Rumkin Trivia

Back to the Category List


  • 2008-07-13: The phrase "to pull the wool over one's eyes" comes from the legal system. A long time ago, lawyers and judges wore wool wigs. They were loose fitting and lawyers who were able to trick the judge said they were able to pull the wool over the judge's eyes.
  • 2008-07-13: The phrase "Hunkey Dory" comes from Yokohama, Japan. This international port on the west side of Tokyo Bay had many travelers. It was also very well lit and well policed, so trips to the location were quite safe. Hunkey Dory comes from the Huncho-Dori street.
  • 2008-07-13: In the middle ages, Kings were referred to by their first name only. To stop the confusion between referring to the current King and a previous one, people started referring to "the late ..." in conversation.
  • 2008-07-13: In the Middle Ages, a "mare" did not refer to a horse, but instead to a night-dwelling monster who sat on a person's chest while they slept. Later, this demon was known as a "night-hag," and today we can refer to the same troubled sleep as a "nightmare."
  • 2007-12-03: When you wake up with a hangover, someone may suggest that you have "the hair of the dog that bit you," which means to drink a bit more. That phrase comes from the Latin "similia similibus curantur," or "like cures like" and was used in early doctoring. People believed that a second dose of what caused the problem could be a cure. For instance, animal bites may be treated with a part of the animal that bit the victim.
  • 2007-11-28: The meaning of "barge" that is used for the phrase, "to barge in" is based on large, flat bottomed boats called barges. Once they started to move, they were difficult to steer and stop, and would frequently cause accidents.
  • 2007-11-28: The phrase, "got a lucky break" stems from the tradition of breaking the wishbone of a fowl, where the winner was the one that had the bigger half.
  • 2007-11-28: A "baker's dozen" is actually 13 instead of twelve. During the middle ages, it was necessary for English law to have very stiff fines for bakers caught cheating their customers on the weight of a loaf of bread. Since loaves were not uniform in size, they gave an extra loaf so that there would be no question whether the customer was getting at least what they had ordered.
  • 2006-08-16: "Laser" is actually an acronym that stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emissions of Radiation.
  • 2006-06-26: The question mark and exclamation point both come from the monk habit of writing a Latin word at the end of questions ("quo", which means question) or important statements ("lo", meaning something that should be heeded). Over time, the letters to the words were written vertically to save space, and eventually morphed into the symbols we know today.
  • 2006-06-19: Two English words have all five vowels in order: abstemious and facetious. Adding "-ly" to the end also adds the "sometimes vowel" y.
  • 2006-06-06: A palindrome is a word that is the same whether it is read left to right or right to left. Some examples are racecar, kayak, level, sexes, and the phrase, "Madam, I'm Adam." There are many more.
  • 2006-06-06: There are only four words in the English language which end in -dous: tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous. There are weird technical words also, but they are very uncommon.
  • 2006-06-05: The sentence, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," uses ever letter in the alphabet.
  • 2006-05-30: Dreamt is not the only English word that ends in "mt." You can also find undreamt, adreamt, and daydreamt.
  • 2006-05-30: If you count only letters, your left hand does about 56% of the typing. If you include spaces and enters, your left hand does about 45%.
  • 2006-05-27: The word "etiquette" comes from royal receptions, where attendees were given a small card that outlined the expected conduct. In French, it means "ticket," and in English it means "proper behavior."
  • 2006-05-27: The phrase, "Home, James," comes from Queen Victoria. She was presented a new driver and broke from tradition of using the servant's last name only, probably due to his name, James Darling. So, instead of saying "Home, Darling," she started a trend that is still heard to this day.
  • 2006-05-27: In medieval times, flute players would perform in the street and try to gather a croud. People would gather and start to dance, and everyone had a good time. When it was over, the hat would be passed to pay the performers, who made it all happen, and that is how the phrase "time to pay the piper" was started.
  • 2006-05-26: Saying that you are "stumped" comes from early American settlers. It was hard work cutting down a tree for farming, but stump removal was an entirely different matter. People who could not get rid of the extra large stumps were said to have been "stumped."
  • 2006-03-15: Besides being a country, Canada is an Indian word that means "Big Village."
