The custom of proclaiming wedding banns began in 800 AD when Roman Emperor Charlemagne became alarmed by the high rate of interbreeding throughout his empire.
He ordered that all marriages be publicly announced at least seven days prior to the ceremony and that anyone knowing that the bride and groom were related must come forward. The practice proved so successful that it was widely endorsed by all faiths.
When the time came to honour the patron saint of Ireland’s birthday, church officials gathered solemnly to choose a day, then realized that most of St. Patrick’s life was a mystery. They finally narrowed his birthdate down to either March 8 or 9, but because they couldn’t agree which was correct, they decided to add the two together and declared March 17 to be St. Patrick’s Day.
Humans are credited with five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. So someone with a “sixth sense” is gifted with an unexplained perception outside of the common five.
The expression sixth sense comes from a study of blind people reported in 1903 in which it was found that, although deprived of sight, some of the subjects could perceive or sense certain objects in a room in a way that defied scientific understanding.
Approximately 2,500 years ago the Pythagoreans defined a “perfect” number as one for whom the sum of its divisors, excluding itself, equals the number itself. For example, 6 can be divided by 1, 2, 3, and 6. If you add these numbers together, excluding 6 itself, the total is 6. Therefore 6 is a perfect number. Over the centuries, many mathematicians from all over the world have contributed to finding and defining perfect numbers.
Governor William Penn established Pennsylvania’s first post office in 1683. Central postal organization came to the colonies after 1692, when Thomas Neale received a 21-year grant from the British Crown, whose settlements dominated the Atlantic seaboard, for a North American postal system. It wasn’t until 1774, however, that William Goddard, a newspaper publisher and former postmaster, set up the Constitutional Post for intercolonial mail service.
Colonies funded it by subscription, and net revenues were used to improve mail service rather than to pay back to the subscribers. By 1775, when the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, Goddard’s post was flourishing, and thirty post offices operated between Williamsburg, Virginia, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The Constitutional Post provided security for colonial messages and created a communication line that played a vital role in bringing about American independence during the Revolutionary War.
A bilingual person is able to speak two languages. A person who speaks more than two languages is called “multilingual.” A person does not have to speak two languages with equal fluency to be considered bilingual; usually, a person will be stronger in one language than another. It is common for most of the world’s societies to be multilingual; in the United States, one in five children enters school speaking a language other than English, according to the 2000 Census. Some children who learn English in school speak their native language at home. Bilingualism often allows children to communicate with their grandparents, which can strengthen family bonds across both generations and countries.
Bilingualism teaches an appreciation of the arts and traditions of two cultures. It promotes tolerance and cross-cultural understanding; research indicates that children who are raised with a bicultural identity tend to be more accepting of cultural differences in others.
Each calendar year is exactly 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds. This is the amount of time between two successive crossings of the celestial equator by the Sun at the vernal equinox (the first day of spring). The fact that the year is not a whole number of days has affected the development of calendars, which over time generate an error.
The current calendar we use, called the Gregorian calendar, attempts to fix this by adding an extra day to the month of February every four years. These years are called “leap years.”
Early in human history, people used anything that they could find to keep their teeth clean. Usually a thin, sharp object, like a stick, was used to pick out food left between teeth. Chewing on the end of certain sticks would fray the wood, making a kind of brush, which could then be rubbed across the teeth. (Even today, members of primitive tribes chew sticks to keep their teeth clean. The constant chewing produces more saliva than usual, which helps wash food away.) Later, people found that if they rubbed abrasive elements, like salt or chalk, across their teeth, they could get rid of grime. They also used water and pieces of rough cloth to clean their teeth. Toothpicks made of all kinds of materials also became popular. Rich people had jeweled toothpicks made of gold and silver. Toothbrushes for the wealthy, with fancy handles and hog bristles, came into use in the eighteenth century.
Only much later, when cheaper, woodenhandled toothbrushes were made, and the importance of good dental hygiene became known, did most people start to regularly use them.
The suggestion that storks delivered babies came from Scandinavia and was promoted by the writings of Hans Christian Andersen. Storks had a habit of nesting on warm chimneys and would often lift articles from clotheslines then stuff them into these nests, which to children looked like they were stuffing babies down the flue.
The stork is also very nurturing and protective of its young, which helped it become symbolic of good parenthood.
The practice of using laurels to symbolize victory came from the ancient Greeks. After winning on the battlefield, great warriors were crowned with a wreath of laurels, or bay leaves, to signify their supreme status during a victory parade.
Because the first Olympics consisted largely of war games, the champions were honoured in the same manner: with a laurel, a crown of leaves. To “rest on your laurels” means to quit while you’re ahead.