Friday, March 30, 2012


General George Armstrong Custer was very famous, mostly because of the way he got killed by all those Indians at the Battle of Little Bighorn.  Some people think he was a hero, and other people think he was an arrogant fool who got what was coming to him.  I used to mostly think he was an arrogant fool, but then I found out that he really, really loved dogs.  So that made me like him a little better.

During the war, with Rose, his setter

Mr. Custer was born on December 5, 1839, in New Rumley, Ohio.  He grew up in Michigan, and then he went to West Point.  He graduated last in his class, but this was not because he was stupid.  Mostly it was because he kept getting demerits for playing pranks on the other cadets.  Usually, a person who graduated last in his class would not get very far in the military, but the Civil War was just starting, so every officer was needed, and right away Custer got put in charge of a Michigan cavalry brigade.

Cadet George A. Custer

Lieutenant Custer had a very aggressive way of fighting.  He scouted the area completely and planned out his strategy carefully.  Then he led his troops into battle in a bold way, without worrying about his own safety.  Usually, he won the battles he fought, and by the end of the war, he had been promoted to the temporary rank of major general.  After the war, his permanent rank was reduced to captain.

On February 9, 1864, Brevet Brigadier General Custer married Elizabeth Bacon, who was called Libby by her friends and family.  They loved each other very much, and she always went with her husband to military posts whenever she was allowed to.

George and Libby Custer, 1864

At the end of the war, Captain Custer took a leave from the cavalry and thought about some other types of work, such as in railroads or mining.  But he decided these were boring, and so he got appointed lieutenant colonel of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment.  This regiment was brand-new, and it was formed with the purpose of keeping peace with the Indians on the frontier -- mainly by making sure the Indians stayed on the reservations where they had been put.  The 7th Cavalry was headquartered at Ft. Riley, Kansas.

Okay, so that's enough military stuff.  Now I'm going to tell you about the Custers' dogs, because both General and Mrs. Custer really loved dogs.  During the Civil War, General Custer almost always had dogs around his headquarters.  He liked to throw sticks for them and roll around in the grass with them.  He shared his bed and his food with them.  And when one of his favorite dogs died, people saw General Custer crying in public.

General Fitz-John Porter's staff, 1862

After the war, in 1865, the Custers were stationed in Texas for a while, and the general got interested in the hounds that the Texas planters used for hunting deer.  Back then, these hounds were called "staghounds," but now we call them Scottish deerhounds.

Soon the Custers had a pack of 5 hounds, then 9, and by the time they moved to Austin in November, they had 23.  At its biggest point, the pack had 80 dogs in it, mostly because General Custer could not bear to part with any of the puppies.

In the summer of 1866, the Custers moved to Ft. Riley with all their dogs and horses.  Mrs. Custer later wrote this in a book about their life at the fort:

"The dogs would be aroused from the deepest sleep at the very sight of our riding costumes, and by the time we were well into them and whip in hand, they leaped and sprang about the room, tore out on the gallery, and tumbled over one another and the furniture in racing back, and such a din of barking and joyful whining as they set up--the noisier the better for my husband." 

At Ft. Riley 1866

Whenever the 7th Cavalry left the fort, General Custer took some of his dogs along so that he could use them for hunting.  The ones that stayed behind with Mrs. Custer were good companions and protectors for her.  The type of hunting that the hounds did was called "coursing," which is hunting by sight, and then chasing the animal until it is caught (or gets away).  General Custer used his dogs to course antelope, jack rabbits, and even bison.

Buffalo hunt with staghounds.
Bloody Knife, Custer's favorite scout, is at left.

