By Martin Gardner

A notebook of riddles, choked with enjoyable and illustrations.

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Additional info for aha! Gotcha: Paradoxes to Puzzle and Delight

Example text

Why Is Something Clean and Trim Referred to as Spic and Span? Spic and span is a contraction of a Middle English phrase used to describe a new or refurbished ship. Spick and span new referred to a ship with shiny nails (spics or “spikes”) and new wood (span new mean “new chips of wood”). The phrase was shortened eventually to spick and span and was forever altered by the commercial success of the cleaner Spic and Span. WHO PUT THE BUTTER IN BUTTERFLY? / 41 Why Is Somebody Who Abstains from Alcohol Called a Teetotaler?

A “good luck” is perceived by the superstitious acting community as a brazen act of tempting fate, so break a leg has 32 / DAVID FELDMAN come to be the ironic way of wishing “good luck” while stating the opposite. Our expression is a translation of a German expression used for the same purpose, Hals-und-beinbruch (“May you break your neck and your leg”). Some have speculated that break a leg is a reference to the “unlucky” actor John Wilkes Booth, who managed to break his leg while jumping onstage after assassinating President Abraham Lincoln.

But as the movement progressed, it got more militant. Teetotal, whether first coined in England or the United States, was almost certainly a play on words, emphasizing the t in total. P. (“Old Pledge”) members, who promised to abstain only from hard liquor. WHO PUT THE BUTTER IN BUTTERFLY? / 43 Let’s Get Physical Why Are Fraudulent Healers Known as Quacks? Poor ducks. ” No. Ducks are now blamed for the ministrations of bogus healers. Quacks is a shortening of the Dutch kwakzalver. Zalf is Dutch for “salve,” so the kwak is clearly a reference to early medical pitchmen who sold cure-alls (“salves”) by barking, or “kwaking,” like a duck.

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