Alma Mater: We go back to medieval times to find the origin of this term as applied to schools and colleges. A statue of Mary, mother of Christ, over the portals of a university in Germany was known as Alma Mater, fostering mother, and was applied to the school by its students. Later the term was adopted by all students and applied to their schools. Automobile Tire: An automobile tire is so named because in the early days it was considered "attire" or covering for a wheel. Basketball: The first game was played by members of the YMCA Training College at Springfield, Massachusetts, on January 20, 1892, a few days after their coach, Dr. James A. Naismith, invented the rules. The game was mainly a scheme to sop up athletic energies between the ending of the football and the beginning of the baseball seasons. The original goals were peach baskets. Players climbed a ladder to retrieve the ball. Pro basketball was played in 1898. The center jump after each goal was eliminated a quarter-century ago to cut down the advantage of sevenfooters. Bonfire: When wars and pestilence ravaged England during the Middle Ages, fires for the burning of corpses were daily necessities. They were called fires of bone or "bonefires." When the custom of burning heretics at the stake became common, the same term was applied to pyres of these unfortunate victims. Later, open-air fires were given the same name, but by this time a less gruesome spelling was adopted. Boycott: In Ireland, during the 1880's, there was a land agent for an English nobleman by the name of Captain Boycott. He must have been a pretty mean character. His harsh methods of collecting rents, and immediate eviction of those unable to pay, soon resulted in the hatred and enmity of all tenants. Thereupon the tenants and their friends devised a method of ostracism to meet the conditions. Servants and laborers refused to work for Captain Boycott; shopkeepers avoided selling him; blacksmiths would not shoe his horses; and passers-by on the street wouldn't even nod to him. Shunned by everybody, his life became unbearable, and he was forced to leave the country, a ruined and embittered man. With a deeper and more personal connotation than "ostracize" or "excommunication," boycott was immediately accepted into the English language as a needed word and newspapers soon were printing it without a capital letter. That is the way it is printed today. Bribe: This word once meant "an honest scrap of bread," and its late Latin form was briba. The French borrowed it and used it in the sense of "a lump of bread" or "leavings of meals," or something that might be given to beggars. But its meaning degenerated morally while acquiring greater importance financially. When it first came into English it meant "a gifted begged;" subsequently, "a present." In modern use the "present" frequently is a large amount of money and its purpose is to corrupt a person in a position of trust. Cap and Gown: The general use of caps and hats in Europe came in the year 1449, when Charles VII of France entered Rouen. When the cap was of velvet, it was called mortier; when it was wool, it was called bonnet. None but kings, princes and knights were allowed to use the mortier. The cap, which was round, was used as a headdress by the clergy and graduates. When the people began wearing the cap, the students changed the round cap to a square one, and it became a symbol that they had acquired full liberty and were no longer subject to the rod of their superiors. Cartoon: These numerous drawings were first made n France and drawn on pasteboard. Pasteboard in French is cartone. This, in English, became cartoon. Chairman: The word chairman or the phrase "taking the chair" comes from the furnishings or customs of the time when the master of the house and his lady were the only ones who owned or occupied chairs. The rest of the household, although it shared a community dining table, sat on stools or at a lower level. A guest of consequence was honored by being invited to "take the chair." Christmas: There are several apparent sources for the word Christmas. To the early Christians, birthdays were a pagan custom. It was unthinkable to celebrate one's own birthday, much less the birthday of Christ. It was sacrilege even to suggest that a Divine Being had birthday. In the next 300 years this attitude began to change, and in 354 A.D. the Bishop of Rome declared December 25 to be the anniversary of the birth of Christ. The word was derived from the Greco-Latin words christos, meaning "anointed," and mass, meaning "to send." These two words taken together developed into the Old English Cristes Maesse, or "Christ's Mass" denoting the Incarnation. This derivative has been found to be used as early as 1038. The abbreviation Xmas had its origin in the fact that the Greek letter chi was written as an "X." Christmas Cards: In 1843, Henry Cole of London dreamed up the idea of sending a Christmas greeting card to his friends, and originated the first Christmas card. It as a three-panel card showing a family party in the center. The side panels depicted the old tradition of feeding and clothing the needy. The wording, "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year," has never been surpassed. The idea caught on and by 1860 several greeting card firms had sprung up in England. In the middle 1870's, Louis Prang of Boston entered the field with religious cards. Christmas Tree: There are many legends as to the origin of the Christmas tree. Reports have