  • 2006-02-14: A cat lover is called an ailurophile.
  • 2006-02-14: When a vet performs an onychectomy, a cat is being declawed.
  • 2006-02-14: "Canine" refers to a dog.
  • 2006-02-14: "Feline" refers to a cat.
  • 2006-02-14: "Piscine" refers to a fish.
  • 2006-02-14: "Porcine" refers to a pig.
  • 2006-02-14: "Oscine" refers to a songbird.
  • 2006-02-14: "Elapine" refers to a snake.
  • 2006-01-12: In Italian, spaghetti means "little strings," vermicelli means "little worms," and linguine means "little tongues."
  • 2006-01-10: It is said that Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow. That depends greatly upon the language. Inuit has 20-50, but some describe different conditions of snow. There are so many because the language is a polysynthetic language and almost all words are compound words (like "homework"). It also depends on how you count words – do "book" and "books" count as two or one? Needless to say, no matter how you count them, you will still get several.
  • 2005-12-29: The Russian and German words for supreme ruler are both derived from Julius Caesar. In Russian it is Czar, and in German it is Kaiser.
  • 2005-10-11: The word "snob" is really a contraction of the Scottish word "snab" (servant) and the Latin phrase "sine nobilitate" (without nobility). At one time, only nobility were enrolled in colleges. When tradition broke to allow commoners, their enrollment was recorded as sine nobilitate, which was soon abbreviated.
  • 2005-10-10: Whiskey gets its name from the Scottish language, meaning "Water of Life."
  • 2005-10-10: Captain Daly created the word "quiz" as the result of a bet. He was a Dublin theatre manager and he bet that he could introduce a new word into the English language within 24 hours. He came up with quiz and hired a few boys to start it round Dublin. The following day, everyone was inquiring about the new word.
  • 2005-10-07: A Czechoslovakian playwright coined the word "robot" to describe machines that were capable of performing simple manual labor.
  • 2005-09-08: "Blizzard" used to mean a violent blow and usually referred to a boxer's knockout punch. An Iowa journalist used it to describe a crippling storm and other newspapers started using blizzard in the same context.
  • 2005-05-06: The traditional "Rx" that designates all pharmaceutical prescriptions means "take" in Latin.
  • 2005-05-04: The best-known four lines of verse in the English language is said to be "Mary Had A Little Lamb."
  • 2005-04-11: The word "freshman" was used since 1550 to describe anyone inexperienced in life's many facets.
  • 2004-12-01: Two possible origins of the phrase, "Mind your P's and Q's," both stem from old English pubs. Ale was ordered by pints and quarts. The first possibility is that the bartender would yell this phrase out in order to calm down unruly customers. The second is based on the chalkboard that customer's tabs were kept on. The waitress would sometimes write down the wrong letter (intentionally or accidentally) and would later bill the customer incorrectly. The patrons would warn each other to make sure the staff was honest.

    It is possible that the phrase started nearly simultaneously for both reasons in different locations.
  • 2004-12-01: Many years ago in English pubs, whistles were baked into the rim or handle of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet/Whet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this practice.
  • 2004-11-29: The shortest sentence in the English language is "Go!" The understood subject is you and the verb is go.
  • 2004-11-29: nth is one of the few words with no vowels (and no 'y') in the English language. Acronyms such as R.S.V.P. are excluded.
    If you include words that are uttered sounds with meanings, you can add these: shh, grr, psst, zzz. The word cwm is excluded because it is a dialect word from Welsh, where the 'w' is a vowel sound.
  • 2004-11-29: There are 11 official languages in South Africa.
  • 2004-11-16: Fickleheaded and fiddledeedee are the longest English words that are in a dictionary and that only use the letters in the first half of the alphabet.
  • 2004-11-16: The longest English word that appears in a dictionary that only uses the letters in the last half of the alphabet is nonsupports.
  • 2004-11-16: The word "cabbaged" is the longest word that can be played on an instrument; that is to say the word contains only the letters from A to G.
