Why did pirates wear earrings?

Earrings were used by seamen, especially warriors such as pirates, for very practical reasons and not for decoration. They were given to young sailors as a symbol of their first crossing of the equator, and their purpose was to protect the eardrums during battle.

The pirates, especially those who fired the ships’ cannons during closed combat with the enemy, dangled wads of wax from their earrings to use as earplugs.

Why do wives call money from their husbands “pin money”?

Pin money became an English phrase to describe extra cash set aside by wives to run the household at the turn of the twentieth century, When pins were rare enough to be sold on just two days of the year, January 1 and 2.

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Although through time pins became more commonplace and far less expensive, the British courts still enforce any prenuptial agreement or property lien demanded by the wife as the “pin money charge.”

When did the first flowers bloom?

Mosses and fungi probably appeared about 400 million years ago. By about 200 million years ago, the earth sprouted sweeping forests of giant cycads, conifer trees, huge horsetails, and ferns. But the first flowering plants did not appear until the dinosaurs, sometime in the middle of the Cretaceous period, about 100 million years ago.

Before this, most of the trees had been gymnosperms, or plants with cones. Magnolias are among the oldest of all flowering plants, appearing about this time, along with orchids. With flowers came many insects, including butterflies, ants, termites, and bees. The flowering plants provided food for these insects, who spread the pollen from flower to flower to produce the seeds that would keep the flowers reproducing.

Are soap, booger, and earwax really jellybean flavors?

Yes! And so are dirt, earthworm, vomit, and grass. It’s not really clear how the folks at the jelly belly company figured out the flavor recipe for each bean, but those that have tried them say they are authentic tasting! Jellybeans, a type of candy made from sugar, corn syrup, and food starch, have traditionally been made with fruit flavoring.

One company, called Jelly Belly, made flavors like butter popcorn, cotton candy, and watermelon in the 1980s. These jellybeans were endorsed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who kept a jar of them on his desk in the White House, and who also made them the first jelly beans in outer space, sending them on the 1983 Challenger shuttle as a surprise for the astronauts.

What are fossils?

A fossil is the hardened remains or an imprint of a plant or animal that lived a very long time ago. Some fossils are thousands of years old, others are several hundred million years old. Most plants and animals died and then decayed without ever leaving a trace. But some were buried under mud, rocks, ice, or other heavy coverings before decaying. The pressure of these layers over thousands of years turned animal and plant remains into rock.

Usually fossils preserve the organism’s hard parts: the bones or shells of an animal and the seeds, stems, and leaf veins of plants. Sometimes the fossil is the actual animal part, like a bone or tooth, that has hardened into rock. Some fossils, called trace fossils, show the imprint of parts of the animal or plant. Occasionally these imprints act as a mold, and the sediment that fills the imprint hardens and becomes a cast of, for example, a dinosaur footprint. Sometimes bones or trees are preserved by minerals that seep into the part’s pores and then harden, or petrify, that part. Arizona’s Petrified Forest contains numerous examples of giant trees that were petrified millions of years ago.

What can parents do to help kids with their library assignments?

Very often school-age children will ask their parents for help with library assignments. And very often parents will find themselves gradually taking over and doing a report for their son or daughter. Instead, ask your parents to try the following ideas to motivate you and increase confidence in wading through a book report or library assignment (courtesy of Reading Rockets, a nonprofit educational service of WETA, Washington, D.C.’s leading public broadcasting station): • Ask your children questions about the assignment and encourage them to ask their teacher questions. This helps children to clarify what they are trying to do. Help them to identify smaller components of the topic they are researching or to see the topic as part of a larger topic. (For example, brontosaurus is a subgroup of dinosaurs, which is a subgroup of extinct animals.) These classifications will help them to identify useful references. • Suggest that they look up the topic in the library catalog, periodical guides, and reference books. The librarian will direct them and help them get started.

Be sure they know how to use a table of contents and index. Suggest they start with something general about the subject and be prepared to consult more than one source. • Help them to break assignments into logical segments and avoid last-minute panics by setting deadlines for each phase of the work. Allow them plenty of time to gather the materials they need. • Help them to determine if the community library has the resources they need or if they need to check other information sources. • Encourage your kids to ask the librarian for help in locating materials and let them do their own talking. • Give them encouragement, advice, and a ride if they need it, but resist the temptation to take over an assignment. Let your children assume responsibility for researching and writing reports. It is the best way for them to library skills that they will able to use for the rest of their lives.

Why do we put candles on a birthday cake?

The Greeks borrowed celebrating birthdays from the Egyptian pharaohs and the cake idea from the Persians. Then early Christians did away with birthday parties for a while until the custom re-emerged with candles in Germany in the twelfth century.

Awakened with the arrival of a birthday cake topped with lighted candles, which were changed and kept lit until after the family meal, the honoured child would make a wish that, it was said, would come true only if the candles were blown out in a single breath.

What is school like in other countries?

Schools are different in every country in the world. A school may have lots of classrooms, books, play equipment, and a playground, or lessons may take place under trees or in an open outdoor space. A temple, a tent, or a building on stilts may serve as a classroom for some children. In poor places that have no money to build schools, children may learn their lessons outdoors. In isolated places—such as the Australian outback or the Alaskan wilderness—where families live hundreds of miles apart and far from cities or towns, children may get their lessons from teachers over two-way radios or the Internet. All around the world, schools are a reflection of the culture in which they are formed.

In Japan, as students enter school, they remove their shoes and put on slippers, a Japanese custom. They do not write with pencils; instead, each child has his or her own ink well, brush, and ink for writing the kanji (Japanese characters). Children often clean their classrooms (including dusting cubbies and mopping floors), and at the end of each class the students thank their teacher and bow. In schools in Brazil and other South American countries, children often go to school barefoot. In India, children practice yoga in school. And many children that go to public schools in European countries, such as Germany and France, ride their bikes to school or take public transportation, rather than school buses.

What’s unusual about the music to the American national anthem?

In 1814, after a night in a pub, Francis Scott Key was taken prisoner during the war between Canada and the United States. When he saw the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry he was inspired to write his famous lyrics with one particular barroom song, “To Anacreon In Heaven,” still in his mind.

TAMPA, FL – JANUARY 27: Whitney Houston sings the National Anthem before a game with the New York Giants taking on the Buffalo Bills prior to Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium on January 27, 1991 in Tampa, Florida. The Giants won 20-19. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

And so “The Star Spangled Banner” was written to the tune of a traditional old English drinking song.

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.