During the summer of 1869, the 7th Cavalry camped at Big Creek, which is about two miles east of Ft. Hays, Kansas.  Mrs. Custer and all the dogs were able to join the group there.  These dogs seemed to be always hungry.  Here's how Mrs. Custer described them:

"The air of Kansas was so pure that we had no difficulty in keeping meat; but our trial was the rapacity of the dogs. They always seemed to be caverns, and at no hour could we eat without being surrounded by a collection of canines of all ages, which turned up their large appealing eyes to us, contesting in this pathetic manner every mouthful we took. In order to save the buffalo-meat from their tremendous leaps, as they were great thieves, it had to be strung far up in a tree, and let down by ropes when the meat for dinner was to be cut off. By violent "shooing," scolding, and throwing of sticks at the waiting dogs, Eliza cut what was needed, and swung the rest back to its safe height." 

Sometimes the dogs went out hunting for their own meals, but the Custers also cooked for them.  And what they made was a big kettle full of mush, boiled with meat, bones, and grease.  This sounds pretty yummy, if you ask me, and I wish I could have been there to eat some of it.

The 7th Cavalry

In the spring of 1873, the 7th Cavalry moved to the Dakotas.  While they were traveling there in a train, one of the Custers' dogs, Lulu, had a litter of 9 puppies.  A little later, she jumped off the train, and no one could find her.  Then a blizzard came along, and all the puppies froze, plus 11 adult dogs.  After that, the regiment went across the plains on foot, and the dogs kept getting cactus thorns in their feet.  Finally, the Custers made leather mittens for the dogs' feet to keep the thorns out.

The Custers at Ft. Lincoln

The Cavalry was stationed at Fort Lincoln in the Dakotas.  When General Custer left there on May 17, 1876, he took a few dogs with him, as usual.  They curled up beside him when he was in his tent planning out strategy, and sometimes they stood guard outside his tent at night.

On the morning of June 25, 1876, the dogs were kept behind with the pack train when the troops rode out.  Of course, that was the day of "Custer's Last Stand," as it was called later.  There are a lot of different ideas about how General Custer actually died and who killed him.  No one knows exactly what happened to his dogs after that, except for one dog named Cardigan, that Mrs. Custer gave to a friend of the general's.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Telomians are a rare breed of dog from Malaysia.  Well, they're not rare in Malaysia, but you don't often see them anyplace else.  Telomians are the only type of native Malaysian dog to live outside the country.  As you can see from looking at the pictures, telomians look sort of like basenjis.  Some scientists think that this breed is the missing link between dingos and basenjis.

These dogs were first bred by the Orang Asli people of Malaysia to hunt vermin.  The Orang Asli build all of their houses on stilts because there are too many scary things on the ground at night, such as snakes, scorpions, poisonous insects, army ants, and hungry animals.  So the telomians have learned to climb the ladders into the houses, where they can be safe, too.

One thing that's really strange is that even though the Malayan natives bred these dogs and kept them around, they also believed that dogs were unlucky.  They thought that dogs secretly wished their masters were dead, which meant that dogs could not be trusted.  If a person saw a feral dog, that was especially unlucky because a feral dog was actually an evil spirit.

Malaysia is the light orange country
In case you are like me, and you get confused about all those nations in the Pacific that are made up of a bunch of islands and other chunks of land that don't even touch each other, here is a map of Malaysia.  The telomian dogs are from the peninsula part of the country.

The first Westerner who discovered the telomian was Dr. Orville Eliot, in 1963.  He named the dogs for the Sungai Telom Valley, which is where he found them.  Dr. Eliot brought a pair of the dogs to the United States, and before long, some people started breeding them.  The Telomian Dog Club was founded in 1970.

Telomians are fairly small dogs that weigh between 18 and 28 pounds.  They are 15-18 inches tall and have kind of a long back.  In color, they can be fawn-and-white, black-and-white, or black-and-tan.  Telomians have blue tongues, just like chow chows.  The bitches only go into heat once a year, just like dingos, New Guinea Singing Dogs, and basenjis.  Usually this happens in September or October.

Telomians make good family pets because they like to play with kids.  They are also smart, so they learn commands quickly.  Also, they like to hunt and climb.  Telomians make a kind of howling sound, like basenjis and New Guinea Singing Dogs do.

So anyway, now you know about telomians.  I think they are pretty cute, but not as cute as basenjis, of course!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Not too long ago, Mom went to a part of town called Blue Summit, and she had never been there before, so she drove around some, just to see what she could see.  And one thing she saw was an old brick schoolhouse that was made in the Art Deco style.  Mom took a couple of pictures of this school building, and when she got home, we looked the school up on the internet.  We were surprised to find out that there was quite a bit of information and that the school had an interesting history.

The name of this school was the John K. Stark School.  The Board of Education decided in 1927 that they would build a new school in the district because all the other schools were getting crowded.  So the Board bought a piece of land on top of a hill.  And this land had once belonged to Dr. John King Stark, who had purchased it in 1872 for his farm.  The first thing built on the land was a log cabin, and it was located about where the back door of the school is today.

Dr. Stark was born on April 21, 1828, in Springfield, KY.  He had a famous Stark relative who was a lieutenant in Connecticut during the Revolutionary War, and his parents were pioneer settlers in Kentucky. Dr. Stark learned to be a dentist by studying with somebody who was already a dentist.  This is the way people got a medical education in those days, since there weren't any medical schools.  In 1849, Dr. Stark moved to Independence, MO and started being a dentist there.  He was the first dentist ever to settle so far west.

In 1862, when the Civil War was just getting started, a group called Jennison's Band came to town and arrested Dr. Stark as a Southern sympathizer, which he was.  But some of his friends got him out of jail, and Dr. Stark, his wife, and their two children left Independence right away, that very same night.  They went to St. Louis, then to New York, and then they sailed to Havana on a U.S. mail packet.  After that, they went on a blockade runner boat to Mobile, Alabama.  They stayed there for a while, and then they went to Mexico, where Dr. Stark made a set of vulcanized rubber dental plates for the governor of Chihuahua.  These were the first dental plates of this type ever made in Mexico, and the governor paid $500 for them.

After the war, the Starks went back to St. Louis, where Mrs. Vestine Stark died.  Later, Dr. Stark returned to Kansas City.  He married a woman named Ellen, and they had a son.  By 1879, Dr. Stark's oldest son was also a dentist, and the two had a practice together.  The older Dr. Stark was one of the founders of the Dental Department of the Kansas City Medical College, and he was also the first dean of its faculty.

Dr. Stark liked to hunt and fish and ride horses.  He probably had that farm because he needed a place to keep his horses.  I think it would be hard to find time to be a farmer and also be a dentist, but things were different back in those days, so maybe he really did do some farming.  Everybody seemed to like Dr. Stark, and when he died on January 25, 1895, they said what a kind, courteous, generous, helpful, and honorable man he was.

Okay, so now that we know what a good man Dr. Stark was, we can understand why the Board of Education decided to name the new school after him.  When the cornerstone of the school was laid, on July 22, 1930, Dr. Stark's daughter, Mrs. Maud Guinotte, put the first trowel of cement on the stone.  The Kansas City Times said, "The setting for the school is regarded by school officials as one of the best in Jackson County.  It is on one of the highest spots in the vicinity and commands an excellent view of all four directions."  The school opened in September 1930, with only two rooms ready to be used.

The children who lived in the east part of the new district had trouble getting to school because of Rock Creek, which they had to cross.  So the Board of Education asked the Jackson County Court if one of the streets could be cut through and if a footbridge could be built across the creek.  But the people who lived over there in the eastern area told the Court they didn't want a bridge because they wanted to keep sending their kids to the same schools they had always sent them to.

In those days, the Presiding Judge of the County Court was a man named Harry S Truman.  Maybe you have heard of him.  Anyway, Judge Truman reported to the school board that "the proposed bridge had met with opposition, and that in addition there was not sufficient money in the bridge fund to build a substantial bridge."  So the John K. Stark School ended up not having as many students as the Board planned for it to have.  Which meant that only the first unit of the school was ever built, which cost $70,000, and the rest of the $325,000 that was meant to pay for the school building was never spent.

