Now, 0.01% More Correct!


As said recently we try to be accurate, but sometimes commit blunders. We lately found a real boner and set it right. We won’t say what. We’re underhanded that way. Plus, we can pretend it never happened. That’s the magic of the web, the ability to presto-chango the past. No need to send out recall notices, simply flush every embarrassing bloomer down the memory hole with a keystroke or two.

We thought this spot from 1998 would fit the bill as an illustration of “Oops.” Anyway, if Star Trek can pretend Klingons were always boney foreheaded worm eaters and the original greasy-looking guys sporting Van Dykes and Fu Manchus never happened, we expect the reader will allow us similar leeway.

Filed 2/26/17

The Eponymous State Name Game


We’re going to do something a little different for this time out. Since there’s going to be multiple answers, which might be tricky to keep track of and store in short-term memory, we’ve provided spaces for you to jot down your answers. The boxes can be expanded as needed. Afterward you can compare your wild guesses to the correct answers.

Sorry, we don’t have the tech savvy to check it for you like trivia quiz sites do, you’ll have to go old school and score it yourself.

Which seven states were named after kings or queens? One point for each correct answer.

Before moving on, who were the kings or queens these seven states were named after? Be sure to include any Roman numeral. There were eight Henrys and a slew of Edwards for instance. One point for each correct answer.

Mouseover for answers

Georgia: King George II
Louisiana: King Louis XIV
Maryland: Queen Henrietta Maria of France
North and South Carolina: King Charles II [Latin for Charles, Carolas]
Virginia and West Virginia: Queen Elizabeth I, the “Virgin Queen.”

Which three states were named after famous persons who weren’t kings or queens? Score one point for each correct answer.

As before, who were the three famous people they were named after? Score one point for each correct answer.

Mouseover for answers

Delaware: Thomas West, Third Baron De La Warr
Pennsylvania: William Penn
Washington: George Washington
(Score a point for getting Lord De La Warr. Knowing Thomas West and his being the Third Baron wins a bonus point and our undying awe.)

18-20 points: history nerd supreme
15-17 points: smarter than a fifth grader
11-14 points: lucky guesser
8-10 points: unlucky guesser
5-7 points: slacker
1-4 points: phys ed major
0 points: you didn’t keep track, did you?

Filed 2/27/17

Maybe It’s Pirate Month


We just can’t seem to resist. Here be a pirate “Brickbats” spot from the January 2015 issue of Reason magazine.

If you are holding a Talk Like a Pirate Day celebration, you might expect some­one to show up dressed as a pirate. But when one employee at North Carolina’s Richlands Elementary School saw another worker dressed as a pirate, the first staffer reported a suspicious person. Officials then locked down not just the elementary school but all schools in the area.

After which everyone was sent to a safe area for counseling and further dosing.

Filed 2/24/17

Ten Things Explained with One Venn Diagram

no1 one
no2 one
no3 one
no3 one
no3 one
no3 one
no3 one
no3 one
no3 one
no10 one

Mouseover number for each diagram

Filed 2/22/17

Quick Pirate Week Update


We just learned pirates did not use cutlasses during the Great Pirate Heyday around the turn of the 18th century. That’s because the cutlass wasn’t invented until after the American War of Independence. Pirates used other swords similar to a cutlass, like hangers and falchions or possibly backswords, shamshirs and rapiers. Who knows which, pirates didn’t keep good records.

In the opening pic we reprise the Jolly Rogers of Thomas Tew (left) and Calico Jack to show, whatever those swords were supposed to be, lacking a beefy hand guard they certainly weren’t cutlasses.

As for other errata generally throughout terry colon dot com, there are bound to be more. Especially as we tend to take liberties to make jokes, successfully or not. We do guarantee the information presented is 97.5% correct. Though we might be wrong about that.

While We’re on the Topic, Some Additional Sword Trivia


The iconic Roman short sword was the gladius. It is where the term gladiator comes from, a man wielding a gladius. Gladius is simply Latin for sword, and gladiator pretty much translates to swordsman.


The modern sport fencing épée and foil were originally practice swords for the rapier and small-sword. Folks in the past weren’t stupid enough to practice with real swords. Considering everything has a learning curve, few would survive sword first grade to ever graduate.

There is a bit of trivia that makes the rounds that cavalry sabers were not sharpened and used as blunt impact weapons. ‘Fraid not. Military saber manuals contain instructions for cutting with a saber, which requires a sharpened blade to do.


The blunt saber idea may have arisen because many surviving old sabers are unsharpened. Two possibilities for that. First, swords were sharpened only after being issued. Warehoused swords would all be blunt. Secondly, even issued swords would not always be sharpened unless there was a war on or if the soldier served in a danger zone. Both warehoused and peacetime swords tended to survive more than swords used in combat.

Filed 2/21/17

In Which We Wonder If the Plural of Omnibus Is Omnibi


We had started to write something about the alewife in the Great Lakes when we wondered what the plural of alewife was. Alewives? That ain’t right. Then we figured, like most fish the plural is the same as the singular. As in, “The river is full of trout” and not, “The river is full of trouts.” You don’t catch five basses, you catch five bass. Basses is only plural for the musical instrument. (Bass, a hetero­nym. Our favorite.)

For land animals it’s a mixed bag. Deer, bison, elk, cattle, plural and singular. Unless they’re all one sex where they’re cows and bulls, or bucks and does. (Does, another heteronym.) For other ruminants we’re not sure. Is it a herd of wildebeest or wildebeests? A wildebeest is also called a gnu, which doesn’t help us since we don’t know if it’s a herd of gnu or gnus, either.

