Sunday, December 23, 2007

Things I've Wondered About Recently

I look a lot of stuff up on Google. Both Jim and I often come up with strange questions that must be answered by a Google search. In the course of traveling and site seeing and talking with the kids this week, I've wondered about a bunch of random things. I thought it would be fun to share what I've learned!

What does the phrase "Lombard Street to a China Orange" mean?

This thought crossed my mind as we drove by Lombard Street in San Francisco. It's a phrase I've often read in British books, and I've never bothered to find out what it means. Lombard Street in San Francisco is famous for being steep and crooked, so I thought "Wow, an orange made out of china would definitely roll downhill and get smashed!" Then I thought "That can't be related to the phrase itself because I know the phrase was in fashion long before there was a Lombard Street in California." Today I googled it and learned that it means "long odds." It developed because Lombard Street in London is the center of great banking and mercantile transactions, so to stake the Bank of England against a common orange is to stake what is of untold value against a mere trifle. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but that's the explanation. I'm glad I know.

What is the difference between a buffalo and a cow?

This was a question that Lily asked. I had no idea, so I googled it. According to Wikipedia:

The biological subfamily Bovinae (or bovines) includes a diverse group of about 24 species of medium-sized to large ungulates, including domestic cattle, Bison, the Water Buffalo, the Yak, and the four-horned and spiral-horned antelopes. The evolutionary relationship between the members of the group is obscure, and their classification into loose tribes rather than formal sub-groups reflects this uncertainty. General characteristics include a cloven hoof and usually at least one of the sexes of a species having a true horn.

So, they are a different species from the same biological family. I'm not really sure what that means, mostly because I'm not up on species classification or genetics. I'm going to summarize it to Lily by telling her the cow is like a cousin to the buffalo.

What exactly is a "beast?"

I can't remember why this came up, but Jim and I mentioned the term "roast beast" as used in the Grinch and then started to discuss what exactly a beast was. He opined that it meant beef or red meat, and I opined that it meant anything alive. Jim then pointed out that insects probably weren't beasts. According to Merriam-Webster online, this is the answer:

1 a: a four-footed mammal as distinguished from a human being, a lower vertebrate, and an invertebrate b: a lower animal as distinguished from a human being c: an animal as distinguished from a plant d: an animal under human control2: a contemptible person3: something formidably difficult to control or deal with.

Jim was right. Insects are not beasts. Who knew?

No comments: