Question: I came across the following on the Internet: "Denver lays claim to the invention of the cheeseburger. The trademark for the name 'cheeseburger' was awarded in 1935 to Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In. Ballast claimed to have come up with the idea while testing hamburger toppings." My question is, is this true? - M.S., St. Marys, Ohio
Answer: I called the Denver Tourist Board, and it's true! There is a plaque commemorating the site of the first cheeseburger at 2776 Speer Blvd.
Q: How did the term "to get fired" come about when you lose your job? - T.V., Payette, Idaho
A: There are several explanations. The one I like best goes that when the villagers wanted to get rid of someone, as in evict them from their village, they would burn down their house. Presumably the now-homeless person would get the hint that he was no longer wanted and would then move to another village.
Q: Basketball great Walt Frazier was nicknamed "Clyde." Why? - K.K., Middleboro, Mass.
A: He wore a wide-brim hat similar to one worn by Warren Beatty in the movie "Bonnie and Clyde." Frazier played with the New York Knicks (1967-77) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (1977-80). He was inducted into basketball's Hall of Fame in 1987.
Q: Who was Jethro Tull of the band of the same name? - H.B., Montrose, Colo.
A: One of the co-founders of the band, Ian Anderson, explains that in the early days, their band was not very good. In order to get rebooked into clubs, they changed their name every week. Finally they were asked to return right after playing one gig; they happened to be Jethro Tull that week and had to stay with the name. The original Jethro Tull was an 18th century agriculturalist and inventor. It is said of the person Jethro Tull (1674-1741) that he helped the British Agricultural Revolution succeed.
Q: In an English newspaper headline, there was a story about "twitchers." What are twitchers? - E.B., Melbourne, Fla.
A: The British version of dedicated bird-watchers. My dictionary says the word is not synonymous with bird watcher but a special breed dedicated to sightings of rare birds.
Q: Do you have any idea what John Lennon's middle name was? When and where was he born? - U.G., Waycross, Ga.
A: John Winston Lennon was born in Liverpool on Oct. 9, 1940. However, after his marriage to Yoko Ono in 1969, he changed his name to John Ono Lennon. On Dec. 9, 1980, the former Beatle was assassinated by Mark Chapman outside The Dakota apartment building. Lennon was shot four times.
Q: When the United Nations celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1995, there were 185 members. Has that number changed? Who was the most recent nation to join? - D.W., Elk Horn, Iowa
A: The U.N. was founded in 1945 with 51 members. There are now 193 member states. The last new member was South Sudan, which joined in 2011.
Q: A historical novel I'm reading refers to Fort Dallas. I, of course, assume we are in Texas, but turns out it is in Florida. Is the author correct? - S.I.L., Brookhaven, Miss.
A: Fort Dallas was established in 1836 along the banks of the Miami River in what is now downtown Miami, Fla.
Q: In the 1980s, Tom Hanks' first starring role was a TV show called "Bosom Buddies." What was his character's name and who was his buddy? - Y.J.
A: The show aired from 1980 to 1982, with Hanks playing Kip/Buffy Wilson, while Peter Scolari played the role of Henry/Hildegarde Desmond. Scolari went on to play Michael Harris on "Newhart," while Hanks established himself quite well.
Q: The "Miracle on Ice" refers to when a bunch of American college ice hockey players defeated the powerful Soviet Union team during the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. What was the score? What was the date of the game? - T.J., Willmar, Minn.
A: On Feb. 22, 1980, the U.S. defeated the Soviet Union 4-3.
Q: Ty Cobb played in three World Series. How many did his team win, and how many home runs did he hit? - C.V., El Dorado, Ark.
A: The answer to both questions is zero. His Detroit Tigers lost to the Chicago Cubs in 1907 and 1908, while the following year, they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates. His batting average for those three series was 0.262.
Q: When President Ronald Reagan left office, he moved to a multi-million-dollar ranch. I recall that a request was made to the post office for a new house number. Why? - R.J., Scottsbluff, Neb.
A: The ranch was located at 666 St. Cloud Dr. in the wealthy Bel-Air district of Los Angeles. Many believe that 666 is the number of Satan, so Reagan had his friends send mail to 668 St. Cloud Dr.
Q: Suspenders have made a strange evolution from becoming practical to chic. How long have they been holding up the britches of men in the world? - W.J., Somerset, Ken.
A: Suspenders have been around in some fashion for many years, but Albert Thurston manufactured the first modern versions in the 1820s in England - they were known there as "braces." Author Samuel Clemens (you might know him as Mark Twain) received a patent for them in 1871.
Q: The Great Pyramid of Cheops was the tallest man-made structure in the world for thousands of years. Which structure made it the second tallest building? - I.L., Refugio, Texas
A: At 481 feet tall, the Great Pyramid of Giza - it is known by both names - was the world's tallest structure for more than 3,800 years. Then, in 1889, the Eiffel Tower was completed, standing at 1,063 feet tall, making it the world's tallest man-made structure at the time.
Q: I was in an international grocery store and saw a package of Bombay duck. What is it? - Y.C., Prince Frederick, Md.
A: Bombay duck is actually dried, salted fish. Indian cooks use it as flavoring. It's also a snack food. How it got its name, no one knows.
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, a team for which he'd play 14 seasons.
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.
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