From Quizzism and Its Key. Quirks and Quibbles from Queer Quarters. A Mélange of Questions in Literature, Science, History, Biography, Mythology, Philology, Geography, etc. etc. With Their Answers, by Albert P. Southwick, A. M.; New England Publishing Company, Boston; 1886; pp. 21-38.
Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of Machpelah for four hundred shekels.
At Rugeley’s Mill, in Kershaw County, South Carolina, the Tory commander, Colonel Rugeley, had assembled a considerable force, and fortified his log-barn and dwelling-house. In the latter part of June, 1780, Colonel Washington, who, by order of General Morgan, had pursued him with his cavalry, arrived, and having no artillery resorted to an ingenious stratagem to capture the post without sacrificing his own men. Accordingly he mounted a pine log, fashioned as a cannon, elevated on its own limbs, and placed it in position to command the houses in which the Tories were lodged. Colonel Washington then made a 22 formal demand for immediate surrender. Colonel Rugeley fearing the destructive consequences of the formidable cannon bearing upon his command in the log-barn and dwelling-house, after a stipulation as to terms, promptly surrendered his whole force, consisting of one hundred and twelve men, without a gun being fired on either side.
A Declaration of Independence passed by the convention assembled in Charlotte, May 19 and 20, 1775, by which the citizens of Mecklenberg County, North Carolina, dissolved the political bands which had connected them to the mother country. The resolutions were read from the steps of the old Court House, on May 20, by Colonel Thomas Polk, and delivered into the hands of the North Carolina Delegation at Philadelphia by Captain James Jack, who made the journey on horseback.
In his correspondence with Clinton and André, he wrote in a disguised hand, clothing his meaning in the ambiguous style of a commercial correspondent, and affixed to his letters the signature of GUSTAVUS. André signed his, JOHN ANDERSON.
Ants never sleep. Emerson mentions this as “a recently observed fact.”
Alexander the Great. (356-June 28, 323 B. C.) Sixty-four white mules, richly caparisoned with ornaments of gold and 23 costly plumes, drew the immense car, with its throne and golden sarcophagus containing his remains, from the Euphrates to the Nile. No funeral pageant has ever equaled that of this mighty conqueror, which, after two years’ preparation, went this distance of a thousand miles.
A great difficulty. Gordius, a peasant, being chosen king of Phrygia, dedicated his wagon to Jupiter, and fastened the yoke to a beam so ingeniously that no one could untie it. Alexander the Great was told that “whoever undid the knot would reign over the whole East.” “Well, then,” said the conqueror, “it is thus I perform the task”; and so saying, he cut the knot in twain with his sword. 330 B. C.
A snaky complication on the rod or caduceus of Mercury, adopted by the Grecian brides as the fastening of their woolen girdles, which only the bridegroom was allowed to untie when the bride retired for the night.
The sightless fish which gropes in the dreary waters of the River Styx, in the Mammoth Cave, of Kentucky. Of what service would eyes be where absolute darkness reigns! It is of a milk-white color.
The usual explanation of the “roar of the sea” in shells is that the form of the shell and its polished surface collect and reflect sounds in the air, otherwise imperceptible. Another theory refers the murmur to the circulation of the blood through the capillaries of the fingers holding the shell, by which the vibrations are magnified. A feeble 24 murmur can be heard, however, when the shell rests on a table, and it is probable that both causes are concerned in the phenomenon. The cone of the Southern pine presents to fancy’s ear the lamenting moan of “the imprisoned spirits of all the winds that blow.”
Josiah Quincy, of Massachusetts, in 1811, said, in the United States Congress, that, if Louisiana were admitted into the Union, “it will be the right of all and the duty of some [of the States] definitely to prepare for a separation; amicably, if they can, violently, if they must.” Mr. Poindexter, of Mississippi, called him to order, as did the Speaker of the House; but, on appeal, the Speaker’s decision was reversed, and Mr. Quincy sustained by a vote of fifty-three ayes to fifty-six noes, on the point of order.