Then there are cases where instead of adding an S for plural you take it away. Hippopotamus to hippopotami or octopus to octopi. It’s a Latin thing. Other minus the S pluralizations are mouse and louse becoming mice and lice. That’s not a Latin thing it’s… we haven’t a clue. On the other hand, if the mouse and louse are not the animals, but are a computer device and a dirty scoundrel the plurals are mouses and louses.

Now then, what’s the plural of a Portugese man-of-war? Surprising to us, in our dictionary it’s men-of-war. But then, a man-of-war is sort-of a plural in its own self, being a collection of three different animals that live as a single entity. Very peculiar. We wonder if they all have to be the same sex or what? Or is it like some fish that can change their sex in mid-life? Which we have heard is where the term “sea change” comes from.

We admit there doesn’t seem to be a logical endpoint to any of this. Just some meandering musings. Perhaps there was a worthwhile tidbit or two in there. If not, sorry. But at least it’s over with and you can take comfort in knowing after all these years the Fish still lives and hasn’t been flushed down the toilet.

Filed 2/20/17

How to Fake It Like a Pro


Another old spot from the archives for which the manuscript is long gone. So I’ll just have to fake it. It’s a joke. Get it? OK, not much of a joke, but I need an intro to get to the point at hand. Which is an old joke I never really understood until I began studying piano. Here goes, in a pared down version.

Two jazz musicians are walking along a pier. One falls over the edge into the water and cries out, “Help! I don’t know how to swim!” The other musician yells back, “Fake it.”

This joke really only works if you know musician lingo. What they mean by fake it. This is when you’re in a jam session and you don’t know the tune you can still play along by faking it. This doesn’t mean pretending to play, like a Hollywood actor moving his hands over the keys not actually playing anything. It means you pick out the tempo, key, and chord progression and play along with whatever you can manage that fits. Going through the tune you learn the melody and bridges at whatnot and can then play those, too. Well, if you’re any good you can, which leaves me out. Of course, it helps than most jazz, blues, rock and pop music have pretty much the same basic and fairly simple structure.

Anyway, this term, fake, also lends itself to what they call a fake book. This is not an imaginary book, but sheet music written with a shorthand musical notation system. You are likely familiar with classical music notation, those five line staffs with all the notes, clefs, rests, sharps, flats and what-have-you. These leave nothing to chance, every note (quaver) played is jotted down. Usually. Sometimes you can toss in your own flourishes, but mostly everything is there.

A fake book is different. All you have is a barebones melody line and shorthand key signatures through the progression, or changes as they say. So, instead of putting down all the sharps and flats and the notes that make the chord they’ll just put down something like F-7 (F minor seventh). The player knows what notes are played in that scale and how to play some version of the chord. Same goes for the melody line, you can fill in notes around it, mostly under, as long as you hit the melody line on the right beats. In simplistic terms the key signature tells you the bottom note, the melody line tells you the top note and you make up everything in between with whatever works in the scale.

The difference between classical and fake book notation reminds me of an anecdote from long ago. My mom was trying to work out on the piano how to play a popular tune of the day. Being trained in classical notation she was writing down every note in the chords and so on and so forth. A rock musician friend of mine tried to help her out by explaining how to do it the fake book way. “You’re doing it the hard way. Just write down the chord notation and insert the chords as you go along.” Or something to that effect.

Which is easier, if you’re used to playing that way. With lots of practice you get to the point where the left hand moves through the chords without much effort or thought really. It practically becomes automatic, muscle memory or something. Still, simply being told to do it that way and mastering it is quite a different thing believe you me. Whether my mom ever got the hang of it I can’t say.

So then, for any non-musician readers who have heard that old joke and didn’t really get it, as I didn’t for many years, now you know.

Filed 2/17/17

When Less Really Can Be More


functionary (fŭnk′-shən ê-rē) noun. A person who has to perform official functions or duties.

perfunctory (pər fŭnk′ tə-rē) adj. Done or acting routinely and with little thought or care.

Seems to us there is a natural convergence of the two to add to our fauxcabulary. To wit…

perfunctionary (pər fŭnk′-shən ê-rē) noun. A person who performs official functions or duties routinely and with little thought or care.

In so many words, a government bureaucrat. Though we might be too generous here. Some do very little work at all, perfunctorily or otherwise. Which in some cases is a good thing. The more a perfunctionary’s work interferes with people actually trying to get something useful done, well, the less they do they better.

Which brings to mind a contronym, a word with two contrary meanings. Oversight. Which is an unintentional failure to notice or do something. Or it means the job of overseeing, to notice so things get done. So, you can have an oversight due to lack of oversight.

Filed 2/16/17

Tips to Write More Betterer


A bit of art from the 2000 archives about plagiarism that befits our picking up some writing advice from Business Insider.

How to improve anything you write in 2 minutes

  1. Delete the word “that” –The word “that” can be removed from your writing at least 90% of the time, and it will instantly make your sentence stronger.
  2. Delete the words “I think” –It adds nothing. Remove it to strengthen your point.
  3. Avoid words that end in “-ing” –In most cases, the “-ing” softens your word and adds no value. Your writing will read better if you avoid it.
  4. Short sentences, short paragraphs –Most sentences can be cut in half. Don’t be afraid to have a two- or three-word sentence.
  5. Shrink your opening sentence –Make it compelling, but keep it short and conversational.

We find ourselves agreeing that elimi­nating “that” from sentences is something that works well. Or rather, we agree eliminating “that” from sentences works well. See, a lot of what they say really works. Still, there can be exceptions.

For instance, adding “I think,” “I imagine,” “I suppose” and the like are qualifiers to let readers know what follows are opinions and not facts or certainties. Which might be important depending on the context and subject. If you’re writing for comic effect a long sentence full of asides, insertions, diversions, and looping around verbiage is the stuff to feed the troops. We think.

