June 16, 2008 question

Friday the 13th is apparently a statistically lucky day, according to the Dutch study reporting that fewer accidents occur on Friday the 13th than on other Fridays. Here’s who either knew or just got lucky:

Steve J (the J stands for Jinxed)

Now for today’s tomato-free, organic, unspoiled, homegrown, salmonellaless trivia question:

What is the maximum number of strikeouts a pitcher can throw in a regulation nine-inning baseball game?

Trailer Park

Dear Wordsmith,

Why do people say movie “trailer” instead of “preview” nowadays?

And why do they call it a trailer? Wouldn’t that indicate something AFTER the movie. I didn’t look this up in the dictionary because I figured they would give me the definition of the kind of house some people live in.


Curious & confused

Well, C&C (love your music factory, by the way), I did some searching, and the adventure revealed many wonderful things. I’ll try to tackle them in order.

1. Ironically enough, very few people actually say “nowadays” nowadays.

2. Even more ironically, the term trailer actually dates back to 1912, according to the Straight Dope. So it is by no means a neologism, although it is more recent than the initial use of the term nowadays, which debuted in the 14th Century.

3. They were originally called trailers because they were shown at the end of films. It didn’t take long for the folks to figure out they were much more effective when shown before viewers left the theater . . . marketing genius at work.

4. For whatever reason, it took forever for people to stop calling them trailers. Since forever has not yet run its course, people are still calling them trailers.

5. I believe there is a word for any word or phrase that remains in use even after waving goodbye to its etymological validity. Expressions like “dialing” or “hanging up” a phone still persist even though it is rare for either one to be done literally. I remember reading this term and discussing it at length, but an extensive search has yielded no fruit.

6. The search did, however, bring me back to the word retronym, which is a term for words that are forced into existence by developments beyond their control. Terms like “acoustic guitar” or “wireless remote” or “manual transmission” all came into being because the redundancy has vanished. For instance, had five more such films never been made, no one ever would have uttered the words “Rocky One.” But alas. Alack. There were many more Rocky’s, and thus many more reasons to place the retronymic roman numeral uno after the Oscar-worthy Rocky. I remember this word in connection with the yet-to-be-relocated word mentioned in number 5, because both retronym and my verbal John Doe became the main topics of the unforgettable discussion about the apparently quite forgettable word.

7. Arggh.

Well, C-squared, I hope that helps clarify things for you. Unfortunately, I am more deeply mired in confusion than ever.

June 13, 2008 question

Millimeter waves are infrared rays. I’m surprised you didn’t know that! Oh, wait. You did, if you are one of these people:

Steve J (the J stands for Just Another Ray)
Steve T (the T stands for The Incredible Hulk)

Gamma rays are infrared, too, even though they make Bruce (or David) Banner go all green. They also can make topaz change from white to blue. Go figure.

Anyway, today is Friday the 13th, which means things are supposed to turn less lucky. Or unlucky. Or bad lucky. I don’t know, I’m not that superstitious (knock on wood). Here’s today’s (cross your fingers) completely unjinxable trivia question:

According to a recent Dutch study, do more or less accidents occur on Friday the 13th’s compared to Fridays that fall on any other date?

June 12, 2008 question

In Greek mythology, Hermes created the lyre . . . he was also considered the god of liars, believe it or not. Paul C (the C stands for Cheating, Lying Thief) and Islem knew that one. I should also give a shout out to my sisters Heidi and Kristin from whom I’ve withheld credit because of some unresolved conflict in my subconscious . . . here’s your shout. Aaaaargh.

That’s exactly the sound some passengers (and perhaps some security personnel) will be emitting as their bodies are scanned by the new see-through security machines being installed in airports across the country. What I love about this one is the fact that, although every inch of their bodies will be visible through the millimeter-wave scanners, people are supposed to be consoled by the fact that their faces will be blurred out. I’m sure more than one passenger will be overheard saying, “Well, I’m sure they could see the Benjamin-Franklin-shaped birthmark on my upper thigh and that unfortunate unspeakable rash . . . but at least he couldn’t see my face.” Or . . . “Hey, Honey, you’ve got some broccoli stuck in your teeth.” “Really?! Oh, good thing they blur out your face on the scanner. That would have been embarrassing.” Other reasons to feel better about the scans: pictures of your naked body will not be saved, printed, or posted to the Internet, AND, if you’d rather not be part of the all-nude airline revue, you can always choose the pat-down instead.

