22 Mar 2021

Time For A Zoom Hat

Q. The pandemic has not been kind to our hairdos. Some are letting locks grow where they will. Others are shopping for shears and going at it themselves. How many of us look like Thomas Gray’s 1757 poet in The Bard: A Pindaric Ode? ‘… With haggard eyes the poet

18 Mar 2021

Can’t Spell That

Q. What are the most commonly misspelled words? . A. The stories that autocorrect could tell. Are there certain words that stump us every time? “Tommorrow, Tomorow, I love ya, tommorow..” Some – student, teacher, employee, boss – have nightmares about being unable to spell simple words in public. When

13 Mar 2021

Sweet Peas And Mouldy Cheese

Q. Stop and smell the roses. Those chocolate chip cookies smell like home. We’re not surprised to hear of scents that trigger memories and make us happy. But are scents associated more broadly with different emotions? . A. We can start with this.. Please complete these sentences as quickly as

10 Mar 2021

That Scream

Q. The Scream. It’s one of the world’s most recognizable paintings, much replicated from art textbooks to extreme memes. What led artist Edvard Munch to create such a tortured painting? . A. ‘I inherited two of mankind’s most frightful enemies—the heritage of consumption and insanity,’  Edvard Munch wrote in his

06 Mar 2021

Canadian Travel Dreams

Q. We may be sheltered in place, but we can still dream about where we’d like to go when travel is safe again. Where do Canadians dream about voyaging? . A. One dreamy vote here for Harbour Island in the Bahamas – pink sand, gentle turquoise waves, white picket fences,

04 Mar 2021

No Truck

Q. Where did the phrase ‘no truck’ originate? As in: “I have no truck with back room business deals.” . A. I want or have no truck with X. That is, I want no part of this. I refuse to be involved. How on earth are trucks relevant here? What

27 Feb 2021

Spider-Man Says Hey

Q. Wakanda Forever! Now is as good a time as ever to get re-steeped in the MCU. Which words do key Avengers characters say most? . A. Someone has, of course, done the math. In 2018, data scientists Dr. Elle O’Brien and Matt Winn analyzed scripts and character word counts

24 Feb 2021

Drinking Toast

Q. Was or, gasp, is there such a thing as toast water? . A. One thing is clear: toast water is all over Victorian to early 20th Century recipe and potion books. Albert A. Hopkins starts our toast post with his 1919 guide: ‘Home Made Beverages. The Manufacture of Non-Alcoholic and

20 Feb 2021

Jazz Greats In Action

Q. Where can we see great photos of jazz legends in action? . A. One fantastic resource is The National Jazz Museum of Harlem, founded in 1997. An affiliate of the Smithsonian, NJMH now boasts two remarkably gifted musicians as Co-Artistic Directors: pianist, composer, and Late Night with Stephen Colbert

18 Feb 2021

Masterful Mimicry

Q. How is it that some people are so good at mimicking day to day sounds – popping corks, robot vacuums, espresso machines, car alarms? . A. We have certainly heard remarkable mimicry in our animal friends. As we see in the David Attenborough-narrated video below, the incredible lyre bird