Words! Words! Words!

It’s March 20. Get ready to put some spring in your step. But first some dark history.

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Mar 20, 2018 9:11:41 AM

According to scholars at the University of Paris, the Black Death is created on this day in 1345, from what they call “a triple conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the 40th degree of Aquarius, occurring on the 20th of March 1345.″ The Black Death, also known as the Plague, swept across Europe, the Middle East and Asia during the 14th century, leaving an estimated 25 million dead in its wake. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was published on this day in 1852. The novel sold 300,000 copies within three months and was so widely read that when President Abraham Lincoln met Stowe in 1862, he reportedly said, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.” And on this day in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln’s sons, Willie and Tad, are diagnosed with the measles, adding to the president’s many troubles.

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Topics: vocabulary test, vocabulary, vocabulary quiz

Key to survival: Rock and roll with the punches

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Mar 13, 2018 7:30:00 AM

On March 13, 1965, guitar legend Eric Clapton left the Yardbirds to chase the Blues. On this date in 1992, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck in Turkey, killing (by some estimates) 2,000 people. And on this date in 1868, the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson began. Let’s see how unshakable your vocab skills are today. Will they stand up to trial? Will you strum a positive chord?

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Topics: vocabulary, vocabulary quiz

A New Queen…and Other 20th Century Hits

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Feb 6, 2018 11:10:16 AM

Queen Elizabeth IIOn this day in 1952, after a long illness, King George VI of Great Britain and Northern Ireland died in his sleep at the royal estate at Sandringham. Princess Elizabeth, the older of the king’s two daughters and next in line to succeed him, was in Kenya at the time of her father’s death; she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953, at age 27.

On this day in 1911, President Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois. Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, served for two terms from 1981 to 1989. Known as The Great Communicator, he was the first actor to be elected president after two centuries of mainly lawyers and soldiers.

On this day in 1937, John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men, the story of the bond between two migrant workers, was published. He adapted the book into a three-act play, which was produced the same year. The story brought national attention to Steinbeck’s work, which had started to catch on in 1935 with the publication of his first successful novel, Tortilla Flat.

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Topics: vocabulary quiz, vocbulary

Today in History

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Jan 23, 2018 7:59:09 AM

Dog with FrisbeeOn January 23, 1968, the U.S. intelligence-gathering ship Pueblo, Commander Lloyd Bucher as skipper, was seized by North Korean naval vessels and charged with spying and violating North Korean territorial waters. Negotiations to free the 83-man crew of the U.S. ship dragged on for nearly a year, damaging the credibility of and confidence in the foreign policy of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration.

On this day in 1957, machines at the Wham-O toy company rolled out the first batch of their aerodynamic plastic discs–now known to millions of fans all over the world as Frisbees.

And on this day in 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell was granted a medical degree from Geneva College in New York, becoming the first female to be officially recognized as a physician in U.S. history.

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Topics: vocabulary test, vocabulary quiz

A last call, a jazz hall, and a departing know-it-all

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Jan 16, 2018 8:32:22 AM

jazz playerOn this day in 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes,” was ratified and became the law of the land. The movement for the prohibition of alcohol began in the early 19th century, when Americans concerned about the adverse effects of drinking began forming temperance societies. By the late 19th century, these groups had become a powerful political force, campaigning on the state level and calling for total national abstinence. By the late teens, the ill effects of alcohol were rampant throughout America. Some say the 18th Amendment was just in time.

Jazz has been called “America’s classical music,” a label that does more than just recognize its American origins. The label also makes the case that jazz is worthy of aesthetic consideration alongside music usually thought of as “classical.” In the current era, when programs of Duke Ellington and J.S. Bach often draw the same highbrow crowds, that argument hardly seems controversial. In the 1930s, however, the notion was almost laughable, which is what made Benny Goodman’s January 16, 1938, concert at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall so revolutionary. Goodman and his supporting cast claimed a new place for jazz on the American cultural scene that night, in what has come to be seen as the most important jazz concert in history.

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Topics: vocabulary test, vocabulary, vocabulary quiz

Let’s explore some words today.