Still, overall their advice is sound. Especially for business communication, memos, directives, email, that sort of thing. Also for directions and when conveying complex information. Chop it up into easily swallowed little bites rather than force feeding heaping helpings in one go. That’s the way to feed the troops.

Filed 2/15/17

Roman Military Attire Hollywood Gets Right and Wrong


In Hollywood productions Roman legionaries invariably wear the iconic segmented plate armor, Lorica segmentata. If the time period is the early Empire, as is usual in films, that’s spot on. Though through most of Roman history, Kingdom, Republic and late Empire, the Romans wore (chain) mail (Lorica hamata) or scale armor (Lorica squamata).

One interesting thing about Lorica segmentata was, unlike a cuirass, it could be custom fit after being forged. As the torso was covered with a series of steel bands they could make a bunch of different length bands to later combine however needed to fit any body shape and size.

Despite what you might see on the silver screen there is no evidence Romans ever wore leather armor, segmented or otherwise. Ask yourself, why would they segment leather armor anyway when leather is flexible?

In the movies legionaries are uniformly clad in red tunics. Not always the case in the Roman world. Some units wore white, some wore green, some wore brown. Naval legionaries wore blue, a lot like modern sailors do.

Also in films Roman soldiers almost always sport leather wrist bands. What was the purpose of those, one might wonder. Actually, they had no purpose, the Romans never wore them anywhere outside of Hollywood. How that ever got started is something of a mystery.

Filed 2/14/17

Small Things We Wonder about for No Good Reason


Why is a coaster called a coaster when it just sits there and doesn’t coast along at all? Why doesn’t a saucer hold sauce? What’s the difference between a hall and a hallway? A question which leads us to ponder…

Why did our ancestors come up with completely unique, one-off words for some types of rooms but not others? For instance there’s kitchen, closet, pantry, parlor, hall, library, den, study, and foyer. On the other hand their imaginations seem to have gone on vacation and they just tacked the word room on the end of some function to name these: living room, dining room, laundry room, mudroom, bedroom, bathroom. How come the last three became single words and the others didn’t?

To rectify the situation we offer the following coinages so posterity might be saved time wondering as we do. Living room, couchoria; dining room, eatorium; laundry room, laundreen; mudroom, cloddet; bedroom, sleepiary; bathroom, relievatory.

One last query, how does “how come” mean “why did,” “why do,” or “why”? The more we say the phrase in our heads the less right it sounds. How come?

Filed 2/13/17

An Anecdote and Links Which Have Nothing to Do with Each Other


I had an unexpected visitor this morning. Seems one of the neighborhood tomcats figured out how to use the cat hatch on the exterior kitchen door and sauntered in as big as you please. One of my pair of cats got into a fit of hissing (wonder if cats are the origin of hissy fit) at this interloper alerting me that the mewing coming from the hall was not from one of the resident felines. Rising to investigate I spied a biggish, yellow tom well into the hall scoping the environs. Upon confronting me the old boy beat a hasty retreat where I quickly let him out the back door as he seemed a bit unsure that the kitty door worked going out as well as in. Still, no harm, no foul.

On the unrelated note, if you like reading an eclectic mix of topics I gladly recommend Isegoria blog. Well, if you like the kind of things I like, which is hard to categorize or explain really. Here are a couple links to recent entries I found quite interesting. The first is about shell shock not being only a purely psychological phenomenon, but can be a physical effect on the brain from blast compression. The second is about some African bushmen’s take on Hamlet.

Shell Shock after All
Shakespeare in the Bush

Btw, that’s not me in the pic. I’m a poor caricaturist and a worse self-caricaturist. So I used my stand-in for the scene. But I’ll be darned if it doesn’t look exactly like him.

Filed 2/12/17

Sciency Fiction News


We excerpt an amusing short review by William M. Briggs on what looks to be a funny new Science Fiction novel, A Theory of Nothing by Thomas Barlow. While we try to poke fun at some of the nonsense in Sci-fi and the way science is too often done in the real world, this book seems to have skewered both in a way we can only envy.

The working of this beastie conjured the theoretical negatronium particle, which was duly searched for and discovered. Thinking on this led Barlow to have Karlof say, “It is one of the extraordinary attributes of modern theories that their theories often prove malleable enough to conform to almost any fact.”

This allows Barlow to have a wise old man to tell Karlof, “Long ago, we invented the first truly effective way to disconnect Americans from reality. It’s called the national debt… What we’ve shown, through the practical application of simple economic principles, is that if Americans cannot have free energy, they can at least have free money. Public debt is our equivalent of a perpetual motion machine.”

A Theory of Nothing Leads to Something

(Good joke in the comments, too.)

Filed 2/10/17

And Now…


Mouseover to enlarge

More from the strange but should be true file. You just knew we’d slap one of these in here sooner or later.

Filed 2/8/17

A Year and a Day on Planet Z


How many times does the Earth rotate on its axis in one year?

A. 365.25
B. 366.25
C. zero
D. all of the above

Before giving your answer, consider the following imaginary universe as pictured below. Looking down from the north poles we have star A and planet Z, which luckily for our purposes is divided into four equal, differently colored quadrants.

Let’s say Z doesn’t rotate at all relative to the universe and orbits A counter-clockwise. It starts with quadrant yellow facing A, after a quarter orbit quadrant green is facing A. Meaning, if Z does not rotate on its axis in relation to the universe the planet will make one full clockwise rotation relative to star A. To someone living there, star A will rise in the west and set in the east once a year. Also, there will be no astrology on Z because the constel­lations look to be in the same place all year.