  • 2004-11-16: The longest words with horizontal symmetry (the top half is a mirror image of the bottom half) are CHECKBOOK, COOKBOOK, OKEECHOBEE. They only contain horizontal symmetry when they are capitalized, since there are only a couple lowercase letters that have horizontal symmetry.
  • 2004-11-16: The longest English words with vertical symmetry (the left half is a mirror image of the right half) are OTTO, MAAM, and TOOT. There are some three letter words, such as MOM and HAH.
  • 2004-11-16: When capitalized, "BID" has a horizontal symmetry axis (the top is a mirror image of the bottom), and when in lowercase, "bid" has a vertical symmetry axis (the left is a mirror image of the right).
  • 2004-11-16: The longest word with 180° rotational symmetry (it looks the same when rotated upside down) is SWIMS.
  • 2004-11-16: The longest English words that are composed only of letters that each have 180° rotational symmetry independently are SOONISH and ONIONS.
  • 2004-11-15: When referring to an engaged couple, a fiancé is the man that will be married, and the woman is the fiancée (an extra 'e' on the word).
  • 2004-11-05: Americans use the word macaroni to mean a specific type of pasta. Italians define maccherone as a mixture of elements and it refers to all types of pasta.
  • 2004-11-05: The word nice didn't always mean what it does today. Originally, it came from the Latin word nescius (meaning ignorant), and grew to mean foolish in the 14th and 15th centuries.
  • 2004-11-03: Taxi is spelled the same way in 12 languages: English, French, German, Swedish, Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, and Romanian. In Portuguese it is spelled táxi.
  • 2004-09-28: The cortex gets its name from the Latin word for tree bark.
  • 2004-09-28: The word hypnosis comes from the Greek word meaning sleep.
  • 2004-09-21: "Tsiology" is anything written about tea.
  • 2004-09-01: The official languages of Luxembourg are Luxembourgish, French, and German.
  • 2004-08-23: The most frequently used letters of the English alphabet are E, T, A, O, I, and N.
  • 2004-08-17: Chinese is the most spoken language in the world.
  • 2004-07-29: The only English letter that doesn't appear in the name of any U.S. state is the letter Q.
  • 2004-07-29: The first bicycle was called a hobbyhorse. Later, a bicycle with pedals was created, and it was called a bone-shaker.
  • 2004-07-22: Shakespeare invented the words assassination and bump.
  • 2004-07-15: Thailand means "land of the free."
  • 2004-07-13: People weren't always said to "smoke tobacco." That phrase didn't become popular until the 1750's. Before that, the expression for smoking was to "drink tobacco."
  • 2004-06-30: The name "Wendy" was made up for the book Peter Pan.
  • 2004-06-29: The longest word in common use that can be spelled without repeating a letter is "uncopyrightable."
  • 2004-06-23: The little lump of flesh, just forward of your ear canal, is called a tragus.
  • 2004-06-22: Only one word in the English language exists that contains a vowel repeated six times: indivisibility.
  • 2004-06-03: The shortest poem is titled "Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes" by Strickland Gillian, but is more commonly known as "Fleas."

    Had 'em
  • 2004-06-02: The longest word you can type using just the middle row of letters on a qwerty keyboard is shakalshas.
  • 2004-06-02: Zzz is the longest word that you can type in the lower row of letters on a qwerty keyboard. Since there are no vowels, it is difficult to construct words. Zzz is to show that someone is snoring or is asleep, and does appear in dictionaries.
  • 2004-06-02: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu is the longest place name in the world. It is a hill in New Zealand. Taumata, as generally abbreviated, means the summit of the hill, where Tamatea, who is known as the land eater, slid down, climbed up and swallowed mountains, played on his nose flute to his loved one.
  • 2004-06-02: Los Angeles is Spanish for the Angles. Its full name is El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula, which translates to The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Anglels of the Little Portion. Officially, it is just El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles. The full name can be abbreviated to 3.63% of its size: L.A.
  • 2004-06-02: The longest word you can type with your right hand is phyllophyllin. People commonly say it is lollipop.
  • 2004-06-01: "Strengths" is the longest word in the English language with just one vowel.
  • 2004-06-01: Typewriter is one of the longest English words that you type on just the top row of a qwerty keyboard. Others include pepperroot and perpetuity. Although powertripper doesn't appear in any major dictionary, it has 2 more letters.