it that it first appeared in Strassburg, Germany, in 1608, and the custom was kept along the Rhine for 208 years and then spread over all Germany. Other reports have it that the basic idea of the Christmas tree goes back to medieval German mystery plays, most popular of which concerned the sin of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from paradise. These plays were most often performed in the open, on large squares in front of churches, or in the church itself. On such occasions a large fir tree, decorated with apples, was used to represent the Garden of Eden. When the plays were performed inside the church the tree was surrounded by lighted candles. The tree later became popular in the home when mystery plays were no longer performed. Curfew: Literally, "cover the fire," from the French couvre le feu. The peasants of France, during the Middle Ages, were required to cover or extinguish their fires at night, a bell being rung to notify them of the exact time this was to be done. The Normans, when conquering England, extended the meaning of the bell as a signal for all citizens to leave the streets and public places and return to their homes. Dark Horse: This term, now used in politics for a candidate brought forth at the last moment, had its beginning on the race track. It seems that a Sam Flynn of Tennessee had a coal black horse named Dusky Pete. Short of funds, or means of transportation, Flynn actually rode his horse from town to town, track to track. While Dusky Pete was sluggish when coming into town, he invariably snapped out o his apparent stupor on the track and won a great many races. Dixie: Here too, the origin of this affectionate nickname for the southern part of the United States is confused and lost in varied legend. There are those who think it stems from the Mason-Dixon line, which was originally established in 1763 to settle a dispute between the lord proprietors Baltimore and Penn. The names of the surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, were applied to the line which was marked by milestones. This line later marked the boundaries f the free and slave states. EtiquetteThe original meaning of the word etiquette is "ticket" or "label." The French royal court was once noted for its elaborate functions and for the strict rules of behavior at them. Tickets were given to persons invited to the court, and on the backs of the tickets were outlined the formalities expected of guests. Etiquette, the name of the ticket, eventually was applied to the rules of court behavior. The word entered the English language in the seventeenth century and was broadened in meaning-the rules of proper behavior anywhere in society. Father's Day: It was in the spring of 1919 that Mrs. John Bruce Dodd of Spokane, Washington, got the idea for Father's Day-an idea that came during a Mother's Day sermon that was full of adulation for motherhood. The preacher was eloquent though he didn't even mention the word "father." Mrs. Dodd's mother had died when she was but a mere child and her thoughts naturally turned to her father who was left with the responsibility of rearing six children. She thought it would be nice to honor him and others like him and took her plan to the preacher who drafted a resolution and on June 10, 1919, the first Father's Day was observed in Spokane. The first observance of truly national proportions was in 1922 on the third Sunday of June. Fiasco: This rather common word which means "failure" comes from the Italian name for common bottle. It was the practice of ancient Venetian glass blowers, when noticing the slightest flaw in the article upon which they were working, to discard it for later conversion into a common bottle. What might have a beautiful Venetian vase was now a fiasco. In this manner failure and fiasco became associated. From fiasco we also get flask and flagon, other forms of containers. Filibuster: The word is derived from filibusteros. Originally, the term was applied to those who for power, loot, or adventure organized expeditions in the United States for the invasion of Latin-American countries. These were primarily West Indian pirates who scourged the southern seas in small craft called "filibotes." Hence, use of the term for tactics by minorities that oppose majorities. Currently, filibustering has come to mean a parliamentary device to delay or prevent action by the majority. Its philosophical foundation results in the protection of minority rights. Senate historians say American filibusters of a sort even occurred in Congress as far back as 1789. G.I: This nickname for the United States soldier became common during World War II. Its meaning derives from the words "Government Issue." The fact that everything a soldier wore, from socks to tunic, trousers and had, and everything he ate, or was paid, was issued by the Government of the U.S. made him, in fact, a complete "Government Issue." Gobbledygook: This expression first came into use during World War II and is currently defined to mean "inflated, involved, and obscure verbiage characteristic of the prounouncements of officialdom." Congressman Maury Maverick of Texas is given credit for its invention. When asked how he happened to invent the word, he said: "Perhaps I was thinking of the old bearded turkey gobbler back in Texas who strutted around in ludicrous pomposity while boggedy-gobbling. At the end of his gobbles there was as sort of gook to serve as an exclamation point." God Bless You: This phrase is said to have been originated by the devout Pontiff St. Gregory the Great, who in the year 750 appointed a form of prayer to be said by persons sneezing. At that time it was believed that the air was filled with great impurities and many who sneezed violently were in danger of expelling their souls and that this danger could be counteracted by a proper prayer or phrase. Golf: There are some who claim that gold is a game of Dutch origin and others who contend it was invented by a Scottish lady who objected to her husband drinking at home. The earliest mention of golf to be found in print is contained in Adamson's Mirthful Mournings, published in 1638. Good Friday: The day of Jesus' crucifixion probably originally was known as God's Friday. But whether God's or Good, it was a term that carried a happy connotation. Gossip: This word originally denoted a person bound to another by religious ceremony, such as a sponsor in baptism, and came from Anglo-Saxon godsibb-sib meaning "related to God." Godparents were expected to form a close and intimate relationship with the family whose child they sponsored. The word has degenerated sadly in meaning and from this mood of confiding intimacy, it has taken on its present meaning of "newsmonger" or "tattle." Gymnasium: In their games in ancient Greece, athletes were not impeded by costumes. Gymnos is the Greek word for "nude"; hence, the word gymnasium would seem to mean "a place where one might exercise in the nude." Hallowe'en: As we know it today, Hallowe'en seems to have begun with the ancient pagan Druids of Great Britain, who began their ear on November 1, at which time witches and hobgoblins were supposed to have had their last fling of the year. With the coming of Christianity, the "New Year's Day" became "All Saints Day," and the evening before became known as "All Hallows' Eve." It is from this mixture of superstition and religion that we get the present Hallowe'en with its costumes, etc. Scottish Children first cared jack-o'-lanterns from large turnips instead of from pumpkins. Also in Scotland, people believed that women who had sold their souls to the devil changed into witches on Hallowe'en, and that they flew up their chimneys on broomsticks, attended by black cats. It was the Irish who started the custom of going from door to door asking for food or money. The "trick or treat" custom employed by children today dates back to seventeenth century Ireland when peasants sought luxuries for a feast at the doors of the wealthy. However, the idea of the householder forestalling a prankish trick by coming across with a treat seems to be strictly an American custom. Hammock: Sailors who accompanied Columbus to the New World found the Carib Indians using this device not only for sleeping, but as a means of transporting their children. Finding these more cool and comfortable than sleeping on the open deck, the sailors introduced that which we now call hammocks to their native Europeans upon their return. The word comes from the Spanish hamaca, of West Indian origin. Handicap: This would appear to be a contraction of "hand-in-cap," the old English game which consisted of bartering articles, with contestants giving "boots" or odds as decreed by an umpire. The players were required to deposit forfeit money in a cap, and hand-in-cap would seem to indicate the method of drawing lots. Horsepower-Power is the rate at which energy is being spent, or the rate at which work is being done. Though it may be expressed in terms of horsepower, it bears no exact relation to animal horsepower. What we term horsepower is so called because it originated from the results of experiments carried out with strong draft horses by James Watt more than a century ago. He wished to find out the rate at which a horse, under average conditions, does its work, and he fixed this rate, as a round figure, at 550 foot-pounds of work a second, or 33000 foot-pounds a minute-that is to say, work equivalent to that needed to raise a weight of 550 pounds one foot high in one second. Watt took this as the value of one horsepower, although he realized that it was a higher rate of work than an average horse can maintain for a full day. Of course, a horse, if stirred by a whip, can exert a much greater effort but only for a very short time. Iron Curtain: The phrase was first used by Winston Churchill in a foreign affairs debate shortly after the Potsdam Conference in 1945. He described the difficulty of obtaining any reliable information about what was happening in Eastern Europe because of the iron curtain, which had divided the Continent. He used the phrase again a few months later in 1946 in his famous speech at Fulton, Missouri, when with the President of the United States in his audience. There are others who claim that the phrase was originated by Mrs. Ethel Snowden, who later became Lady Snowden, wife of Viscount Snowden, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1924. In her book, through Bolshevik Russia, she had the line "We are behind the Iron Curtain at last." Jackpot: This is a term used in the game of draw-poker and describes he pot (accumulation of money staked by players), which cannot be opened until a player has a pair of jacks or better. Labor Day: As we know it, Labor Day in the United States grew out of September parades held in New York City by the Knights of Labor in the early 1880's. The first state to establish Labor Day as a legal holiday was the State of Oregon, which in 1887 set aside the first Saturday in June