Today I Learned…

…where the term “wise-acre” comes from, and it’s not a polite euphemism for wise-ass as you may have thought.  According to wiktionary, the term descends from the Middle Dutch wijssegger, meaning soothsayer.  It is defined as one who feigns knowledge or cleverness; an insolent upstart.

Urban Dictionary currently has a definition of “wise-acre” with 7 thumbs up and 2 down as follows:

Wise-acre is essentially synonymous with the terms jerk and jackass. One defining feature is that a wise-acre enjoys comedy more than anything, and therefore an insult comic or a practical joker would be called wise-acres. It has fallen into disuse recently, but it’s still there.

I’m not sure that I’m a big fan of this definition — I think it misses out on the closeness to the term “wise-ass” that is implied.  There’s no link to the sarcastic nature which is, I think, almost part and parcel with the label.

.o0(Thanks to Kevin at work today who, besides looking like a 70’s baseball card, called me a wise-acre today which prompted me to look up its etymology.)

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Today I Learned…

…that there’s this crazy politician from Montana named Stan Jones, an unsuccessful Libertarian Party candidate for both the Senate and Montana’s governorship, who has developed argyria after ingesting home-made colloidal silver.  Argyria has given his skin a permanent blue-gray color.  He took the colloidal silver because of fears that the Y2K bug would make antibiotics unavailable.  Amazing.  Thanks to Hanna(h) at Borders for this one. =)

Stan Jones at a Senatorial debate in 2002.

Stan Jones at a Senatorial debate in 2002.

…I also learned that London can put together a heck of a little ceremony of their own… featuring such English things as David Beckham, Leona Lewis, Jimmy Page, a Routemaster-style bus, and people waiting for said bus in the rain.  I was a big fan.

**Recommended by Alex.  Thanks Alex!**

Today I Learned…

…some interesting facts about one of my favorite Beatles songs, A Day in the Life.  The following is a selection from songfacts.com, and from the Wikipedia entry on the song.

  • A 41 piece orchestra played on this. The musicians were told to attend the session dressed formally. When they got there, they were presented with party novelties (false noses, party hats, gorilla-paw glove) to wear, which made it clear this was not going to be a typical session. The orchestra was conducted by Paul McCartney, who told them to start with the lowest note of their instruments and gradually play to the highest. (songfacts.com)
  • The beginning was based on 2 stories John Lennon read in the Daily Mail newspaper: Guinness heir Tara Browne dying when he smashed his lotus into a parked van, and an article in the UK Daily Express in early 1967 which told of how the Blackburn Roads Surveyor had counted 4000 holes in the roads of Blackburn and commented that the volume of material needed to fill them in was enough to fill the Albert Hall. Lennon took some liberties with the Tara Browne story – he changed it so he “Blew his mind out in the car.” (songfacts.com)
  • After the final note, Lennon had producer George Martin dub in a high pitched tone, which most humans can’t hear, but drives dogs crazy. (songfacts.com)
  • The song became controversial for its supposed references to drugs. On 1 June 1967, the day the Sgt. Pepper LP was released, the BBC announced it was banning “A Day in the Life” from British stations due to the line “I’d love to turn you on,” which, according to the corporation, advocated drug use. Other lyrics allegedly referring to drugs include “found my way upstairs and had a smoke / and somebody spoke and I went into a dream”. A spokesman for the BBC stated, “We have listened to this song over and over again. And we have decided that it appears to go just a little too far, and could encourage a permissive attitude to drug-taking”. (Wikipedia)
  • Following the final orchestral crescendo, the song ends with one of the most famous final chords in music history. Lennon, McCartney, Starr, and Evans shared three different pianos and all played an E-major chord simultaneously. The sound of the final chord was manipulated to ring out for nearly a minute by increasing the tape sound level as the vibration faded out. The chord rings out approximately forty-two seconds. Near the end of the chord the recording levels were turned so high that listeners can hear the sounds of the studio, including rustling papers and a squeaking chair.

(thanks to EDD over at think.one.love. for this one)

Today I Learned…

…a new word.  Mamihlapinatapai, from Yaghan — a language spoken on Tierra del Fuego (one of my favorite place names in the world).  It is listed as the most succinct word in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records, and it is also one of the hardest words to translate to English.  According to the Wikipedia entry on the word, it means “a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start.”