Did you ever wonder why dimes, quarters and half dollars have
notched edges, while pennies and nickels do not? The US Mint
began putting notches on the edges of coins containing gold and
silver to discourage holders from shaving off small quantities of
the precious metals. Dimes, quarters and half dollars are
notched because they used to contain silver. Pennies and nickels
aren't notched because the metals they contain were not valuable
enough to shave.
Why do men's clothes have buttons on the right ... while women's
clothes have buttons on the left? When buttons were invented,
they were very expensive and worn primarily by the rich. Because
wealthy women were dressed by maids, dressmakers put the buttons
on the maid's right. Since most people are right-handed, it is
easier to push buttons on the right through holes on the left.
And that's where women's buttons have remained since.
Why do X's at the end of a letter signify kisses? In the Middle
Ages, when many people were unable to read or write, documents
were often signed using an X. Kissing the X represented an oath
to fulfill obligations specified in the document. The X and the
kiss eventually became synonymous to each other.
Why is shifting responsibility to someone else called "passing
buck"? In card games, it was once customary to pass an item,
called a buck, from player to player to indicate whose turn it was
to deal. If a player did not wish to assume the responsibility,
he would "pass the buck" to the next player.
Why do people clink their glasses before drinking a toast? It
used to be common for someone to try to kill an enemy by offering
him a poisoned drink. To prove to a guest that a drink was safe,
it became customary for a guest to pour a small amount of his
drink into the glass of the host. Both men would drink from
their glasses simultaneously. When a guest trusted his host, he
would then touch - or clink - the host's glass with his own.
Why are people in the public eye said to be "in the limelight"?
Invented in 1825, limelight was used in lighthouses and stage
lighting by burning a cylinder of lime which produced a brilliant
light. In the theater, performers on stage "in the limelight"
were seen by the audience to be the center of attention.
Why do ships and aircraft in trouble use "mayday" as their call
for help? This comes from the French word m'aidez -- meaning
"help me" -- and is pronounced "mayday."
Why is someone who is feeling great ... "on cloud nine"? Types
of clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain,
with nine being the highest cloud. If someone is said to be on
cloud nine, that person is floating well above worldly cares.
Why are Zero scores in tennis called "love"? In France, where
tennis first became popular, a big round zero on the scoreboard
looked like an egg and was called l'oeuf, which is French for
"egg." When tennis was introduced in the US, Americans
pronounced it "love,"
Why are many coin banks shaped like pigs? Long ago, dishes and
cookware in Europe were made of a dense, orange clay called pygg.
When people saved coins in jars made of this clay, the jars became
known as "pygg banks." When an English potter misunderstood the
word, he made a bank that resembled a pig and it caught on.