I found a list of school principals from 1930 to 1966, but I don't know if that is when the school closed or not.  After the John K. Stark school stopped being a public school, the building was sold and got used for several years by a private school called the Tri-City Christian School.

Inside the Stark School.  Photo by Corey Cassaw

Then the school sat there being empty for a long time.  In February, 2010, the Inter City Fire Protection District thought about making the building into an administrative and training center.  They were going to use the 3-story part of the building and ask some community groups to remodel other areas for meetings, recreation, and maybe senior citizen housing.  The architect said it would take at least $4.4 million to restore the building.

In the end, the Fire Protection District decided not to buy the school because if it turned out the building couldn't be saved, the sale of the land by itself wouldn't cover the cost of the demolition.  And that is why the school is still sitting there, looking sad and lonely and abandoned.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


It has been raining here for 3 days and 3 nights, so I keep thinking maybe Mom needs to build us an ark like the kind that Noah had.  Of course, it wouldn't have to be as big as Noah's ark.  I think if it was just big enough to save me and Mom and my brother dogs and our cats and maybe all the basenjis in the world, that would be plenty big enough.  But Mom says she is not into boat-building, and besides, she thinks it will stop raining soon.

Edward Hicks, 1846

You probably know the story about Noah, but in case you don't, here's how it happened.  A long, long time ago, like maybe 4,500 years ago, God got angry because of all the bad and wicked people in the world, so He decided to make a flood and wash them all away.  But Noah was a good guy, so God told Noah that he and his family would get saved from the flood.  But first, Noah had to build a great big boat called an "ark," and he had to bring lots of animals into the ark, like one pair of every kind of animal, and seven pairs of every clean animal.

Paul Alexandre John

When God said "clean animal," He didn't mean an animal that had had a bath.  What He meant was an animal that was kosher to eat.  But I don't want to get into the rules of keeping kosher, because that is a whole different subject.

Nuremberg Chronicles

Anyway, Noah made the ark, and he put all the animals on it, plus food for them and for his family.  Then the rain started, and it rained for 40 days and 40 nights.  And the water got so deep that it even covered up the mountains.  And after the water started going down, the ark got stuck on top of Mount Ararat, which is in the country that we now call Turkey.

Mount Ararat

Finally, after several months, the flood water all went away, and the ground dried out.  Then everybody came out of the ark and started to make babies to repopulate the earth.  God told Noah that He would not make any more big floods like that, and to show that He was serious about this promise, He made a rainbow in the sky.

Italian agate, late 16th century

So that's how the story goes, and some people believe that it happened exactly that way, but other people think that it's more of a legend.  Anyway, the people who think that Noah was a real man who built a real ark have been trying to find the ark for a long time, and guess what!  They finally think they found it.  Well, actually, they have said several different times that they found it, but this latest time might be the real thing.

Possible location of ark on Mt. Ararat

Here's a picture of the place where Noah's ark maybe landed at the end of the flood.  As you can see, this shape is very much like a boat shape.  Also there were some some buried, fossilized wood compartments that the archeologists found.  All of this was about 13,000 feet above sea level, on Mt. Ararat.  The group that says they found the ark is called Noah's Ark Ministries International, and they say they are 99.9 percent sure that the structure they found is the ark.

Buried wood structure

But other scientists say the wood is not old enough to be from the time of Noah, so the structure must be something else.  Also, some people say that Noah and his family would have used the wood from the ark to build houses after the flood because all the trees would have been destroyed.

Eric Dowdle

Of course, another question is whether the ark could have really held that many animals for that long a time.  And what made the wolves not eat the rabbits?  Or why didn't the lions eat Noah?  I guess if you believe the story, then you believe that God made everybody live in peace on the ark, because that is the only way it could have really worked out, at least in my opinion.

Aaron Douglas

Anyway, it turns out that lots of artists have made pictures with Noah's ark in them.  And besides that, some people have even built real arks, using the same measurements that God gave Noah.  One ark that got built was in the Netherlands, and it was made by a man named Johan Huibers.  Except that this ark is only about half the width and one-third the length of Noah's.  And the reason Mr. Huibers made his ark smaller was because he wanted to be able to fit through canals and rivers and under bridges, and that way he could go all over Europe in his ark.