The word Yankee is believed to have been derived from the manner in which the Indians endeavored to pronounce the word English, which they rendered Yenghees, whence the word Yankee. The statement in Irving’s Knickerbocker’s History of New York, concerning the tribe of Yankoos, is a mere joke. The word Yankee undoubtedly had the Yenghees origin referred to above, but it does not seem to have been very common until the time of the Revolutionary War. It is not seen in any writings previous to that time; and in letters in which the word occurs, written in 1775, it is referred to in a manner which shows that the writer considered it something new, and intended to be contemptuous, 25 used as it was by their then enemies, the British soldiers. In a curious book on the Round Towers of Ireland, the origin of the term Yankee-doodle was traced to the Persian phrase, “Yanki dooniah,” or “Inhabitants of the New World.” Layard, in his book on Ninevah and its Remains, also mentions “Yanghidunia” as the Persian name of America.
The Ramphorhyncus, the remains of which have been found in the quarries of Solenhofen, Germany. Its tail, a singular appendage, was long, reptile-like, and dragged upon the ground, while its footprints were bird-like.
The fossil bird of Solenhofen, the Ramphorhyncus (usually called the Archæopteryx), was sold to Dr. Folger for the Museum of the “Freie Deutsche Hochstift” for $9,000. This bird lived fully fifty million years ago.
The great affront of “giving the lie” arose from the phrase “Thou liest,” in the oath taken by the defendant in judicial combats before engaging, when charged with any crime by the plaintiff; and Francis I. of France (1494-1547), 26 to make current his giving the lie to the Emperor Charles V. (died 1558), in 1521, first stamped it with infamy by saying, in a solemn assembly, that “he was no honest man that would bear the lie.”
A species of false wit. A medal that was struck of Gustavus Adolphus had the motto: —
“ChrIstVs DvX; ergo trIVMphVs”; that is, “Christus dux ergo triumphus.” Pick the figures out of the several words, and arrange them in their proper order. They are MDCXVVVII, or 1627: the year in which the medal was stamped. Two Vs are used for X, or XVV equals XX. The banks of the Rhine furnish abundant examples of this literary pleasantry; chronograms are as thick as blackberries.
A corruption of brow-study; brow being derived from the old German, “braun,” in its compound form “aug-braun,” an eye-brow.
As the lava from volcanoes is thrown into the air, the wind often spins it into fine threads of great length. Large quantities of this are found at Kilauea, Hawaii, Sandwich Islands, where it is called by this name.
It was a town that had been built over Herculaneum and was destroyed by an eruption from Vesuvius in 1631. Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabiae were buried from 27 human view by the first recorded eruption of Vesuvius, which took place in the year 79. The former city, which was buried to the depth of about one hundred feet, was discovered in 1713 by some workmen engaged in sinking a well, who were arrested in their progress by striking upon the theatre. Pompeii, although covered above the houses less than twenty feet deep, was not discovered till 1750. It was at Stabiae, after having just left the villa of his friend Pomponianus, that the elder Pliny fell a victim to his ardent curiosity and thirst for knowledge.
Spurinna, an astrologer. As Cæsar went to the senate-house on the morning of the ides, the 15th (44 B. C.), he said to Spurinna: “The ides are at last come.” “Yes,” replied the astrologer, “but not yet past.” Cæsar was assassinated a short time after. Calphurnia, the wife of Cæsar, also begged her husband to remain at home during the day.
John Verrazanni, an eminent Florentine navigator, in 1524, landed where the lower extremity of New York City is, and giving the natives some spiritous liquors made many of them drunk. The Indians called the place Manna-ha-ta, or “place of drunkenness,” and they were afterwards called Manna-ha-tans.
