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ASK MR. KNOW IT ALL: Faulkner, Falkner in the family business

on April 28, 2013 3:50 AM

Question: Going through books in a used bookstore, I came across one titled “The Little Brick Church” by William Falkner. I though his name was spelled Faulkner. Is this a different writer? — I.D., Waco, Texas

Answer: It’s a different writer, but from the same family. Faulkner’s great-grandfather, using the family’s original spelling of the name, wrote the book you found. William Falkner was born around 1825 and died in 1889. William Faulkner, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, was born in 1897 and died in 1962. He is reported to have said, “I want to be a writer like my great-granddaddy” when he was a child.

Question: The question is: What is the purpose of the giant sequoia tree? What is the answer? — F.J., Ankeny, Iowa

Answer: Naturalist and author Edward Abbey (1927-1989) wrote, “What is the purpose of the giant sequoia tree? The purpose of the giant sequoia tree is to provide shade for the tiny titmouse.”

Question: Which U.S. president was the first born in a hospital? — S.L.S., Lynn, Mass.

Answer: James Earl “Jimmy” Carter Jr. was born at the Wise Sanitarium on Oct. 1, 1924, in the small farming town of Plains, Ga. Carter was the 39th president.

Question: Why is a person who leads sometimes referred to as a “bellwether”? — K.J.M., Miami Beach, Fla.

Answer: It was common for a sheepherder to place a bell on a castrated ram, or “wether.” As the ram moved about, the flock would follow, and the shepherd, following the sound of the bell, could keep track of his animals.

Question: What is a chief bridesmaid? — L.W.E., Nashville, Tenn.

Answer: A chief bridesmaid is what the British call a maid of honor.

Question: I recently heard of “Moodus noises.” What are they? Do they have anything to do with the town of Moodus, Conn.? — B.L., Everett, Wash.

Answer: The town of Moodus, Conn., gets its name from Native Americans, who called the area “Machimoodus,” or “place of noises.” The noises are from a peculiar type of earthquake rumbling in the area. The noises are often compared to distant thunder or cannon fire and have occurred for centuries. Moodus is not the only place that has this unusual sound from earthquakes; there are several other locations in the world that report such sounds.

Question: The backflip is no longer permitted in Olympic ice skating competition. Did a skater ever try it? — O.D.M., Roseburg, Ore.

Answer: During the 1976 Winter Games, held in Innsbruck, Austria, American skater Terry Kubicka made an attempt and lost points. After the Olympics, the move was banned.

After an underwhelming program, French skater Surya Bonaly performed a backflip in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, to wow the crowd. She landed on one foot, and was penalized for the trick.

Skaters can do the move in exhibitions or in other competitions, but it will cause a point deduction.

Question: When something passes the “acid test,” it means it got approval. How did the term come about? — T.L., Kingman, Ariz.

Answer: Traveling peddlers in Europe and America often made trades for gold. Even an experienced trader might have a hard time determining the exact amount of gold content in an item by looking at it. So a drop of nitric acid was placed on the object. By examining the shade of color of the liquid, the merchant would get a good idea of the amount of gold in the object.

Question: More than a few years ago, I saw a movie starring Richard Dreyfuss and Teri Garr. Dreyfuss was addicted to horse racing while Garr was addicted to alcohol. Despite my description, it was a funny movie — but I can’t recall the title. Do you know it? — E.W., Ridgecrest, Calif.

Answer: The movie you’re thinking of is “Let It Ride,” which was released in 1989. It is available on DVD. Critics call the movie mildly funny, blaming the script more than the actors on its failure.

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