Ask Mr. Know It All

Q. I have long enjoyed playing Jenga with my family and friends. What does the word “Jenga” mean? What is the history behind the game?

J.V., Youngstown, Ohio

A. Leslie Scott, a British citizen who spent many years in Africa, invented the game in the early 1970s using her baby brother’s building blocks. Her friends and family enjoyed the game so much, they urged her to sell it in the United Kingdom.

American entrepreneur Robert Grebler discovered the game and began importing it to North America. Jenga is available in more than 40 countries around the world.

Scott named the game Jenga because she wanted a word that had no English meaning. In Swahili, “jenga” means “build.”

Q. Where is Paxa Bay? I’m positive I read about it somewhere, but I don’t recall any details.

J.E.S., Lancaster, Calif.

A. I think you mean Faxa Bay, which is a bay between the peninsulas of Snaefellsnes and Reykjanes in Iceland. Reykjavik is on Faxa Bay. The capital city is the northernmost metropolis in the world, and Faxa Bay is the largest bay in Iceland.

In Icelandic, Reykjavik means “Bay of Smokes,” so named by Norse settlers because of the steam from the hot springs in the area. Some historians say the first settler in Reykjavik was Ingolfr Arnarson, who built a cabin there in 874. Today, the thermal springs provide heat and hot water for homes and other buildings.

Seattle has the largest Icelandic community in the United States. In 1986, Seattle and Reykjavik signed an agreement making the two cities official sister cities.


Obsessive nose picking is called rhinotillexomania. Trichotillomania is the term for the compulsive desire to pull out one’s hair.

Q. On a New York City menu, I saw something called eggs Sardou. I didn’t ask what they were, but I wish I had. Do you know?

S.L.S., Greenville, N.C.

A. Some of the main ingredients of this Cajun dish are poached eggs, artichoke bottoms, creamed spinach, hollandaise sauce, butter, chopped onions, Tabasco sauce and bechamel sauce. Bechamel sauce is made with butter, flour and milk.


The part of Dr. Peter Venkman in “Ghostbusters” (1984) was originally written for John Belushi. After his death, the part went to fellow “Saturday Night Live” player Bill Murray.

Q. I once came across a term referring to writing in red ink or paint. Do you know what it is?

E.N.G., Knoxville, Iowa

A. “Rubricate” means “to write using a red medium.” Turning to my American Heritage Dictionary, it says the rubric of a manuscript or book is the title, heading or initial letter, which appears in decorative red lettering. If you were a rubrician, you would be a person with knowledge in the rubrics of ecclesiastical ritual.

Q. I’m sure the Philadelphia Phillies were involved in the highest-scoring game in major league baseball, but I don’t know with whom and what the final score was.

A.F., Dorchester, Pa.

A. On Aug. 25, 1922, the Phillies took on the Chicago Cubs. Combined, the teams scored 49 runs that day — surprising, considering there were just 51 hits. The Cubs won the game 26-23.

Q. Friends recently returned from Australia with macadamia nuts. I was surprised; I thought they came from Hawaii.

Why is it you never see the nuts still in their shells? How did the macadamia nut get its name?

P.R.M., Stowe, Vt.

A. The macadamia nut tree is native to the rain forests of Queensland, Australia. In 1881, William Purvis brought the first macadamia trees to Hawaii.

Much of the macadamia- hungry world turns to Hawaii for the nut, although macadamias are also an important crop in South Africa, Central America, Australia and California.

It takes patience to grow the popular nut — there’s a seven-year waiting period before the first harvest. Macadamia nuts still in the shell are available in Hawaii and online. You will need a special nutcracker or a heavy hammer to crack the shell. It takes about 300 pounds per square inch of pressure to get to the meat.

In 1857, colleagues named the plant after Dr. John Macadam (1827-1865), a Scottish-born Australian.

Q. I hear that Clark Kent — Superman’s alter ego — was named for Clark Gable and Kent Taylor. How about Lois Lane?

U.F., Brady, Texas

A. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the teenage creators of Superman, did construct the name Clark Kent from Clark Gable and Kent Taylor. As for Lois Lane, Joe Shuster had a crush on a classmate, Lois Amster, which inspired her first name. They took her last name from actress Lola Lane. Joanne Carter was hired to be the model for the comic character; eventually, she married Shuster.

Q. I seem to recall that Alan Hale Jr., who played the skipper on “Gilligan’s Island,” also played the lead in a show called “Casey Jones,” a series about the famous railroad engineer. None of my friends remembers it, and they say my memory is fading. Is it?

I.B.H., Palm Springs, Fla.

A. Is your memory fading? I’m not going to touch that one! But you can tell your friends that there was a show called “Casey Jones” that aired 32 episodes in 1958. It was a 30-minute children’s series, based loosely on the life of the legendary engineer Luther “Casey” Jones.

Alan Hale starred as Casey Jones, the engineer on the Cannonball Express for the Midwest and Central Railroad. Mary Lawrence played his wife, Alice, and Bobby Clark played their son, Casey Jr. Burl Ives performed the show’s theme song, “Casey Jones.”

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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