The Half-Moon, a yacht of eighty tons. Hudson, while on another voyage in search of a northwest passage, discovered the great Bay in the northern regions which bears 28 his name. He was there frozen in the ice during the winter of 1610-11. While endeavoring to make his way homeward in the spring, his crew became mutinous. They finally seized Hudson, bound his arms, and placing him, his son, and seven sick companions in an open boat, without oars or food, set them adrift upon the cold waters. Two ships were afterwards sent from England to make search for him, but no tidings of the bold navigator could ever be gained. His dreadful fate can only be imagined.
The Sirens were two maidens celebrated in fable, who occupied an island of Ocean (Mediterranean Sea), where they sat in a mead close to the seashore, and with their melodious voices so charmed those that were sailing by, that they forgot home and everything relating to it, and abode with these maidens till they perished from the impossibility of taking nourishment, and their bones lay whitening on the strand.
As he and his companions were on their homeward voyage from Æaea, they came first to the island of the Sirens. They passed this in safety, for, by the direction of Circe, Ulysses stopped the ears of his companions with wax, and had himself tied to the mast, so that, although, when he heard the song of the Sirens, he made signs to his companions to unbind him, they only secured him the more closely; and thus he listened to the accents of the Sirens, and yet, notwithstanding, escaped.
After William Penn (1644-1718) had obtained a grant of Pennsylvania, being desirous of owning the land on the west bank of the Delaware to the sea, he procured from the Duke of York, in 1682, a release of all his title and claim to New Castle and twelve miles around it, and to the land between this tract and the sea. A line that was the arc of a circle of a twelve miles radius was then run from New Castle as a centre. When the “three lower counties on the Delaware” became a State, they retained this boundary.
In the wager between her and Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), the latter assured her that he could tell the exact weight of smoke in any quantity of tobacco consumed, a fact which the incredulous Queen doubted. Weighing his tobacco, Raleigh smoked it, and then carefully weighing the ashes, stated the difference. Elizabeth (1533-1603) remarked, while paying the bet, that she “had before heard of turning gold to smoke, but he was the first who had turned smoke into gold.”
The will can not check the heart, though a notable exception to this is the case of Colonel Townsend, of Dublin, who, after having succeeded several times in stopping the pulsation, at last lost his life in the act.
The melting of salt and ice requires from some source what used to be called the “140 degrees of caloric of 30 fluidity.” When solids become liquid they must have the heat necessary for the liquid condition, and in freezing ice-cream they get it from the cream, which is cooled down to the congelation point. Affinity of salt for ice promotes that action. It does the same in the pump, but the salt water resulting does not congeal at the coldest point produced by the melting, and hence may be pumped out from the “thawed pump”.
It is the columnar structure of greenstone of Mt. Holyoke in Massachusetts, where it slopes beneath the waters of the Connecticut.
In the Pine Barrens of the Southern States, a belt of country more than seventeen hundred miles long, and often one hundred and seventy miles broad, stretching from Richmond, Virginia, along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, to beyond the western line of Louisiana. The soil is sandy, and the principal tree is the long-leaf pine. These forests, while affording a valuable article of lumber, also yield pitch, tar, and turpentine.
The beginning of that period of time known in geology as the carboniferous, commenced by the formation of a conglomerate sandstone, the Millstone Grit, whose ledges often separated into huge blocks. Where a portion has been swept away during subsequent geologic changes, the remains present a striking resemblance to the streets and blocks of a ruined city. Several of these formations are situated in southwestern New York.31
Through the contrivance of an Indian named Japazaws (an old friend of Captain John Smith) in 1613, to whom Captain Argall gave a copper kettle for his treachery in persuading Pocahontas on board Argall’s ship in the Potomac river.
By Tragabigzanda, the lady of Turkish harem; Callamata, the lady of Hungary, and Pocahontas (1595-1616), the young daughter of the Indian chief Powhatan, who threw herself between him and her father’s anger.
The fossil excrements of the Ichthyosaurus, which, when polished (for they are as hard as marble), are sold as jewelry under the name of “beetle-stones.”
Near Bogota, United States of Colombia, South America, where the river Bogota rushes through a cleft thirty-six feet wide, and falls about six hundred feet into a rocky chasm. Near these is the natural bridge of Icononzo, which is more than three hundred feet high.
