Q is for question mark and questions.
Have you ever wondered how this symbol came about? I turned to my trusty Reader’s Digest book entitled "Why in the World?" (all you ever wanted to know about the world around you but may never have thought to ask) This is what it had to say about our question mark:
Our system of punctuation came to us from classical Greek and Latin, where its chief purpose was not to assist comprehension but to guide those reading aloud. Different marks showed the reader how to stress syllables, and where to pause and draw breath to maintain the metre in a line of poetry.
In Latin, a query was indicated by the word "questio" placed at the end of the sentence. The laborious task of handwriting books was made easier by abbreviating many words, and "questio" was shortened to QO. Since QO could be mistaken for other abbreviations, scribes began to place the Q above the O. Before long, the Q deteriorated into a squiggle and the O became a dot.
Bet you didn't know that. I certainly didn't. And that's what is great about ABC Wednesday - it challenges me to learn something new each week.Here are a few interesting questions from the book.
1. Why do we talk about the Man in the Moon?
Open a children's storybook, and you're likely to find a drawing of the Man in the Moon. For many people, the Moon, with its combination of light and dark areas, looks like a man's face. The Man in the Moon is always young, freshly discovered by each pair of eyes that sees him for the first time. And he is also ancient, dwelling in the Moon right down the ages, immortal as the rocks and dust of the Moon's geological face. And for those who travel for the first time to the opposite hemisphere, the Man in the Moon may have an unfamiliar face. Britons who visit South America or Australia assert - quite correctly - that their friendly figure from the north has suddenly turned upside down.
2. Why do some people have freckles?
If you have freckles, blame your ancestors. Almost certainly they are inherited. They first show up in childhood and, if you are going to have them, they have usually all appeared by your twenty-first birthday. . . In most of us, sunshine increases the production of melanin, the pigment that tans our skin and protects it. Some fair-skinned people and most redheads don't tan in the sun. Their pigment cells fail to respond, or do so unevenly. Instead of producing an even tan, the pigment collects irregularly in small dark spots. Even though freckles themselves are harmless, people who have them should take greater care out of doors. They should never go into the sun without a hat, and guard themselves with sunscreens to avoid a tendency to burn.
3. Why do chefs use dish-covers?
At many feasts and banquets, the chef's special dish is usually delivered with some ceremony. Often, it is wheeled into the dining hall, concealed under a cover to maintain the surprise. Then - presto! - the cover is removed to reveal the "chef d'oeuvre" in all its magnificence. Dish-covers serve to maintain surprise and keep the dish hot, but that wasn't their original function. When poisoning was a convenient way to dispatch an unpopular monarch, ill-lit corridors from the kitchen to banqueting hall offered ample opportunity to pop a fatal dose into the royal dinner. Before any food left the kitchen, it was placed on a dish, and the cover was padlocked. At the table, the chef unlocked the cover and tasted the food before it was served. If the chef failed to supervise his staff or made too many enemies, he ran a high risk of suffering a painful death.
I always had this book at school so that whenever an interesting question arose from my students, I would direct them to this book - or other books where they could look up the answer themselves. When they would complain and say, "Why don't you just tell me the answer?" I would simply smile and tell them they'd remember the answer all their lives if they went to the trouble of looking it up themselves. They would sigh deeply, but off they'd go searching for the answer. I hope that someday they'll remember the teacher that made them look it up for themselves.
Have a great week, everybody! I'll be popping 'round to see what you came up with for Q today.