as Labor Day. Later in the same year the states of Colorado, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts followed suit and set the day as the first Monday in September. In 1894, Congress declared the day to be a national holiday. The aim of Labor Day originally was to remind people that the fruits of industry were the product of brawn as well as brain, and of labor as well as of capital. Today it seems to be the day that marks the end of the summer vacation period. Lobbyist: A person who tries to get laws passed favoring a special-interest group is know as a lobbyist. The name derives from the fact that lobbyists spent their time in lobbies of various legislatures trying to talk to legislator and influence their votes. Mason-Dixon Line: In popular United States parlance, the Mason-Dixon boundary divides North from South-an assumption based largely on the mistaken belief that during the Civil War it separated the Confederate states from the Union states. The line was drawn to end an early colonial land dispute. It extends, from east to west, between Pennsylvania and Maryland, with a shorter branch reaching southward between Maryland and Delaware. All three states were on the Union side. The line was named for two English surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, two skilled mathematicians and astronomers. Memorial Day: That day set apart each year, first by custom and later by statute, for the purpose of honoring the memory of the soldiers who fought in the Civil War, is a successor to Decoration Day which originated with the southern states when flowers were strewn over the soldiers' graves. After hostilities between the Union and Confederate forces had ceased, the widows and friends of the slain southerners showed their sincere love and gratitude to their fallen heroes in this fashion. This was not confined to Confederate graves only. These fine women of the South also decorated the graves of the northern dead. The news of this touching tribute flashed across the North as a ray of new light and hope for brotherhood, and in 1868, General John A. Logan, then Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, showed his deep admiration of this symbolic custom by issuing an order designating May 30th of that year as the one on which all posts of the G.A.R should commemorate the dead of the Civil War by decorating their graves with floral bouquets and wreaths. Action was soon taken by the legislatures of the various states and the 30th of May was set aside for the purpose in the majority of states. Mother's Day: The miss Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia goes the credit for inspiring national recognition of a day set aside for veneration of mothers and motherhood. Her mother had been an active worker in the church and community affairs of the small Virginia town where she spent her entire life. In the early 1900's, shortly after her mother's death, she was asked to arrange a special memorial service in the church her mother had attended. Realizing the universal beauty of the idea, Miss Jarvis bought her experience to the attention of the church people in Philadelphia where she lived. On the second Sunday in May, 1908, the churches of that city observed their first Mother's Day services. These services were so widely acclaimed that she quietly but persistently campaigned for nationwide observance. Through her persuasion, Senator Burkett of Nebraska introduced a bill into Congress designating the second Sunday in May-the day on which Mrs. Jarvis was born-as a national Mother's Day. 1924 was the first Mother's Day. News: Early newspapers printed a sign at the top of the first page of every issue indicating the four points of the compass. This implied that the information printed came from the north, east, west, and south. Later this sign was simplified until it appeared as "N-E-W-S." So NOW we have the word news, meaning "the latest information from the four corners of the globe." Nylon: As the story goes, the term nylon was given to a product created by its inventor, who worked on developing it both in New York and London. By taking the first letters of New York and combining it with the first three letters of London, one gets the word nylon. Oscar: The gold statuette, symbolic of the Motion Picture Academy Awards, was given its name by Mrs. Margaret Herrick in 1931. She was then executive secretary of the Academy. Studying the figure, she remarked that it had the square jaw and sharp features of an uncle who happened to be named Oscar. Bette Davis and other movie stars referred to the trophy as Oscar and the name stuck. Pastor: This title, which we use interchangeably with preacher and minister originally meant shepherd. Perfume: Literally par fume, meaning "through smoke," and probably extending back to primitive times when the only perfume the caveman knew was released by burning woods and gums. Phi Beta Kappa: This honorary scholastic fraternity was founded December 5, 1776, by fifty men at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The Greek letters phi, beta and kappa are the initials of the Greek words meaning "Philosophy, the Guide of Life." Membership in this fraternity results from persons being elected by vote of college faculty members among senior and junior college students with the best academic records. Playing cards: Present-day playing cards were designed in 1393 by Jack Gringonneur, court painter to Charles VI of France. He founded his pack on a regular