Cayenne, in French Guiana, South America. It is noted for its exports of pungent red pepper, — not true pepper, but a kind of capsicum; that is, a plant producing fruit in the form of pods, or capsules, containing berries.32
Helsingfors, the approach to which is commanded by the batteries of Sveaborg, built on seven islands.
According to very ancient teaching, the soul of man, or his “inward holy body,” is compounded of the seven properties which are under the influence of the planets. From these are derived the seven senses which are animation, feeling, speech, taste, sight, hearing, and smelling.
It is said by several authors to derive its name from the nation of the Jews, and is commonly believed to be one of their instruments of music. But no such musical instrument is spoken of by any of the old authors that treat of the Jewish music. Its present orthography is nothing more than a corruption of the French Jeu-trompe, literally, a toy trumpet. It is called Jeu-trompe by Bacon (1561-1626), Jew-trump by Beaumont (1586-1615) and Fletcher (1576-1625) and Jews-harp by Hackluyt (1553-1616). Another etymon for Jews-harp is Jaws-harp, because the place where it is played upon is between the jaws.
James VI., afterwards James I. (died 1625), of England. In connection with him there is a curious story of one Geilles Duncan (a servant-girl), a noted performer on the “Jews-harp,” whose performances seem not only to have met with the approval of a numerous audience of withes (plebeians, peasants, and laborers), but to have been repeated in the presence of King James by command of that royal personage.33
The lines: —
found in the tenth stanza of On a distant prospect of Eton College.
In poetry it is a work wholly composed of verses or passages taken from other authors and disposed in a new form or order, so as to compose a new work and a new meaning.
John Butler, who died in Wake County, North Carolina, January 19, 1836. He was supposed to be at least one hundred and ten years old, and left a wife surviving, equally as old.
It was what the French term a bon mot; that is, a good word or saying, and was: “From the sublime to the ridiculous there is but a step.”
But he borrowed it from Tom Paine (1736-1809), whose writings were translated into French as early as 1791; Tom Paine borrowed it from Hugh Blair (1718-1800), and he took it from Longinus. The same idea is suggested in the old French proverb, “Extremes touch,” and the English 34 adage, “The darkest hour is nearest the dawn.” Similar expressions may be found in the writings of Rochester, Butler (1612-1680), Dryden (1631-1700), and Pope (1688-1744). The sentiment owes nothing to Napoleon (1769-1821) but the sanction of his great name, and the pithy sentence in which he has embodied it.
Marie Letitia Bonaparte, born at Ajaccio, 1750. Her maiden name was Romolini, and she was considered one of the most beautiful women of Corsica. She married, in the midst of civil discord, Charles Bonaparte, an officer who fought with Paoli; was left a widow in 1785, having borne thirteen children, of whom five sons and three daughters survived their father, and became celebrated. Died February 3, 1836.
Forming the Latin word nihil, meaning “nothing” or “extinct.”
On February 1, 1781, when he passed the Catawba at M’Cowan’s Ford. His passage was disputed by William Davidson, Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant of the North 35 Carolina line, and Brigadier-General of Militia, with three hundred men. Davidson was overpowered, and killed by a ball in the breast.
A phenomenon observed in London, January 30, 1560, being one of the earliest records of that appearance now well known by the name of aurora borealis (northern lights).
February 22, 1630, in Massachusetts. The day had been appointed for a general fast. No ship had arrived in a great length of time, and their stock of provisions was nearly exhausted. At this critical moment, a vessel arrived from England, laden with provisions; and they immediately changed the day of public fasting into one of public feasting.
It is related that the mines of mercury in Mexico were discovered by a hunter, who, as he clambered up a mountain, caught hold of a shrub, which, giving way at the root, let out a steam of what he supposed was liquid silver. The rapidity with which this metal runs, occasioned by its great weight, gave to it the name of quicksilver.