Johan Huibers' replica ark

Another ark was built in Hong Kong by three billionaire brothers named Kwok.  This ark is the same true size of Noah's.  But it's not meant to sail around.  Instead, it's a luxury hotel.  Which I guess means that there are real bedrooms to stay in, and not just horse stalls.

Replica ark in Hong Kong

So getting back to all the rain we are having here, I still feel kind of nervous about it, and I wish Mom would build us an ark.  But she keeps saying she won't even consider doing it, and sometimes there is just no arguing with Mom!

Why the unicorns went extinct

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Here are some more of those real and true quotes that Mom heard somebody say or that she read somewhere.  I hope you will think they are entertaining, and just remember:  I am not making these up!

We took her to the vet and found out that something was obstructing her bowls.

I felt the limit had crossed the line.

Maybe I'm beating a dead horse to death.

It's just money in their ever ending pocket.

Sign on thrift store shelf:  Brick and Brack

I am in up to my earbrows.

After playing, the dogs decided to take a sunbatch.

This is unbelievable, but sadly it's believable and true.

Children are like a beautiful flower garden.  
You should polish them every day.

He held a charity drive to collect furniture for the homeless.

Monday, March 19, 2012


If you've been around cats much, you might have noticed that they make a strange noise that sounds like there is a little lawn mower inside them, except that there isn't.  If you want my opinion, as a dog, there is really no need to make this noise.  Cats can already growl and hiss and meow, so why do they think they need to purr, too?

I was both annoyed and curious about this, so I decided to do a little research on the topic, and here's what I found out.  First of all, nobody is even totally sure how cats purr, even though scientists have been trying to figure it out for years.  This is the latest theory I was able to find:  It all starts in the cat brain, where something called a "neural oscillator" sends messages to the muscles around the vocal cords, and that makes them vibrate between 25 and 150 times every second.  This happens while a cat is breathing in and also breathing out, so the purring just goes on without having to stop for the cat to take a breath.  A process like this seems like it would be hard to learn, but cats are born somehow already knowing the way to do it.  Which is one of the things that makes them sort of spooky and mysterious.

Anyway, now we will talk about why cats purr.  Most people think it is all about cats' being happy when people pet them, but my research shows that it's not quite that simple.  Cats also purr when they are in pain or when they are giving birth or when they are scared or when they are dying.  So it's not just about being happy.

To me, it seems like cats purr as a kind of "calming signal," which is what dogs do when they are trying to show another dog or a person that they are not a threat.  Dogs might do this by yawning or turning their heads to the side.  But cats seem to do it by purring.  Which would explain why cats purr at the vet's office, where they are very nervous, and the vet can't even hear their heartbeat because of the loud purring.  Cats also purr for humans to show that they are friendly and that they might like to be petted or fed some yummy food.

And I am guessing that the purring noise also calms the cat itself, besides calming other cats or kittens or humans.  But guess what else purring does:  it can actually help heal a cat!  Scientists have figured out that sounds in the frequency of the cat's purr can make bones get stronger.  So this might be why cats don't have hip dysplasia and some of the other bone and joint problems that dogs have.

Cats like to sleep a lot, as you might know, and if they are sleeping so much, their bones can lose density, but if a cat purrs while it is sleeping, it keeps its bones from getting all soft and breakable.  This is important information for scientists who work with astronauts, because when astronauts are up in space for a long time without gravity, their bones lose their density.  So if astronauts could learn to purr, they might not have this problem.  Well, I say, good luck getting astronauts to purr!  Hahahaha!

Anyway, that's pretty much what I learned about why cats purr.  But I think the most important reason of all wasn't even mentioned in my research, which is that purring is the cat's secret weapon against dogs in the battle to win the love of humans.  And sadly, it seems to be working.  So many people have been fooled into thinking that cats like them, just because cats sit in their laps and purr, that now there are more cats than dogs as pets in the U.S.  Which just isn't right, if you ask me!

