|Did you ever wonder why dimes,
quarters and half dollars have notched edges, while pennies and
nickels do not?
| The US Mint began putting notches
on the edges of coins containing gold and silver to discourage holders
from shaving off small quantities of the precious metals. Dimes,
quarters and half dollars are notched because they used
to contain silver. Pennies and nickels aren't notched because the
metals they contain are not valuable enough to shave.
|Why do men's clothes have buttons
on the right while women's clothes have buttons on the left?
| When buttons were invented, they
were very expensive and worn primarily by the rich. Because wealthy
women were dressed by maids, dressmakers put the buttons on the maid's
right. Since most people are right-handed, it is easier to push
buttons on the right through holes on the left. And that's where
women's buttons have remained since.
|Why do X's at the end of a letter
| In the Middle Ages, when many
people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using
an X. Kissing the X represented an oath to fulfill obligations
specified in the document. The X and the kiss eventually became
|Why is shifting responsibility to
someone else is called "passing the buck"?
| In card games, it was once
customary to pass an item, called a buck, from player to player to
indicate whose turn it was to deal. If a player did not wish to assume
the responsibility, he would "pass the buck" to the next
|Why do people clink their glasses
before drinking a toast?
| It used to be common for someone
to try to kill an enemy by offering him a poisoned drink. To prove to
a guest that a drink was safe, it became customary for a guest to pour
a small amount of his drink into the glass of the host. Both men would
drink it simultaneously. When a guest trusted his host, he would then
touch - or clink - the host's glass with his own.
|Why are people in the public eye
are said to be "in the limelight"?
| Invented in 1825, limelight was
used in lighthouses and stage lighting by burning a cylinder of lime
which produced a brilliant light. In the theater, performers on stage
"in the limelight" were seen by the audience to be the
center of attention.
|Why do ships and aircraft in
trouble use "mayday" as their call for Help?
| This comes from the French word
m'aidez -- meaning "help me" --and is pronounced
|Why is someone who is feeling great
"on cloud nine"?
| Types of clouds are numbered
according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest
cloud. If someone is said to be on cloud nine, that person is floating
well above worldly cares.
|Why is Zero scores in tennis are
| In France, where tennis first
became popular, a big, round zero on scoreboard looked like an egg and
was called l'oeuf, which is French for "egg." When tennis
was introduced in the US, Americans pronounced it "love".
|Why are many coin banks are shaped
| Long ago, dishes and cookware in
Europe were made of a dense, orange clay called pygg. When people
saved coins in jars made of this clay, the jars became know as "pygg
banks." When an English potter misunderstood the word, he made a
bank that resembled a pig. And it caught on.
|What is the origin of the golf term
| When Mary, later Queen of Scots,
went to France as a young girl (for education & survival) Louis,
King of France, learned that she loved the Scot game golf. So he had
the first golf course outside of Scotland built for her enjoyment. To
make sure she was properly chaperoned (and guarded) while she played
Louis ordered cadets from a military school to accompany her. Mary
liked this a lot and when she returned to Scotland (not a very good
idea in the long run) she took the practice with her. In French the
word cadet is pronounced 'ca-day' & the Scots bastardized it into