Literary giant

mullet over

The first word in many English dictionaries is “aa.” It is the name of a particular kind of lava. This word can be handy in games like Scrabble, perhaps.

We have a daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons residing in Great Britain. I am making a real effort to learn English so a Brit might interpret my utterances. So far, I have learned that my orchestra seat is a “stall,” “roast of beef” to me is a “joint” to Brits. I say “billboard” when my British friends say “hoarding.” I want a “cracker” when they want a “biscuit.” To me, “squash” is a vegetable. To overseas grandsons, “squash” is a soft drink. We may all think we are speaking English, yet actually be discoursing in different languages.

Victor Hugo authored Les Miserables and is recognized as a literary giant. Perhaps that is why it has been accepted as “okay” for Monsieur Hugo to compose one sentence in said volume that contains 823 words, 51 semicolons, 93 commas and 4 dashes. For comparison: a typical “Mullet Over” column will contain approximately 400 words and a plethora of sentences.         

There may be countries that can rival Costa Rica in flower variety, but not many. Botanists in that nation have identified more than 6,000 different blooming plants. “Costa Rica” is Spanish for “Costa Rica.” We conduct detailed research here at the Mullet Office. Sometimes.

Nicotine was named after John Nicot in about 1560. I suppose that is an honor of some sort.

There exists a huge freshwater lake lying beneath Antarctic ice two miles thick. It is named Lake Vostok and is about the same size as Lake Ontario. Lake Ontario normally covers more than 7,000 square miles; flooding periods can significantly increase the lake’s surface area.

Germans have a word that describes weight gained as a result of overeating triggered by stress or worry or grief: Kummerspeck. Kummerspeck is generally acknowledged as a real thing in Deutschland.

More than half of the flowers in the world are some shade of red. This is likely a result of bees preferring red.

Citizens of Monaco are prohibited by law from participating in any local gambling. However, the citizens reap numerous financial benefits from foreigners who seem to think gambling is a fine idea.

There is a town named Gaza in the Gaza Strip in Palestine which was famous for making fine woven white cloth in ages past. This product gave us the word “gauze.” I might mention that it was a temple at Gaza that Samson pulled down once his hair grew long again.

Mt. Washington in New Hampshire is only 6,200 feet high. However, extremes do occur on this mountain. For instance, winds exceeding 230 mph have been recorded. So have temperatures of minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit. “Old” Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England. The highest point in Old Hampshire is an unimpressive 938 feet. The coldest temp recorded in Hampshire was minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold, but not scary cold.

I was amazed to learn that a recent street survey revealed that only one American in five knew whose likeness is on our one dollar bill.

One tradition exercised at some Jewish weddings involves the bride and groom making a toast from crystal wine glasses and then smashing the glasses upon the floor or fireplace. Supposedly, the happy couple should have as many happy years as the total number of resulting shards.

Second year college students are called “sophomores.” The word is a combination of two Greek words meaning “foolish” and “wise.” “Sophomore” has long been thought to be an appropriate description of special experiences which have allowed students to acquire some knowledge, but are often lacking acceptable  quantities of prudence.

I have discovered what might be a village enjoying the most apt name of all towns, etc. on our entire planet. A quaint settlement on the Coulon River in France is named “Apt.”

I’ll close with words of wisdom uttered by one of my inspiring sages, the renowned Fozzie Bear: “Wocka, wocka, wocka.” Have a great day.

James White is a retired mathematics teacher who enjoys sharing fascinating trivia. He can be reached at