system. A pack consists of fifty-cards. The number of weeks in a year; there are thirteen cards to a suit, the number of lunar months. The four suits represent the four social classes of Gringonneur's time. Spades were for the pikemen or soldiery; clubs were designed as a cloverleaf, the emblem of husbandry; diamonds represented the diamond-shaped hat of the artisan; and hearts came from the French word Coeur, an evolution from Chorur, meaning "the clergy." The first cards used in the United States were brought by the Spanish to their early settlements. Pool: Originally a poolroom was a place in which lottery tickets were sold. Lottery, because of the manner in which winnings were paid off, was called "pool." Since lottery tickets were sold all day and the drawings were not held until late in the evening, proprietors of poolrooms installed billiard tables to occupy their customers during the long waiting periods. The game of billiards was either too slow or too difficult for the hangers-on. They devised a game of their own, first called "pocket billiards" and later "pool." Radar: The name for this military device comes from the first letters of the unabbreviated name which describes its function-Radio Detection and Ranging. Robot: This term is synonymous with automation. It was popularized in the 1920's when the Czech playwright Karel Capek brought his play, "R.U.R." to the United States. These initials stand for Rossum's Universal Robots, a firm manufacturing mechanical men. The word "robot" stems from the Czech word robotnik, which means "slave," which in turn comes from robota, which means "to work." St. Valentine's Day: The custom of sending declarations of love on St. Valentines' Day began in medieval France and England. The popular belief was that birds began to pair February 14, which made it a proper occasion for sending lovers' tokens. The tokens took their name from the saint of the day, a third-century priest named Valentine. Sandwich: It was during the reign of King George III that what we now know as a sandwich was named after the Earl of Sandwich. He was supposed to have been so great a gambler that he could not wait to eat his meals, but instead took his food in this form so that he would not lose any time while he continued his play. While originally sandwiches consisted solely of meat and bread, nowadays they take on many different forms. Santa Claus: This name would seem to be a German corruption of St. Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop who died in the year 352 A.D. His birthday was long celebrated on December 6 in Europe. Legend has it that on the evening of that day he made his tour, visiting palace and cottage alike, the children placed stockings or other receptacles for the gifts which he was expected to drop down to them through the chimneys of their homes. The Dutch brought the custom to New Amsterdam and called him Sinter Klaas, wich in English became Santa Claus. Dr. Clement Clarke Moore of New York, in a famous poem entitled A Visit from St. Nicholas, first published in December, 1823, put the Santa Claus myth in the form we now accept in this country. It was he who invented the sleigh and the reindeer and all else that goes with it, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. Scapegoat: This word comes from ancient times when on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, Aaron laid the sins of the people on the head of a goat and sent it into the wilderness. At the same time that this was going on, a second goat was sacrificed to the Lord. Thus it is that the modern scapegoat means "one who is made to bear the blame for another." Siamese Twins: The name is derived from a set of twins, Chang and Eng, born of Chinese parents in Siam in 1811. The term is used to designate two nearly complete individuals united side by side or back to back. Chang and Eng were exhibited for many years in P.T. Barnum's circus, after which they settled in North Carolina, married English sistes, and had a total of 22 children. They died within two hours of each other in 1874. Sophomore: This comes to us from the Greek language. It is a combination of the word sophos, meaning "wise," and moros, meaning "fool"-the combination "wise fool" meaning one who knows enough at least to understand that he does not know everything, which would make such an attitude the beginning of true wisdom. S.O.S.: In the opinion of some persons the distress signal used y ships at sea means "Save Our Ship." But the letters do not stand for words and have no meaning in themselves. They were adopted at the Radio Telegraph Conference in 1912 because the combination of dots and dashes (three dots, three dashes, three dots) was so easy to send that the most inexperienced radio operator would have no difficulty with it. Spoonerism: William Archibald Spooner, dean and warden of New College, Oxford, gave his name, perhaps unwillingly, to the freak of s peech in which letters or sounds in one word are transposed to another nearby word. The only authenticated spoonerism by the late warden occurred in New College Chapel in 1879 when he announced the hymn "Conquering Kings" as "Kinkering Congs." Table Tennis: The first table tennis balls probably were champagne corks. In the 1890's Mr. James Gibb, a Cambridge (England) engineer, invented the game in which the corks were knocked from one side of the table to the other with cigar box lids. A few years later the game was revolutionized when an English visitor to the United States