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Birthday today  
Born today in 1891: Actress and producer Katherine MacDonald


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Popular media-marinated clichés we could all do without (Part I)

They used the Jaws of Life

Any excuse to trot this out. Why not just say the rescuers cut the victim out of the wreckage, as they would have done in any era, with or without fancy hydraulics?

Watched in horror

Anyone who sees something that came out tragically, or at least might have, is automatically declared to have done this. For all we know, the witnesses may well have been only moderately worried or, if they didn’t properly assess the situation or anticipate an unhappy outcome, quite indifferent or even intrigued.

Common law husband/wife

Always said about someone else, preferably someone missing an alarming percentage of their teeth and/or languishing in a trailer park.

A bus plunged...

When buses accidentally go downward someplace where they’re not supposed to, they always plunge. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that they’re long and skinny, at least remotely like a bathroom plunger save for the rubber cup at the end.

When asked if he or she was a hero, the answer was no

Resolved: If I ever rescue a child from a sewer pipe or jump into the driver’s seat of a loaded bus to keep it from “plunging” somewhere horrible, I’ll say yes, I certainly am a hero. Please print my picture on the front page above the fold and shower me with whatever accolades you have available.

Odd, entirely unrelated facts

Neither birds nor naked mole rats are sensitive to the heat (capsaicin) in chili peppers.

Few people have ever read a real King James bible (1611). The one you normally see is a 1769 modernization of it.

Icelanders like to eat shark meat that’s been fermented for six months. They call it hakarl. In this sense they have something in common with the Japanese, who before the era of modern refrigeration made their sushi this way.

From her roles and persona most people assumed that character actress Nancy Walker was Jewish, but she wasn’t. Also, she was very small at 4′10″ (1.5m) — a fact to which I can attest because she walked past me once on a sidewalk.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has detected a mysterous underwater noise called “the bloop” on several occasions. Researchers say it appears to be biological, but any animal producing it must be many times larger than a blue whale.

Jerome “Curly” Howard of the Three Stooges hated having a shaved head, so each year during the summer hiatus he would let his hair grow out.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s native language was Corsican. He learned French in school beginning at the age of nine.

A tossed penny isn’t perfectly fair. The obverse (“heads”) is slightly heavier so the coin lands with “tails” up about 50.5% of the time.

Actor Khigh Dheigh, best remembered as the North Korean brainwasher in The Manchurian Canidate and recurring arch-criminal Wo Fat in the TV series Hawaii Five-O, wasn’t even Asian. His real name was Kenneth Dickerson, he was born in New Jersey of north African ancestry, and he lived out his retirement years in Arizona.

Thank you very much indeed

Lists of US versus UK terms for various items are pretty easy to find, but here are a few you don’t hear of as often.

US      UK
cotton swab      cotton wool
crib death      cot death
drunk driving      drink driving
[illegal] dumping      fly tipping
[football] field      pitch
flashlight      torch
legally blind      registered blind
[police] lineup      identity parade
liquid detergent      washup liquid
[highway] median      reservation
nail polish      nail varnish
[highway] overpass      flyover
riding lawnmower      sit-on lawnmower
run [for office]      stand
shopping cart      trolley
steel wool      iron wool
takeout [food]      takeaway
thread      cotton
trailer      caravan
trash bag      bin liner
yarn      wool

(In other words, some cotton is made of wool and some wool is made of cotton.)