Saturday, March 17, 2012


It's St. Patrick's Day, and you know what that means:  it's time for me to write about an Irish dog breed!  So this year I picked the Irish Setter.  When Mom was a kid, she really wanted to have an Irish Setter, but she didn't get one.  Later on, she decided she wanted a German Shepherd, but she didn't get one of those either.  In fact, she didn't get any dog at all while she was growing up.  But I think maybe I told you that before.

Anyway, about Irish Setters.  They are hunting dogs, and what they hunt is mostly birds such as pheasants, quail, and grouse.  The Setter finds the birds by scent, and when it finds one, it sort of crouches down and holds the position to show the hunter where the bird is hiding.  Irish Setters can hunt well in any sort of terrain or weather.  They don't seem to mind getting wet, which means they are good at hunting in wetlands, as well as on moors and other such drier places.

Irish Setters are very energetic dogs, so they need lots of exercise, and if you can give them a job to do, that's a good thing, too.  Besides hunting, Setters have also been used for tracking, retrieving, agility, competitive obedience, and as therapy dogs.  They are playful, affectionate, and the breed standard says they should have a "rollicking" temperament.  Setters can be mischievous, independent, and stubborn, but they are also very intelligent and learn quickly, if you use positive training methods.  They love children and other dogs, but they might not do well with smaller animals such as cats.

The coat of an Irish Setter is long and silky, and it needs to be brushed pretty often to keep mats out of it.  There is a thick undercoat in winter, with a finer top coat.  Also, the coat is feathery in places like the ears, tail, chest, legs, and body.  Setters are usually between 25 and 27 inches tall.  The males weigh 60-70 pounds, and the females weigh 53-64 pounds.  These dogs have deep chests and small waists.

There are two types of Irish Setter.  One is the field type, which is bred for hunting and field trial work.  The other type is bred for showing.  The field dogs are usually a little smaller and have shorter coats.  Also they are even more energetic than the Irish Setter show dogs.

All the way back in 1570, a man named Caius wrote a book in Latin about dogs, and he was the first to talk about a sort of spaniel that was a "setting dog" or "setter."  People must have liked dogs that hunted in this way, because they started breeding them selectively.  By the early 18th century, the Irish had started developing their very own type of setter by mixing Irish terriers, Irish Water Spaniels, English Setters, Pointers, and Gordon Setters.

When these dogs first came to the U.S., they were red-and-white, and they had shorter legs than the modern Irish Setter.  During the 19th century, the white markings were mostly all bred out, and the breed now has a solid chestnut or mahogany coat.  A tiny bit of white is allowed on the chest, throat, toes, and in a thin streak on top the head, but there's not supposed to be any black.

An Irish Setter usually lives to be 12 to 14 years old.  Health problems for the breed can include bloat, epilepsy, severe skin allergies, elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, auto-immune disease, ear infections, and eye problems such as PRA.

If you live in an apartment, you should probably not get an Irish Setter.  And even if you have a fairly big yard, you should plan on taking your Setter out for a brisk walk most days.  People who want a guard dog should maybe think about a different breed, because Irish Setters are so friendly that they just greet everybody and let them come on in the house.  But other than that, they make good pets, if you don't mind having a lot of dog hair in your house.  Black-and-white dog hair would be the best kind to have, but I have to admit that Irish-Setter-colored hair is kind of pretty, too.

Friday, March 16, 2012



This means using more words than necessary to say what you are saying.  And the extra words you use aren't needed, because they mean the same thing as some of the other words that you already used.  So in other words, you are being redundant.  Pleonasm rhymes with "ectoplasm," and it comes from some Latin and Greek words that mean "to be excessive."  The first known use of the word pleonasm was in 1610.

Here's an example from a book called The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler:  "Beyond the garage were some decorative trees trimmed as carefully as poodle dogs."  The phrase "poodle dogs" is pleonasm because a poodle IS a dog, so you don't need to say "poodle dog."