  • 2004-06-01: The longest one-syllable word in the English language is squirreled. Others that are just one letter shorter are screeched, scratched, scrounged, scrunched, stretched, straights, strengths, scraughed, scrinched, scritched, scrooched, sprainged, spreathed, throughed, and thrutched.
  • 2004-06-01: The longest words that are typed on a qwerty keyboard with just your left hand is aftercataracts, tesseradecades, and tetrastearates. Commonly, people say it is databases, stewardesses, or reverberated.
  • 2004-06-01: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is the longest word in the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The only other word with the same amount of letters is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconioses, its plural. It was coined by Everett Smith, the President of the National Puzzlers' League, in 1935 purely for the purpose of inventing a new "longest word." It means a lung disease caused by breathing in particles of siliceous volcanic dust.
  • 2004-05-12: The Sanskrit word for war means "desire for more cows."
  • 2004-04-19: In the English language, orange only rhymes with sporange, which is a sac where spores are produced.
  • 2004-04-19: In the English language, purple rhymes with hirple, which is a British term and means to walk lamely or to hobble.
  • 2004-04-19: No word in the English language rhymes with month.
  • 2004-04-19: In the English language, silver only rhymes with chilver, which is an ewe lamb.
  • 2004-04-19: There is only one perfect rhyme in the English language for the word elephant - infant. You need to rhyme the full last syllable ("phant") in order for it to be a perfect rhyme.
  • 2004-04-12: In physics, the letter w means energy.
  • 2004-04-08: The name Easter comes from Eastre, an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess, originally of the dawn, and later the goddess of fertility. The goddess was represented by a rabbit, which has held over to modern-day Easter bunny. In pagan times, an annual spring festival was held in her honor. The church has also scheduled their passover and Easter celebrations for the same time.
  • 2004-04-07: Tripolini pasta, or little bows were named to honor the Italian conquest of Tripoli in Libya.
  • 2004-04-06: In 18th century England, macaroni was a synonym for perfection and excellence. That's why, for example, the feather in Yankee Doodle's cap was called macaroni. In fact, the word macaroni means dearest darlings in Italian.
  • 2004-04-06: The in the late 1800's, the phrase "cracker jack" meant that something was very good. This is where the Cracker Jack snack got its name from.
  • 2004-03-31: The loop on a belt that holds the stray end in place is called a keeper.
  • 2004-03-31: "Patella" is the scientific name for your kneecap.
  • 2004-03-25: The letter "x" is the least-used letter in the English language.
  • 2004-03-23: A jiffy is 1/100 of a second.
  • 2004-03-23: Gogol is a number -- 1 followed by 100 zeros.
    10, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000
  • 2004-03-23: A fortnight is 14 days.
  • 2004-03-08: The dot over the letter "i" is called a tittle.
  • 2004-03-03: Dr. Seuss pronounced his name such that it rhymed with "voice."
  • 2004-02-27: The word Minnesota is a Dakota word "minisota" meaning "sky tinted waters."
  • 2004-01-06: The Hawaiian alphabet has only 12 letters; 5 vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and 7 consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p, w).
  • 2003-11-12: "E Plurbis Unim" means "One Out of Many."
  • 2003-11-03: The scientific name for stinky feet is bromhidrosis.
  • 2003-10-24: The plastic things at the ends of shoelaces are called aglets.
  • 2003-10-23: The "ye" in "ye olde" is pronounced "the." When looking for a letter, the Romans related the "th" sound to the word "thorn." They looked for a letter that most resembled a thorn, and it was the lowercase y.
  • 2003-10-21: I.O.U. does not stand for "I owe you." It stands for "I owe unto."
  • 2003-10-07: The "zip" in zipcode stands for "Zoning Improvement Plan."
  • 2003-09-17: Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed evrey lteter by it slef by the wrod as a wlohe.

    Later research shows that the letters need to be somewhat in the right order. If you merely invert the internal letters, it will not be understandable.
Actual comment found in a patient's hospital chart:
While in ER, she was examined, X-rated and sent home.
Tyler Akins <>
Legal Info