The Chuck Yeager pilot voice

Airline pilots tend to talk the same because they’re all emulating Chuck Yeager.

In Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book The Right Stuff, he credits the calm … folksy … drawn out, matter-of-fact way that airline pilots tend to speak, to the world famous decorated American pilot Chuck Yeager.

Yeager grew up in West Virginia and entered the military in 1941. During WWII he went from being a mechanic to a decorated fighter pilot in just a few years. It was after the war however that he achieved the feat that made him a legend. On October 14, 1947 as a test pilot he flew the experimental plane Bell X-1 at Mach 1 and became the first human to break the sound barrier, the first to fly faster than the speed of sound. Also worth noting, he broke the sound barrier while flying with two broken ribs from a horse riding accident just a few days prior (which he “forgot” to report to his superiors).

It was because of his exploits as a pilot, and his generally cool demeanor, that led other pilots to want to be like him. His relatively neutral American accent and his vocal mannerisms soon became emulated by other military pilots. Then other pilots copied those pilots, military pilots become civilian commercial pilots, and so on.

Orange the fruit, orange the color

Orange the color was named for orange the fruit, not the other way around.

The English word for the color orange has a trail back through a few European languages but has its origins in the Sanskrit “nāraṅga” which was the name for the orange tree. Oranges the fruit came to Europe through Spain with the Moors, who in Arabic called the fruit “nāranj”.

From the Arabic name for the fruit, “nāranj” became “narange” in English in the 14th century and by sometime in the early 16th century the spelling became “orange”, and was then used to describe things that were the color of the fruit.

Some confusion may apply

Without a name for a color, cultures use the words they do have to describe the things around them. Because English didn’t have a word for the color orange until the 16th century, some things that are orange (or orange-ish) were labeled as red because it was the closest color that English had a word for. “Red” hair and the robin “redbreast” for example are really more orange than red, but they were named before English had the word “orange”.

Describing the colors of things before a language has names for those colors had been a problem across cultures for a long time. The Ancient Greeks had a very limited palette of color names to choose from. For example, there seems to have been no word in Ancient Greek for the color “blue” so in Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey he describes both the sky and the sea as being a wine / bronze color. Even stranger, he also describes sheep as being wine colored.

Rosanna Arquette’s Two Pop Hits

The award winning actress Rosanna Arquette is said to have been the inspiration for more than one hit song of the 1980s.

Rosanna

A bit on the nose, 1982’s Rosanna by Toto was written while Arquette was dating Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro. While the name of the song was taken from Arquette, the lyrics are about a mixture of people and not specifically about Rosanna Arquette.

The video, which is fantastically very ‘80s, has a then unknown Patrick Swayze and Cynthia Rhodes as dancers, both of whom went on to be in 1987’s Dirty Dancing.

Toto’s 1982 hit Rosanna was named for Rosanna Arquette.

In Your Eyes and Say Anything

Arquette is also said to be the inspiration for the even bigger hit 1986’s In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel. Arquette was dating Gabriel and is said to not only have been the inspiration for the song but also to have encouraged Gabriel to let Cameron Crowe use the song in 1989’s Say Anything … .

In Say Anything … the song is used in the most iconic moment of the film, and one of the most memorable scenes in cinema where, like a 1980s Romeo & Juliet, John Cusack’s character holds his boombox over his head below the bedroom window of Ione Skye’s character.

Peter Gabriel’s smash hit In Your Eyes, while not named for Arquette, is about her.

Indiana Jones and the Letter “J”

The letter “J” was the last letter added to the alphabet and probably wouldn’t have been a part of the crusaders’ trap.

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Indy has to retrieve the Holy Grail in order to stop the Nazis and save his father – a classic MacGuffin. Between him and the Grail however are a series of traps constructed by knights of the First Crusade. One of these traps is a floor with flat stones individually marked with various letters of the alphabet. He is “to proceed in the footsteps of the word” and only step on the floor stones that spell the name of God. The name of God in this case is Jehovah but Indy makes the mistake of stepping on the letter “J” whereby the floor crumbles. He then remembers that in the Latin alphabet the first letter in the name Jehovah is actually an “I”.

the last letter of the alphabet

Jehovah in Latin was originally spelled “Iehouah” with a capital “I” because the letter “J” hadn’t been invented yet. This also means that Jesus’s name wasn’t “Jesus” in his lifetime. In Hebrew he was Yeshua or Yehoshua, or in Aramaic he was Isho or Yeshu. For a long time the letter “J” was just a fancy way of writing the letter “I”. It wasn’t until 1524 that Italian grammarian Gian Giorgio Trissino proposed separating the two letter forms to become two separate letters with two separate sounds, and in so doing made the letter “J” the last letter added to our alphabet.

This raises a typographical problem with the film. The letter “J” is part of the trap but it didn’t become a part of the alphabet until after 1524, a few hundred years after the First Crusade which was from 1096-1099. So we have to conclude that either:

  • the knights didn’t build the trap for more than 400 years after the First Crusade, or …
  • every now and then the immortal knight of the Grail updates the trap to include new letter forms over the centuries to keep the trap up to date with the times, or …
  • the writers of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade didn’t do much alphabet research and incredibly audiences were willing to overlook such a flagrant error.

