Ask Mr. Know It All

Q. Did the U.S. really mint a coin with the motto “Mind your business”?

K.J., Philadelphia

A. In 1787, the first official penny was minted in the United States. The obverse of the copper coin featured a rising sun over a sundial with the word “Fugio” (Latin for “I fly”) and the phrase “Mind your business.” The reverse of the coin contained thirteen linked circles with “We are one” and “United States.” The coin, called the Fugio Cent, was designed by Benjamin Franklin.

Q. Did Roy Rogers’ horse, Trigger, ever have a different name?

R.S., Dublin, Calif.

A. When he was born in 1932, the golden palomino was christened Golden Cloud. In 1938, Roy Rogers was looking for a horse for an upcoming film. After a brief ride, he knew the horse was the one for him. Besides getting a new owner, Golden Cloud also got a new name, Trigger. Trigger died in 1965 at age 33.

Q. When did Babe Ruth get his first major-league home run?

R.T., Peoria, Ill.

A. On May 6, 1915, wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform, “The Sultan of Swat” knocked his first of 714 round-trippers out of the stadium. The opposing team? The New York Yankees.

Q. Without looking, can you name the southernmost U.S. state capital?

M.A., West Palm Beach, Fla.

A. Without looking, I would say Honolulu. After looking, I would say, “Yup.”

Q. What does the game hopscotch have to do with Scotland?

E.W., Chestertown, Md.

A. Other than the fact that it’s played there, hopscotch has nothing to do with Scotland.

There are several explanations for the name — here’s one: In the 17th century, the game was called “scotch-hoppers.” It was played then, as now, on squares cut or marked on the ground. The name comes from Old French “escocher,” meaning “to cut or mark.” It was later Anglicized to “scotch.”

While I have your attention, have you ever wondered what butterscotch has to do with butter and scotch? While some say the buttery confection may have originally been made in Scotland, others say it’s because it has to be cut before hardening.

Q. In the program of a play I attended recently, credit was given to a nameless character as the “harridan.” In the play, she was an elderly woman with a sharp tongue, always in a bad mood and always interfering in other people’s business. She was used as comic relief. What is a harridan?

S.J., Santa Rosa, Calif.

A. Your explanation was perfect. The word is believed to come from the French word “haridelle,” which describes an old horse or woman. The word harridan has been around since the 1700s.

Q. Who is the Everest of Mount Everest?

T.D., Ephrata, Pa.

A. Sir George Everest (1790-1866) was a British surveyor. He was the head of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India and later the surveyor general in India during the early 19th century.

Everest was relentless in his pursuit of accuracy and often modified or created new equipment to help complete the surveying of the subcontinent. It was his methods that led his successor, Andrew Waugh, to determine the world’s highest peak, then called Peak XV. Waugh pushed to change the name to honor Everest, an honor Everest himself did not support.

Q. When I go to the eye doctor, I’m tested for color blindness. The test is a series of patterns made up of different color and different size circles. Within the maze is a number that you attempt to read. What is the name of the test?

M.D.A., Nichols, N.Y.

A. The Ishihara Color Test was named after its designer, Dr. Shinobu Ishihara (1879-1963), a professor at the University of Tokyo. The full test is made up of 38 plates and was first published in 1917.

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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