Ask Mr. Know It All

Q. A prima donna is the principal female singer of an opera company. The term is also applied to a temperamental person. What is the term for a male singer?

G.G., Henderson, Nev.

A. In Italian, prima donna means “first lady.” The male counterpart is primo uomo, or “first man.”

Q. From time to time I get to see reruns of “Little House on the Prairie.” Michael Landon is such a sweetheart. I could cry when I think that he was taken from us so young. How old was he when he died? Where was he born?

N.R., Wall, S.D.

A. Michael Landon was born Oct. 31, 1936, in the Forest Hills section of Queens, N.Y. He was an outstanding athlete who won a track scholarship to the University of Southern California, but he tore his shoulder ligaments and had to give up his scholarship.

Landon’s real name was Eugene Maurice Orowitz. He chose his stage name from a phone book. He died of pancreatic cancer July 1, 1991, at age 54.

Q. I’ll soon be visiting New York City for the first time. While there, I plan to take in all of the touristy sights, including the Empire State Building. I seem to recall hearing that a plane once crashed into it. True?

U.B.L., Holdrege, Neb.

A. It’s a true story. On the foggy Saturday morning of July 28, 1945, a B-25 bomber crashed into the north side of the 79th floor of the Empire State Building. The crash killed 14 people, including three crewmen and 11 people in the building, and it left a hole 18 feet wide and 20 feet high. The cost of the damage in 1945 was $1 million. Today that cost would be $13 million.

Q. I have a question about the TV series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” What did U.N.C.L.E. stand for? As I recall, the law-enforcement agency was in constant struggle with T.H.R.U.S.H. I assume this, too, is an acronym.

K.L., Brentwood, Tenn.

A. U.N.C.L.E. stands for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, which, as you said, fought the evil forces of T.H.R.U.S.H. The meaning of T.H.R.U.S.H. was never revealed in the TV series, but in the U.N.C.L.E. novels, written by David McDaniel, the initials stood for Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity.

“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” ran from Sept. 22, 1964, to Jan. 15, 1968. It starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum as secret agents.

Q. There is a name for the space between your thumb and extended forefinger. Do you know what it is?

E.B., Sarasota, Fla.

A. It’s your “purlicue.” In handwriting, a purlicue is the curl at the end of a handwritten word — you might know it better as a curlicue.

Q. In the early 1990s, there was a TV movie about Archie of comic book fame. In it, the characters are grown up. What became of Jughead and Archie when they grew up? How about some of the other characters?

P.H.J., Allentown, Pa.

A. “Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again” was released in 1990. The live-action movie picks up 15 years after graduation from Riverdale High as the classmates prepare for a reunion. Archie is a lawyer who plans to move to the big city to pursue his practice. Jughead is a psychiatrist, though he uses his real name, Forsythe Jones, with his patients. He is divorced and has a son, Jordan. Betty is a grade-school teacher. Veronica lives in France and has been married and divorced four times. Moose and Midge are married chiropractors. They also have a son, Max.

The film was released on VHS as “Archie: Return to Riverdale.”

Q. What is the shortest name of an actor or actress nominated for an Oscar?

T.L.B., Rapid City, S.D.

A. I know of two: Mako and Cher. Technically, Cher wins, as her name is just one syllable. If readers know of any others who fit this category, let me know.

Q. How did the name Velcro come about?

O.G., Elmira, N.Y.

A. The word Velcro is a portmanteau of two French words, “velours,” which means “velvet,” and “crochet,” which means “hook.”

Q. David Robert Jones is the birth name of David Bowie. His birth name seems appropriate for a teenage heartthrob. Why did he change it?

E.N., Plano, Texas

A. David Bowie changed his name in 1966 since there already was a famous guy named Davy Jones — the lead singer of the Monkees. Bowie’s name is an homage to Jim Bowie, the frontiersman and creator of the bowie knife.

Q. As a teenager, we had a favorite burger and milkshake diner. One the first things we did was put coins in the Rock-Ola jukebox. I understand the first part of the name “Rock,” but what does “Ola” mean?

C.B., Lynn, Mass.

A. Although the name implies rock ‘n’ roll, it actually comes from the founder of the jukebox manufacturing company, David C. Rockola. Rockola learned to repair coin-operated devices as a youngster in Canada.

By the mid-1920s, he owned a company that manufactured coin-operated scales. His company later entered into pinball manufacturing and then the manufacturing of jukeboxes in 1927, many years before rock ‘n’ roll became popular.

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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