So in honor or dishonor of the Patriot Act peep show, here’s today’s question:

Are millimeter waves considered ultra-violet waves or infrared waves? (Hint: yes, one of those options is indeed correct . . . the answer isn’t “No.”)


Dear Word Guru,

What is it called when you incorrectly use a word that sounds like another word, but you use it incorrectly. Example – I could here (s/b hear) you from the other room.

I know there is a word for it but I can’t remember. Dear Guru, please clear this up for me.

Signed, Forgetful in North Carolina

Dear Forget-me-not,

Eye believe the whirred your looking four is homophone. The reason ewe may knot half bin able two remember is that it has become politically incorrect to bee a homophone. Although the definition has nothing to do with orientation and everything too due with pronunciation, sum people git the wrong idea about homophones. Okay, isle stop using them starting . . . now.

The irony is, homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently, and, although the two words aren’t technically homophones, the very thing that gets the homophone into trouble is its sonic similarity to homophobe. People don’t like homophobes. People really don’t like phobes of any kind. If your name is Pheobe, you have to watch out. Sure, you’re fine in person, but when people see your name in an email, for just a second, they give your message that Mr. Drummond from Diff’rent Strokes “You’re a bigot” look before realizing, “Oh, it’s just Pheebs,” and smiling again without the slightest shred of guilt for having prematurely judged you. Sucks to be you, Pheobe. Sucks to be you.

Anyway, they’re homophones. And they aren’t hurting anybody.

June 11, 2008 question

It was Michael Dukakis (as played by Sam Waterston) who said that George (H W) Bush was in danger of becoming the Joe Isuzu of American politics. Yes, yes. He’s the one politician who exaggerated, misled, and lied. Becoming known as the pathological liar of Washington is about as hard as becoming the floozy of Las Vegas . . . or the nerd at MIT . . . or the no-talent female starlet with issues. Maybe we could start a petition requesting that no politician can publicly accuse another of lying. It could be the “Yeah, we know, he lied, move on and tell us a better one” petition.

Here’s yet another trivia question of compromised integrity:

According to Greek mythology, what god created the lyre?

June 10, 2008 question

A new study shows that drinking more than two cups of coffee a day can kill up to 10 billion brain cells . . . yes, that’s billion. And, yes, those were brain cells. For the sake of comparison, inhaling the exhaust from an H2 for an hour kills 2 billion brain cells. Being electrocuted and clinically dead for 10 minutes and then being revived by paddles kills 3 billion brain cells. And watching the full season of The Great American Dog kills 6 billion brain cells.

In response to this study, I’ve decided to stop cold turkey. Yes, that’s right, I will stop paying attention to studies. Oh, I’ll keep drinking coffee, that’s for certain . . . especially since I’m lying about the study. Okay, I’ll also stop making up fake studies and delivering manufactured diatribes about how indignant I am about their ludicrousness. I’m sorry. I need help. Here’s today’s pathologically lying question:

Who quipped in a presidential debate that George Bush was the Joe Isuzu of American politics?

June 9, 2008 question

Well, this is one of those days when I couldn't award any trivia prizes
if I wanted to. I'm sure it will make the glory all the sweeter if and
when your vice president nomination predictions come true. I know mine
won't. When Rudy G. was a strong front runner for the Republican
presidential ticket, I predicted Obama would win the Dem side and choose
John McCain as his running mate. Probably won't happen, now. It would be
a crafty move on the part of the candidates, but I don't know if it's
100% allowed . . . it's at least frowned upon.

Anyway, today's question is a lot like Friday's, except it's the
opposite . . . just not the total opposite. More like a tail to Obama's
head . . . or a head to Obama's tail, you know, it's best if I just ask
the question:

Who will John McCain choose as a running mate in the 2008 presidential