Word Salad – July 2023

Trivia and Other Useful Information You’ve Pondered Too Long

Did you know . . .

A SHOT OF WHISKEY  In the Old West, a .45 cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents; so did a glass of whiskey. If a cowhand was low on cash, he would often give the bartender a cartridge in exchange for a drink. This became known as a “shot” of whiskey.

BUYING THE FARM  This phrase, we know, is synonymous with dying. During WWI soldiers were given life insurance policies worth $5,000. This was about the price of an average farm. So, if you died you “bought the farm” for your survivors.

IRONCLAD CONTRACT  This came about from the ironclad ships of the Civil War. It meant something so strong it could not be broken.

RIFFRAFF  The Mississippi River was once the main way of travelling from north to south. Riverboats carried passengers and freight, but because they were expensive, most people used rafts. Everything had the right of way over these rafts, which were considered cheap. The steering oar on the rafts was called a “riff,” and this evolved into “riffraff,” meaning low class.

COBWEB – The Old English word for “spider” was “cob.”

SHIP STATEROOMS – Travelling by steamboat was once considered the height of comfort. Passenger cabins on the boats were not numbered. Instead they were named after states. To this day cabins on ships are called staterooms.

SLEEP TIGHT Early beds were made with a wooden frame with ropes tied across the frame in a crisscross pattern. A straw mattress was then put on top of the ropes. Over time the ropes stretched, causing the bed to sag. The owner would then tighten the ropes to get a better night’s sleep.

SHOWBOAT  These were floating theaters built on a barge that was pushed by a steamboat. They played small towns along the Mississippi River. Unlike the boat shown in the movie Showboat, they did not have an engine. They were gaudy and attention grabbing, which is why we say someone who is showing off  is “showboating.”

OVER A BARREL – In the days before CPR, a drowning victim would be placed face down over a barrel and the barrel would be rolled back and forth in an effort to empty the lungs of water. It was rarely effective. If you are over a barrel, you are in deep trouble.

BARGE IN – Heavy freight was moved along the Mississippi in large barges pushed by steamboats. These were hard to control and would sometimes swing into piers or other boats. People would say they “barged in.”

HOGWASH – Steamboats carried both people and animals. Since pigs smelled so bad, they would be washed before being put on board. The mud and other filth that was washed off were considered useless “hogwash.”

CURFEW – The word “curfew” comes from the French phrase “couvre-feu,” which means “cover the fire.” It was used to describe the time of blowing out all lamps and candles. It was later adopted into Middle English as “curfeu,” which eventually became the modern “curfew.” In the early American colonies homes had no real fireplaces, so a fire was built in the center of the room. In order to make sure a fire did not get out of control during the night, it was required that, by an agreed upon time, all fires would be covered with a clay pot called a “curfew.”

BARRELS OF OIL – When the first oil wells were drilled, there was no provision for storing the liquid so they used water barrels. That is why, to this day, we speak of barrels of oil rather than gallons.

HOT OFF THE PRESS – As the paper goes through the rotary printing press, friction causes it to heat up. Therefore, if you grab the paper right off the press, it’s hot. The expression means to get immediate information.

Now on to other tidbits of extremely useful information:

The liquid inside young coconuts can be used as a substitute for blood plasma.


No piece of paper can be folded in half more than seven times. (Go ahead, try it.)


You burn more calories sleeping than you do watching television.


Oak trees do not produce acorns until they are fifty years of age, or older.


The first product to have a bar code was Wrigley’s gum.

(“Aaaah, Juicy Fruit.” Who said that line in what movie?)

* * *

The king of hearts is the only king in a card deck without a mustache.

* * *

American Airlines saved $40,000 in 1987 by eliminating one olive
from each salad served in first class.

* * *

Venus is the only planet that rotates clockwise.

(Since Venus is normally associated with women, what does this tell you?

That women are going in the “right” direction!)

* * *

Apples, not caffeine, are more efficient at waking you up in the morning.

* * *

Most dust particles in your house are composed of dead skin cells.

* * *

The first owner of the Marlboro Company died of lung cancer.
So did the first “Marlboro Man.”

* * *

Walt Disney was afraid of mice.

* * *

Pearls dissolve in vinegar.

* * *

The ten most valuable brand names on Earth are: Apple, Coca Cola, Google, IBM, Microsoft, GE, McDonalds, Samsung, Intel, and Toyota, in that order.

* * *

A duck’s quack doesn’t echo, and no one knows why.

So there you go. Feel smarter now?

(Note: Thanks to Lakeside resident Susan Wilkins’s sister Kathy Macauley for this submission.)

For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com

Sally Asante
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