Sunday, January 17, 2016

On this day in history, January 17

Today, January 17, is the birth anniversary of Benjamin Franklin, inventor of the $100 bill. Before his innovation, people had to go around with wheelbarrows full of rutabagas, just hoping somebody could make change. Other fun facts about old Ben:
  • He invented the rocking chair. Before Ben, long-tailed cats were renowned the world over for their unnerving calm.
  • He opened the first insurance company in the colonies. His spokesman was not an obnoxious talking duck, but it WAS a pretty irritating eagle.
  • He became wealthy printing his famous Poor Richard's Almanack, despite the flagrant typo right there in the title.
January 17 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the PGA, created to promote the sport of golf and add to the English language yet another venue for the word "widow." Other fun facts about golf:
  • Removed the stigma of walking in the park all day, then drinking.
  • First brought into usage the now-common phrases, "Do you see it?" and "Where'd it go?"
  • Finally gave people a way of measuring each other's relative worth as a human.
On this day in 1929, Popeye was born in his first comic strip, Thimble Theatre. Other fun facts about the sailor man:
  • Before it became canon that Popeye's source of strength was spinach, Popeye originally obtained health by rubbing the head of "Bernice, the Whiffle Hen," a fowl possessed of magic good luck powers. Seriously.
  • Popeye is thought to have brought into the lexicon the words "wimpy," "goon" and "doofus." This kind of thing is hard to prove, however, except perhaps by a nerd.
  • Popeye's arch-enemy Brutus started out being called Bluto, but was renamed due to copyright fears which were ultimately unfounded, rendering this sentence about 25 words too long.
  • Olive Oyl had relatives named Sutra Oyl and Lubry Kent. Popeye had a nephew named Poop-Eye. And yet Lenny Bruce was the one they threw in jail for obscenity.
Today is St. Anthony's Day in the Coptic Christian church, a feast day celebrating the life of a monk who lived as a hermit in the wilderness and famously spent decades resisting temptation and curing skin diseases, yet could always, inexplicably, be counted on for a racy quip at a party. He is not to be confused with St. Anthony of Padua, who was a real bore.

Today is the birthday of James Earl Jones, without whom Darth Vader would just be a dude in a cape. Maybe celebrate by calling someone a "whiffle hen" in a very low, ominous voice.