Tuesday, March 12

The Debunker: Is The Word "Posh" An Acronym?

by Ken Jennings

Let’s face it—what do any of us really know about language? If you had a gun to your head, could you tell me the difference between “farther” or “further,” or spell “minuscule” correctly? To make matters worse, a lot of the things you think you know about words are probably wrong. In honor of National Grammar Day (March 4!) we’ll be debunking dialectical deceit all month on Woot. Was your ninth-grade English teacher’s classroom a house of lies? Find out from 74-time Jeopardy! champion (and self-proclaimed grammar Nazi) Ken Jennings.

Language Myth #2: “Posh” Stands for “Port Out, Starboard Home.”

Since the 1930s, people who like to seem “in the know” have been asserting that the adjective posh, meaning luxurious, is actually an acronym—that, in fact, it once stood for “port out, starboard home,” the shadier and therefore more expensive cabins to book on an ocean liner to and from India, an abbreviation which was stamped on first-class tickets. This folk etymology has worked its way into popular culture—I remember it as the chorus to the Sherman Brothers’ song “Posh!” from the not-otherwise-memorable score to the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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Tuesday, June 26

The Debunker: Does Every Rose Have Its Thorn?

by Ken Jennings

Spring is turning to summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the world is in blossom. Flowers always make me think of Chairman Mao, who once vowed to “let a hundred flowers bloom” in China, meaning that the nation would be healthier if a diversity of ideas could compete for attention. But in real life, sometimes the wrong flowers win the war of ideas, leading us up a primrose path of misconceptions and misinformation. This month, Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings digs up all kinds of floral falsehoods from the fertile soil of his mind, separating the weeds of legend from the pick-me-up bouquet… of truth.

Flower Myth #4: Every Rose Has Its Thorn.

I hate to second-guess the musical genius of Poison, especially since astronomers have proven that every night has its dawn, and I have to assume that every cowboy sings a sad, sad song at least occasionally. But, surprisingly, rose plants don’t have thorns—botanically speaking, that is.

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Tuesday, June 19

The Debunker: Are Flowers Bad For Your Allergies?

by Ken Jennings

Spring is turning to summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the world is in blossom. Flowers always make me think of Chairman Mao, who once vowed to “let a hundred flowers bloom” in China, meaning that the nation would be healthier if a diversity of ideas could compete for attention. But in real life, sometimes the wrong flowers win the war of ideas, leading us up a primrose path of misconceptions and misinformation. This month, Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings digs up all kinds of floral falsehoods from the fertile soil of his mind, separating the weeds of legend from the pick-me-up bouquet… of truth.

Flower Myth #3: Stay Away from Flowers If You Have Seasonal Allergies!

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Tuesday, June 12

The Debunker: Is "Ring Around The Rosie" About The Plague?

by Ken Jennings

Spring is turning to summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the world is in blossom. Flowers always make me think of Chairman Mao, who once vowed to “let a hundred flowers bloom” in China, meaning that the nation would be healthier if a diversity of ideas could compete for attention. But in real life, sometimes the wrong flowers win the war of ideas, leading us up a primrose path of misconceptions and misinformation. This month, Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings digs up all kinds of floral falsehoods from the fertile soil of his mind, separating the weeds of legend from the pick-me-up bouquet… of truth.

Flower Myth #2: “Ring Around the Rosie” is about the Bubonic Plague.

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Tuesday, June 05

The Debunker: How Dutch Are Tulips?

by Ken Jennings

Spring is turning to summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the world is in blossom. Flowers always make me think of Chairman Mao, who once vowed to “let a hundred flowers bloom” in China, meaning that the nation would be healthier if a diversity of ideas could compete for attention. But in real life, sometimes the wrong flowers win the war of ideas, leading us up a primrose path of misconceptions and misinformation. This month, Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings digs up all kinds of floral falsehoods from the fertile soil of his mind, separating the weeds of legend from the pick-me-up bouquet… of truth.

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