Another example was written by William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar, when Caesar says, "This was the most unkindest cut of all."

But guess what, there are pleonasms that we use all the time and don't even notice we are doing it, such as saying "common bond" or "safe haven" or "combined total."  And there are some legal terms that are pleonasms, like for instance "null and void" or "terms and conditions" or "cease and desist."

So if you want to be really exact in your writing or speaking, you should avoid pleonasms.  But sometimes it can actually be helpful to use pleonastic phrases because the repetition can help get your meaning across.  Also, it can make your ideas clearer, because if the listener or reader didn't understand or hear the first word, he might get the second one.


If you pull up a plant by its roots and throw it away, you are extirpating it.  You can also extirpate your hair, or if you are a surgeon, you can extirpate a body part.  So to extirpate means to uproot or cut out or destroy completely or do away with.  Sometimes I would like to extirpate all fleas and mosquitoes and flies.  There are probably some other things that could use a good extirpation, but I will have to think about what they are and tell you later.

The origin of this word is from the Latin exstirpatus, the past participle of exstirpare, which means to root out.  The first record of the word being used in English was in 1535.


I think this word sounds ugly when you say it, and it turns out that if you have pruritis, you have a really bad itch, which is kind of ugly, too.  There are lots of different reasons why you might be itchy, including eosinophilic granuloma complex, which is what our little kittens probably have.  They are so itchy that they have scratched a lot of the hair out on their heads and necks.  Which makes them look ugly, like little baby birds that don't have any feathers yet.

When I was learning about pruritis, I found out that there are a bunch of different types of itches that you can get from doing different kinds of jobs.  For example, there's bakers' itch, barbers' itch, grain itch, grocers' itch, ground itch, jock itch, swimmers' itch and winter itch.  These forms of pruritis are caused by things like mites and insect larvae and yucky stuff like that.  All I can say is that I'm really glad Mom put our Frontline on us yesterday to keep us from getting fleas and ticks!


This word started out as the Old French word trenchant, which was the present participle of trenchier, which meant "to cut."  Then the people who spoke Middle English started using the word, too, but they spelled it tranchaunt.  This was in the period of about 1276 to 1325.  Anyway, as you might have guessed, the word trench come from this same Old French word.

So what we mean nowadays by trenchant is something that is keen, incisive, effective, clear-cut, hard-hitting, or searching.  Trenchant used to be used to describe something that was really sharp, such as a sword, but now that meaning is mostly archaic or poetic.


Jingoism is a kind of patriotism that is very fierce, sort of like a guard dog defending his territory.  People who are jingoists think that their country is better than any other country, and they will go to war to prove the point.

The word started out in Great Britain during the time of the Russo-Turkish War, which lasted from 1877 until 1878.  In those days, people sat around in pubs and music halls, and they sang a song that had this chorus:

     We don't want to fight,
            but by Jingo if we do,
     We've got the ships, we've got the men,
               we've got the money too,
     We've fought the Bear before,
           and while we're Britons true,
     The Russians shall not have Constantinople.

So in this song, the words "by Jingo" are what's called a "minced oath," to avoid saying "by Jesus."  A well-known British radical named George Holyoake wrote a letter to the Daily News on March 13, 1878, and he was the first one to use the term "jingoism."  Pretty soon, lots of people in Great Britain were using the word, and later it also got popular in the U.S.

The first American to be accused of jingoism was President Theodore Roosevelt.  In October of 1895, he told the New York Times that "There is much talk about 'jingoism.'  If by 'jingoism' they mean a policy in pursuance of which Americans will with resolution and common sense insist upon our rights being respected by foreign powers, then we are 'jingoes'."

It's kind of sad that word jingo has come to mean somebody who is so aggressive and nationalistic, because "Jingo" would be a good name for a dog or cat, but I don't think it's good to have a pet that sounds so territorial.  So if I were you, I'd use a name like Bingo or Ringo or even Dingo instead!