Aviation Wisdom From The Past - August 19, 2013

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Aviation Wisdom From The Past – August 19, 2013

 “Robert Novell’s Third Dimension Blog”

Good Morning—Today I am going to deviate from the norm and reprint an email from a friend that has very little to do with aviation. I hope that the facts, as presented in his email, are in fact authentic.


………………………I Bet You Didn’t Know?………………….


Early aircraft’s throttles had a ball on the end of it,

in order to go full throttle the pilot had to push the throttle all the way

forward into the wall of the instrument panel. Hence “balls to the wall”

for going very fast. And now you know, the rest of the story.


During WWII , U.S. airplanes were armed with belts of bullets which they

would shoot during dogfights and on strafing runs. These belts were folded

into the wing compartments that fed their machine guns. These belts measured

27 feet and contained hundreds of rounds of bullets. Often times, the

pilots would return from their missions having expended all of their bullets

on various targets and they would say, I gave them the whole nine yards,

meaning they used up all of their ammunition.


Did you know the saying “God willing and the creek don’t rise” was in

reference to the Creek Indians and not a body of water? It was written by

Benjamin Hawkins in the late 18th century. He was a politician and Indian

diplomat. While in the south, Hawkins was requested by the President of the

U.S. to return to Washington . In his response, he was said to write, “God

willing and the Creek don’t rise.” Because he capitalized the word “Creek”

it is deduced that he was referring to the Creek Indian tribe and not a body

of water.


In George Washington’s days, there were no cameras. One’s image was either

sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington showed him standing

behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others showed both legs and

both arms. Prices charged by painters were not based on how many people were

to be painted, but by how many limbs were to be painted. Arms and legs are

‘limbs,’ therefore painting them would cost the buyer more. Hence the

expression, ‘Okay, but it’ll cost you an arm and a leg.’ (Artists know hands

and arms are more difficult to paint.)


As incredible as it sounds, men and women took baths only twice a year (May

and October). Women kept their hair covered, while men shaved their heads

(because of lice and bugs) and wore wigs. Wealthy men could afford good wigs

made from wool. They couldn’t wash the wigs, so to clean them they would

carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the shell, and bake it for 30

minutes. The heat would make the wig big and fluffy, hence the term ‘big

wig’. Today we often use the term ‘here comes the Big Wig’ because someone

appears to be or is powerful and wealthy.


In the late 1700’s, many houses consisted of a large room with only one

chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall, and was used

for dining. The ‘head of the household’ always sat in the chair while

everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a guest, who was

usually a man, would be invited to sit in this chair during a meal. To sit

in the chair meant you were important and in charge. They called the one

sitting in the chair the ‘chair man.’ Today in business, we use the

expression or title ‘Chairman’ or ‘Chairman of the Board.’


Personal hygiene left much room for improvement. As a result, many women

and men had developed acne scars by adulthood. The women would spread bee’s

wax over their facial skin to smooth out their complexions. When they were

speaking to each other, if a woman began to stare at another woman’s face

she was told, ‘mind your own bee’s wax.’ Should the woman smile, the wax

would crack, hence the term ‘crack a smile’. In addition, when they sat too

close to the fire, the wax would melt. Therefore, the expression

‘losing face.’


Ladies wore corsets, which would lace up in the front. A proper and

dignified woman, as in ‘straight laced’ wore a tightly tied lace.


Common entertainment included playing cards. However, there was a tax levied

when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the ‘Ace of Spades.’ To

avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards instead. Yet, since

most games require 52 cards, these people were thought to be stupid or dumb

because they weren’t ‘playing with a full deck.’


Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what the

people considered important. Since there were no telephones, TV’s or radios,

the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs, and bars. They

were told to ‘go sip some Ale and listen to people’s conversations and

political concerns. Many assistants were dispatched at different times. ‘You

go sip here’ and ‘You go sip there.’ The two words ‘go sip’ were eventually

combined when referring to the local opinion and, thus we have the term



At local taverns, pubs, and bars, people drank from pint and quart-sized

containers. A bar maid’s job was to keep an eye on the customers and keep

the drinks coming. She had to pay close attention and remember who was

drinking in ‘pints’ and who was drinking in ‘quarts,’ hence the phrase

‘minding your ‘P’s and Q’s’.


One more: bet you didn’t know this!

In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters carried

iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It was necessary

to keep a good supply near the cannon. However, how to prevent them from

rolling about the deck? The best storage method devised was a square-based

pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four resting on nine, which rested

on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small

area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem….how to prevent

the bottom layer from sliding or rolling from under the others. The solution

was a metal plate called a ‘Monkey’ with 16 round indentations. However, if

this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The

solution to the rusting problem was to make ‘Brass Monkeys.’ Few landlubbers

realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when

chilled.. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass

indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right

off the monkey; Thus, it was quite literally, ‘Cold enough to freeze the

balls off a brass monkey.’ (All this time, you thought that was an improper

expression, didn’t you.)

Have a good week, take care, and thanks for letting me be a part of your week


Robert Novell

August 19, 2013