Monday, December 24, 2012

Q:  Where did the word "Xmas" come from?
A:  It's not a commercial creation.  It comes from old English use of "chi" (X), the first letter of "Christos," the Greek word for Christ. -- Various sources.
Q:  What city in the world has the most bridges?
A:  Pittsburgh has 446 bridges.
Q:  Was "pipe down" a nautical term?
A:  Aboard a sailing ship, "The Pipe Down" was the last signal from the bosun's pipe each day. It meant "lights out" and "silence." -- Various sources.,2012,Dec,17&c=c_13

Albion is the oldest known name of the island of Great Britain.  Today, it is still sometimes used poetically to refer to the island.  The name for Scotland in the Celtic languages is related to Albion:  Alba in Scottish Gaelic, Albain in Irish, Nalbin in Manx and Alban in Welsh/Cornish/Breton.  These names were later Latinized as Albania and Anglicized as Albany, which were once alternative names for Scotland.  New Albion and Albionoria ("Albion of the North") were briefly suggested as possible names of Canada during the period of the Canadian Confederation.

demur vs. demure
Demur and demure share roots in the Anglo-Norman demurer, which means to delay, but in modern English they are unrelated.  Demur is primarily a verb meaning (1) to object, or (2) to hesitate because of doubt.  Some dictionaries also list it as a noun meaning the act of demurring, but this sense of demur usually gives way to demurral.  Demure means (1) modest and reserved, or (2) affectedly shy. It is only an adjective.

Pen names of authors
Lemony Snicket Damiel Handler)
Lee Child  (Jim Grant)
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Voltaire  (Francois-Marie Arouet)
Acton Bell  (Anne Bronte)
Currer Bell  (Charlotte Bronte)
Ellis Bell  (Emily Bronte)
Lewis Carroll  (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
Isak Dinesen  (Karen Blixen)
George Eliot  (Mary Ann Evans)
O. Henry  (William Sydney Porter)
James Herriott (James Alfred Wight)
Ellery Queen  (Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee)
George Sand  (Amandine Lucie Aurore Dupin)

Overused words:  iconic, actually, literally, really, arguably

The Bridge of San Luis Rey is American author Thornton Wilder's second novel, first published in 1927 to worldwide acclaim.  It tells the story of several interrelated people who die in the collapse of an Inca rope-fiber suspension bridge in Peru, and the events that lead up to their being on the bridge.  A friar who has witnessed the tragic accident then goes about inquiring into the lives of the victims, seeking some sort of cosmic answer to the question of why each had to die.  In 1998, the book was rated #37 by the editorial board of the American Modern Library on the list of the 100 best 20th-Century novels. Time Magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.  This book was cited by John Hersey as a direct inspiration for his nonfiction work Hiroshima (1946).  Three films have been based on the novel--in 1929, 1944 and 2004.   An opera by German composer Hermann Reutter was based on the novel:  Die Brücke von San Luis Rey: Szenen nach der Novelle von Thornton Wilder (1954).  A play for puppets and actors was based on the novel, adapted by Greg Carter and directed by Sheila Daniels:  The Bridge of San Luis Rey (2006)

Dec. 21, 2012  Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt Hummel on Glee, wrote and stars in the film “Struck by Lightning.”  After having its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, it was released on video on demand last week and opens in theaters Jan. 11.  Mr. Colfer plays Carson Phillips, a high-school outcast who, in the hope of getting into Northwestern University, blackmails classmates into contributing to his literary magazine.  The film is told in flashback:  in the first scene, Carson is, indeed, struck by lightning and dies.  Mr. Colfer conceived the story when he was 16, well before landing on TV.  He first performed it in high school, as a monologue for his speech and debate team.  But the movie isn’t just deferred juvenilia.  It’s part of Mr. Colfer’s bid to become a multi-platform showbiz hyphenate.  In 2011, he signed a two-book deal with Little, Brown.  The first book, “The Land of Stories,” which came out this summer, is a young-adult adventure novel that upends classic fairy tales, in the manner of Gregory Maguire.  (He’s at work on a sequel.)  He also published a companion book to “Struck by Lightning,” written as Carson’s journal.  Much more at:

Recipes for Cranberry Conserve--good at holidays or any time of the year
Eat as is--or use as a spread.

Dec. 22, 2012  The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum teems with six-toed cats — the so-called Hemingway cats — who for generations have stretched out on Hemingway’s couch, curled up on his pillow and mugged for the Papa-razzi.  Tour guides recount over and over how the gypsy cats descend from Snowball, a fluffy white cat who was a gift to the Hemingways.  Seafaring legend has it that polydactyl cats (those with extra toes) bring a bounty of luck, which certainly explains their own pampered good fortune.  But it seems the charms of even 45 celebrated six-toed cats have proved powerless against one implacable foe:  federal regulators.  The museum’s nine-year bid to keep the cats beyond the reach of the Department of Agriculture ended in failure this month.  The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that the agency has the power to regulate the cats under the Animal Welfare Act, which applies to zoo and traveling circus animals, because the museum uses them in advertisements, sells cat-related merchandise online and makes them available to paying tourists.  In other words, the cats are a living, breathing exhibit and require a federal license. 

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