Where does the phrase “to take a gander” come from? As one of the many delightful goose-related idioms in the English language (see “goose egg” and “silly goose”), the history of “to take a gander” involves male waterfowl and nosy neighbors.
Why do we cut down evergreen trees and decorate them with glittering ornaments and lights during the Christmas season? The answer involves the sun god, the Garden of Eden, and Charlie Brown.
Where do the names of the days of the week come from? And why are there seven days in a week? The answer involves Hellenistic astrology, Roman gods and goddesses, and a takeover by Norse mythology. The concept of the seven-day week was first recorded in the Babylonian calendar of ancient Mesopotamia, which is basedContinue reading “The Days of the Week”
Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? The answer may not be what you think—it’s both more complicated than the “pilgrims and Indians” narrative many of us learned in school and less sinister than many “myth-busting” articles have recently claimed.
Where did the word groovy come from? The answer takes us back to the early days of electronic sound production, to the Jazz Age, and to the outta sight world of the ’60s.
Why do most question words in English begin with wh? The answer involves a hypothetical ancient language, a semantic root shared with cheese, and curious people throughout the ages. To explore why we say why (and who, whom, whose, what, when, where, whether, which, whither, whence, whatever, whoever, and wherefore!), we first need some backstoryContinue reading “Who, What, When, Where, WHY?”
Who invented the cookie? The answer involves the luxuries of the Persian Empire, cookery books, and Dutch funerals.
Why do children trick or treat on Halloween night? The answer involves traditions spanning centuries and continents—including placating mischievous spirits, praying for the dead, and playing pranks on unsuspecting neighbors.
Why are Hollywood stars received with a red carpet at events? The answer involves Greek gods, Renaissance paintings, and railroad cars.
Why do we carve jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween? The answer involves shady deals with the devil, Irish folklore, and some scary-looking turnips.