Wednesday, December 10, 2008

PIcture #1: Jumbo big
Picture #2: Jumbo dead

Did you know that Jumbo was the biggest elephant that ever lived?

That’s what circus owner and all-around flim-flam man P.T. Barnum said, anyway. I don’t know how he would be able to prove something like that. Jumbo sure was a big elephant, though. Jumbo’s height was said to be close to 13 feet when he died.

Here’s a bit of trivia. Before Jumbo, the word Jumbo wasn’t in our vocabulary. It didn’t mean anything. And now jumbo means anything that is humongously large. Jumbo was born in Africa, and the name might have been related to the Swahili word jumbe, which means “chief.” (I just read that on Wikipedia.)

Jumbo died in 1885, when he was struck by a locomotive. The circus traveled by train in those days. True to form, Barnum had Jumbo stuffed and still exhibited him with the circus for quite a while after that.

The truth and P.T. Barnum were strangers. Barnum would tell the children at the circus that Jumbo died while saving a baby elephant. It was P.T. Barnum who coined the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

P.T. spent just about his whole life earning a good living off those suckers. Kind of like Bill Gates. Just kidding.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why would someone make up a middle initial if they didn’t have a real middle name?

Dwight D. Eisenhower. Richard M. Nixon. Gerald R. Ford. John F. Kennedy. Harry S. Truman. No, not Harry S. Truman. Harry just made up the S so he would have something to put between the Harry and the Truman. It also makes his name seem more substantial. Like Edward G. Robinson. Who would have taken a movie star named Eddie Robinson seriously? Eddie Albert, maybe. Or Eddie Murphy. But not Eddie Robinson.

Of course, Harry Truman could have made his name even more serious if he hadn’t used the Harry part either. Harold S. Truman? Harlan S. Truman? Henry S. Truman? What was Harry’s real first name, anyway? And why S? I mean, if you are making up an initial anyway, why not A or X? I would remember an X.

Actually his official name really was Harry S. Truman. His parents named him after his uncle Harry (Harrison) Young. The middle initial was his parent's attempt to please both his grandparents, who both had S in their names. But it didn’t stand for anything. Just S.

“What’s your middle name, Harry?”


“No...your middle name, not your initial.”


Just for the record, the other ones used as examples are “David”, “Milhous”, “Rudolph”, and “Fitzgerald.” (Actually, Ford was born with the name "Leslie Lynch King, Jr." But that's another story.)

Strangely, “Milhous” was also the middle name of George Washington, I think.


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