Ask Mr. Know It All

Q. I once read that many of the early artists were poisoned. Was there some type of conspiracy against artists?

W.J., Newport, Tenn.

A. Hardly. Many artists are believed to have suffered from some type of poisoning because they were using products that would be banned in today’s paints, such as lead, mercury and cadmium.


New York City’s Manhattan College is actually located in the Bronx. Famous alumni include former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and author James Patterson.

Q. Several years ago, you answered a question about a unit of measure to determine one’s beauty. I can’t remember anything about it. Can you remind me what it’s called?

C.H., Clearwater, Fla.

A. It’s a humorous unit called a “millihelen,” referring to Helen of Troy. She was said to have a face that launched a thousand ships. If someone had the beauty to launch one ship, she was scored as a millihelen. Ten ships? Ten millihenens. However, there is a negative helen, which measures the number of sunken ships or the amount of “negative beauty” that can turn ships around.

Q. During a sleepless night, I turned on TV and watched a talk show with a female host. The guest was a cocky wannabe actor. He called her “esum” and then belittled her for not knowing what the word meant. I decided watching an infomercial was more interesting and turned off the show. I looked up the word “esum” but had no luck. Are you familiar with it?

J.K.Z., Buffalo, N.Y.

A. The word is “eesome,” which means “pleasing to the eye or attractive.” None of the sources I looked up had a root for the word, and several said eesome is obsolete.

Q. This past winter I was cuddled on the sofa with my girlfriend. There was over a foot of fresh snow on the ground and more coming down. She said, “The next time we have a snowstorm, I would like to be with you in Key West, in a hot tub watching the sunset drinking ‘bellemis.’” I asked her what this drink was; she said she wasn’t sure, but it sounded great when she read about it. Can you tell us what bellimis are? Have you ever tried one?

R.L., Pottsville, Pa.

A. I think she must be talking about a Bellini cocktail. The Bellini is made with Champagne or prosecco, a dry or extra dry Italian sparkling white wine. Added to the bubbly is peach puree or peach nectar. The drink was created by Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. The unique pink color reminded Cipriani of the color of the toga worn by a saint in a painting by 15th-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini — thus the name of the drink. The Bellini was created anywhere from the mid-1930s to the end of the 1940s.

You asked if I’ve ever had one. The answer is no, but by the time you read this, I assure you I will have.


Andy Griffith graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1949, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music. He originally attended school to study to be a Moravian preacher before changing his major.

Q. A local furniture store ran an ad promoting its line of bonded leather furniture. I haven’t heard the term “bonded leather” in a long time. What is it?

T.L., Mesa, Ariz.

A. Bonded leather is lower-cost upholstery material made by shredding leather scraps, mixing it with adhesives and placing it on a cloth, cardboard or paper backing before using it on a finished product, such as a chair or sofa. It is also called reconstituted leather or blended leather.

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

2014 Gary Clothier

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