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Jan 9, 2018 7:30:00 AM

Christopher ColumbusOn this day in 1493, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, saw three “mermaids”–in reality manatees–and described them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Mermaids, mythical half-female, half-fish creatures, have existed in seafaring cultures at least since the time of the ancient Greeks. Typically depicted as having a woman’s head and torso, a fishtail instead of legs and holding a mirror and comb, mermaids live in the ocean and, according to some legends, can take on a human shape and marry mortal men. The classic rags-to-riches story got a macho spin in the Oscar-winning Rocky, which was written by its star, Sylvester Stallone, and began filming on this day in 1976. In 1887, on one of the worst days of the “worst winter in the West,” nearly an inch of snow fell every hour for 16 hours, impeding the ability of already starving cattle to find food. Montana ranchers alone lost an estimated 362,000 head of cattle, more than half the territory’s herd.

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Topics: vocabulary test, vocabulary, vocabulary quiz

Three geniuses… make that four, if we can count you!

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Dec 12, 2017 3:30:00 PM

On this day in 1980, American oil tycoon Armand Hammer paid $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci. The manuscript, written around 1508, was one of some 30 similar books da Vinci produced during his lifetime on a variety of subjects. It contained 72 loose pages featuring some 300 notes and detailed drawings, all relating to the common theme of water and how it moved. On this day in 2000, General Motors declared that it would begin to phase out the 103-year-old Oldsmobile, the oldest automotive brand in the United States. (But that’s not why it was called OLDS-mobile.) And on this day in 1901, Italian physicist and radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi succeeded in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean, disproving detractors who told him that the curvature of the earth would limit transmission to 200 miles or less. The message–simply the Morse-code signal for the letter “s”–traveled more than 2,000 miles from Poldhu in Cornwall, England, to Newfoundland, Canada.

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Topics: vocabulary, vocabulary quiz

All the world’s a stage. Are you merely an actor or are you a director?

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Nov 28, 2017 1:08:29 PM

On this day in 1925, The Grand Ole Opry, one of the longest-lived and most popular showcases for country-western music, began broadcasting live from Nashville, Tennessee. The showcase was originally named the Barn Dance, after a Chicago radio program called the National Barn Dance that had begun broadcasting the previous year. On this day in 1582, William Shakespeare, 18, and Anne Hathaway, 26, paid a 40-pound bond for their marriage license in Stratford-upon-Avon. Six months later, Anne gave birth to their daughter, Susanna, and two years later, to twins. And for those not so old to remember the early-60s girl-group explosion, on this day in 1964, the Shangri-Las scored their first and only #1 hit with the famously melodramatic epic “Leader of the Pack.” Vroom, vroom.

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Topics: vocabulary test, vocabulary, vocabulary quiz

A Whale, the Moon, and a Pig Stand

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Nov 14, 2017 9:19:46 AM

On November 14, 2006, state officials closed the last two of Texas’ famed Pig Stand restaurants, the only remaining pieces of the nation’s first drive-in restaurant empire. The restaurants’ owners were bankrupt, and they owed the Texas comptroller more than $200,000 in unpaid sales taxes. (Can you figure which word on our test today originated with Pig Stand restaurants?) Also on this day, in 1969, Apollo 12, the second manned mission to the surface of the moon, launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with astronauts Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon, and Alan Bean aboard. On this day in 1851, Harper & Brothers in New York published the novel Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville. The book flopped at first, and it was many years before the book came to be recognized as an American classic.

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Topics: vocabulary test, vocabulary

Annie Get Your Fun

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Oct 24, 2017 7:30:00 AM

On this day in 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor becomes the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She survived, which is not easy to do. On this day in 1931, eight months ahead of schedule (people worked hard back in the day), New York governor Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River. The 4,760-foot-long suspension bridge, the longest in the world at the time, connected Fort Lee, New Jersey with Washington Heights in New York City. On this day in 1945, the United Nations Charter, which was adopted and signed on June 26, 1945, became effective and ready to be enforced.

Test your building skills, talent for survival, and international acumen in today’s word quiz.

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Topics: vocabulary test, vocabulary, word quiz

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