Monthly Archives: July 2019

How Popular Drinks Got Their Names


Well, who knew? This is from the blog WordGenius. (I started salivating while looking for the margarita image.)

Old Fashioned

The story behind the Old Fashioned is really all in the name. It’s a simple drink involving a spirit (typically whiskey), a dash of sugar or simple syrup and a small amount of an aromatic bitter. There are variations on the spirit and the potential to add an ice cube but really the drink is straightforward and, you guessed it, old fashioned.

Tom Collins

This drink sounds more like your typical suburban neighbor than an upscale cocktail. Unfortunately, by all accounts, there is no egotistical genius mixologist named Tom Collins behind the drink. Part of the name came from a gin drink called a John Collins. There is also an urban legend about an 1870s prank that involved sending bar hoppers on wild goose chases looking for a mysterious “Tom Collins.” Eventually barkeeps stopped playing and started offering them a drink instead. It is likely these two explanations merged and gave us the cocktail we are all familiar with today.


There are a few stories flying around out there about where margaritas came from. Margaret “Margarita” Sames claimed to invent the drink in 1948, though there are Jose Cuervo tequila adverts for margs dating back to 1945. It also might have been invented by Danny Negrete for his sister Margarita’s wedding in the 1930s. What we do know is that margarita is Spanish for daisy. So it’s quite possible that the drink came as an evolution of another flower-named drink — a tequila daisy or a magnolia.


Famously enjoyed shaken, not stirred, by James Bond, martinis date back to around 1900. Again, there are a few theories out there about where the name came from. The simplest and most likely is that the drink was created using Martini & Rossi vermouth and gin, and martini stuck as the name.


Here begins the Cuban portion of the article. The Cuban people managed to create some particularly tasty rum, and, clearly, they go to work figuring out the best ways to enjoy it. First up, we have the Mojito. En español, mojo is the name for a Cuban citrus marinade. The prominence of lime in the drink permeated through to the name, as mojito means little mojo.

Cuba Libre

Literally translated, Cuba Libre means Free Cuba. It is thought that the drink was created after the liberation of Cuba from the Spaniards during the Spanish-American war in 1900, though it is unclear whether the drink was made by Cubans or Americans.


Also from the island of Cuba, we have a drink that is very similar to a mint-less Mojito. Daiquiri is a village on the southeast coast of Cuba. Supposedly, it was also invented around the Spanish-American war, this time by Americans who ran out of gin and had to figure out the best way to enjoy the Cuban rum. Sugar, soda and lime oughta do it!


A simple mixture of champagne and orange juice played a key role in defining the meal of brunch, as well as creating the perfect excuse to drink before noon. The vivid orange-yellow color is reminiscent of the mimosa plant, which is where the name comes from.



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Has Got or Has Gotten?

Do you think that has gotten is outdated, a little strange? Apparently, the Brits do because you very rarely  see it or hear it in Great Britain. But has gotten is alive and thriving in the U.S. because we recognize it does mean something other than has got.

Look at these two sentences:

  1. Amanda has got the required botany book.   
  2. Amanda has gotten the required botany book.

The first sentence tells you Amanda possesses that book; she may have already owned it. It’s the same as saying she has the book.

The second sentence says Amanda has acquired the book; however she got it, she didn’t previously own it.


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You Can Do It!

So many people I’ve taught were afraid of writing. Why? Because they thought they were controlled by endless and confusing rules! I am here to tell you that many of those rules that used to be set in stone no longer apply. Even in business and academic writing, you have much more leeway than just a few generations before you came along.  Here are some once-revered rules you can ignore:

Never start a sentence with and or but. Why not? You can start a sentence with any word you choose. But if you prefer not to, that’s fine, too.

Data is always plural. It can be, but you can also use it in a singular sense with a singular verb: The data is unequivocal.

Never end a sentence with a preposition. No reason exists in English to follow this admonition. How would you feel about writing, “With whom was that person I saw you rollerskating at the park?”

The subject of a sentence must always come before the verb. Says who?

Never split an infinitive. That’s the to- form of the verb: to pontificate, to ponder, to perambulate. The old rule, which has something to do with a Latin construction, ordered us never to put an adverb between the to and the verb. You all know the world’s most famous split infinitive: to boldly go. Now you boldly go.

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Streets and Their Names

From WordGenius. I thought this was informative:

First, let’s look at the supposed differences between roads, streets, lanes, avenues and boulevards. In theory, a road is something that connects two points. Simple enough. Streets are public roads with buildings on each side. Avenues are the same, but run perpendicular to streets. Boulevards are wide streets (or avenues), often with a median. Lanes are the smaller version of a boulevard.

The duty of bestowing roads with their actual names usually falls with the land developers who planned, financed, designed and built them. Often these developers opt to name streets after their nearest and dearest, offering a glimpse of recognition and legacy to their wives, girlfriends and loved ones.

However, developers do not get the final say. The names are submitted to the relevant city planning departments, including building, engineering and public works. This process (unsurprisingly) takes quite a bit of time from start to finish.

