Did you know? Did you need to?

Published 1:17 am Saturday, September 4, 2010

Since my husband sometimes puts me to work researching this and that for him, I composed today’s column from a mish-mash of information that I ran across in reference material in our personal library and as I searched the Internet. Some of it fits under the categories of I didn’t know that or I should have known that, and the rest just struck me as interesting.

Ever had a red letter day? The origin of the use of that phrase probably goes back to the early 1700s, when holy days were marked in red on church calendars.

When you tell someone you’ll be there in a jiffy, are you aware that a jiffy is 1/100 of a second?

Wonder if any records were set with the extreme heat we have experienced this summer in south Alabama? Forecasters say that 2010 will most likely go down as the hottest in Alabama since 1880. According to Internet sources, the highest temperature in Alabama is on record at 112 degrees in Centerville, Ala.. on Sept. 5, 1925. Several sources revealed that on Sept. 13, 1922, the temperature in Aziaia, Libya was 138 degrees. It is thought to be the highest ever recorded on earth.

Sound is measured by decibels. The smallest amount of sound that can be detected by the human ear is one decibel; a soft whisper is ten decibels; a quiet conversation is 20 decibels; and an airplane at take-off measures 100 decibels.

How familiar are you with measures, such as how many yards are in a bolt of cloth? If you said 40 yards, you hit the nail on the head. What about these? A hand, a term used for measuring heights of horses, is four inches. A knot, used for measuring nautical distance, is one nautical mile per hour. And a pica, a term familiar to those who deal with type, is one-sixth inch or 12 points. And what about a hertz? It is a unit of electromagnetic wave frequency equal to one cycle per second. I know horsepower measures engine power, but how is it calculated? It is based on the power needed to lift 550 pounds one foot in one second. That’s about one and one-half times the power an average horse can exert.

Are poisonous shrubs and flowers growing in your yard or in pots decorating your house? I hadn’t even thought about that until I saw a chart listing fifty poisonous plants. Yes, I have some in my yard. I learned that all parts of azaleas are toxic and if ingested can cause a number of symptoms and even death. So can daffodil bulbs, as well as hydrangea buds, leaves, and branches. All parts of poinsettias can cause severe digestive upset and even death.

The great musician Mozart’s full name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfangus Thiophilus Mozart. Did you know that?