In western Scotland in a county named Argyllshire lived a duke of Argyle, the head of the Campbell clan. According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the duke had a series of posts erected around the treeless part of his estate so that his cattle might rub against them to ease themselves of the torment of flies. The herdsmen saw the value of this practice, and as they rubbed their own itching backs against the posts, they thankfully uttered the phrase God bless the Duke of Argyle.
The phrase spread among the Scottish Highlanders and became a generally accepted humorous remark. The clan received additional publicity when it was mentioned in novels by Sir Walter Scott.
Fabric manufacturers found that the Campbell clan tartan, in green and white, would make an attractive design. It gave rise to the manufacture of a diamond pattern, known as argyle plaid, used on sweaters and socks. The pattern has appeared on articles sold worldwide.


Archimedes (287-212 B.C.) was a legend during his lifetime. He was a brilliant mathematician and an inventor of the Archimedes’ screw, a machine for raising water. Although the lever had been in use long before Archimedes, he worked out the theoretical mathematical principles of its use. He designed the pulley and the windlass, but is best remembered for his work with hydrostatics. His unforgettable cry «Eureka» has made him famous ever since. But it wasn’t the cry, it was what he deduced: the Archimedes’ principle of specific gravity. His remarkable discovery arose because Hieron, King of Syracuse in Sicily, wished to determine whether a crown was of pure gold or whether the goldsmith had fraudulently alloyed it with some silver. While mulling over this problem, Archimedes came to a place of bathing, and there, as he sat in the tub, realized that the amount of water he had displaced must be equal to the bulk of his immersed body. It is said that he did run nude through the streets and did excitedly shout «Eureka» («I’ve found it» in Greek). Ever since, the word eureka has been an interjection to express surprise.
Archimedes was born in Syracuse, Sicily, and died there while pursuing a problem. The Romans took the town of Syracuse in 212 B.C. However, orders had been issued by the Roman consul Marcellus that Archimedes was not to be harmed, but brought to him alive. The story has it that a Roman soldier informed Archimedes of Marcellus’s order, to which Archimedes replied that he was working on a geometrical problem in the sand. «I’ll come when I’m finished», he said. Unfortunately the Roman warrior was impatient and with his sword slew Archimedes.


An Annie Oakley is a complimentary ticket to a theater. The ticket has holes punched in it to prevent its exchange for cash at the box office. This oddity came about in an unusual way.
Annie Oakley (1860-1926), born in Darke County, Ohio, was the stage name for Phoebe Anne Oakley Mozee. Annie was probably the greatest female sharpshooter ever. She got her professional start when, at the urging of friends, she entered a shooting match in Cincinnati pitting Frank E. Butler, a vaudeville marksman, against all comers. Butler gave no thought to this fifteen-year-old girl who dared compete with him. But upon seeing Annie’s first shot, he paid strict attention. She won the contest, and a husband to boot, for Butler and Annie fell in love and were married. They then began a vaudeville tour as a trick- shooting team.
The Butlers joined Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in 1885, but it was Annie who became the star attraction. She remained as the rifle sharpshooter for forty years. She thrilled audiences with her expert marksmanship and dazzled them with her trick shooting. In one of her outstanding feats, she would flip a playing card into the air, usually a five of hearts, and shoot the pips out of it.
But what, you might ask, has that to do with a free ticket? Circus performers were reminded of their meal tickets by the riddled playing cards, because their meal tickets were punched every time they bought a meal. Hence they came to call their tickets «Annie Oakleys». The idea of a punched card caught on, so that today a complimentary ticket to a show, a meal, or a pass on a railway has Annie Oakley holes.
Annie Oakley needed no encomiums during her forty years with the Wild West Show, but she was given one, nevertheless, by Sitting Bull, who labeled her «Little Sure Shot». In more recent times Ethel Merman, the star of Annie Get Your Gun, popularized Annie Oakley once again, making her for today’s generation a «big shot».


