Myth Trivia: Dinosaurs, Beef Wellington and the 21 gun salute


CHARLOTTE, N.C., Aug. 26, 2015 – In tribute to the heroics of three Americans in Europe last week, we offer the origin of the 21-gun salute plus some other whimsical information in our weekly trivia round-up.

1 – The 21-gun Salute: During the 17th century a tradition evolved known as “the cannon salute” as a maritime practice. The idea was to force a defeated navy to expend its ammunition, thereby rendering it defenseless until it could reload.

During the early days of Anglo-Saxon rule, the standard for a naval salute was firing seven guns because the typical sailing vessel of the era carried seven cannons. Since it was easier to store large quantities of gunpowder on land than on ships, a ratio of three rounds could be fired from a fort for every one at sea. As a result, 21 became the traditional number for an honorary salute. Later improvements in weaponry allowed ships to also use 21 shots.

During the earliest days of colonial United States, whenever a tribute was paid one shot was fired for each state in the union. That practice continued until 1841, when the nation had doubled to 26 states.

It was decided to reduce the number of shots to 21; however, the official 21-gun salute was not formally adopted until August 1875, a hundred years after the founding of the country.

Interestingly enough, the suggestion for 21 shots came from the British, who proposed a “Gun for Gun Return” to their own 21-gun salute.

Thus we have the true answer to the “Big Bang Theory.”

2 – Food for Thought: It is often believed that beef Wellington is named after the military hero the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. Some culinary experts opine that the dish already existed in France, but with the French defeat by the English the name was changed to beef Wellington in honor of the victor.

Researchers claim there is no apparent written reference or early recipes that lend credence to that story, however. In fact, the first known appearance in print came in the Los Angeles Times in 1903, when the dish was referred to as “filet of beef, al la Wellington.”

Be not dismayed, though we must take a detour and go around our elbow to get there. A second theory claims that beef Wellington was created for a reception which was held in Wellington, New Zealand, and really has nothing to do with Napoleon’s enemy.

Ahh, but there’s a catch. Wellington, New Zealand, is actually named after the British military hero, which means that if beef Wellington derives its name from the New Zealand city, it also, second-hand, is named after Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington. Hence, what goes around comes around.

In other words, “All’s Wellington, that ends Wellington.”

3 – Leapin’ Lizards: We have all seen “lost world” science fiction movies where dinosaurs roam the earth and the nasty tyrannosaurus rex goes hunting to make a meal out of some other lovable leaf-eating creatures like a stegosaurus.

By now everyone knows that man did not evolve until well after dinosaurs disappeared from the planet, so human encounters with gigantic man-eating creatures never happened.

What is less known however, is that the last stegosaurus became extinct during the Jurassic period (not to be confused with the “Jurassic Park” era), which was 150 million year ago. Guess what? T-rex didn’t appear on the scene until the Cretaceous period, which was a mere 68 million years ago.

Therefore, the WWE version of “Lizardmania” never happened any more than man’s encounters with dinosaurs did.

In fact, and here is the amazing statistic, more time elapsed between the days of stegosaurus and tyrannosaurus rex than have passed between the era when T-rex existed and today.

And that is our trivia lesson for today, but there’s more on the horizon next Wednesday.

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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