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Do you ever wonder why little things drive you nuts?

By Ricky G. Hale

  1)  Did you ever wonder why they call the letter "w" a double "u", when its really a double "v" ?

  2)  Did you ever wonder why they call ground beef "hamburger", when there's no ham in it?

  3)  Did you know that the United States Mint has never minted or issued a coin called a "penny"? However, to this day, people still refer to the one cent piece as a penny. Do you know why?

  4)  If the term terrestrial refers to "of or relating to the earth or its living things" (as defined by Merriam Webster dictionary), then why is the possibility of allien life refered to as "extra" terrestrial? If they are allien and not of this earth, shouldn't the term be "non" terrestrial? 

  5)  Why do they call a grapefruit a grapefruit? It doesn't look like a grape to me, what about you?

  6)  Why do people say "God bless you" when you sneeze? Do they think you're possessed by the devil?

  7)  Why do they refer to distilled alcohol as "sprits"? Have you ever been haunted by it? (maybe the next morning, many of us can attest to !) 

  8)  Why is a quarter (25¢) still refered to as 2 bits?

  9)  Why do people refer to a "hot water heater" as such? If its allready hot, why would you be heating it?

  10)  Are you spending your precious time trying to find the answers to these silly questions? Are they driving you nuts? Good luck on your search.

  1. BONUS: What are the following ?     è     æ     þ     ð     How and what are they used for?
  2. We'll see if you're all as nuts as I am. I welcome your comments. 
Doug Yeomans

"È" means "is" in modern Italian

Æ (lower case: æ) is a grapheme formed from the letters a and e. Originally a ligature representing a Latin diphthong, it has been promoted to the full status of a letter in the alphabets of some languages, including Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic. As a letter of the Old English alphabet, it was called æsc ("ash tree") after the Anglo-Saxon futhorc rune ᚫ (Runic letter ansuz.svg), which it transliterated; its traditional name in English is still ash (IPA: /æʃ/

þ - The letter thorn was used for writing Old English very early on, like ð; but, unlike ð, it remained in common usage through most of the Middle English period. A thorn with the ascender crossed (Ꝥ) was a popular abbreviation for the word that. Even though Old English had the two sounds distinguished in speech in written texts the two letters were often regarded as equivalent to each other.

The letter ð is sometimes used in mathematics and engineering textbooks as a symbol for a spin-weighted partial derivative.


I never say "bless you" after someone sneezes because it would mean that I'm superstitious and think that evil spirits choose that opportune moment to enter you through your mouth.


The U.S. Mint's official name for a penny is "cent"[2] and the U.S. Treasury's official name is "one cent piece".[3] The colloquial term "penny" derives from the British coin of the same name; however, the word pence is never used as a plural form, unlike in Britain.


WORD HISTORY Because the world has eaten countless hamburgers, the origins of the name may be of interest to many. By the middle of the 19th century people in the port city of Hamburg, Germany, enjoyed a form of pounded beef called Hamburg steak. The large numbers of Germans who migrated to North America during this time probably brought the dish and its name along with them. The entrée may have appeared on an American menu as early as 1836, although the first recorded use of Hamburg steak is not found until 1884. The variant form hamburger steak, using the German adjective Hamburger meaning "from Hamburg," first appears in a Walla Walla, Washington, newspaper in 1889. By 1902 we find the first description of a Hamburg steak close to our conception of the hamburger, namely a recipe calling for ground beef mixed with onion and pepper. By then the hamburger was on its way, to be followed-much later-by the shortened form burger, used in forming cheeseburger and the names of other variations on the basic burger, as well as on its own.


If you see grapefruit growing on a tree, you will notice that they grow in clusters. It is suggested that these clusters resemble the shape of large yellow grapes and so the fruit was called a grapefruit. Another explanation is that the premature grapefruit looks similar in shape to unripe green grapes.


The precise origin of the name spirits which is commonly given to alcoholic beverage is unknown. However, the words "alembic" and "alcohol", as well as possibly the metaphors aqua vitæ (meaning "life-water") and "spirit" given to the distilled product, may stem from Middle Eastern alchemy.


I've never heard a quarter called 2 bits, have you?


Hot water's just one of those things! There's really no good reason to redundantly include "hot" to "water heater."

Jan 2, 2011, 1:54pm Permalink
Tim Howe

Why do they sterilize the needle before a lethal injection?