Now let’s say Z rotates on its axis counter-clockwise. To anyone on the planet A would rise in the east and set in the west. If Z rotated once per orbit, after a quarter orbit it rotates 90 degrees. If it began with quadrant yellow facing A, quadrant yellow would still be facing A at the quarter mark. Meaning in one counter-clockwise rotation during one counter-clockwise orbit the same quadrant will face the star all the time. There will be no changing day or night. People on planet Z can only mark the calendar by the Zodiac which to them rotates once a year.


So then, in order to have one day and one night Z needs to rotate counter-clockwise two times per year to negate the effective clockwise rotation from the orbit. To have 365.25 days and nights Z must rotate on its axis 366.25 times per year.

With that in mind, the correct answer to the opening question is B. If you were counting rotations of the Earth from some other galaxy you would see 366.25 rotations per orbit. Each of these woud be a sidereal rotation.

sidereal (sī-dîr′ ē-əl) adj. Measured or determined by means of the stars. Relative to the stars.

On the other hand, if you were counting rotations from the sun the answer is A, you’d see 365.25 rotations. If you were observing from the surface of the Earth you wouldn’t see any rotations of the Earth, but the sun and universe rotating around you. In which case the correct answer is C, zero. Meaning, depending on your point of view A, B, and C are each correct. Therefore, the correct answer to the opening question is D, all of the above.

This is the one trick question you simply cannot get wrong depending how you want to look at it. Our gift to you.

Filed 2/6/17

Seeing Patterns Everywhere


pareidolia (per-ī dō′-lē-ə) noun. The tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern. The human ability to see shapes or make pictures out of randomness.

Can you say Rorschach inkblot test? How about the Big Dipper? How about bunny rabbit cloud or potato chip that looks like Nixon? How about ;-) ?

apophenia (a-pə fē′-nē-ə) noun. The tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas).

Can you say superstition or astrology? How about vast conspiracy? How about, “With a capital T, which rhymes with P, and that stands for pool”?

Both of the above human tendencies are the outcome of the way people naturally make sense of and deal with the world, pattern recognition and categorization. When one thing is like another we can understand a new thing more quickly and easily without having to examine it starting from scratch, so to speak. At least that’s the pattern we see. Hm-m-m…

Filed 2/5/17

The Casual Sportsman

How the “Fighting Irish” Fought


Is it odd that the University of Notre Dame nickname is the Fighting Irish? After all, Notre Dame cathedral is in Paris. That aside, what’s up with the fighting stance in the little cartoon logo they use? Why does the feisty little Irishman hold his fists palms in and curled back? What kind of a way is that to fight?

We can’t say for sure, but it seems to be taken from 19th century pugilism. Not to be confused with boxing, pugilism was akin to what they now call ultimate fighting. There was punching, grappling, kicking, kneeing, elbowing and even head-butting in some cases. Depends on where the fight took place as different places had different rules. The most no-holds-barred rules were in Lancaster, England where they called it catch as catch can. We think, but don’t hold us to that.

Since combatants could punch or grapple a fighter needed to defend against both. Holding the fists turned that way, pronated, kept the arms and elbows tucked up against the body closing the opening for an opponent to grapple. Without the protection of gloves bare knuckle fighters had to both punch and defend differently than modern boxers. To protect the vulnerable hands they curled them back against strikes. That’s why in old films you sometimes see brawlers milling their fists in little circles, made them harder to hit.

In bare knuckle fighting hooks and round punches were rare because they wanted to strike with the bigger, stronger first knuckles to avoid breaking their hand and so used straight punches. They also punched with the thumb upward, rather than supinated with the thumb on the bottom. This was to avoid catching the thumb on the opponents guard and possibly snapping it back and breaking it. This can still happen when wearing boxing gloves, but is mitigated by the glove’s shape, padding and stiffness.

Anyway, that all might explain the little Fighting Irish cartoon man’s fighting style. And why they’re the Fighting Irish and not the Boxing Irish. Though, being pugilists, they could have been the Pug Irish.

Still, Notre Dame is not a Gaelic name. Though it’s not really French, it comes from Latin. Catholic services were in Latin. Notre Dame is a Catholic school and Ireland is a Catholic country. So it fits together. At least to us. You can work it out any way you want. Anyway, the name makes more sense than the Boston Celtics. The people were Celts not Celtics. It’s like calling Notre Dame the Fighting Irishes.

Filed 2/3/17

Happy Woodchuck Day,
or Subterranean Homesick Blues


Woodchuck, groundhog, same thing. But we already did that. The question on everyone’s mind, will the woodchuck come out of its burrow and chuck some wood? The second question, how much wood would the… forget it, we already did that one, too.

Groundhog Day is one of those holidays, if it can be called that, which nobody takes seriously. Like Arbor Day and April Fools Day. Along similar lines are Saint Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Labor Day. The first is an excuse for folks to pretend to be Irish and drink green beer. Though it’s named for a Saint, there’s nothing very saintly about it.

Valentine’s Day has mostly lost the Saint part of the name. About the only time it’s tacked on is for the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Which was not very saintly either. There are lots of other Saint days, but very few people keep track of them any more. Do you know when Saint Crispin’s Day is? See?

As for Labor Day, do people go out and celebrate the working class on Labor Day? We don’t think all that much. It’s just a day off work for a lot of folks or a seasonal marker to put away the white belts and white shoes. Though in this tacky sneaker-wearing age white shoes are year-round attire.

This year, instead of rousting some poor groundhog from its slumber to see if it sees its shadow, let’s sing Bob Dylan’s wood­chuck song. Don’t know it? Sure you do.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck,
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Filed 2/2/17

U.S. Geography Quizlet


Do you know your U.S. geography? Think you can pass this short quiz? You know us, we like to sometimes present fun facts in a slightly off-kilter way. You gotta figure there’s a trick question or two in there. Or trick answers, more like. Still, beyond the silly asides the information is true enough.