The departments with ultimate vetoing power are the emergency services. If the police or fire teams decide that a name is not unique and intelligible enough to be quickly found in an emergency, it will not stick.

Another factor that can hamper developers’ creative outputs are local themes. Some cities and towns want their streets to be named after types of birds (Blue Jay Street, Robin Road), for example, or to have a beach feel (Ocean Drive, Seabreeze Avenue). In Washington D.C., all 50 states are represented with a street name.

Across the United States, the most common inspiration for most streets is trees, and you’ll find an Oak Street or Maple Drive in almost every city. Almost all cities also have a numbered street system. In fact, the most common street name in the U.S. is 2nd Street or Second Street. What happened to all the first streets, you ask? They are often called something like Main or Broadway instead.

Other common influences include landmarks (Hill Road, Canal Street), politicians (particularly Washington, as well as local government) and celebrated figures (Dr. King comes to mind). Local industries (Vineyard Street) or institutions (College Avenue) also have an effect.

Street names can add extra appeal for developers who are trying to sell their properties. Names such as Ocean View or Buckingham Drive can make the areas seem more desirable.

Once names are set, they are difficult to change. The impact on maps and local businesses (websites, business cards) has to be considered. Therefore, it’s probably better to choose an alluring name at the first time of asking.

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Mark Twain on the World’s Greatest Authors






On being introduced as one the world’s greatest authors, Twain had this to say:

“I was sorry to have my name mentioned as one of the great authors, because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, Spenser is dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I am not feeling very well myself.”

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Music, as Conceived by Curmudgeons





From Jon Winokur’s book, The Portable Curmudgeon.

The chief objection to playing wind instruments is that it prolongs the life of the player.

— George Bernard Shaw

(I can’t find who said the following, but I concur: The reason bagpipe players walk while they play is to get away from the music.)

Of all noises, I think music is the least disagreeable. 

— Samuel Johnson


— Arturo Toscanini to his orchestra

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More From The Portable Curmudgeon (Jon Winokur)

Curmudgeons on LOVE:

Many a man has fallen in love with a girl in a light so dim he would not have chosen a suit by it.

—Maurice Chevalier

It’s possible to love a human being if you don’t know them too well.

—Charles Bukowski

When we want to read of the deeds that are done for love, whither do we turn? To the murder column.

—George Bernard Shaw

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

—H. L. Mencken

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How Did the Months Get Their Names?

Recently, I started getting emails from Word Genius, which gives a word-of-the-day and other tidbits. I thought you might find the origins of month names enlightening. This is what the Word Genius sent me:


January is Roman in origin, and it begins the calendar year because the Roman god Janus is the god of beginnings and endings. This makes perfect sense for a month that people see as an ending of the previous year and the troubles it may have brought, plus the beginning as people look forward to a fresh start to a whole new year. Visually, Janus is a perfect representation of the past and the future, because he has two faces. One looks backwards into the past and what was, while the other looks forward into the future and what it has to bring.


February is also from the Romans and it denotes that this month is when the Roman purification festival of Februa is held. Februa is on the 15th of the month, and it is all about cleansing. Maybe this is why it is the shortest month, because undertaking a cleanse of any type is hard to keep up with.


March does sound like Mars the planet, and that is why the month is so named. Festivals in Rome often took place in March because it was the soonest that it was warm enough to begin a war, and Mars is the Roman god of war. But Romans also messed with the calendar a few times before the Roman empire fell, because March was the first month in the calendar, initially, before it got stuck being the third month.


April also was a victim of calendar shifting by the Romans. April was supposed to be the second month on the calendar after March, because after all, Aprillis is a derivative of the Latin base word apero- which means second. April was celebrated as the second month of the year, whereas now it’s the fourth month and is seen as the real beginning of spring in the United States.


May is a very nurturing month, with mild temperatures that encourage people to enjoy the outdoors. The month name comes from a Greek goddess this time, Maia, the daughter of famous Greek god and goddess Atlas and Hermes.


June takes its name from Roman origins. Juno, the wife of Jupiter, is the ancient Roman goddess that reigns over marriage and childbirth, which may explain why June is such a popular wedding month.


July is the birth month of Julius Caesar, and that’s why the month was named after him. July is also the first month on the traditional calendar that isn’t named after a god or goddess of Roman or Greek origins, but is named after a real person.


August is also named after another real person — Augustus, who was the first emperor of Rome and also the nephew of Julius Caesar. The month was originally supposed to be the sixth month, not the eighth, and was called Sextillis to reflect that.

September, October, November and December

September, October, November and December are where the names that derive from gods and people end and numeric-naming conventions begin. Thanks to the Roman rearranging, the numeric names don’t correspond when the actual month appears on the calendar. Septem is Latin (septum) for seven, and it follows that Octo is eight, Novem is the ninth, and Decem the tenth month.

But in 46 B.C., the beginning of the Julian calendar bumped each of those months backward to create the calendar we all know and use today. Good thing the Roman empire fell so they could stop moving months around.

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