Why do they use artificial lemons in lemonade, but use real lemons for dish soap?

Why does it take me 5 minutes to open a CD, yet lightbulbs are packaged in flimsy cardboard. :)

Jan 2, 2011, 10:32pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

Spirit comes from Latin-rooted chemistry terminology- mostly outdated. The old alcohol burners used in labs were called spirit lamps. Distillation and alcohol (ethanol) instilled substances were known as spirits: Distilled Spirits, Aromatic Spirits and Medicinal Spirits. Most of that terminology is archaic in the USA. European apothecaries may still adhere to the term. Spirits of ammonia (smelling salts), spirits of ether; tincture is similar. A spirit is an alcohol extract of a volatile (easily vaporized) substance such as Spirit of Ether. A tincture is an alcohol extract of a non-volatile (will not evaporate easily) such as herbal tinctures. Vanilla Extract is a tincture.

Latin is also behind the terrestrial - extraterrestrial ambiguity. 'Terra' is Latin for 'earth' or 'land'; 'terra firma' means 'solid ground.' 'Ex' translates 'out of,' and the logical representation would probably have derived from 'non ex terra'- 'not from earth.' However, 'ex' has evolved to mean former as in ex-president. 'Extra' (common English, more) means 'beyond or outside' in Latin. So, extraterrestrial is 'outside earth.'

Two-bits is archaic and regional. Although some might recall a less than prehistoric ditty: "Shave and a haircut- two-bits!" (lyrics apparently from the 1930s, though the music predates; the form is typical of the question-response phrases from African-American music of the late 1800s) The two-bits is better understood in the southwest where American and Mexican currencies overlap similar to Canadian currency, here. A Mexican Real had a value of 1/8 dollars, so two where the equivalent of 25 cents.

Hot water heater could be mere redundancy or based on antiquated technology. Early hot water systems employed two separate stages: water heater and hot water storage tank. I recall that my father converted a scrapped boiler plate tank into a lawn roller by filling it with concrete and attaching a handle.

My maternal grandmother spoke German, and our family favored 'Gesundheit.' Recently I learned it is not a German idiom, rather German-American and common to Yiddish. It translates 'high (good) health.' Contrary to erroneous presumption, 'Bless You' in German would be a variation on 'Gott segne Dich,' depending on familiarity and dialect.

Jan 3, 2011, 3:24am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

I can open a CD in no-time flat.

I just take one of my metal guitar picks and run it down the crease of the plastic and it pops right off. Then gentle lift the little peg/hinge end gentle and open the cover from that side -- you can then cleanly and evenly peal away the seal/label.

Well, that's how I used to do it -- been years since I bought a CD. I assume they're packaged the same.

Jan 3, 2011, 6:41am Permalink
Gabor Deutsch

I heard that two bits was also used back when gold and silver were the standard measurement. Mainly in the South and Western America, around the time of expansion and manifest destiny. A silver dollar piece was broken up into 8 pieces to make small purchases. 2 pieces or bits was considered 25 cents.

Jan 3, 2011, 2:01pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

Haven't found anything definitive on the W question. However- the Latin U was executed as a V in words such as FORUM: FORVM. There were Latin words that contained double Us such as VACUUS (empty). It is reasonable to assume such words were rendered as VV. Obviously the British Isles, having been under Roman occupation, were influenced by Roman language. Looking at old English documents there are 'letters' that have lapsed from usage. Double S used to be rendered akin to a flamboyant, cursive F.

Jan 3, 2011, 2:30pm Permalink
Jason Crater

Posted by Chris Charvella on January 3, 2011 - 8:43am
In French it is called a double V. English speakers may just have poor handwriting.

-Spanish also.

Jan 5, 2011, 11:30am Permalink
Bea McManis

Posted by bud prevost on January 5, 2011 - 12:15pm
Press one for English. Enough said

Are you against people knowing more than one language?

Jan 5, 2011, 4:21pm Permalink
bud prevost

Bea said "Are you against people knowing more than one language? "

No, if one of the languages is English and we are in the United States.

Jan 5, 2011, 7:01pm Permalink
Kyle Couchman

What I want to know is......

Why do we drive in a parkway and park in a driveway?

Why do drive up ATM's have braile on them

Why when we send something by a vehicle its a shipment, but if we send it by ship it's cargo.

And my favorite....

If you have something made of styrofoam, what do you pack it in?

Jan 5, 2011, 7:49pm Permalink

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