Tag Archives: Trivia

A collection of educational trivia. We like to think of this as “Non-trivial trivia.”

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 do elephants go to die?

It is often said that the remains of elephants that die a natural death are never found in their native haunts and that the question is a mystery to scientists. Numerous hunters have reported that they never have found the skeletal remains of elephants in the jungles. An Englishman, who had charge of the capture of elephants for the government, said he had never found the carcass of a dead animal. The natives in the elephant country in Africa and Asia say all wild elephants go to certain secluded spars to die. These supposed graveyards of elephants are known in legend as “Valleys of Ivory.” The existence of these elephant graveyards appears to be confirmed to the satisfaction of many Europeans in those regions by the fact that from time to time natives bring in old tusks that they say they got “in the bush.” Many ivory hunters have dreamed of finding one of these places with their untold wealth of tusks. Needless to say, the belief is a myth. There is no great mystery as to what becomes of dead elephants. In the first place, comparatively few wild elephants’ die of old age. Most of these, animals sooner or later fall a prey to their only enemy, man. Collectors for the Museum of Natural History report that the bones of wild animals are rarely found in Africa. The same is true in most other regions. There are several reasons for this. Wild animals commonly attempt to hide when they fed death approaching. Even domestic dogs often conceal themselves when sick. Elephants are no exception to this rule. They usually die singly and far from the settlements. In some cases they may even seek relief in the rivers and are carried into the sea after death, Elephant fossils have been found in soil once covered with water. Climatic conditions in Africa and southern Asia cause the carcasses to decay rapidly. The natives, carnivorous animals, carrion birds and swarms of insects make quick work of the flesh; rodents frequently contribute to the rapid disposal of the bones. Thus an elephant that dies in the jungle would quickly disappear. After the bones are cleaned of their flesh they are soon scattered far and wide. Within a year or two the remaining parts, such as the skull and larger bones, are completely overgrown by mosses, underbrush and other vegetation. In fact the factors contributing to the elimination of such remains are so numerous and work so rapidly that it is not surprising that elephant bones are not a common sight.

Who are the Anzacs?

This is a name often applied collectively to the people of Australia and New Zealand. It originated during the First World War. The Australian and New Zealand divisions in the British forces were merged into a single unit officially known as the “Australian-New Zealand Army Corps.” In popular usage this name was shortened to Anzac, being the-initial letters of the words composing the name. “When I took over the command of the Australian and New Zealand Corps in Egypt (in 1914),” wrote General Sir William Birdwood after the war, “I was asked to select a telegraphic-code address and I adopted the name Anzac.” In the following spring The Australian and New Zealand forces made their heroic landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula and to commemorate the event General Birdwood named the landing place Anzac Cove. Originally only those Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought at Oallipoli were caned Anzacs, and they jealously guarded the name, but it was gradually extended first to other members of the corps and finally to any Australian or New Zealander. The Anzac Area, a small district on the western side of the Oallipcli Peninsula, was dedicated after the war as a permanent memorial to the valor of the members of the Callipoli expeditionary army who vainly tried to take the western defenses of Constantinople in 1915-1916. By the Treaty of Lausarine, signed in 1923, Turkey granted this area in perpetuity to France, Italy and the British Empire, and these three powers agreed to appoint custodians for the graves and cemeteries. Turkey, however, controls access to the district, which under the terms of the agreement cannot be fortified or built up in any way except to provide shelter for the sale use of the custodians. In 1916 Australia and New Zealand by statute forbade the commercial use of Anzac in any trade, business, profession or calling without government permission. During the Second World War the familiar name for the Australians was Aussies. What queen reigned after death of Inez de Castro, wife of Dom Pedro, King of Portugal in the fourteenth century, is often referred to as the Qu(:en who “reigned after death.” . She became the morganatic wife of Dam Pedro while he was heir to the,throne. The Prince’s father, the King, seriously objected to the marriage. He feared the powerful Castro family; besides, Inez was believed to be of illegitimate birth. In 1355 Inez was stabbed to death supposedly at the instigation of the old King. The outraged Dam Pedro started a rebellion that did not subside until the Prince was given a large share in the government of Portugal. When the old King died in 1357 Darn Pedro succeeded to the throne. According to tradition, the new King had the body of his murdered wife exhumed, placed on a throne and crowned. All the nobles were compelled to pass and do obeisance to the dead Queen by kissing her withered hand. Then Inez, the “Queen who reigned after death,” was interred with great pomp in a beautiful sarcophagus of white marble. Shapur II, King of Persia from 310 to 370 A.D., was crowned before he was born. He was the posthumous son of Hormuzd II, whose born sons were all lolled or imprisoned by the nobles immediately after the old King’s death. The unborn child was then formally declared King as Shapur II.

What is the origin of the bridal veil?

The wedding or bridal veil is believed to be a survival of an ancient superstition dating back to the time of the Greeks and Romans, if not much earlier. It was first worn to conceal and protect the bride from evil spirits that it was thought would harm her if she were not veiled. Perhaps this was the origin of the general custom of wearing veils, which still prevails to a great extent among women of the Orient. Bride, it is supposed, is derived from an ancient Teutonic root signifying “to cook.” Bridal as an adjective meaning “pertaining to a bride or newly married wife” mayor may not be derived from bridal in the sense of a wedding party. The latter term is derived from two old English roots meaning “wedding” and “ale.” Bride-ale is still a historical term. Bride-ales (bridals) were wedding festivals at which tile guests were served ale. It is probable that the adjective bridal was formed from bride under the influence of the older noun bridal.

Why are ultraconservatives called Bourbons?

The Bourbons were a royal family who ruled France from 1589 to 1848,with interruptions caused by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic regime. Members of the Bourbon family also ruled for centuries in Naples, Parrna and Spain. The family was first heard of in the ninth century when its head, Baron Aimar, was lord of the castle and seigniory of Bourbon-l’Archambault in central France in the present department of Villier. Through the centuries the autocratic Bourbons became noted for their opposition to all change and their firm adherence to the ancient regime (“the old order”). In 1796 a French naval officer named Charles Louis Etienne, Chevalier de Panat said of the Bourbons: “They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”