noticed babies playing with celluloid balls. On his suggestion, these balls replaced the cork and rubber ones then in use. The game was known as ping-pong and stayed that way until 1927. Then it was changed to table tennis because ping-pong was proprietary name belonging to a firm making equipment for the game. Tabloid: This word, coined in the nineteenth century, was applied to many products in condensed and compact form. In the United States it has been applied to newspapers with pages about half the usual size. Tariff: When the Moors were masters of Spain their ships used to lie in wait for merchant vessels coming through the Straits of Gibraltar bound for Italy, Greece, and Egypt. The Moors were no fool. Instead of plundering the vessels they levied a sort of blackmail with a fixed scale of payment based on the value of the cargo…this was determined at their port of Tarifa. Thus originated the word tariff. Some people still think the tariff is a form of piracy after all these years of government sanction. Thanksgiving Day: The custom of celebrating a day of thanks in this country was originated by Governor Bradford of Massachusetts after the first harvest of the Pilgrims in 1621. President George Washington proclaimed November 26, 1789 to be a day of thanksgiving. In 1815, President Madison set aside a day of thanks to mark the return of peace after the War of 1812. By 1830 the State of New York had adopted a day of thanksgiving as an annual custom, and other states soon followed. In 1863, at the urging of Mrs. Sarah J. Hale, editor of Godey's Lady's Book, President Lincoln issued a proclamation fixing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. Later, the official national Thanksgiving Day became the last Thursday in November. In 1939, President Roosevelt proclaimed November 23 to be the day of observance but many states refused to accept this and continued to use November 30. It was not until 1941 that Congress got around to fixing a national date and decreed that Thanksgiving in each year should be the third Thursday in November, which it now is. To the Bitter End: This phrase has a nautical origin. A ship's anchor chain, at the point where it was fastened to a vertical timber called the bitt, was known as the bitter end. Thus when the chain has been played out to the bitter end, there's nothing more that can be done. Tuxedo: Tuxedo comes from Algonquian Indian p'tauk-seet, "the bear"-an animal black and tailless. Uncle Same: This term came into use in the War of 1812 and was born at Troy, New York. The government inspector there was Uncle Sam Wilson, and when the war opened Elbert Anderson, the contractor at New York, bought a large amount of beef, pork, and pickles for the army. These were inspected by Wilson, and were duly labeled E.A.-U.S., meaning Albert Anderson, for the United States. The term U.S. for the United States was then somewhat new, and the workmen concluded that they referred to Uncle Sam Wilson. After the discovered their mistake, they kept up the name as a joke. These same men soon went to the war. There they repeated the joke. It got into print and went the rounds. From that time on the term "Uncle Sam" was used facetiously for the United States, and it now represents the nation. Undertaker: Long years ago each village had a handy man who earned his living by "undertaking" odd jobs of any kind. Laying out and embalming corpses, an undesirable task to most people, usually fell to his lot. The "handy man" has narrowed his field to embalming and burying, and prefers the more dignified title of mortician, but the original term, undertaker, still sticks around. Wall Street: The center of one of the greatest financial districts in the world, Wall Street is situated in the lower part of Manhattan Island, New York City, and extends east from Broadway to the East River. The street received its name from a stockade, or wall, which was built in 1653 by Peter Stuyvesant, Dutch colonial governor, to protect the area south of the wall from the English and the Indians. Windfall: Good fortune is often called a windfall. This stems from medieval England, when commoners had trouble finding wood for fuel. Royal decree prohibited them from chopping down trees, so when wind knocked down branches it was a stroke of good luck. "X" (The Unknown Quantity): The Greeks were such concrete thinkers that they didn't bother to develop an algebra with abstract "unknowns." The Egyptians hold the earliest claim to equation-writing: a manuscript of 1800 B.C. speaks of the unknown as hau-"heap." The Hindus did better. They used abbreviated syllables or initials of objects, but they also had plus, and minus and equal signs. The sixteenth century Frenchman, Vieta, is credited with first using capital letters for unknowns. Fifty years after his death, Descartes' Geometrie appeared which specified that the beginning letters of the alphabet be used for given quantities, the end letters for unknowns-and so it still is done today. FIRST Newspaper Cartoon, The first newspaper cartoon in America appeared on May 9, 1754, when Benjamin Franklin's "Join or Die" cartoon was printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette. It depicted a dissected snake, each part labeled with the name of a colony. Woman pharmacist: On March 16, 1883, Susan Hayhurst became the first woman pharmacist upon her graduation from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy with the degree of PH.C.
Source: Jacob M. Braude, Origins and Firsts