“Ukulele” means “flea”

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It is believed that in the 1700s (on the Portuguese island of Madeira) some cabinet makers first constructed small guitar-like instruments that had only four strings. In the 1800s, scores of Madeira’s citizens were recruited to work in the sugarcane fields of the Hawaiian (Sandwich) Islands and brought along their “Madeira Guitars.” The instruments quickly became extremely popular with the Sandwich Islands populace. The Hawaiian word for the Madeira Guitar is “ukulele” which means “flea.”

The trap-jaw ant is considered to be the fastest animal in the world – sort of. The ant is capable of snapping its jaws shut on prey in one ten-thousandth of a second, which is the fastest known mechanical action in nature.

So far, no dinosaur remains with any preserved DNA have been discovered.

The Scarecrow costume from the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie is now owned by the Smithsonian Institution. The Institution also has a pair of the famous ruby slippers, but the Cowardly Lion head is housed at the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Careful studies indicate that the distance between New York City and London is increasing at the rate of 2 cm (almost an inch) per year. It is hoped that the airline industry does not become aware of this development for fear the information could be used to warrant rate increases for international flights.

Some anonymous buyer recently spent more than $33 million to purchase an 8 ft by 6 ft Persian rug at an auction conducted by Sotheby’s of New York. I have an 8 by 6 rug, but it was 12 ft by 10 ft before the dog chewed it.

In excess of 15,000 people were executed (guillotined) during the horrific French Revolution. It is well documented that some victims were executed because of bookkeeping (e.g., sloppy handwriting) errors.  I should think that the errant clerks felt “embarrassed.”

Perhaps the famous Charlemagne was never bothered by the fact that his parents were named “Pepin the Short” and “Bertha with the Big Foot” – definitely not common names.

Someone must like the taste (not me). For several decades, herring has been the leader in worldwide fish market sales.

An American alligator living 35 years will likely grow at least 2,000 teeth, so losing a tooth while chomping or fighting is of small consequence.

What we now call the “English” alphabet is approximately 700 years old. Well, do try to be meticulous with your bookkeeping – and I wish you an embarrassment-free week.

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