Mouseover boxes for answers

What is the only state to border on only one other state?

Maine. Which is also the only state with a one syllable name.

Which states have borders that are partly circular?

The border between Pennsylvania and Delaware is a circle segment.

What is the capital of Vermont?

Montpelier, the least populous state capital city. (Three questions down and no tricks so far. Feeling confident or leery going forward?)

Name the state(s) which is (are) rectangular.

Due to a surveyor’s error the western border of Colorado has a slight kink and so is not a rectangle. Which leaves only Wyoming. Except the curvature of the earth makes the bottom wider than the top. Which means there are no rectangular states.

Which middle western state is literally flat as a pancake?

Kansas. If you scaled a pancake up to the size of Kansas its surface would have topographical surface deviations roughly equal to Kansas. Such a pancake would feed the people of the surrounding states for 100 years, give or take.

What’s the fewest number of states you must cross to drive from Albany, New York to Seattle, Washington?

Zero. We didn’t say you couldn’t drive through Canada. Whether you’re allowed in Canada is up to them, not us.

Is Rhode Island an island?

Rhode Island is indeed an island in Narragansett Bay and a part of what is officially called Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Which state looks like part of the human anatomy?

We will accept Michigan looking like a hand in a mitten or Louisiana looking like a foot in a sock unravelling at the toe. If you thought of any other state looking like something other than a hand or foot, you have an overactive imagination, or a dirty mind.

9-10 correct: You know your trivia but not your math, there are only 8 questions.
7-8 correct: You know your trivia and can spot a trick question a mile away. Or you’re a liar.
5-6 correct: You know your trivia. Give yourself a cigar.
3-4 correct: You know some trivia. Give yourself a pat on the back.
1-2 correct: You don’t know your trivia. Give yourself a slap on the forehead.
0 correct: You don’t know squat. Kick yourself.

Filed 1/30/17

A Post Which Took Seven Tries to Spell Hieroglyphics Right


Another mystery spot from the old art archives. This one from 2000. What could a post-apocalyptic Borg cockroach be about? Was somebody working on this sort of thing back at the turn of the millenium? Is there a covert operation Gregor going on? Just what the heck is the CIA spending taxpayer dollars on anyway? We want answers! Even if we got answers, would they be true? How can we believe people whose job it is to deceive? Do they even tell the truth to each other? Once down the rabbit hole, is there a way back?

OK, OK. We’re pretty certain the Frankenroach had nothing to do with any of that. Maybe something about bio-engineering? We just can’t figure it. It’s like trying to decipher the hieroglyphics of a long gone people and language. How do they do that anyway? If there were an apocalypse and all that remained was graffiti, what would a race of roach-bots make of it? Ever think of that? Niether did we.

Filed 1/27/17

One Question Four Words Puzzler

dwarf, dweeb, dwell, dwindle

There are only four English root words that begin with DW. Do you know them? We’re sure you do, they aren’t obscure words. Rather we should ask, can you think of them off the top of your head? Here’s a short hint, word nerd. Live with a shrink. Those are your four cryptic clues.

This might be about the easiest word puzzler to solve, ever. Simply grab a dictionary, look under DW, and there they are. Though looking them up is not much different than peeking at the answers, in your heart you know it’s cheating. Besides, it’s more satisfying to come up with the answer on your lonesome. After all, would Trivial Pursuit be any fun if players could look up answers on their iPhones?

Still, we have to provide the answers so you can check if you’re right, but not so you will see them inadvertently and spoil the fun. The answers are in the pic. That is, if you hover the answer will appear.

Filed 1/26/17

How I Came to Make This Site


This entry will only make sense if you first see the splash page it refers to. You can see that at the link below. Check it out. We’ll wait…

Getting Warmer-Closer

Back already? OK. The chart loosely shows how I arrived here via the influences and distractions that made it all possible. When I say loosely shows, make that very loosely. I never lived in Siberia or during the Stone Age. But, in a way, it took thousands of years of civilization, culture and techno­logical achievement to pave the way for terry colon dot com. Hardly seems the bother, but there it is.

That’s how I got here, how you arrived I couldn’t say. Possibly by accident searching for a site about colon cleansing. While you might not find anything here funny enough to make you crap your pants, they do say laughter is the best medicine. Perhaps a smile is second best. While the site may not cure what ails you or help with your number twos… I don’t know how to finish that sentence.

In case you’re wondering about the logo in the pic, I designed that for a Detroit based record label, Transmat. That was back in the day after discovering there was no market for hand turkeys and before I became an illustrator. I suppose I could have chosen some other things I designed or drew to represent those days long gone by, but most of it is pretty unmemorable. I’m trying to forget about it myself.

Filed 1/25/17

Japanese Troops Man the Atlantic Wall


Many of the Wehrmacht soldiers manning the Normandy defenses on D-Day were not Germans, but came from countries occupied by or allied with the Third Reich; such as Romania, Hungary, Georgia, and even Japan. These were Osttruppen, east troops. When’s the last time you saw that in a Hollywood film? Well, when’s the last time you watched Saving Private Ryan?

In a scene about twenty minutes in, an American G.I. guns down two unarmed Wehrmacht soldiers trying to surrender, but not being understood because they didn’t speak English. If you have an ear for language you may have picked out they were not speaking German. What the first soldier says is “Nestŕílejte. Já jsem nikoho nezabil. Já jsem Čech.” In English, “Don’t shoot. I haven’t killed anyone. I’m Czech.”