The most dreadful one on record is that which, November 1, 1755, destroyed the city of Lisbon, Portugal. The only warning the inhabitants received was a noise like subterranean thunder which, without any considerable interval, was followed by a succession of shocks which laid in ruins almost every building in the city, with a most incredible 36 slaughter of the inhabitants (60,000). The bed of the river Tagus was in many places raised to the surface, and vessels on the river suddenly found themselves aground. The waters of the river and the sea at first retreated, and then immediately rolled violently in upon the land, forming a wave over forty feet in elevation. To complete the destruction, a large quay, upon which great numbers of people had assembled for security, suddenly sank to such an unfathomable depth that not one body ever afterwards appeared at the surface.
In Java. It is sometimes called the “Valley of Death,” and its deadly influence was formerly ascribed to the malignant properties of a peculiar vegetable production of the island, called the “upas tree,” which especially flourishes in this locality. Recent travellers, however, declare that accounts of the fatality attending a passage of this famous valley have been greatly exaggerated.
In Java, there is a crater containing a lake strongly impregnated with sulphuric acid, a quarter of a mile long, from which a river of acid water issues, which supports no living creature, nor can fish live in the sea near its confluence.
Among the wonders of nature in Algeria there is a river of genuine ink. It is formed by the junction of two streams, one flowing from a region of ferruginous soil, and the other draining a peat swamp. The waters of the former are, of course, strongly impregnated with iron; those of the latter with gallic acid. On meeting, the acid of the one stream unites with the iron of the other, and a true ink is the result. 37 The banks of the united stream would be, of all places in the world, the one for a colony of authors. Fields of esparto grass, for paper-making, might be sown in the neighbourhood; the paper mills might be turned by the inky fluid, and geese might be reared to supply quill pens. The members of the republic of letters would there do nothing all day long but sit dangling their feet in the water, and occasionally dipping in their pens, — a peaceable crew, except, perhaps, when they would plague each other by reading long extracts from their unpublished works.
Because there is very good evidence that nearly all that country has been formed from the sediment brought down by that river. The vast delta that the Nile has formed at its mouth is larger than the State of Vermont.
At Nahant, Massachusetts. By the erosive action of the waves continually dashing against it year after year, the rock has been worn into the semblance of a pulpit.
Deep wells, which are everywhere common along rapid brooks and rivers. Fine examples may be seen at Bellows Falls, Vermont, on the Connecticut, and at Amoskeag Falls on the Merrimac, and in the Big Sandy and Ohio.
Not by lava flowing from Vesuvius, but by other volcanic products, such as sand, ashes, cinders, and fragments of rock, though Herculaneum has subsequently been repeatedly overflowed with lava.38
Not necessarily. The three divisions of matter are vegetable, animal, and mineral. Then water and gases are minerals, though in the popular sense of mineral (metal), mercury is called the “liquid mineral.”
Three monstrous pillars in the North of England, erected by the Druids. The rain beating upon them for two thousand years had deeply furrowed their sides, the furrows being deepest at their summits, and becoming wider and less distinct toward the bottom.
There was a robber of the name who robbed Cardinal Richelieu, and one who robbed Oliver Cromwell, and another equally famous one who lived during the reign of Queen Mary.
Great offenders were hung “high.” Montrose was sentenced to hang on a gallows thirty feet high, as old Haman was raised to the height of about seventy-five feet. It is clear from old Scotch proverbs the kite or kyte meant “abdomen,” and hence “body.” Vide Webster’s Dictionary. In Jameson’s Scottish Dictionary, “kytie” means corpulent or having much body. Gilderoy’s kite was Gilderoy’s body, and “higher than Gilderoy’s kite” was a saying for a greater eminence than Gilderoy “enjoyed” at the time of his exit from scenes terrestrial. The idea of a paper kite, or a bird of prey, is ridiculous as pertaining to Gilderoy.
Ell properly means an arm; elbow, the bow or bend of the arm. The name was derived from the length of the king’s (Henry I. of England) arm, in 1101.
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