WootBot


quality posts: 14 Private Messages WootBot

Staff

Put on a purple hat and rent some Corgis: Queen Elizabeth II is turning 87 years old this month! (Actually, the queen celebrates her official public birthday in June, because the weather is likely to be nicer then. That is a true fact. But she was actually born in April.) In honor of Her Majesty, we’ve asked Jeopardy! smart-arse Ken Jennings to spend the month debunking misinformation about the monarchy. Apparently we’ve been royally misled for years.

The Debunker: Do Londoners Check the Time on Big Ben?

When I got married back in 2000, we spent our honeymoon in London. A friend of my wife’s asked her, “What are you guys going to do all day, besides look at Old Ben?” I was a little aggrieved at this description of my anatomy, until I realized she had meant to refer to “Big Ben,” which as everyone knows is the clock tower at the north end of the Houses of Parliament, right? Wrong. Yes, the clock tower is an iconic symbol of London. But no, it’s not called Big Ben.

donnnnnnng

The only way to use Big Ben to check the time is to wait for it to strike—which it does every hour. Big Ben is actually the 13-ton bell that sits inside the clock tower. (A series of smaller bells plays the quarter-hour chimes, the famous Westminster Quarters.) The origin of the Big Ben nickname is uncertain: it may refer to Sir Benjamin Hall, the engineer who led the rebuilding of Parliament in the 1850s, or to “Big Ben” Caunt, a popular heavyweight boxing champ of the time.

So if Big Ben is the bell, what’s the famous tower called? For many years, the official name of the clock tower was—wait for it!—“Clock Tower.” Nice. In 2012, however, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, marking sixty years on the British throne. In her honor, Parliament voted to rename the tower-not-formerly-known-as-Big-Ben as the Elizabeth Tower. After all, Westminster’s other spire, the one at the southwest corner, is known as the Victoria Tower. At this point, pretty much the whole building is named for a couple of old queens.

Quick Quiz: In what 1985 movie does a driver get trapped circling a Westminster roundabout for hours, repeatedly saying, “Look, kids! There’s Big Ben and Parliament”?

Ken Jennings is the author of six books, most recently his Junior Genius Guides, Because I Said So!, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings.

bjgleas


quality posts: 1 Private Messages bjgleas

What is "European Vacation"?

jumi


quality posts: 0 Private Messages jumi

Ummm... You never actually address the question posed in the title: "Do Londoners Check the Time on Big Ben?"

Sheesh!

dougall


quality posts: 14 Private Messages dougall
jumi wrote:Ummm... You never actually address the question posed in the title: "Do Londoners Check the Time on Big Ben?"

Sheesh!



I suspect they use their mobile phones these days. That or they call the speaking clock from a landline.

WaltAmante


quality posts: 0 Private Messages WaltAmante
bjgleas wrote:What is "European Vacation"?



Prefix "National Lampoon", and I think you are correct.

Does Woot give you a free prize?

Momo83


quality posts: 0 Private Messages Momo83
jumi wrote:Ummm... You never actually address the question posed in the title: "Do Londoners Check the Time on Big Ben?"

Sheesh!



This is that sarcasm thing that I hear about, right?

bsmith1


quality posts: 104 Private Messages bsmith1
jumi wrote:Ummm... You never actually address the question posed in the title: "Do Londoners Check the Time on Big Ben?"

Sheesh!



Is it possible to check the time on a bell? No. There's your answer, chum.

davidbowser


quality posts: 2 Private Messages davidbowser

"Look kids! It's Big Ben and Parliament!"

allhailme


quality posts: 2 Private Messages allhailme

To this day my dad still says "Look Kids, Big Ben, parliment" whenever we go around a traffic circle. He also needs to make at least two laps around the circle. This happens regardless of where we are. I fear the day he actually travels to London.