item 1 >>> I’ve always tended to have a pretty mathematical mind, but one thing that just doesn’t come easy to me is time-zones and the International Date Line. Yes, if I work at it I can puzzle it out, but for me it’s not automatic or intuitive. But I can tell you this: the IDL is in the middle of a time-zone, so when you cross it, it’s still the exact same time, just a different day. I can also tell you that it is drawn so that it skirts any land area where people live, just to make it easier in practice. And finally, altho I could explain this to you but I won’t for the reasons stated, in each 24-hour global cycle, there are 2 hours when it is any one of 3 days somewhere on the Earth…for example, for those 2 hours, “right now” could be Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, depending where you are.
item 2 >>> Keeping track of hours and days, months and years, is a fascinating subject, and the weirdest part is this: there has hardly been a place on Earth or a time in history where people weren’t juggling at least 2 different systems, and sometimes many more than that. Anyhow, here’s a German map showing how the Philippines, then a colony of Spain, was arbitrarily included in the same day as the South American colonies, well, at least for most of the day…and at any rate, behind them, not ahead of them. This was abolished in 1845. And later, when the U.S. bought Alaska from Russia, Alaska changed time zones, plus switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, resulting in a mess I’m not going to even try to untangle. But a similar thing happened to Samoa in 1892, and due to the IDL, they actually had 367 days that year, it being a leap year, you see.
item 3 >>> But here, if some night you can’t get to sleep, and thinking hard about something can make you drowsy, try this on for size: When you cross the International Date Line from East to West, you “lose” a day. Yet how can that be, if you live the same number of days as you would have if you hadn’t crossed it. Look at it this way: take 2 identical twins, Abner and Zeke. Now Abner stays on the Eastern side of the IDL his entire life, while at some point in his life Zeke crosses it, East to West, and stays there. Suppose they die simultaneously…they die on different days, altho obviously both have lived exactly the same number of days. And suppose they each kept a diary, never missing a day…at their deaths, would these 2 diaries have the same number of entries? Zzzzzzzzzzzz…
item 4 >>> And if that didn’t knock you out, try this…someone born next year can be older than someone born this year. How can that be? I’ve put the answer in today’s Wicked Ballsy, and since it’s in the nature of a spoiler, you have to look at it in the mirror to read it…unless you’re one of those extraordinary people who can see backwards, in which case, quoting Bill Murray in the movie Stripes, “I wanna party with you, cowboy!”
item 5 >>> You probably remember your kids complaining…or today hear your grandkids complaining…that they haven’t got anything to do. When I was a kid, that was something you didn’t dare say out loud, owing to your Mom’s killer comeback: “Oh yeah? I can find you something to do!” Now a verb is an action word, essentially something that is done. Lists on the net of “common” English verbs have about 600 regular and another 100 or so irregular verbs. One estimate of the total number of verbs I found is over 9000. There’s gotta be something in there to do, right? But there are even more verbs than that…
item 6 >>> I’m thinking of verbs that are used today only in the form of an adjective, and typicality aren’t listed in dictionaries in their verb form, if at all. And you find a lot of these oddities in the names of animals. Here are 3 at random: the Reticulated Python…technically speaking, to “reticulate” is to draw, arrange or construct with a pattern or network of lines. Then we have the Pileated Woodpecker, the kind Woody Woodpecker is. Pileated means having a crest or crown…I cannot find one source that accepts “pileate” as a verb, but I suppose it would mean to crown or top a head. And what got me thinking along these lines was an article in the paper about the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. This means marbled or veined, and the verb “marmorate” is begrudgingly mentioned as meaning to cover with marble or a marble-like pattern. As an adjective referring to marble or something resembling it, “marmoreal” is more common. But for either verb or adjective, wouldn’t the word “marble” do just fine? Yeah, but not as much fun…
item 7 >>> But dig this: it said in the article that the BMSB as they called them are a pest because they cause “catfacing” on vegetables and fruits. To catface…see, another verb. But the amazing thing about English is, any word or phrase can be used as a verb, meaning to say that particular word or phrase, as in “But me no buts,” or “Wait-a-minute me no wait-a minutes.” Wonder if that works in other languages…add that to my list of things to research when they expand the day to 36 hours…doesn’t that start in 2012?
item 8 >>> And on the topic of verbs, isn’t it incredible the number of them we have that mean “to vomit”? Seems people are always inventing new ones, and most of them pretty funny. What we said growing up in New England was “upchuck,” which I always liked because of its onomatopoeic appeal…it sounds like what it is. Does the school janitor still dump a bucket of sawdust on the floor when a kid ralphs in the middle of the hallway? One that I like, that seems to always get a chuckle, especially from younger folks, is to “Daniel Boone”…derived from the notion that he went out and shot his breakfast.
item 9 >>> While we’re on the subject, one of my family’s favorite “family stories” concerns me at a very young age, listening to Louis Armstrong singing on the radio. I supposedly asked my parents to turn it off, because I said: “That man is going to upchuck.” Hardy-har-and-har.
item 10 >>> Speaking of Satchmo, can you stand one more Yuletide Mystery? It was only recently that I discovered Louis Armstrong’s snazzy Christmas records. Well, when a Baby Boomer says “recently,” it could be 15 years ago by now. But anyway, like “Zat You Santa Claus?” and “Cool Yule.” The latter has a lyric that is puzzling: He’s gonna have a bag of crazy toys/To give the groanies of the boys and girls. Come again? In the 1950s, “groanie” was current slang for “grown-ups,” in this case your ‘rents.
Resume and audio samples at http://home.rr.com/mastolfi