Thursday Trivia: Things that Start with “X”

There are two reasons this post came about: first, because of one of the facts below that I learned at the Lists exhibit at the Morgan Library about a month or two ago. Second, and more importantly, because in virtually every alphabetical list, the letter “x” is presented with the word “x-ray.” Hell, even the NATO phonetic alphabet uses “x-ray” for the letter “x.” (At that rate, why don’t you just say “x”? The letter “x” is the only part of “x-ray” that particularly matters in that instance! Ughhhh….) Needless to say, that always leaves me a little perturbed. So instead, here are five things you can use in place of the word “x-ray” and a little bit of information about them:

  • Xenurine is an alternate name for a cabassou – which is in turn an alternate name for an armadillo. Cabassous is the genus for “naked-tail” armadillos, which lends credence to the etymology of xenurine – Greek for “strange tail.”
  • XI is not just the Roman numeral for 11, but is also a Greek letter and an acceptable two-letter word in Scrabble. Other two-letter words using tough tiles accepted in Scrabble include “qi” (a Chinese word meaning “vital energy needed in battle”) and “za” (a shortening of “pizza.”)
  • X is the first call letter for all Mexican radio stations, which is in turn divided into XE and XH for AM and FM, respectively (XH is also often used for TV stations). In Major League Baseball, the San Diego Padres’ English and Spanish radio stations are Mexican stations – so-called “border blasters,” which emanate from Mexico (specifically Tijuana) but have a high enough wattage to be heard in San Diego and elsewhere in Southern California.
  • In the Harry Potter universe, Xenophilius Lovegood was responsible for the publication of The Quibbler, which sort of served as the National Enquirer to The Daily Prophet‘s more upstanding, heralded culture (with the exception of Rita Skeeter, who is closer to the Perez Hilton of the wizarding world). Filled with stories of (most likely fictional) creatures and stories of cryptozoology, it makes sense that ol’ Xeno was given his first name by J.K. Rowling; “xenophilia” literally means “love of strange things” in Greek.
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Thursday Trivia: Umbrellas

The Top 5 wasn’t seen yesterday because of my seeing the Shakespeare in the Park production of The Winter’s Tale; we’ll have it Friday along with the second Making Crap Up story, “6 Bits of Francisco Rodriguez Advice that Will Land You in Prison”.

…Now back to our scheduled trivia, not yet in progress…

Rihanna’s hit “Umbrella” was critically-acclaimed and ridiculously commercially-successful, one of the most-played songs on radio of its decade, and the third best song of 2007 according to Rolling Stone, but who would have thought that “Umbrella” would have formed the need for umbrellas?

While it was the #1 song in the UK and Ireland for 10 weeks (the longest a song would be at the top of the charts there in the 2000s), many regions of the Isles were hit by massive rainfall and extreme weather advisories were levied across the land – leading to some news outlets to call it “the Rihanna Curse”.

In an ironic (but unsurprising) twist of fate, Rihanna’s label, Def Jam Records, collaborated with umbrella (, ‘ella, ‘ella – sorry couldn’t help it) manufacturer Totes to create 5 umbrellas specially designed for Rihanna.

Four more bits of trivia on umbrellas after the jump! Continue reading

Happy Anthesteria!

Today is the eleventh (or twelfth, or thirteenth…frankly, we’re not sure) of the Attic Greek month of Ανθηστηριων (Anthesterion to our Latinate readers), which means only one thing – it’s the Ancient Greek festival of the Anthesteria! It’s the only Greek month named after a festival (and not vice versa), and celebrates the blooming of flowers and the maturing of the vintage wine. There are also some aspects of a “Day of the Dead”-esque expulsion of spirits, but it could also be a revocation of the living.

Here’s the rundown on the Anthesteria:

  • Day 1 -Πιθοίγια (Pithoigia)- libations were offered from the new vintage to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and revelry (you know Bacchus? Dionysus was the Greek – read: original – version).
  • Day 2 – Choës – A day of drinking and revelry, while wearing gallant dress and sometimes costumes. Sort of like Halloween. 
  • Day 3- Chytroi – A day of the dead; offerings given to Hermes Chthonios, the messenger god in his capacity of Hades; an informal rehearsal for the Greater Dionysia took place.

Either way, happy Anthesteria!

Join me tomorrow for our first installment of Tuesday Afternoon Stuff I Dislike, where I show my disgust for Jersey Shore.