Ask Mr. Know It All

Q. I was watching a mystery show on TV, and the lead detective said, “Issue a BOLO.” I have no idea what BOLO stands for. Do you know?

A. Be On the Look Out.

Q. I thought I’d heard of a movie being filmed about the life of an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by the Japanese during World War II. What became of the film?

A. You’re thinking of “Unbroken,” the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner in Japan during World War II. The film is based on the book of the same name written by Laura Hillenbrand, who also wrote “Seabiscuit.” The film’s script was written in part by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, and Angelina Jolie directed the movie. “Unbroken” will be released Christmas Day.

Q. You listed “screeched” as the longest one-syllable word. How about “strengths”?


A. Looks good to me!

Q. In the late 1970s or early 1980s, actress Lindsay Wagner was somehow involved in a commercial airline crash. Do you know the details?

A. Wagner was scheduled for American Airlines Flight 191 out of Chicago to Los Angeles on May 25, 1979. She had a premonition about the flight and decided not to go. Minutes after takeoff, the plane crashed, killing all 271 people on board and two people on the ground.

Q. I took a couple of side trips while I was in Philadelphia. I enjoyed the Pennsylvania Dutch country and brought several things home, including a lot of wonderful memories. I’m curious about the hex signs found on many barns; “hex” means “six,” so what does six have to do with witchcraft?

A. Absolutely nothing. According to one school of thought, the word “hex” comes from the German “hexen,” which is related to the German “hexe,” meaning “witch.” However, the term “hex sign” is relatively new, not even 100 years old, and was possibly created by an author of Pennsylvania sights when he reported at least one farmer called them “hexefoos.” Before this time there was no standardized term, and many farmers simply called the signs “blumme” or “schtanne” (meaning “flowers” or “stars”).

Though some view the signs as a talisman, many consider them decorative.


Dean Martin is said to have had a fear of elevators and was a lover of comic books. He read comic books his entire life.

Q. In the late 1950s, a jar of peanut butter was dropped off at my house and every other house on the street. What was the brand name? We always used Skippy peanut butter, even after this promotion.

F.O., Fort Worth, Texas

A. In 1958, Procter & Gamble introduced Jif Creamy Peanut Butter with a massive, nationwide door-to-door distribution of sample-size jars. The J.M. Smucker Co. purchased Jif in 2001. Jif is made at a facility in Lexington, Ky.

Jif’s main rival, Skippy peanut butter, was introduced in 1933. It is the best-selling brand of peanut butter in China, and second only to Jif worldwide.

Q. In the novel I’m reading, the family’s only child is sent to a “comprehensive school.” There is no indication what it was. What type of school is this?

M.B.J., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

A. A comprehensive school is one that does not select its students based on academic achievement, much like the public school system in the United States. In contrast, selective schools base student enrollment on academic achievement. The term is commonly used in England and Wales, where that type of school system was introduced in 1965.


The oldest son of Jerry Lewis, Gary Lewis, and his rock group, Gary Lewis and The Playboys, had several pop hits in the 1960s, including “This Diamond Ring.”

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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