While Director Steven Spielberg correctly includes Osttruppen, he seems to have fallen for the common miscon­ception these troops were conscripts who didn’t put up a fight and were eager to be liberated. This is largely post-war spin, the battle records indicate otherwise. It’s the old, “Nazi? I’m not a Nazi. I’m Swiss.”

All that aside, it seems the Czechs couldn’t win for losing. If the Allies weren’t shooting them during the war, they were handing their country over to the Nazis before the war and then to the Communists after the war. And now they’re in the E.U. run out of Brussels by unelected bureaucrats. Though they have only themselves to blame for that.

Filed 1/24/17

Germans –Like Yoda They Speak


“You can’t interrupt a German because you don’t know what he’s saying since the verb at the end of the sentence comes.”
–attributed to Mark Twain

A funny line if you know the basics of German syntax. Which is actually explained in the joke. Now that we’ve established the verb at the end of the sentence business, perhaps this next gag will raise a smile. “I once read an entire book in German but didn’t know what was happening until I got to the verbs on the last page.”

Clearly not enamored with Der Father Tongue, Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad has a section called “That Awful German Language.” Here’s more Twain on German.

A dog is “der Hund”; a woman is “die Frau”; a horse is “das Pferd”; now you put that dog in the genitive case, and is he the same dog he was before? No, sir; he is “des Hundes”; put him in the dative case and what is he? Why, he is “dem Hund.” Now you snatch him into the accusative case and how is it with him? Why, he is “den Hunden.” But suppose he happens to be twins and you have to pluralize him– what then? Why, they’ll swat that twin dog around through the 4 cases until he’ll think he’s an entire international dog-show all in is own person. I don’t like dogs, but I wouldn’t treat a dog like that– I wouldn’t even treat a borrowed dog that way. Well, it’s just the same with a cat. They start her in at the nominative singular in good health and fair to look upon, and they sweat her through all the 4 cases and the 16 the’s and when she limps out through the accusative plural you wouldn’t recognize her for the same being. Yes, sir, once the German language gets hold of a cat, it’s goodbye cat. That’s about the amount of it.

About the German Language –Mark Twain quotes

Filed 1/22/17

Some Unrelated Trivia (or Possibly Fun Facts if You Think They’re Any Fun)


Dassler Brothers Shoes was founded in Germany in 1925 by Adi and Rudi Dassler. After the Second World War Rudi left to start his own company, Puma. Since it was no longer brothers running it, Adi renamed Dassler Brothers Shoes after himself, Adi Das(sler), Adidas.

If you order a pepperoni pizza in Italy try not to look surprised when they bring you a veggie pizza. There is no sausage called pepperoni there, or any word pepperoni. Peperoni (no double P) is Italian for bell pepper. The bell peppers on your pizza might be red, orange, yellow or green, which are all the same fruit in various stages of ripeness. Just like the difference between black (ripe) olives and green (unripe) olives.

A second is called a second because it’s the second division of an hour, the first division being a minute. Making a second more minute than a minute. We can’t explain why a minute is called a minute, nor why we are so amused by heteronyms.

Filed 1/21/17

The New Age of Reason


Here’s a recent bit of art from Reason magazine’s “Brickbats” department. The old rag got a new art director recently who, as new art directors often do, wanted to revamp things a bit, including the color pallet throughout. So we came up with a new three-color scheme for the spots. Of course, it’s really printed in CMYK so it’s three-color from four-color. The scheme is black plus two colors and tints of those two colors which change from month to month.

The new art director originally wanted me to revert to an old drawing style I used in Cracked about twenty tears ago. As seen in Roller Coaster Mania. I convinced her this was the preferable option. Besides, I’m not sure I could go back to that old style. New habits die hard. Anyway, as is the customary pratice here’s the text for the spot:

France is the first country to ban disposable plastic cups and plates. The new law requires “all disposable table­ware to be made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020.”

Filed 1/20/17

How a Train Leans Into a Turn


We’ve written in the past about how bikes and motorcycles lean into a turn. Planes, trains and automobiles also lean into turns. Or at least NASCAR automobiles do on a banked track. Planes don’t run on a track, they bank themselves. But trains? Yep, trains lean into turns so they don’t topple over, which is bad for business and for anything that happens to be sitting by the side of the tracks.

Most folks don’t own or drive trains, so the need to lean them into turns isn’t something they ever need worry about. Yet, we suppose most kids in America have played with toy trains (or model railroads if you prefer) so they’ve likely noticed what train wheels look like, that flange and slightly tapered shape of the flat bit that sits on the rail. Have you ever wondered why they’re tapered? That’s what makes trains lean into a turn.

The taper means the wheel at the flange is a bigger diameter than on the tapered side. In other words, the wheel is a truncated cone. As the train track turns left, say, the wheel, which wants to go straight, rides up the rail until the flange hits the rail turning the train left. When it does the outside wheel rides on the large diameter part of the wheel and the inside wheel rides on the smaller diameter part of the wheel. Any vehicle with bigger wheels on one side will be lopsided and lean. Presto, the train leans into the turn.


Looking at the pic it ain’t much of a lean. Two things, trains don’t take sharp turns and compared to bikes or cars trains are very tall and top-heavy so a little lean goes a long way. Besides, you don’t want them leaning too much inside the turn or they’d tip over that way, which is bad for business etc.

trains3 trains4

To really see the difference, mouseover the pic.

There is a second advantage to this. Through a turn the outside wheel covers more ground than the inside wheel. For two wheels rotating at the same pace the outside wheel needs to be bigger so it has a greater circumference to cover more ground. If both wheels were the same size connected to a single axel, one or the other would roll too fast or too slow depending. That’s friction, that makes the engine work harder and adds wear and tear. So if the wheels are small inside and big outside… voila! No problem.

