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Issue 974

TIDBITS® BRINGS YOU

WORDS & MORE WORDS

by Kathy Wolfe

It’s time to sharpen up your word skills as Tidbits imparts some unusual facts about some unusual words!

• You might expect a dentiloquist to be an employee of your local dentist, but the term actually refers to someone who speaks through clenched teeth.

• Presidents have been vetoing legislation passed by Congress since George Washington, who issued the first veto in April of 1792. Article 1, section 7 of the U.S. Constitution provides for the President’s authority to use a veto to prevent the passage of legislation. The word “veto” has its origins in the Latin language, translating “I forbid.” By the end of 2018, vetoes had been used 2,574 times, with 111 of them overridden.

• Most of us know that a clairvoyant seems to have psychic or telepathic abilities, but what about a clairvoyee? This unusual word refers to a window-like hole cut in a hedge. And speaking of psychics, there’s a fancy name for a palm reader … it’s chiromancer!

• How about a few unusual phobias? Those with a fear of trains suffer from siderodromophobia, while those with stenophobia are afraid of narrow places. There are those who fear men wearing beards … they are called pogonophobics.

• Circus lovers might refer to that person who walks along a thin wire high above the crowd as a tightrope walker. The official name of this performer is funambulist. The most famous funambulist was Charles Blondin, a French acrobat who crossed Niagara Falls on a rope for the first time on June 30, 1859. A rope less than an inch thick was attached to an oak tree on the American side of the falls and to a rock on the Canadian side. His walk from bank to bank took 23 minutes. Four days later, Blondin repeated the feat, with another one on July 15, during which he walked backwards to Canada and forward to the U.S. while pushing a wheelbarrow. His next achievement was to somersault and backflip the distance, followed by a trip carrying his manager on his back. The daredevil even carried a stove on one trip, started a fire, and cooked an omelet on the rope. His final Niagara Falls crossing took place in 1896 at age 62. By then, he had made the crossing 300 times. During his career, he logged more than 10,000 miles on his tightrope. His death in 1897 came not from a fall, as had been expected for decades, but from complications of diabetes.

 

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