allergy
This type of allergy has only been officially reported in medical journals about 1000 times since the 1970s. Of course, unofficially is a different story…at one time or another I imagine most of us have professed an allergy to exercising. :)  In mild cases the result is hives. But in more severe cases it can lead to anaphylaxis, a dangerous condition where the blood pressure drops suddenly and there is difficulty breathing. This is the same type of reaction as severe food allergies such as those to peanuts or shellfish and is treated as a medical emergency, usually with injections of epinephrine.

3) Sun Allergy
Solar exposure can result in hives with the itching and stinging symptoms can be relieved with antihistamines, but not prevented. Sun allergy is very rare. The hives appear within 30 minutes of exposure to the sun and will clear up within minutes of getting out of the sun. Needless to say, avoiding the sun can prevent this reaction.

4) Electricity Allergy
Those who claim to suffer from electrosensitivity say they are sensitive to electric fields generated by products such as cell phones, microwaves, computers, and power lines. The symptoms include headache, ringing in the ears, fatigue, among other complaints. The experts say this is one type of allergy that you don't have to worry about because it doesn't exist. There have been several studies done and almost all of them have come up empty.

5) Shoes Allergy
A poison ivy-type rash on your feet after you've worn leather shoes could be allergic to the chemicals used in the leather tanning process. This type of allergy is known as contact dermatitis and can be diagnosed with a patch test. Contact dermatitis is somewhat of a catchall term for a common skin condition resulting from contact with many possible irritants. The solution to shoe allergy? Wear socks or shoes made from something other than leather.

6) Allergy to Money
Another type of contact dermatitis can be an allergic rash on your hands after handling coins. The culprit would most likely be the nickel metal in coins, also an alloy found in the manufacture of jewelry, zippers, and eyeglass frames among other things. The best treatment is to avoid the substance. Good luck with that one. :)

7) Allergy to Touch
This is known as dermographism and is another form of hives. The literal translation is skin writing and was named because with this type of allergy a person can write his name on his skin using nothing more than the pressure from a fingernail. That pressure on the skin causes an itchy hive reaction. This reaction can also be the result of tight clothing or even toweling off after a hot shower. The resultant itching can be controlled with antihistamines.

8) Cold Allergy
This allergy is very rare, but potentially dangerous. It can be life-threatening if a person with this allergy is suddenly exposed to extreme cold, such as diving into very cold water. This can cause a massive release of histamine, which can severely drop the blood pressure. Handling this kind of allergy is to focus on prevention such as avoiding exposure of large areas of skin to the cold.

9) Allergy To Pollinated Fruit
Millions of Americans have allergies to pollen and some of them could also experience a type of allergy known as oral allergy syndrome. This happens when someone allergic to pollen eats a fruit that contains the same protein as the pollen. This is a cross reactivity and can happen between such things as ragweed and bananas, grasses and tomato, and birch trees with apples, plums, or peaches. The symptoms are itchy mouth and throat and sometimes swelling of the lips and will go away if you swallow or spit out the fruit with treatment usually being unnecessary.

And finally…talk about weird allergies:

10) Semen Allergy
This is an extremely rare type of allergy in women. Symptoms are hives and swelling in the vaginal area after sexual intercourse. The best treatment is to use a condom. For women who want to get pregnant, they can get shots to treat semen allergy.