Why is some extreme behaviour called “beyond the pale”?

The expression dates back to the English Crown’s first efforts to control the Irish by outlawing their language and customs. But the unruly Irish were just that, and by the fifteenth century the English still controlled only a small area around Dublin, protected by a fortification called “The Pale,” meaning sharp sticks (i.e., impaled). To the British, to go “beyond The Pale” meant that you were entering the uncivilized realm of the wild Irish.

My older sister says it’s a bad idea to stick jellybeans up my nose. Why?

The nasal cavity is made up of two narrow passages that lead from the nostrils to the nasopharynx. In the nasal cavity, air is prepared for its journey into the lower airways and lungs. It is a sensitive space. Jellybeans (as well as other candies, nuts, and peas) are about the size of a child’s nostril, and when lodged inside might get stuck there, or travel too far backward to manually remove. It may take a special trip to a doctor to get any foreign objects removed. Your older sister (or brother) is right: don’t stick anything up your nose, ever.

How did an English police force become known as “Scotland Yard”?

In the tenth century, in an effort to stop hostilities between their two countries, the English gave a Scottish king land in London with the provision that he build a castle on it and live there for a few months every year. Seven centuries later, with the two nations united under one king, the land returned to English ownership. In 1829, the London police took up residence on the land, which by then was known as Scotland Yard.

Why do we call someone who continually takes the fall for someone else a “whipping boy”?

In the mid-seventeenth century, young princes and aristocrats were sent off to school with a young servant who would attend classes and receive an education while also attending to his master’s needs. If the master found himself in trouble, the servant would take the punishment for him, even if it were a whipping. He was his master’s “whipping boy.”

Why do leaves change color in the autumn?

Tree leaves change color as autumn approaches because the days are shorter and the temperatures are cooler. As the length of the days shortens, the leaves stop their production of chlorophyll, a pigment that provides the leaves’ green color. Other pigments in the leaves, mostly yellow, are then able to show through.

The yellow color is mostly seen in aspen, birch, hickory, willow, and yellow poplar trees. Sugars that are trapped in the leaves as the trees prepare for winter form red pigments, also called anthocyanins. Some trees with red leaves are the dogwood, red and silver maple, oak, sumac, and sassafras.

How many countries are there?

There are about 195 countries in the world today. But because the political world is constantly changing, that number never stays the same for very long. The number 195 includes Taiwan. Although Taiwan operates as an independent country, many countries (including the United States) do not officially recognize it as one. Of these countries, 192 belong to the United Nations (UN), an international organization that aims to get countries to cooperate with one another. The exceptions are Taiwan (in 1971, the UN disqualified Taiwan and replaced it with the People’s Republic of China), Vatican City, and Kosovo. The newest UN members are Switzerland (2002) and Montenegro (2006).