Would you believe that a person so traumatized that he could not speak or read for more than a year went on to become a distinguished scientist, so distinguished that he gave his name to the English language? In every dictionary can be found the word ampere: a unit of electric current equal to the steady current produced by one volt acting through a resistance of one ohm.
Andre Marie Ampere (1775-1836), a French scientist, lived so tragic a life as to make one wonder how his mind could have retained its
brilliance. The tragedy that rendered him incapable of speaking at age eighteen was the execution of his father by guillotine during the Reign of Terror. With time, Ampere recovered his voice and at age twenty-four he married. A few vears later, his wife died and Ampere became despondent once again.
Ampere poured himself into his work. While a professor of physics at the College de France in Paris, he made important discoveries relating to the nature of electricity and magnetism. He was the first to expound the theory that the earth’s magnetism is the product of terrestrial electric currents that circle the globe from east to west. Through mathematics he made his greatest discovery, which formulated the law of mechanical action between electric currents and came to be known as Ampere’s law. His discovery was instrumental in the development of the science of electrodynamics.
Ampere invented the astatic needle, which made it possible to detect and measure electric currents, and contributed to the invention of the electric telegraph. The International Electric Congress, in 1881, lifted his name forty-five years after his death to designate the unit of intensity of electric current, abbreviated amp.
Ampere did his best thinking while walking. He paced his room for long periods and became, possibly, the world’s best-known peripatetic scientist after Aristotle.


The injustice of naming two continents after Amerigo Vespucci (1451 — 1512) can no longer be rectified. And we cannot justify excluding Canada, the second-larges country in area in the world, from the appellation America. By the same token, America, the gem of the ocean is equally faulty. It should have been Columbia.
Controversy concerning the naming of America may never be resolved because who did what and when is not subject to historic proof. Amerigo Vespucci, originally a Florentine navigator, claimed he made four trips — in 1497, 1499, 1501, and 1503 — to the New World, then known as the Mundus Novus (a term that first appeared in Vcspucci’s letters published in 1504). However, only two of these trips were actually documented. A former manager of the Seville office of the notorious Medici family of Italy, Vespucci reported to his patrons an account of his voyages along the coasts of what are now Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina.
In 1507 Martin Waldseemuller, a German geographer, published an appendix to a work called Cosmographiae Introductio, which included a map labeled America that corresponded roughly to South America. The name stuck, not only for South America but for North America as well, when mapmakers filled in that continent.
Vespucci took two trips under the aegis of Spain and two under that of Portugal, and became Spain’s «pilot major». Nevertheless, some historians say he never did take the voyages he reported, but merely heard stories from sailors and put himself in the picture.
The Spanish refused to accept the name America; they called the land, in Spanish, Colombia. This remains a distinguished name; many towns, rivers, and other places have been named Columbia, including the seat of our government: the District of Columbia. And let us not forget Columbia, the gem of the ocean.


According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the Amazons were a fierce nation of Scythian women who lived by themselves. They dealt with men only in battle or for procreation, and either killed their sons or sent them to their fathers. Their daughters were raised to become warriors. When grown, each woman hacked off her right breast so that it wouldn’t hinder her range with the bow. Amazon in Greek is a composite of a-(without) and mazos (breast).
The Amazons frequently appear in Greek mythology. One of the tasks of Hercules was to obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. He slew her and took her girdle (sash). Another queen of the Amazons, Penthesileia, whose army came to aid the besieged Trojans, was killed in battle by the redoubtable Achilles.
Legend says that one Vincente Yanez Pinzon, the discoverer of the Amazon River in 1500, named it Rio Santa Maria. But in 1541 Francisco de Orellana, an explorer, after descending from the Andes on this river to the sea, was attacked by a savage tribe. Believing women fought along
side men, he then renamed the river Amazonas; its name in English, of course, is Amazon. This is an intriguing story; the explorer may have assumed that skirted Indians were women.
A strong, aggressive woman, especially if she looks masculine, may be called an amazon.


Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive deterioration of the brain, first described in 1907 by the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915). It is the most common form of dementing, or mind-depriving, illness, affecting cells in an area of the brain important to memory.
Alzheimer’s disease or Alzheimer’s syndrome most commonly strikes elderly adults, but it has also been known to afflict people in their late twenties. Formerly, this disease was known as pre-senile dementia or just plain senility. It was erroneously attributed to «hardening of the arteries». The disease involves degeneration of nerve cells rather than blockage of blood vessels.
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown, and there is no known cure for it. Investigators are studying the role of such possible factors as viruses, genetic influences, abnormal immunological responses, and environmental or toxic agents.


A girl who has recently come to a strange, exotic, fantastic surrounding is sometimes called an «Alice». Ideas, schemes, plans, and projects that are wholly impractical, those daytime dreams that can exist only in the realm of fantasy, may be alluded to as an idea from «Alice in Wonderland».
Lewis Carroll’s children’s books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel Through the Looking Glass (1871), illustrated by Sir John Tenniel, the Punch artist, have enjoyed great longevity. Known
for their whimsical humor and «nonsense» verse, the Alice books continue to attract readers and are arguably the most famous children’s books in the world.
The name Carroll was a pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1892), an Oxford mathematician. Alice originated in 1862 on a boat trip with Lorina, Alice, and Edith, the daughters of Dean Henry George Liddell, who also was at Oxford and was best known as a compiler, together with Robert Scott, of the Oxford Greek-English Lexicon. Carroll fantasized an impromptu story for the amusement of the children but particularly for Alice, of whom he was very fond. Later the story in book form evolved into a worldwide bestseller.


The story concerning the legendary hero Achilles has been told many times. Achilles was the central figure and tragic protagonist in Homer’s Iliad. He possessed athletic strength, warlike prowess, and handsomeness. His mother, Thetis, had a premonition that her son would die in battle. She therefore, when he was still an infant, held him by the heel and dipped him into the river Styx to make him invulnerable. The water touched every part of his body except the heel that Thetis held, leaving it the weak link in his magic armor. During the siege of Troy, a poisoned arrow from the bow of the Trojan prince Paris pierced Achilles’ heel, fatally wounding him. W. S. Merwin in The judgment of Paris described the lethal arrow in these words: «In the quiver on Paris’ back the head of the arrow for Achilles’ heel smiled in its sleep». The elopement of Paris with Helen, the wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta, you may recall, started the Trojan War.
This story gave birth to the saying that the weak part of anything, no matter how small or how large, is that person’s Achilles heel. The name Achilles tendon (alternative scientific name of tendo Achilles) has been given to the strong muscle that connects the calf of the leg with the heel.
Homer had hinted at, but didn’t describe, the death of Achilles. His reference to Achilles’ death was simply that he died «before the Scaean gates» during the Trojan War.


Although card-playing was a favorite among the wealthy for many generations, it was not until the seventeenth century that the manufacture of inexpensive decks of cards enabled the masses to enjoy this game. Cards soon became the rage throughout Europe. The game that held an irresistible attraction for the English was whist, the forerunner of bridge.
Whist could be played according to dozens of systems, which led Edmund Hoyle, an English writer (1672-1769), to write a book of rules called A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist (1742); the book eventually became the accepted authority on the playing of the game. Floyle soon
wrote on other popular card games and was quickly regarded as the authority on them, too.
As Hoyle’s expertise on the correct play of a game gained exposure, many people would frequently consult his books to see whether the procedure being followed met approval. If the play followed the rules set forth by Hoyle, its correctness was beyond dispute. Because of the frequent and widespread reference to Hoyle, whenever someone wished to indicate that everything was in order, that it was being handled properly — whether or not card-playing was involved — the saying «It is according to Hoyle», came to refer to the final authority in any field.
Incidentally, Hoyle must have lived his life according to the rules because he laid down his last trump at the age of ninety-seven.