Inside baseball: Outfielder Jackie Brandt’s “mind was so impermanent that his brains were flaking from his head.” Also: Norway, mead, and unpleasant customs in ancient Rome.
CHARLOTTE, N.C., October 4, 2016 – A veritable potpourri of trivia highlights our Wednesday tour of all things irrelevant. Since the baseball playoffs are now officially underway, we begin with some jargon from the diamond.
1 – Origin of the term “flake”: One of the great things about baseball that no other sport can claim while a game is in progress is the luxury of having enough downtime for the true characters of the sport to emerge. Over the years there have been dozens including Yogi Berra, Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Spaceman Bill Lee, Casey Stengal and Lefty Gomez to name a few.
It seems only natural, then, that the term “flake” or “flaky” would have its origins in baseball.
The use of the word dates to the 1920s when it was used to describe cocaine as a substance that was “flaky in appearance.”
Among Brandt’s repertoire of antics was sliding into each base after hitting a home run rather than merely jogging around the bases.
The “New York Times” later reported that the word was an “insider’s” term that “does not mean anything so crude as ‘crazy,’ but it’s well beyond ‘screwball’ and far off to the side of ‘eccentric.’”
Whatever the truth may have been, Brandt is said to have embraced the affectionate word that best described his personality.
2 – How long is a “honeymoon”?: With the presidential election slightly more than a month away, the new chief executive will have what is known as a “honeymoon period” for a brief time after taking the oath of office.
Then again, this year the honeymoon period could be a total eclipse.
Some 4,000 years ago in ancient Babylon, it was traditional for a bride’s father to supply his new son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a type of beer made from honey which has a strong taste and can be quite lethal when overly imbibed.
In those days, a month followed a lunar calendar of 30 days and the month long beer supply was a period known as the “honey month.”
Thus, we can thank the Babylonians for the popular term we know today as the “honeymoon.”
3 – When in Rome…: One popular misconception about ancient Rome is derived from the word “vomitorium.” Many people claim that Romans would frequently excuse themselves part way through an orgy or a night of heavy eating and find a convenient place to throw up in order to make room for more extravagant culinary delights.
It appears that the popular “vomitorium” theory is nothing more than a myth. In truth a “vomitorium” was actually the passageway a person used when leaving a building. Thus the exits at the Colosseum in Rome were “vomitoriums.” (Or, in the Latin plural, “vomitoria.”)
Of course, after a long afternoon of bloody gladiator fights, the term may have had some validity after all.
4 – Norwegian would or wouldn’t they?: Here’s a quirky geographical tidbit about the Scandinavian country of Norway. Though Norway is one of the three fingers of Scandinavia that dips toward the Baltic Sea, it has a coastline of only 1,600 miles.
If, however, you look closely at the jagged coast of the country, you will see that it actually looks like a strand of kinky hair thanks to thousands of years of glacial erosion that carved out the fjords.
If it was possible to get the kinks out of Norway’s coast, it would actually stretch more than 14,000 miles which is greater than the distance between the North and South poles.
Consider that the size of the United States with all of its territories is also roughly 14,000 miles even though our country is nearly 27 times larger than Norway!
Finally: This question from Tom and Ray Magliozzi, better known as “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers on NPR’s popular Saturday morning program “Car Talk.”
Tom asked his listeners one Saturday to consider, “If I am always doing nothing, how will I know when I’m finished?”
Food for thought until next week.
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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