by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
Have you ever heard a word or expression that you may have used frequently, yet have no idea of its origin? The English language abounds with words we know the meanings of yet don’t know its history. As an avid reader, I’ve come across many of these terms, yet hardly gave them a thought about where they started. Here are few popular words and symbols detailing their beginnings.
Most of us have played some kind of card game from childhood to perhaps the present time, yet have we ever given a thought about the pictures of the kings on these playing cards? I was surprised to learn that for a while early card producers did assign each king as a representation of a great king or ruler from a different period of history. The spades represents King David of Israel from the Old Testament, the hearts – King Charlemagne of France, who was the first Holy Roman Emperor, Clubs – Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia and the Diamonds – Roman Julius Caesar or Caesar Augustus, which it is, can be debated. Speaking of playing games, when Golf was invented in Scotland, it was a game for only gentleman. Signs at men’s golf facilities read “Gentlemen Only…Ladies Forbidden,” and then the shortened term GOLF came into our language. Who would have thought?
Our nation has so many National Treasures on register, but there is only one that is moveable. Can you guess what that is? It’s the ever popular San Francisco Cable Cars that bear this honor. How many of us are old enough to recall the old Rice a Roni commercial that shows people hanging off the side of the Cable car as it heads up the hill in San Francisco? The tune and musical sound of the cable car’s bell ringing that accompanied the commercial’s jingle made the product almost as famous at the cable car.
This fact I remember from my seventh grade social studies teacher. He was discussing famous landmarks and statues in New York City and explained something interesting about statues with soldiers riding a horse. If a statue in the park is of a rider on a horse that has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. (Makes sense as this pose looks as if the rider is charging into battle.) If the horse has one front leg in the air the rider died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the rider died of natural causes. (Again that looks as if the rider were heading home in a steady gait.) All easy to remember, I thought.
Speaking of people in history, one of our greatest American writers, Mark Twain, was the first author to use a typewriter to create his novel Tom Sawyer. Of course, we know that the author’s real name was Samuel Clemens and he used several pen names for various books he wrote. And lastly, speaking of writing, actually only two people, John Hancock and Charles Thomson, signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th and here I thought all of them were clustered around one big table. Most of the rest of them signed on August 2nd and the last signature was added five years later. I enjoy trivia like these above and look at them as fascinating tidbits of knowledge!