This is pretty ingenious engineering, elegantly simple, totally passive, set it and forget it. No need for a complicated suspension with motors, actuators, servos or gizmos of any kind. We doff our metaphorical caps to whoever devised it.

Filed 1/17/17

Our-r-r Short Pirate Week Addendum


We mentioned before how the “Ar-r-r” pirate talk thing was supposed to be a Bristol accent. That’s because Bristol has one of the few rhotic accents left in England.

rhotic (rō′ tĭk) adjective, of, relating to, or denoting a dialect or variety of English in which R is pronounced before a consonant and at the ends of words.

Most of England dropped or softened the R in the 18th century. As America was initially settled before that, Yanks still pronounce the R at the end of words the old fashioned way. Except for some places on the east coast, notably Boston. On the other hand, Australia was settled later and, like the English, have dropped the R.

While many criminals suffered trans­portation to the land down under, we doubt very many were pirates. Especially since the Pirate Age ended in the early 18th century. Which means back then, everyone talked like a pirate.

Filed 1/15/17

The Casual Sportsman

Sports Pirates


Some pro sports teams have mythical names: San Francisco Giants, Tennessee Titans. Others have fierce animal names: Chicago Bears, Detroit Tigers. Others are not-so-fierce animals: Toronto Blue Jays, Indianapolis Colts. And yet others are just plain stupid: Miami Heat, Utah Jazz. But this is Pirate Week so we can ignore all that. Here are the pirate related team names.

Pittsburgh Pirates  Story goes the team was originally the Spiders, but due to their raiding other teams rosters for talent folks started calling them pirates. So they changed the name to Pirates.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers  Another name for pirate is buccaneer, which comes from the French boucanier, from boucaner, to smoke meat. So that’s bacon…bacon maker…pirate. Connect the dots on that one, ‘cause we can’t.

Oakland Raiders  Not pirates strictly speaking, but their logo has a guy with an eyepatch and crossed swords, pretty darn piratey in our book.

Minnesota Vikings  Not exactly pirates, Vikings were sea raiders that looted towns instead of other ships. Still, they sailed around plundering like pirates, so that’s close enough for us.

Los Angeles Clippers  Man a clipper ship with a crew of violent thieves, hoist the Jolly Roger and there you go. Pirates.

Buffalo Sabers  Admittedly pirates used cutlasses and not sabers. We list them all the same because pirates and swords go together like mom and apple pie. Actually pirates are nothing like your mom or ours, but you know what we mean.

Vancouver Canucks  Most folks don’t know that canuck is the native Chinook word for pirate. Not buying it? Didn’t go for the Saber bit either? Oh well, guess that pretty much means we’re out of pirate material and Pirate Week is well and truly over.

Filed 1/14/17

Talking About, Not Like, Pirates


Because Pirate Week just wouldn’t be complete unless we added something pirate related to every Shorts department, including “Words, Phrases, Sayings and Quotes.”

“Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be Pirates.”
–Mark Twain

“It is when Pirates count their booty that they become mere thieves.”
–William Bolitho

“The average man will bristle if you say his father was dishonest, but he will brag a little if he discovers that his great-grandfather was a Pirate.”
–Bern Williams

“Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum.”
–Long John Silver

We wish we had more pirate quotes to quote, we looked, we found, but most were not worth repeating. So to fill out our “Words…Quotes” Pirate Week entry we add this one last tidbit:

Believe it or don’t, in the entire Pirate Age, roughly 1690 to 1720, not a single person was ever hung for piracy. You can look it up yourself. In a dictionary. Just like in the opening pic, pictures are hung, pirates are hanged.

Filed 1/13/17

Treasure Trove of Pirate Trivia Light


Nobody has ever come across a bonafide pirate treasure map. As a general practice pirates didn’t hoard their ill-gotten gains, they spent it like drunken sailors. Which they were.

Pirates believed piercing their ears would enhance their eyesight. Which is no more absurd than modern people thinking piercing their nose will enhance their appearance.

Another term for pirate is freebooter, which comes from the Dutch vrijbuiter, plunderer. Your average pirate didn’t speak Dutch so they decided to be a freebooter and to heck with the Dutch.

A privateer was a sort-of pirate licensed to kill. Something like James Bond. Countries engaged privateers to wage undeclared war on enemy ships using a black budget navy they could deny responsibility for. Something like the CIA.

The whole “Ar-r-r, matey” pirate talk business came from a 1950 movie version of Treasure Island. It was actor Robert Newton’s version of a Bristol accent as it’s thought Blackbeard was born in Bristol. Blackbeard did his pirating out of South Carolina, but “Hey, y’all” just doesn’t sound very piratey, does it?

Early 16th century pirates the “Flying Gang” inspired Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow manner of speech is patterned after Keith Richards who was not born in Bristol and isn’t a pirate.

Filed 1/12/17

Brace Yourself for Another Pirate Post


A usage of brace you don’t hear much these days, “The pirate sported a brace of pistols.” Quite simply, a brace is two. The pirate carried two pistols. So, why not say a pair of pistols? we hear ourselves ask. We hear ourselves guess, back in the day if they weren’t a matched set they weren’t a pair. Think of a pair of glasses or a pair of gloves. Two the same, pair; two of a type but different, brace.

We think the British call suspenders braces. So they might wear a pair of braces, but not a brace of braces. Which would be two pairs of suspenders, four suspenders in total. A single suspender would be a Sam Browne belt. Which didn’t hold up pants, rather it held up itself, if that makes sense.

