Q & A

The following are taken from a column entitled "Q & A",
printed daily by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Q: The ides of March just passed. What exactly does "ides" mean?

A: The earliest Roman calendar organized its months around three days, each of which served as a reference point for counting the other days: kalends (first day of the month); nones (the seventh day in March, May, July and October ; the fifth day in the other months); and ides (15th day in March, May, July and Octover; the 13th day in the other months).
    The remaining, unamed days of the month were identified by counting backward from the kalends, nones or the ides. For example, March 3 would be V nones - five days before the nones. The Roman method of counting days was inclusive; in other words, the nones would be counted as one of the five days.
    The ides of March, on which Julius Caesar was assassinated, was March 15.
Q: What is the legal term (I believe it is Latin) that means the state can't prosecute someone for an act that is criminalized by a later law? What is the legal basis for this law?

A: The Latin phrase to which you refer is "ex post facto." In other words, the state can't declare an action criminal after it was committed. This prohibition applies at the federal, state and local level because the founding fathers wrote it into the U.S. Constitution in Article 1, Section 9.
Q: What is the origin of the term "wisdom teeth"?

A: The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins says these molars usually are cut when a person is between 17 and 25, but in some cases occur a decade or two afterward.
Because they come in so much later than other teeth, they have known as dentes sapientiae, or "teeth of wisdom", since the time of Hippocrates.
Q: The recent death of Ann Landers was reported in great detail, but after reading all the articles, I'm utterly confused about her real name and that of her twin sister. What were their birth names?

A: No wonder you're confused. They played the twin roles to the hilt.
    Esther Pauline Friedman was the birth name of the woman who wrote under the name Ann Landers. Pauline Esther Friedman was the birth name of the woman who wrote as Abigail Van Buren ("Dear Abby").
    On July 2, 1939, two days before their 21st birthday, the twins were married in a double wedding ceremony. Esther was married to Jules Lederer, Pauline to Morton Phillips. They went on a double honeymoon.
    The pseudonyms came later, when they began writing advice columns. Their nicknames, by the way, were less confusing. Esther Pauline was called Eppie, and Pauline Esther was call Popo.
Q: How long do MIL Specs last?

A: How Mil Specs Live Forever
The US Standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exeedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and the US railroads were built by English expatriates.
Why did the English people build them like that? Because the first rail lines were build by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.
Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways use the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
Okay! Why did the wagons use that odd wheeling spacing? Well if they tried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old, long distance roads, because that's the spacing of the old wheel ruts. So who built these old rutted roads?
The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts? Which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made for or by Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.
Thus, we have the answer to the original questions. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification (Military Spec) for an Imperial Roman war chariot.
          Mil Specs and Bureaucracies live forever.
So, the next time you are handed an specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide enough to accommodate the back-ends of two war horses.
Smiley Face