Ask Mr. Know It All

Q. To describe my physical appearance, I would say that I am husky. It’s such a strange term. Do you know how it came about?

K.N., San Jose, Calif.

A. In all my searches for the origins of the term, this one seems the most straightforward and fascinating: The husky dog was bred specifically for its ruggedness and strength. Although originally called “uskimi” by North Canadian Indians, the word was mispronounced as “husky.” The term was first applied to the men who trapped in the north county. These men were tough, just like their dogs. Both man and dog were able to survive under grueling conditions. The term spread and, eventually, it was applied to any man of large stature.

Q. In the 1970s, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton starred in a film about divorce. One part of the movie was from the woman’s viewpoint, and the other was from the man’s perspective. Do you have any idea what the name of this movie is?

H.G., Mansfield, Ohio

A. “Divorce His, Divorce Hers” was a made-for-TV movie released in February 1973. It is available on DVD.

Q. Growing up, the term “WILCO” was popular to mean “OK, I’ll do it.” I’m sure it was a radio term, but I’ve often wondered what it meant.

D.F., Chandler, Ariz.

A. “WILCO” is a radio term that means “will comply.”

Q. One of my favorite movies is “Back to the Future.” I read that a refrigerator was to play an important part in the movie. I’ve seen the movie several times, but I’ve never noticed a refrigerator. Why?

I.R.B., Camp Hill, Pa.

A. Originally, a refrigerator was to be the time machine in the 1985 film, starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. However, the director, Robert Zemeckis, fearing a rash of children locking themselves in refrigerators, changed the time machine to a DeLorean automobile. Personally, I’m glad he did.

Q. Is it true Milton Berle appeared in an ad for Buster Brown shoes as a child?

K.G., Dickson, Tenn.

A. It is. Berle started life as Milton Berlinger in 1908. His mother was described as a classic stage mother, and she pushed her son into show business. She entered Berle in a Charlie Chaplin contest at age 5, which led to him becoming a “Buster Brown Boy,” advertising a line of children’s shoes.

Under the guidance of his mother, Berle pursued a career in entertainment. He became a star on stage, radio, the big screen and television. He was known as Mr. Television, Uncle Miltie, Mr. Entertainment and Mr. Show Business. He died in 2002.

Q. I have watched “The Lawrence Welk Show” for years. When did he pass away and at what age? What caused his death?

L.D.P., St. Peter, Minn.

A. Lawrence Welk died from pneumonia May 17, 1992. He was 89 years old.

Q. I served aboard the USS Dyess DD-880 from 1952 to 1956. It was built in Texas. Can you tell me its fate? I’ve heard several versions.

G.L., Brazoria, Texas

A. The USS Dyess was built in Orange, Texas, by the Consolidated Steel Corp. It was commissioned May 21, 1945, and decommissioned Jan. 27, 1981. A month later, it was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register. From there, the ship’s fate is sketchy. Some say it went to Greece in July 1981 and was used for spare parts. Others say the ship was scrapped in Brooklyn, and the spare parts were sent to Greece.

Visit the ship’s website at You can learn the history of the Dyess, reunion dates and a lot more.

Send questions to Mr. Know-It-All at or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

2013 Gary Clothier

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