Myth Trivia: A trio of presidents, seeing dots and the Beaver

In our ongoing effort to remain at the cutting edge of trivial evolution, we look into the world of “dots,” check in on some former presidents and reveal a little known controversy about Leave it to Beaver.

"...and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver." "Leave It to Beaver's" Jerry Mathers in 1959. (Public domain image via Wikipedia entry on Jerry Mathers)

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, April 20, 2016 – In our ongoing effort to remain at the cutting edge of trivial evolution, we look into the world of “dots,” check in on some former presidents and reveal a little known controversy about Leave it to Beaver.

1 – Never forget to dot an “i”: Ever wonder what the little dot over a lower case “i” is called? It’s a tittle. Though rarely used and not always a term used just for dotting an “i,” a tittle is a small dot used in many languages for various purposes.

According to Wikipedia, the most prominent occurrence of the term comes in Matthew 5:18 of the New Testament which says, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

Thus the phrase “jot and tittle” refers to the notion that every detail is important regardless of how small.

One interesting sidebar is that the letter “Iota” is the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet.

So next time you watch a halftime show of an Ohio State football game, you can astound your friends by letting them know that the honor of “dotting the ‘i’” is really nothing more than adding the “tittle.”

Who knows, perhaps that’s where the biblical term “an ‘i’ for an ‘i’” originated?

2 – A trio of presidents: William Henry Harrison’s presidency is probably most memorable for one thing: He died a month after being inaugurated.

History books have long recorded that Harrison contracted pneumonia after delivering a record 1 hour, 45-minute inaugural speech in the rain.

Now there is evidence that there may have been another factor in Harrison’s demise which also resulted in the deaths of two other presidents in the same decade: contaminated drinking water.

Environmentalists still tell us that clean air and clean water are major campaign issues, which actually appears to have been around for over 150 years.

Ahhh, but returning to the 1840s we discover that Washington, D.C. did not yet have a modern sewer system and the source of water for the White House came from a nearby spring which was only a few blocks downhill from a sewage dump. Not much has changed in the past century and a half.

Apparently the water system was an ideal breeding ground for a deadly bacteria called “gastroenteritis,” which also caused the deaths of James K. Polk and Zachary Taylor.

Further research says that Harrison’s symptoms were diagnosed as pneumonia because it was the simplest explanation at the time of his death. On the other hand, W.H.H. also suffered from constipation and abdominal distension which were even more severe than the earlier prognosis of pneumonia.

Given that Polk and Taylor also succumbed to gastroenteritis (actually cholera and typhus according to many current scholars), it is now believed the Harrison suffered the same or a similar fate as a result of drinking contaminated water at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

History repeats itself, since the White House continues to be the source of considerable contamination even today.

3 – Leave it to Beaver: Shocking as it may sound, it may have been the 1950s sitcom Leave it to Beaver that opened the censorship doors for television.

Well, not exactly, but it sounds good. Those of us old enough to remember may recall that in the last half of the 20th century television programs often refused to show certain things that were, and still are, common aspects of every day life.

For example, saying the word “pregnant” was not kosher for many years and showing a pregnant woman was frowned upon. Married couples often slept in twin beds. Women’s navels were verboten. Remember I Dream of Jeannie and the controversy around Barbara Eden’s belly button?

Talk show pioneer Jack Paar got into a row with his network for censoring a joke with a reference to a “W.C”, or a “Water Closet”, which is what a flush toilet is often called in the U.K.

And speaking of toilets, it was Leave to Beaver that supposedly aired the first toilet ever seen on television. Well, kind of. The show did not actually show the toilet, but they did use a toilet tank as an “aquarium” for a baby alligator named “Captain Jack” that Beaver and brother Wally were trying to protect.

The program was shelved for several weeks while network execs pondered whether to show the “controversial” episode.

To further demonstrate the extent to which the networks would go, the six kids on The Brady Bunch shared a bathroom that, believe it or not, didn’t even have a toilet.

And edgy as it was, All in the Family, only used the sound of a toilet being flushed off-stage rather than show a bathroom.

Like the old advertising slogan used to say, “We’ve come a long way, baby.”

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 (  

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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