Why when someone tells a secret do we say he’s “spilled the beans”?

As a system of voting, the ancient Greeks placed beans in a jar. They called these small beans or balls “ballota,” which gives us the word ballot. A white bean was a “yes” and a brown bean was a “no.”

The beans were then counted in secret so the candidates wouldn’t know who voted for or against them. If the container was knocked over, and the beans were spilled, the secret was out of the jar.

Why do we call wealthy members of society “the upper crust”?

In the days of feudalism, when noblemen gathered for a meal in the castle, those of higher rank sat at the head of a T-shaped table, and the rest sat in order of diminishing importance away from them.

For such occasions a yard-long loaf of bread was baked, and the honour of making the first cut belonged to the highest-ranking person at the head table, who would then pass the bread down in order of rank, but always keeping for himself the “upper crust.”

Does organic farming contribute to less pollution?

Yes. Organic farmers also try to do more tasks using human power rather than gas-powered vehicles, thereby using less fuel and cutting down on pollution. Organic farms that raise livestock like dairy cows or chickens feed the animals with natural food, avoiding pollution-causing chemicals and growth hormones that make cows produce more milk and chickens produce more eggs.

Some organic farmers also allow their animals to roam in a large area (such animals are described as “free range”) rather than keeping them in small, climate-controlled pens for their entire lives.

Are there certain fish that can live without water?

Yes, for a period of time. The mangrove killfish spends several months of every year out of the water, living inside rotting branches and tree trunks. The 2-inch- (5-centimeter-) long fish normally lives in muddy pools and the flooded burrows of crabs in the mangrove swamps of Florida, Latin America, and the Caribbean. When their pools of water dry up, they temporarily alter their gills to retain water and nutrients, while they excrete nitrogen waste through their skin.

These changes are reversed as soon as they return to the water. The mangrove killfish is not the only fish able to temporarily survive out of water. The walking catfish of Southeast Asia has gills that allow it to breathe in air and in water. The giant mudskippers of Southeast Asia breathe through their gills underwater and breathe air on land by absorbing oxygen through their skin and the back of the mouth and throat.

Why is the ladybug considered good luck?

Called either “ladybird” or “ladybug,” the little red beetle with the black spots is the well-known and beloved subject of a nursery rhyme and is called a “lady” after the Virgin Mary because it emerges around March 25, the time of the Feast of the Annunciation, which is also known as Lady Day.

Called the “Mary bug” in German, the ladybug brings good luck to a garden by eating unwanted pests.

Why are hot summer days called “the dog days”?

Sirius, the “dog star,” is within the constellation Canis Major and is the brightest in the heavens. The ancient Egyptians noted that the dog star’s arrival in July coincided with the annual flooding of the Nile, which was important for a good harvest.

The Romans believed that, because of its brightness, the dog star Sirius added to the heat of the summer sun, and so they called July and August “the dog days.”

Where are people suffering from disease and poverty?

Disease and poverty exist all over the world. The areas with the most disease and poverty are countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. In these areas, people do not have enough food to eat, water to drink, or money to live.

They have diseases like AIDS, which weakens the immune system, and cholera, an intestinal infection. In the United States, about 33 million people live in poverty, according to government statistics. Almost 12 million of these people are children, and about 3.5 million were age 65 or older.

What is a town meeting?

The town meeting is one aspect of local government that still exists today, although it was created in the early years of the republic. At least once a year the registered voters of the town meet in open session to elect officers, debate local issues, and pass laws for operating a government. As a group, or body, they decide on road construction and repair, construction of public buildings and facilities (such as libraries and parks), tax rates, and the town budget.

Having existed for more than two centuries, the town meeting is often called the purest form of direct democracy because governmental power is not delegated, but rather exercised directly by the people. However, town meetings cannot be found in every area of the United States. They are mostly conducted in the small towns of New England, where the first colonies were established.

How do plants get their nutrients?

Green plants get nourishment through a chemical process called photosynthesis, Which uses sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to make simple sugars. Those simple sugars are then changed into starches, proteins, or fats, which give a plant all the energy it needs to perform life processes and to grow. Generally, sunlight (along with carbon dioxide) enters through the surface of a plant’s leaves. The sunlight and carbon dioxide travel to special food-making cells (palisade) deeper in the leaves. Each of these cells contain a green substance called chlorophyll.

Chlorophyll gives plants their green color and traps light energy, allowing food making to take place. Also located in the middle layer of leaves are special cells that make up a plant’s “transportation” systems. Tubelike bundles of cells called xylem tissue carry water and minerals throughout a plant, from its roots to its outermost leaves. Phloem cells, on the other hand, transport the plant’s food supply sugar dissolved in water—from its manufacturing site in leaves to all other cells.

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

The words parkway and driveway come from the days when only the well-off could afford an automobile.

The long, winding roads from the highway to the manor were, and are still, called “driveways.” On the other hand, to ensure the pleasure of driving, highways were built carefully, with planted trees and groomed medians to imitate the natural beauty of a park, so they were called “parkways,” meaning left in an enhanced natural state.