URANUS, URANIUM

In Greek mythology Ouranos was an ancient sky god whose name stood for «heaven». The Romans called him Uranus. By whatever name, he was the husband of Gaea, the goddess of Earth, the father of the Titans, the Cyclops, and the Furies, and was the original ruler of the world. (He was also castrated with a sickle by his son, Cronus, at the instigation of his mother.)
Sir William Herschel (1738-1822), a British astronomer, made a remarkable discovery on March 13, 1781. He spotted a new planet, the first such discovery since ancient times. The naming of the planet was his privilege. Up to that moment humans had observed only six planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Earth. (The last, of course, was not only observed but also stood on.) Herschel named his discovery Uranus in honor of the god of the sky. He was appointed astronomer to King George III, who later made him a knight.
In 1789, Martin Henrich Klaproth (1743-1817), a German chemist who first identified the elements uranium, zirconium, cerium, and titanium, was experimenting with pitchblende when he found within it an unusual new metallic element, one that was radioactive, element 92. In honor of the new planet discovered by Herschel, Klaproth coined a name for his find: uranium.
His new element contains forms called isotopes, which are used as a source of atomic energy. Little did Klaproth know, and little did the world know, that his element, now defined by Webster as «a rare, heavy, white metallic element that has no important uses», would be the cog in the wheel that produced the atomic bomb.

UNCLE SAM

The United States government was first caricatured as Jonathan, a shrewd Yankee, in Royall Tyler’s play The Contrast. But a new personification of the United States government surfaced during the War of 1812. He was «Uncle Sam». There are several theories of his origin, but one has been accepted by most word sleuths as the most likely. It concerns a meat packer in Troy, New York, named Samuel Wilson, whose nickname was «Uncle Sam». He stamped the boxes he was sending to the Army with the initials U.S., meaning, of course, «United States». But the employees got in the habit of saying, «Be sure the box is stamped Uncle Sam, the two words rolling off the tongue more easily than the blunt «U.S». True or not, Uncle Sam came to be widely accepted. In September 7, 1813, the Troy Post, published in Troy, New York, was the first to refer to the United States government in print as Uncle Sam.
Uncle Sam changed his habiliments as he grew older. He became more fashionable. When he first appeared in 1830 in cartoons, he was cleanshaven and wore a robe, no trousers. During the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, Uncle Sam took on another attire and, possibly aping the president, became hairy at least to the extent of a goatee. He was lanky and wore a red, white, and blue top hat and swallowtails, the dress so ubiquitously shown in the Army poster in which Uncle Sam points and says, «I Want You».
In 1961 Congress passed a special resolution recognizing Uncle Sam as America’s symbol.

TUXEDO

A man attending a formal affair today may wear a tuxedo and a black tie or a full-dress coat and a white tie. At one time, however, only the latter style was acceptable; the tailless formal jacket was unknown until the 1800s.
The Algonquian word for wolf is p’tukit (pronounced with a silent p) and means «the animal with a round foot». From that Indian word a lake about forty miles from New York City came to be known as Tuxedo Lake, a rather good phoneticism. Much of the area surrounding the lake was purchased by Pierre Lorillard, the tobacco heir, and subsequently a fashionable and exclusive resort and residential community was developed called Tuxedo Park.
At one lavish affair, perhaps given by the Astors or the Harrimans, a brave aristocrat who disliked the formal «soup and fish» full evening clothes rebelled and wore a tailless jacket. The innovation was startling, but the shortened jacket became an immediate success. The new style was dubbed tuxedo after the name of the place where the garment was first worn. Today many men who appear before a clergyman ready to take his marital vows are dressed in that «wolf’s clothing».

TUREEN

Tureen, earlier tereen from French terrine, cognate with terra, «earth», traditionally was an earthen pot or pan. Its modified spelling may be due to some fanciful connection with the city of .Turin. Current dictionaries define it as a huge serving bowl with a lid, specifically for soup. But in restaurant jargon, any large dish with a lid is a tureen, especially if designed for warm food.
The story that made the rounds, but may be apocryphal, is that the Vicomte de Turenne (1611-1675) sat down for dinner with his staff. They were informed that there were no soup bowls, whereupon the Vicomte, a daring and imaginative fellow, pulled off his helmet, turned it upside down, and voila, a soup bowl. If the story is true, the forebear of all the elegant tureens made of silver or fine china was a helmet made of unpolished iron.
Tureens have been used for centuries, and some, especially those designed for royalty or for the wealthy, have warranted placement in museums. The tureens styled by Meissen, Sevres, and Spode are sumptuous and colorful. The handles, or ears, of a tureen lend themselves to decorative imagination.
The Campbell Soup Company has a tureen museum in Camden, New Jersey.

TONTINE

A tontine is a form of annuity by several subscribers, in which the shares of those who die are added to the holdings of the survivors until the last survivor inherits all. This system was devised by and named for a Neapolitan banker, Lorenzo Tonti (1635-1690), who introduced it into France in 1653. Louis XIV initiated a tontine in 1689 that attracted more than 1 million subscriptions. Thirty-seven years later, shortly before her death, the last survivor drew a dividend 2,300 percent larger than her original investment. England floated several tontines. As late as 1871 the Daily News announced a proposal to raise £650,000 to purchase the Alexandra Palace and 100 acres of land through a tontine.
Tontines have not been heard of recently. Perhaps they have become obsolete, especially in the light of modern gambling casinos. But they were exciting vehicles on which several mystery motion pictures were based. It is easy to imagine that when the survivors were reduced to a small number there could be an incentive to hasten the others to the Promised Land.
A bestseller written by Thomas B. Costain titled The Tontine was published in 1955.