Pirates didn’t wear Sam Browne belts that we’re aware of, so perhaps we shouldn’t have brought them up. We have no information on whether pirates wore suspenders or not. They did wear eye patches, though never in pairs. They also had hooks for hands and peg legs. Or sans peg leg a crutch, a different kind of brace. The pirate business was obviously pretty hazardous.

Most pirates didn’t have a brace of pistols, they fought with cutlasses. A short saber-like sword with a large hand guard. If the more colorful reports are to be believed, they also fought with tooth and nail, which we imagine means in the heat of battle they’d bite people or claw their eyes out. Which might explain all the eye patches.

Cutlass Compared to Sabre

Pirates kept monkeys and parrots for pets. Perhaps just to be colorful, or maybe because cats don’t go in for sailing. On the other hand there were sea dogs, which weren’t actual dogs but the ship’s crew. Then there’s Chicken of the Sea which…

We seem to have strayed from the word brace through some guff about pirates winding up at some silliness about tuna fish. Chalk it up to our unplanned pirate theme that started over the week­end. Will there be more pirate shorts or just the brace pair two so far? At this point we don’t know ourselves.

Filed 1/10/17

Wherein We Pirate a Pirate Pic from Ourselves


A slight variation of our usual suspect methods, a snippet from the terry colon dot com archives befitting the Pirate Treasure Hunt splash page.

Pirate Treasure Hunt

Rather than covering old ground, here’s something new. Our red-bearded pirate sports beard braids, fashioned after the infamous Blackbeard who also went about with smoldering fuses sticking out from under his hat to set off cannons. Though we suppose only during battle and not as some kind of everyday pirate fashion statement.

Speaking of cannon, in days of wooden ships and iron men not all the ship’s big guns were cannons, which were a specific size and shape of big gun. There were also demi-cannons, culverins, demi-culverins, carronades, and paixhans guns. For landlubbers cannon is pretty much a generic term for them all. Though we’re still not sure if the plural for cannon is cannon or cannons.

Filed 1/9/17

Esprit de L’escalier Fauxcabulaire


Esprit de l’escalier is French for “wit of the staircase.” This refers to coming up with a snappy comeback way, way, way too late. As the phrase has it, as you climb the stairs on your way to bed. Trompe l’oeil is French for “deceives the eye” which refers to ultra realistic still life paintings with things like a fly on them a viewer is tempted to try shooing as it looks so real. Now for the fauxcabulary part:

goofstep (gōōf′ stĕp) verb. To stumble at the top of a staircase from treading on an anticipated top step that isn’t there.

ghost step (gōst stĕp) noun. The expected but nonexistent top step of a flight of stairs that causes you to goofstep.

trompe l’oof (trömp lōōf) noun. The momentary sensation of falling one has when goofstepping on a ghost step.

In animated cartoons a character can continue walking up a flight of stairs after it ends as long as they don’t look down and see there’s no stairs there. This never happens in everyday life as reality doesn’t buy into the notion of “Ignore it it’ll go away.” That’s Looney Tunes physics, the laws of nature according to Wile E. Coyote. Which doesn’t seem to deter some philosophers proposing reality is all a state of mind and nothing is really real. Which there’s no other words for except looney tunes.

Filed 1/4/17

1.21 Gigawatts Is Child’s Play for Mother Nature


Lightning is much more powerful than long suspected. Unlike in Back to the Future with its Professor Brown shocking 1.21 gigawatts, strong lightning bolts can be in terawatts. A terawatt is 1,000 gigawatts. A gigawatt is 1,000 megawatts and a megawatt is 1,000 watts. And you thought a 150 watt lightbulb was bright?

Odd how a watt is named after James Watt who built the improved steam engine and not any kind of electrical gizmo. Though technically a watt is a measure of power, how much work an electric current can do. One watt is equal to one joule per second, if that means anything to you. We would explain it, but, since we don’t actually understand it, we won’t. Make that can’t.

Of course, Mother Nature really rolls up her sleeves and goes to work out in space. The sun is 3.9x10^26 watts, or if you can’t make sense of exponents 390,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 watts. That’s per second, by the way. Though a number with that many zeros is hard to relate to as you never count anything in your everyday life that high. After all, nobody takes inventory by molecule count, do they?

Filed 1/2/17

Happy New Improved Year!

machine lights1 lights1 Hbar Hwheel H1 H1 Hbar
trashback trashtop

It’s the newly retooled terry colon dot com, smaller and better than ever while retaining all the pointless animation, aimless verbiage, and silly pictures you’ve come to expect. Yep, rather than the usual bigger, we go the reverse. We’ve reduced the Blog departments from ten to six by rolling Links, Lists, Money, and Quotes into other departments. Also, many entries and features were whittled down and others eighty-sixed in toto.

We also retitled some articles and wrote a smear of new Blog headlines so they actually tell you what the heck the thing is about. Perhaps not as clever wordplay-wise, but better utility-wise. Speaking of which, readers can now navigate to every page from every other page with the new menu thingy at the top.

Observant readers might also notice the new, more consistent headline fonts used throughout. No more boring old Ad Lib available to everyone and used all over the place. Instead, all custom fonts designed by us with an occasional bit of something article specific tossed in. For you typeface wonks, here they are on display.


The new header type, where it says TERRYCOLON.COM at the top, is Terrifix. Humor bits use Neutronix Bold, Webio-Bot has Robotix with an outline, and the rest get Atomix Bold, mostly. Below are custom faces used here and there or in the past.


For your amusement, or more like our amusement, here are some other uniquely unique fonts from our typeface foundry, which we dub Face Front.


Can you tell we have a thing for the -ix suffix? The old folks out there from Motor Town might recognize Orbitronix. Just lop off -ronix and there you go. For everyone from everywhere, only 365 days until the next redesign. Enjoy!

Filed 1/1/17