CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 25, 2015 – Continuing our weekly excursion into triviality, today we look at the hand salute, pickles and Albert Einstein.
1 – What is the Origin of the Hand Salute? Down through the years several theories have evolved about the reason saluting came into existence. So far no definitive explanation has been given, but one common idea is that it was a signal of friendship among opposing armies. The so-called “weapon hand,” the right hand because most warriors were right-handed, would be raised to show that you had no weapons. According to the legend, it was incumbent upon the person of lesser rank to make the initial gesture.
Another thought is that medieval knights would raise the visor of their armor to reveal their identity when being approached by a superior.
Over the centuries saluting has had enough different forms that there was even a time when both hands were used. According to images in ancient prints and paintings, it appears that there were some instances in which a left-handed salute was appropriate.
Perhaps the most likely answer comes from a well-established military sign of respect where junior servicemen were required to remove their headgear in the presence of seniors. As hats became increasing cumbersome in the 18th and 19th centuries, the saluting motion is said to have gradually evolved into simply grasping the visor as a courtesy to a superior.
Any way you look at it, the concept of saluting is probably “old hat.”
2 – Albert Einstein Failed Math in School. Not only is it a myth that Einstein failed math in high school, it is even more noteworthy that he did not win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for his work on relativity.
Einstein did win the prize in 1921, but it was for his work on the photoelectric effect of plants and solar cells turning light into electricity.
As a student, Einstein studied calculus at the age of 12. Hardly the efforts of someone who was mathematically challenged.
Part of the myth evolved from the fact that the 19th-century German educational system was extremely regimented. Consequently, being brilliant in the area of mathematics, Einstein struggled with other subjects such as history, geography and languages. The subject Einstein did fail was French.
Realizing her son had little aptitude for non-mathematical studies, Einstein’s mother encouraged him to play the violin, on which he was actually a better than average student.
Like many geniuses, Einstein was the typical “absent-minded” professor, but other than that his mathematical skills were far from failing.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the myth about Einstein’s grades resulted in a change in the grading system in 1896. Previously, grades had been given from a high of “1” to a low of “6.” During Einstein’s final year in school in Aargau, the system was reversed so that a “6” was then the highest grade rather than the lowest.
Sorry, kids. You can no longer use the excuse that Albert Einstein was a dummy when it comes to showing your parents your report card.
3 – Why do they Serve Pickles with Sandwiches? Order a sandwich anywhere, especially in a deli, and odds are there will be a pickle on the side.
Did you know however, that pickles were regarded as a delicacy as early as 2400 B.C.? Going that far back in history, it should come as no surprise that pickles can be traced back to the Jews, and the first Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe brought the tradition to New York as a means of cleansing the palette.
Before long, there were pickle vendors throughout the Lower East Side of Manhattan, much as there are hot dog and bagel carts in the city today. In fact, by the 1930s, in the throes of the Great Depression, some entrepreneurs became involved in something called “The Pickle Wars” as they competed to obtain monopolies for their products.
So popular have pickles become around the world that serving them as a side dish with a sandwich represents the bulk of all pickle consumption. Over time, pickles have become a standard with any sandwich, to the extent that most restaurants no longer list them on the menu. A pickle is an accepted part of the meal, and no restaurant or deli would dare serve a sandwich without is vinegary companion.
By the way, if you are ever in New York in October, you can enjoy Annual Pickle Day in the Lower East Side. Just a little “food for thought.”
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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