TOMMY GUN

The submachine gun, which was much favored by «violin carrying gangsters» of the Capone-gang era, was invented by John Taliaferro Thompson (1860-1940), collaborating with other inventors, notably Navy Commander John N. Blish. Tommy gun is a nickname for the Thompson submachine gun, a name not generally used.
At first, the U.S. Army displayed little interest in the gun, although its use for close combat was particularly effective. But it did receive some use and favorable reactions during World War II. The gun is portable, weighing from six to twelve pounds, and its clips can hold twenty to fifty shots. It has a pistol grip and shoulder stock for firing from the shoulder, but it was more often fired from the hip. The cinemas depicting the period of warfare by Prohibition-type gangsters always showed them shooting from the hip — spraying the area, so to speak. But the gun was not easily mastered because it had a decided tendency to ride up. The gun had to be locked in place or else the shots would go over the head of the target.
Cyril Leslie Beeching reports: «The notorious ‘Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre’ in 1919, when seven members of the Moran gang were gunned down in a Chicago garage, is believed to have been carried out by A1 Capone’s men (posing as policemen), using sawed-off shotguns and tommy-guns».

TITIAN

The greatest Venetian painter who ever lived, in the opinion of most distinguished critics, was Tiziano (Titian in English) Vecelli.
Titian was born at Pieve di Cadore in the Friulian Alps. The date of his birth is uncertain but is believed to be 1477. He died of the plague on August 27, 1576, when he was almost a hundred years of age. He reputedly started painting when only four years old and didn’t stop painting until he died. He trained under the great masters Bellini and Gentile, but he surpassed them in the use of color. He often depicted his models with hair in shades of a lustrous bronze. His color was so rich, so magnificent that his name came to be the accepted name of the brownish orange color — now titian. What precisely is the color titian is hard to say. It has been called a sort of red-yellow, but some say it’s a shade of reddish brown or auburn.
Color was Titian’s strong point; drawing was of secondary importance. Not many of the great painters known for their drawing skills could
match Titian in the use of color and design. «That man would have no equal if art had done as much for him as nature», Michelangelo said of him, adding, «It is a pity that in Venice they don’t learn to draw well».
Titian executed many wonderful and magnificent paintings — portraits, religious subjects, mythological works. His paintings were so aweinspiring and breathtakingly beautiful that selecting his most outstanding work would confound even the most sagacious art critic. His painting Bacchus and Ariadne in the National Gallery, London, is thought to be the best in England. In the United States his Rape of Europa, in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, is considered his masterpiece.

TITANIG, TITANS

The adjective titanic is a synonym for huge, gigantic, and colossal. It is a particularly useful word to express great size; for example, the sculptures by John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum (1867-1941) at Mount Rush- more, South Dakota, of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln are titanic. Titanic was the name of the White Star liner, the largest ship afloat (45,000 tons) at the time it was launched. On its maiden voyage, on April 14, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank in less than two hours, with a loss of 1,513 lives; 711 passengers were saved.
The Titans, according to Greek mythology, were a race of gods begot by Uranus (sky) and Gaea (earth). The Greeks thought of them as gigantic beings who had ruled the world in a primitive age. There were twelve Titans, six male and six female. The most famous was Cronus, the father of Zeus. Cronus and Zeus engaged in a struggle for supremacy of the world in which the gods (under Zeus) and the Titans (under Cronus) were pitted against one another. The Titans lost, and the Olympian gods took control. Zeus was the ruler, and he quickly arranged to punish his enemies by dispatching them — the Titans — to Tartarus, the nethermost depths of the underworld.
The Titans were characterized by brute strength, large size, and low intelligence. M. H. Klaproth, a German scientist, who discovered titanium in 1795, so named the new element as an allusion to the natural strength of metal.

TIMOTHY GRASS

The spiked-head grass dried for fodder that is most widely cultivated in North America was, at one time, called meadow cat’s-tail grass. Grown in Europe with the technical name Phleum pratense, the species was brought to America by New England settlers.
A farmer named John Herd reportedly discovered this grass growing wild on his New Hampshire farm in 1700. He might have called the grass by his name, but when another farmer, Timothy Hanson, moved from New York to a Southern state, he took bags of grass seed with him and introduced the grass under his first name. And Timothy has ever since been its name.
The Southerners were impressed by Timothy grass and bought the
seeds, making the grass widespread throughout the South. Settlers leaving for Western land bought the seed, too, giving the grass a national presence.

TICH, TICHBORNE CASE

A dwarfish music-hall comedian has given his nickname to the English language to mean a diminutive person. Harry Ralph (1868-1928) was a pudgy infant at the time of the Tichborne case, in which an Australian claimed to be Roger Charles Tichborne, an heir to a baronetcy who had left England for a trip to South America some years earlier, in 1854. Tichborne had boarded the ship Bella, which subsequently sank with a complete loss of life.
Eleven years later, the Australian had many people believing that he was the long-lost heir. But other members of the family were not convinced, and they brought this matter to court. After a trial that lasted 188 days, the longest in English legal history, the defendant was proved to be an impostor. He was identified as Arthur Orton, a butcher from Wapping, Australia, and he was sentenced to fourteen years of penal servitude.
Harry Ralph grew into a fat adolescent. Because of his size, he was nicknamed Tich in allusion to the Tichborne case because the claimant was corpulent. The comedian, less than four feet tall, adopted the nickname, and thereafter used it as his professional name.
Tich had natural talent as an entertainer and was renowned for his stage pranks and satirical humor. By the turn of the century, his performances were acclaimed internationally. In due course, he hit the top of the circuit and appeared in Drury Lane. His popularity in Paris gained him the Legion of Honour.
Tich’s audiences were entertained, and the English language gained a new word. A diminutive person or object may be said, affectionately, to be tich or tichy.

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