Mayday, May Day, May Day

Mayday’s roots are in French, while May Day’s roots go back to pagan spring celebrations.

The distress call “mayday” was invented in 1921 at the Croydon airport in London. Much of the traffic to Croydon airport at the time was from France and so “mayday” was chosen because it sounded like the French “m’aider” (“help me”).

Mayday the distress call has nothing to do with May Day, the May 1st pagan spring holiday celebrated in various fashions since the Ancient Romans. Eventually, in an attempt to stop paganism, May 1st was appropriated by the Catholic Church and dedicated to Mary.

In the early 20th century May Day also became the International Workers’ Day, celebrating labor & workers around the world (except in the United States, where it’s called Labor Day and celebrated the first Monday in September).

Elvis’s Fool’s Gold

One of Elvis’s favorite sandwiches was the 8,000 calorie Fool’s Gold Loaf.

On the evening of February 1st, 1976 Elvis and his buddies were in Memphis talking about this sandwich they loved from a restaurant called the Colorado Mine Company in Denver. Right there and then Elvis decided “we’re going”, had his jet readied, and the group flew from Memphis to Denver on a midnight run for sandwiches.

The sandwich is called the Fool’s Gold Loaf, it’s 8,000 calories, and if you would like to make your own you will need:

  • 1 hollowed-out loaf of French bread
  • 1 entire jar of smooth peanut butter
  • 1 entire jar of grape jelly
  • 1 pound of bacon

Elvis purchased 22 Fool’s Gold sandwiches for himself and his buddies, and the husband & wife owners of the Colorado Mine Company met them at the airport hanger with the sandwiches as well as Perrier and champagne.

Colonel Sanders … Not A Military Colonel

Colonel Sanders was a Kentucky Colonel, not a military one.

Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, was not actually a military colonel (he never served in the military). Rather, he was given the honorary title of Colonel as part of the Kentucky Colonel program.

The governor of Kentucky bestows the title on individuals “… with strength of character, leadership and dedication to the welfare of others.”

Moses’s Horns

Moses spent a period of time in art with horns because of a mistranslation.

During the Middle Ages, and into the Renaissance, Moses was frequently depicted in art as having horns on his head, including in a statue by Michelangelo. This was all because of a mistranslation from the Hebrew text.

The mistranslation of Exodus 34:29 said that Moses came down from Mount Sinai and his face was “horned from the conversation of the Lord” but it should have been translated as his face was “shining/radiant from conversation of the Lord”.

So the paintings & sculptures of Moses with mutant horns should have just been Moses with a rosy glow.

A collection of Moses depicted with horns from over the centuries.

Syrah or Shiraz?

Starting in France and making its way to Australia, Syrah and Shiraz are the same thing.

When the French dark grape varietal Syrah arrived in Australia from France, the local Australians began to change its name through their accent calling it “Shi – RAZ” and eventually through actually spelling it Shiraz. Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape. Today which name a winemaker uses is based on where in the world they are making their wine.

As for the legendary Persian wine producing region of Shiraz, the Syrah/Shiraz grape seems to have no relation and the name similarities seem to be a coincidence.

More on “Less is more”

The idiom “Less is more” is by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. “Less is more” is about simplicity, that keeping things to the absolute essentials is more effective than including extraneous additional elements.

Mies

Ludiwg Mies van der Rohe was born in Germany in 1886. His architectural career started by apprenticing at various design firms but it was in Berlin in the early 20th century that he gained greater exposure to the new progressive ideas of the age. After World War I people in the Weimar Republic were living in a world of increasing industrialization with fast-paced metropolises. The old traditional social constructs were from a bygone era and weren’t compatible with the new modern industrialized world. It was in this environment that Modernism was born.

Modernism embraced new ways of thinking. As people struggled to find their place in a world broken by the old regime, modernism explored new ways forward. It found its way into design, art, literature, philosophy, music, and other fields as experimental new ways that were alternatives/rejections to the rules of the past.

Modernism was at the center of Mies’ architectural thinking and he quickly became a leader in this new school of thought. While serving as the third and final head of the famed Bauhaus design school, he realized the political climate in Germany was becoming increasingly hostile and emigrated to the USA in 1937, eventually settling in Chicago. It was in Chicago that he worked the rest of his life creating some of his masterpieces in modernist thought such as the Farnsworth House.

The Farnsworth House is a perfect demonstration of Mies’s modernist design philosophy that “less is more”.

Less is more

His entire approach to architecture stripped designs down to the absolute essentials; removing classical architectural decorative ornamentation entirely. It was from this design philosophy that “Less is more” was born. It was a utilitarian approach where a design is more powerful the less you add. Basically a design is better the less stuff you add to it. Keep it simple.

Ornamentation served no functional purpose so it was omitted. It took Louis Sullivan’s idea that “form follows function” to the extreme. A building’s visual style should take a backseat to its purpose.

While celebrated as a design visionary and as a father of modernism, Mies’ aphorism of “Less is more”  has taken on a life of its own where it is arguably more famous than he is.