Myth Trivia: A Wednesday war of words

Cover image for Kindle Book edition of Dr. Seuss' mega-hit book, "Green Eggs and Ham." (Via sales image for the book at

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, May 11, 2016 – Rush Limbaugh used to say “Words mean things.” So since Wednesday is trivia day, we look today at words from several differing perspectives including idioms, derivations and children’s books.

1 – Baseball and “all that jazz”: As far as anyone can determine, the word “jazz” first appeared in print in the Los Angeles Times in 1912 when pitcher Ben Henderson of the Portland Beavers was said to be throwing a “jazz ball.” Until that time, it is believed that the derivation of “jazz” came from the American South and had sexual overtones.

Following that reference in the Times, E.T. “Scoop” Gleeson of the San Francisco Bulletin made reference to “jazz” in 1913 as having to do with the “pep, vim and vigor” of the local baseball team at the time, the San Francisco Seals. (All major league baseball teams in those days were located on the east coast.) Gleeson claimed he heard the word from another reporter who was describing the enthusiasm of a game of craps.

In those days, band leader Art Hickman frequently hung out with Gleeson and some of the Seals players, and he began to hear the word “jazz” being used in their conversations. Though Hickman wasn’t a fan, his banjo player, Bert Kelly, liked the word so much that he later thought it perfect for describing the sound of his own band, which later formed in Chicago. By 1915, the term “jazz” was all the rage in Illinois. A year later, it had made its way down South to New Orleans where it became legendary in describing what has become an integral part of America’s musical heritage.

So when “The Saints go marching in,” just remember: It was baseball that brought “jazz” to New Orleans.

2 – Simon Says: Speaking of music, singer/songwriter Carly Simon will celebrate her 71st birthday next month. Each of us is familiar with many of her songs including “Anticipation,” “You Belong to Me,” “Coming Around Again,” “Nobody Does it Better” from the 1977 James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me,” and “You’re So Vain,” just to mention a few.

In 1988, the hit “Let the River Run” from the movie “Working Girl.” starring Harrison Ford and Melanie Griffith, made history when Simon became the first artist to win a Grammy, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for a song composed, written and performed entirely by a single performer. Little wonder she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994.

Though interesting, all of this is relatively common knowledge. So where’s the trivia?

We-e-e-elll… Carly Simon was born in New York City where her father, Richard L. Simon, frequently played Chopin and Beethoven on the piano in their home. Simon’s mother, Andrea Louise, was also a singer, as well as a civil rights activist.

After graduating from Columbia University, Carly’s father began publishing books, and in 1924, Dick Simon co-founded the publishing house we know today as Simon & Schuster.

And that is trivia worthy of publication.

3 – Fifty noteworthy words: Following is a list of fifty words in alphabetical order. Do you know why they have “trivial” connotations? They are: a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.

The answer is they are the only words used in the entire book “Green Eggs and Ham” by world famous children’s author Dr. Seuss.

According to Publisher’s Weekly in 2001, this book, first published in August of 1960, was the fourth best-selling English-language children’s book of all time. Yet, it only contained fifty different words.

The book came about as the result of a challenge by publisher Bennett Cerf who, after reading “The Cat in the Hat,” made a bet with Seuss that he could not complete an entire book without exceeding the 236 words it took for that publication.

Another source says that Cerf challenged Seuss to write a book using no more than 50 different words. But  either way, “Green Eggs and Ham” accomplished that feat.

In 1999 the National Education Association (NEA) conducted a poll among children and teachers to find the 100 most popular children’s books in history. The kids rated “Green Eggs and Ham” third, while the teachers ranked it fourth. In 2012, Scholastic Parent & Child placed it at number 7 among the “100 Greatest Books for Kids” and School Library Journal rated it 12th among the “Top 100 Picture Books.” “Green Eggs and Ham” was the highest rated book on that list by Dr. Seuss. The list contained four more of his books.

Despite this enviable track record, it is doubtful that Dr. Seuss was responsible for the phrase “Cerf’s up!”

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

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