Monday, 29 April 2013

By the pricking of my thumbs ….

Q: What is the meaning of the quote By the pricking of your thumb something wicked this way comes?

A: It means that something evil or terrible or "wicked" is on it's way. The witches in Macbeth (from whom this quote is said) can apparently detect evil by the cracklings in their thumbs.
This is similar to saying that when bad things are about to happen, the hair on your neck stands up straight.



When Catweazle's thumb is pricking he immediately knows somebody is approaching him. A book on superstition actually states that people used to believe an itchy or pricking thumb heralded visitors. Other superstition regarding the thumb is also described: people used to believe that a pricked thumb was a sure sign that evil was on its way. It was also believed that people with a long thumb were stubborn, and a wide thumb was said to indicate prosperity.


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Russell's teapot

Russell's teapot is an analogy first coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically unfalsifiable claims rather than shifting the burden of proof to others, specifically in the case of religion.

Russell wrote that if he claims that a teapot orbits the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, it is nonsensical for him to expect others to believe him on the grounds that they cannot prove him wrong.


Monday, 22 April 2013


Cathay is the Anglicized version of "Catai" and an alternative name for China in English.

It originates from the word Khitan (Chinese: 契丹, Qìdān), the name of a nomadic people who founded the Liao Dynasty which ruled much of Northern China from 907 to 1125, and who had a state of their own (Kara-Khitan Khanate) centered around today's Kyrgyzstan for another century thereafter.

Originally, Catai was the name applied by Central and Western Asians and Europeans to northern China; it obtained wide currency in Europe after the publication of Marco Polo's book (he referred to southern China as Manji).

For centuries Cathay and China were believed by Europeans to be distinct nations with distinct cultures. However, by the late 1600s Europeans had mostly become aware that these were in fact the same nation.


Friday, 19 April 2013

We Can Rebuild Him

Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.

The Six Million Dollar Man, Opening Narration.


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Hearse / Rehearse

Hearse and rehearse are sisters under the skin.

Rehearse comes from the Latin re meaning "again" and herce meaning "harrow."

Like a farmer, a theatrical company harrows the field again and again at its rehearsals.

In Middle English the French word hercier became herce, originally a triangular harrow, then a frame for supporting funeral candles, after that it was a bier before it finally became the carriage we know today as the hearse for the transport of a dead body.


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Pulaski Axe

The pulaski is a special hand tool used in wildland firefighting.

The tool combines an axe and an adze in one head, similar to that of the cutter mattock, with a rigid handle of wood, plastic, or fiberglass.

The pulaski is a versatile tool for constructing firebreaks, as it can be used to both dig soil and chop wood.

The invention of the pulaski is credited to Ed Pulaski, an assistant ranger with the United States Forest Service, in 1911.

Raising the tool above head height while swinging is discouraged as this wastes energy and creates a safety hazard.


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Russian traditions for the use of alcohol

When you have alcohol, it must be drunk until it is gone.

One should not put a glass with alcohol back on the table.

Traditionally alcohol is poured out to all the people present, though they are not required to drink.

One should not make a long interruption between first and second shots.

The latecomer must drink a full bottle. (so-called "penal")

Outgoing guest must drink last glass, so-called "na pososhok" (russ. "На посошок"). Literally it is translated "On a small staff", really means "For lucky way".

As a rule, every portion of spirit is accompanied by a touch of glasses and a toast. Funeral and commemoration are exceptions; there the touch of glasses is forbidden.

It is not allowed to pour out by hand holding a bottle from below.

It is not allowed to fill a glass being held in the air.

It is considered bad luck to make a toast with an empty glass. If done, the toaster must finish off the bottle of what he had last.

It is considered bad luck to put an empty bottle back on the table when it's finished

See full set of Russian traditions and superstitions at

Sunday, 7 April 2013


Today I found out what a backronym is (also commonly spelled bacronym).

In short, a backronym is when you treat a word that is not an acronym as if it was an acronym, constructing a phrase out of the word.  For example: Delta – Doesn’t Ever Leave The Airport.

Backronyms are often used for humorous effect as in the example above, but they are also quite commonly used unintentionally.

For instance, many people believe the word “wiki” is an acronym for “What I Know Is”, but in fact it is not.  The word ‘wiki’ is derived from the Hawaiian phrase “wiki wiki”, meaning ‘fast’. Thus used as: wiki – What I Know Is,  makes this an example of a backronym.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

The thing about the reduplicative copula is is ...

The thing about the reduplicative copula is is that it’s redundant. And repetitive.

As early as the 1980s, a doubled “is” (called a reduplicative copula) became common in American speech {what I meant is is that …}. This is not the type of double that is sometimes grammatically required {what it is is a major ripoff}. Nor is it what comes out when one “is” refers to the word itself {That depends on what the definition of “is” is.}. Rather, it applies when the second “is” is grammatically superfluous {the thing that concerns me is is that I’m late}.


Monday, 1 April 2013

The Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637

The height of the bubble was reached in the winter of 1636-37. Tulip traders were making (and losing) fortunes regularly. A good trader could earn up to 60,000 florins in a month-- approximately $61,710 adjusted to current U.S. dollars. With profits like those to be had, nothing local governments could do stopped the frenzy of trading. Then one day in Haarlem a buyer failed to show up and pay for his bulb purchase. The ensuing panic spread across Holland, and within days tulip bulbs were worth only a hundredth of their former prices. The tulip bubble had burst.

See full article at