Category Archives: Trivia

“Non-Trivial Trivial” that is both educational and fun.

Do Monkeys Make Bridges?

It is often said that monkeys sometimes cross streams by means of monkey bridges. According to the popular notion, the monkeys take hold of one anothers tails and suspend themselves in a living rope from the limb of a tree on the bank of a river that they wish to cross. They begin to sway back and forth until they gain enough momentum to swing the lower end of the column to a tree on the opposite bank. The other end of the bridge is then released and swung across the stream. Naturalists are inclined to doubt these stories. Dr. William T. Hornaday, the noted zoologist, who for thirty years was director of the New York Zoological Park, expressed the opinion that the living monkey bridge is a myth. Still, he said, one should be very cautious in stating what animals never did and what they cannot do. Monkeys do hang on to I one another from time to time and frequently one will climb up the tail f of another. One monkey will sometimes even draw another up.  Dr. William M. Mann,  superintendent of the National Zoological Park, thinks the stories of monkeys making bridges by taking hold of one another may have been suggested by the habits of the spider monkeys of South America.  At any rate, these natural acrobats of the forest and jungle are the animals that usually figure in the- monkey bridge stories. They are very fond of taking hold of each other and performing all kinds of gymnastics. Their remarkable prehensile tails serve as a “fifth hand.” More than one writer has reported cases of the red howling monkeys of Central and South America spanning tree tops by linking hands and tails and forming a living chain.

Is Great Britain Part of Europe?

Great Britain, although an island, is so close to the continent of Europe that it is generally regarded as being a part of it.  Scientists are of the opinion that the British Isles, which are on what is known as the continental shelf,  were formerly joined to the mainland and were not separated from it until comparatively recent times, geologically speaking. The rest of the world regards Great Britain as a European nation, although the British people  themselves refer to continental Europe as “the Continent” to distinguish it from the British Isles.  Europe itself, strictly speaking, is not a continent, but merely part of the continent of Eurasia.

What is a berserker rage?

In Norse mythology Berserk was the nickname of the grandson of the eight-handed Starkadder. He always went into battle without armor and was famed for the reckless fury with which he fought. Ber-serk in old Scandinavian probably meant “bare-shirt,” that is, one clothed only in his shirt and not protected. by armor or heavier clothing, To be berserk was equivalent to “in one’s shirt sleeves.” Among those slain by Berserk was King Swafurlam, by whose daughter he bed twelve sons equal to himself in bravery. These sons of Berserk were called “berserkers,” a term that thus became synonymous with “fury” and “reckless courage.” Later berserker was applied to a class of heathen warriors who were supposed to be able to assume the form of bears and wolves, from which fact some etymologists mistakenly derive the term from berasark (“bear-shirt” or “armor of bearskin”). Dressed in furs these berserkers would fall into a frenzied rage, foam at the mouth and growl like wild beasts. They were said to have prodigious strength and to be invulnerable to fire and iron. From this latter myth we get berserker rage. In Modern English Usage, H. W. Fowler says that “beresark for berserker, is a corrupt modern form owing its existence to a probably false etymology.”

Where is the Land of the Midnight Sun?

The sun shining at midnight in the arctic or Antarctic summer is known as the midnight sun. Norway is popularly called the “Land of the Midnight Sun” because this phenomenon has been more frequently observed in that region by visitors from western Europe and the United States. The description would be equally applicable to other high latitudes above the Arctic Circle, such as northern. Russia, northern Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland, where in midsummer the sun does not sink below the horizon at any time within the twenty-four hours of the day. Instead of setting as it does in our latitudes, the sun in these regions merely goes around and around above the horizon, being part of the time in the north. In Iceland, for instance, during June and July, daylight is perpetual and a person can read a book by natural light at any time of the night. Within a distance of about four minutes of arc from the North Pole the sun rises and sets but once a year; in other words, the year is composed of one day and one night, each six months ‘in length. The number of sunrises in a year increases from one at the Pole to 365 at a short distance south of the Arctic Circle. Strictly speaking, only the northern part of Norway lies within the domain of the midnight sun. Similar conditions with the seasons reversed exist in the Antarctic. On March 21 the relative positions of the earth and sun are such that the latter illuminates exactly one-half of the surface of the former, and on that date night and day are equal in length in all parts of the world. Three months later, when the earth has completed a fourth of its circuit around the sun, the North Pole is turned toward the sun and the South Pole away from it. Another three months later the days and nights are once more equal in length everywhere on the earth. By December 21, when the earth has completed three-fourths of its circuit around the sun, the South Pole is turned toward the sun and the North Pole away from it. Of course, the land of the midnight sun is also the land of midday night. In the far north and the far south a person can observe the interesting phenomenon of a sunrise and sunset at the same time.

What is the golden rose?

The golden rose is an artificial ornament of pure gold set with gems and made by skilled artificers. It is blessed by the Pope on the fourth (Laetare) Sunday in Lent, which for that reason is sometimes called “Rose Sunday.” For centuries the popes have been accustomed to confer the golden rose upon churches and sanctuaries, Catholic rulers and other persons of distinction, as well as on governments and cities, conspicuous for their Catholic spirit and loyalty to the Holy See. The origin of the custom is obscure. According to some authorities, it originated in 1049 with Pope Leo IX. This Pope, wishing to establish his authority over the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Alsace, exacted from it each year a golden rose, which was blessed by the Pope on the fourth Sunday’ in Lent and presented to the individual or city best deserving the favor of the Holy See. In feudal days the presentation of a red rose was the symbol of fealty and the token of annual rent. A golden rose weighing one hundred fifty pounds, inscribed with the names of Constantine the Great and his mother Helena, was placed by the Roman Emperor on the legendary tomb of St. Peter in Rome. However it originated, it superseded the custom of bestowing the Golden Keys of St. Peter’s Confessional on Catholic rulers. In recent times the golden rose has been reserved for Catholic queens. Originally and until the close of the fifteenth century the golden rose consisted of a single rose of pure gold slightly tinted red. The sacred ornament was about six inches high and in the center was a cup formed by the petals. During the ceremony of blessing the golden rose with incense and holy water the Pope poured balsam and musk into this cup. Then the ornament was carried in solemn procession to the Pope’s private chapel. Sixtus IV, who was Pope from 1471 to 1484, substituted for the single flower an upright thorny branch with leaves and with one large central flower and other smaller flowers. That is still the general type of the golden rose, the petals of which are decked with gems. The ancient ceremony of blessing the golden rose has undergone little change. The same ornament is used at the annual ceremony until it is given away, which may not be for many years. Two English kings and two English queens have received the golden rose. They were Henry VI; Henry VIII, who received it three different times from three different popes; Queen Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII, and Henrietta Maria, queen consort of Charles I.