Ask Mr. Know It All

Q. As a kid, I enjoyed Fizzies, a popular fruit- flavored drink made by dropping a tablet into a glass of water. When was it developed?

D.M.C., Perry, Ga.

A. Oh my, a trip down memory lane! Fizzies were invented by Emerson Drug Co. while it was working on a product similar to Bromo-Seltzer. In 1957, the company introduced the tablets to a limited number of supermarkets. By 1962, Fizzies were available across the nation, exceeding Kool-Aid in sales and popularity. The effervescent tablets were made in grape, cherry, orange, punch, berry, lemon-lime and root-beer flavors — eight tablets cost 19 cents. Unfortunately, Fizzies contained cyclamate, which was banned by the Food and Drug Administration in 1968. The tablets were taken off the market.

In 1995, Fizzies were reintroduced with a new formula containing NutraSweet, but they did not last long. The company went out of business the next year. Fizzies came back in 2005, and you can find out where to buy the tablets at

Q. One of the most beautiful sights at night is the full moon. On a clear night, the moon is so bright you can do some outside chores. How much brighter is the full moon than the half moon?

T.L., Wooster, Ohio

A. The full moon is 10 times brighter than the half moon.

Q. I have long used the term “on the Q.T.” How did the phrase originate?

N.B., Quincy, Mass.

A. This is a simple one: from the first and last letters of “quiet.”

Q. I picked up a novel in England this summer. One of the characters uses a “Stowaway.” I can’t quite figure out what it is.

O.L., Upper Darby, Pa.

A. When first introduced in the United States in 1979, the Sony Walkman was known as a Soundabout. In England, the same product was called a Stowaway.


Woody Allen wrote the movie “Annie Hall” (1977) with Diane Keaton in mind. It’s even named after her: Keaton’s real name is Diane Hall, and her nickname is Annie.

Q. I’ve been told there is a Disco Island someplace in the world. I can’t find it. Can you?

P.L., Jamestown, N.Y.

A. Spelled Disko, it is an island off the west coast of Greenland. In Greenlandic, the island is called Qeqertarsuup.

Q. At what age does a squab, a young pigeon, become a pigeon?

B.D.E., Joliet, Ill.

A. There is no specific age when the transition occurs. When a squab flies, it is a pigeon. This usually happens at 4 weeks.

Q. I am a longtime fan of Michael J. Fox. What is his middle name?

F.J., Mesa, Ariz.

A. Andrew. Screen Actors Guild regulations state that no two members can share a name (for crediting reasons). Since there already was a Michael Fox, he needed to change his name. Fox considered using his given middle initial but felt that would be awkward, so he added the J in honor of character actor Michael J. Pollard.

Q. I once had a cake that was baked in a shell-shaped mold. As I recall, it was named after a woman. Neither my husband nor I can recall what it was, other than we enjoyed the delicacy. Do you happen to know the name?

M.E.S., Stuart, Fla.

A. Sounds as if you enjoyed a madeleine. Although the origin of the name is not known for sure, many say the cake was named after 19th-century French pastry cook Madeleine Paulmier.

Q. A muckraker was a journalist who dug around to expose corruption and abuses of power. When did the term start?

C.T.L., Quakertown, Pa.

A. The term muckrake, referring to a farmer cleaning up after his animals, was used as early as 1685 in “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan (1628-1688). Some credit Theodore Roosevelt with applying the moniker to U.S. journalists who were involved in digging in the dirt for a story.

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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