Death and Taxes


Today is tax day. And like many cash-strapped red, white, and blue-blooded ’Mericans, I filed for an extension. For a lot of us across the globe (exempting those rich @#$!s with offshore tax shelters), there’s much truth to the famous saying: Nothing is certain except death and taxes.

That phrase is most commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789: “Our new Constitution is now established. Everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” (Franklin wrote this in French, and English translations vary.)

However, Franklin wasn’t the first to bemoan this reality. In 1716, Christopher Bullock wrote in his play, Cobbler of Preston, “Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes!”

In 1724, playwright Edward Ward wrote in The Dancing Devils, “Death and taxes, they are certain.”

And, Daniel Defoe wrote in his 1726 book, The Political History of the Devil, “Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed.”

Well, maybe there is one more thing certain in life other than death and taxes: politicians taking credit for other people’s ideas.

Happy tax day everyone!





Words and phrases Shakespeare invented

William Shakespeare wasn’t just one of the greatest and most influential playwrights in history, he was also a mega wordsmith. Some estimates say the bard coined 1,700 words, many of which we use daily—like eyeball. Seriously. Eyeball.

Here’s a sample of words Shakespeare invented:

  • addiction (Othello)
  • bedazzled (The Taming of the Shrew)
  • belongings (Measure for Measure)
  • bloodstained (Titus Andronicus)
  • cold-blooded (King John)
  • eventful (As You Like It)
  • eyeball (The Tempest)
  • fashionable (Troilus and Cressida)
  • jaded (King Henry VI)
  • laughable (The Merchant of Venice)
  • manager (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • mimic (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • moonbeam (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • new-fangled (Love’s Labour’s Lost)
  • obscene (Love’s Labour’s Lost)
  • puking (As You Like It)
  • scuffle (Antony and Cleopatra)
  • swagger (Henry V)
  • uncomfortable (Romeo and Juliet)
  • zany (Love’s Labour’s Lost)

Shakespeare also coined many popular phrases. Here is a sample:

  • all’s well that ends well (All’s Well that Ends Well)
  • bated breath (The Merchant of Venice)
  • be all and the end all (Macbeth)
  • brave new world (The Tempest)
  • break the ice (The Taming of the Shrew)
  • fancy-free (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • flaming youth (Hamlet)
  • for goodness’ sake (Henry VIII)
  • foregone conclusion (Othello)
  • full circle (King Lear)
  • good riddance (Troilus and Cressida)
  • jealousy is the green-eyed monster (Othello)
  • it was Greek to me (Julius Caesar)
  • heart of gold (Henry V)
  • in a pickle (The Tempest)
  • in my heart of hearts (Hamlet)
  • in my mind’s eye (Hamlet)
  • kill with kindness (The Taming of the Shrew)
  • laughing stock (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
  • neither a borrower nor a lender be (Hamlet)
  • neither rhyme nor reason (As You Like It)
  • parting is such sweet sorrow (Romeo and Juliet)
  • pomp and circumstance (Othello)
  • salad days (Antony and Cleopatra)
  • sea change (The Tempest)
  • something wicked this way comes (Macbeth)
  • to thine own self be true (Hamlet)
  • too much of a good thing (As You Like It)
  • wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello)

Now goeth forward, dear readers, and speaketh awesome words. And if you can’t think of the right one, do like Shakespeare did and just make one up.



Dog days of summer


Things sure are heating up. Even in my home state of Minnesota (where it just stopped snowing two months ago), I have all the fans running full blast. That’s because we’ve officially entered the dog days of summer.

The dog days of summer are known as being the hottest period of the year, running from July 3 to August 11. However, the name has nothing to do with our beloved Fidos.

The name actually comes from Sirius, the brightest star in our sky. Sirius is known as the Dog Star and is the chief star in the constellation Canis Major. Dog days traditionally began when Sirius rose at the same time as sunrise (heliacal rising), causing Romans to attribute the extra heat to the meeting up of the two stars. (Due to shifts in the equinoxes, this is no longer happens, at least if I correctly understood all of the astronomy articles I’ve been reading.)

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term dog days comes from the 1530s, when it was known in Latin as dies caniculares, translated from the Greek hēmerai kynades.


Today is the summer solstice, the day that starts the summer season, which also happens to be the day in which we have the most hours of sunlight. Merriam-Webster defines solstice as: one of the two points on the ecliptic at which its distance from the celestial equator is greatest and which is reached by the sun each year about June 22nd and December 22nd.

So, basically, what I said before. (Way to complicate things, M-W.)

English adopted solstice from the Old French word of the same spelling. The word originally came from Latin as a combination of sol, which means sun, and sistere, which means “to come to a stop.” Related is the Latin word solstitium, which means “point at which the sun seems to stand still.” (Much thanks to the Online Etymology Dictionary for that information.)

Ten weird flower etymologies


With Mother’s Day right around the corner and spring finally pushing up the daisies, many of us are thinking about pockets full of posies this week. That’s why I headed over to the Online Etymology Dictionary and found ten flower names with rather interesting histories.

carnation: Carnation has an uncertain origin. The name could come from the word coronation because the flowers were used in chaplets (wreaths worn on the head) or because the petals look crown-like. As carnations are often pink, it is also thought the name comes from the Middle French word carnation, which means person’s color or complexion.

daisy: The Old English term for daisy is dœgesege, which is a combination of the words dœges and eage, meaning day’s eye. Daisy originally got its name because the petals open at dawn and close at dusk.
Fun fact: Daisy being used as a woman’s name is believed to have started as a nickname for Margaret.

dandelion: This word comes from the Middle French dent de lion, which literally means lion’s tooth. It got this name because of its tooth-like leaves.
Fun fact: Apparently, dandelions used to be used as diuretics. In Middle English, it was sometimes called piss-a-bed, and in French, pissenlit. (Lit is the French word for bed, and the Old French verb for to urinate is pissier.)

forget-me-not: Though its scientific name is Myosotis palustris, this nickname comes from the Old French ne m’oubliez mye (don’t forget me).
Fun fact: The nickname arose from the thought that people wearing the flower should not be forgotten by their lovers.

gardenia: One may think that gardenia comes from the word garden. In a way, it does. However, its name comes from the name of Dr. Alexander Garden, an American naturalist.

lavender: Lavender gets its name from its use to scent washed fabrics and bath water. The word is associated with the French lavande and Italian lavanda, which means a washing.

orchid: Orchid means testicles. It comes from the Proto-Indo-European root word for testicles, orghi-. It is so named because the shape of its roots apparently looks like the man parts.

pansy: This word comes from the Middle French pensée, which means thought, rememberance.

peony: The long etymological route this word took may have started with Paion, who the ancient Greeks believed to be the physician to the gods. The plant apparently has healing qualities, with its roots, flowers, and seeds all formerly being used in medicine.

tulip: This flower’s name comes from the Turkish word tülbent, which means turban, because people thought it looked like the headwear.