Scientists don’t really know why we cry when we’re unhappy or hurt (or sometimes, even joyful). But tears help express deeply felt emotions and often release stress and tension from the body. From our earliest days, when we were babies and could not yet communicate through language, crying let the people around us know that we needed something.
Frequently, even after we become older, crying still serves as a wordless signal that something help or comfort is needed. In places all over the world, no matter what language is spoken, crying expresses emotions that are easily understood by all.
From 1800, when John Adams became the first president to inhabit it, until 1814, when the British burned it because the Americans had torched Toronto, the presidential building was a grey Virginia freestone.
It was painted white to cover up the fire damage done by the British. It wasn’t officially called the White House until Teddy Roosevelt began printing its image on the executive mansion stationery in 1901.
The expression “frog in your throat” doesn’t come from sounding like a frog because you have a cold or sore throat. It originates from an actual Middle Ages medical treatment for a throat infection.
Doctors believed that if a live frog was placed head-first into a patient’s mouth the animal would inhale the cause of the hoarseness into its own body. Thankfully, the practice is long gone, but the expression “frog in your throat” lives on.
Someone who changes sides during a war is called a “turncoat” because of the actions of a former duke of Saxony who found himself and his land uncomfortably situated directly in the middle of a war between the French and the Saxons.
He quickly had a reversible coat made for himself, one side blue for the Saxons, and the other side white for the French. Then, depending on who was occupying his land, he could wear the appropriate colour of allegiance.
The Etruscans of ancient Italy ritually honoured their dead war heroes by sacrificing the lives of all prisoners seized in battle. After conquering the Etruscans, the Romans borrowed and embellished the ritual by having the prisoners kill each other. They turned the slaughter into public gladiatorial games and declared the spectacle a Roman holiday, which became an expression synonymous with any cruel and crushing public destruction.
The Chinese lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the Moon, and is constructed in a different fashion than the Western solar calendar. In the Chinese calendar, the beginning of the year falls somewhere between late January and early February, and contains 354 days.
Each year is given an animal designation, such as “Year of the Ox.” A total of 12 different animal names are used, and they rotate in the following sequence: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare (Rabbit), Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep (Goat), Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. The Chinese have adopted the Western calendar since 1911, but the lunar calendar is still used for festive occasions such as the Chinese New Year. Many Chinese calendars print both the solar dates and the Chinese lunar dates.
During the Second World War, Native American paratroopers began the custom of shouting the name of the great Indian chief Geronimo when jumping from a plane because, according to legend, When cornered at a cliff’s edge by U.S. cavalrymen, Geronimo, in defiance, screamed his own name as he leaped to certain death, only to escape both injury and the bluecoats.
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.
An allergic reaction is a reaction to a substance that is normally harmless to most other people. Allergies happen when a person’s immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance that the person has breathed in, touched, or eaten. Allergens— the antigens that bring on an allergic reaction—may be foods, medications, plants or animals, chemicals, dust, or molds. Some common allergic reactions are hay fever, allergic conjunctivitis (an eye reaction); asthma, pet-dander allergies, and skin reactions, such as hives.
A common cause for allergies are dust mites, a large part of household dust. If they are breathed in by an allergic person, the body parts of the dead mites can trigger asthma, a lung condition that causes a person to have difficulty breathing. Cat and dog dander, or skin flakes, can cause an allergic reaction, such as sneezing, wheezing, and running eyes and nose. Common food allergy triggers are the proteins in cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, and tree nuts.
In the United States, the hottest day that we know of was July 10, 1913. On that day, Death Valley, California, reached 134 degrees Fahrenheit (56 degrees Celsius). The highest temperature in the world was recorded on September 13, 1922 in Al Aziziyah, Libya, where it reached 136.4 degrees Fahrenheit (58 degrees Celsius).
The coldest temperature ever measured was –129 Fahrenheit (–89 Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica, on July 21, 1983. The world’s most extreme temperatures take place in Verhoyansk, northeast Siberia, where temperatures fall as low as –90 degrees Fahrenheit (–68 degrees Celsius) in winter and rise as high as 98 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) in summer.