Chickenpox

How did chickenpox get its name?

There are many explanations offered for the origin of the name chickenpox:

  • Samuel Johnson suggested that the disease was "less dangerous", thus a "chicken" version of the pox;
  • the specks that appear looked as though the skin was pecked by chickens;
  • the disease was named after chick peas, from a supposed similarity in size of the seed to the lesions;
  • the term reflects a corruption of the Old English word giccin, which meant itching.
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Internet Slang

What is doomscrolling?

Doomscrolling is a relatively new term for when you're stuck scrolling through bad news on your phone—even though you might want to, you just can't look away.

The psychology behind this phenomenon is pretty simple. Part of it relates to the concept of automaticity—actions you do without your conscious mind acknowledging it, often divorced from the passage of time. Endless scrolling is one of those things. The other part is that the human brain is hardwired to prioritize things that scare us as well as information related to survival, and bad news often fits into both of those categories. Combine those two elements of human nature with the intentionally addictive designs of our electronics, and that makes doomscrolling all but inevitable.

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Inventions
Sports

How did the Wiffle Ball get its name?

When you consider the fact that the Wiffle Ball was created to curve like crazy, the origin’s clear: It’s a play on the word “whiff,” which is what the poor sap at the plate often does with that skinny yellow bat. The inventor’s son and his friends, the original Wiffleballers, referred to strikeouts as “whiffs,” and he dropped the “h” when he decided to sell the balls. Three up, three down, baby—it’s all about efficiency.

“It also meant he needed one less letter for the sign on the building,” said David Mullany, president of The Wiffle Ball, Inc., and grandson of the ball’s inventor.

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School Subjects
Primary and Elementary School

Do schools still teach cursive writing?

In 2010, the Common Core Standards Initiative removed the requirement that cursive be taught in public elementary schools. It made sense given the rise in computer usage and a greater emphasis placed on keyboarding in the school curriculum. However, several states have since reinstated the cursive requirement, thanks to lobbyists and lawmakers who advocate for the importance of the skill. So yes, some schools do still teach cursive writing.

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Chickens and Roosters

Can eggs break inside a chicken?

Yes, eggs can break inside a hen, and it can actually be quite dangerous. Egg yolk peritonitis is a serious condition that can occur when egg matter is trapped inside the hen’s body, causing a bacterial infection. Hens suffering from this condition usually slow down egg production or stop completely. They may also be less active, have difficulty breathing, and exhibit abdominal distension. It’s usually treated with analgesics, anti-inflammatories, and antibiotics, although sometimes surgery is required.

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Publishing
Books and Literature

Why do books come out in hardback first?

A few reasons. One, hardback books carry historic prestige, as they were the only way you could get a book until the 1930s, when inexpensive (and often pocket-sized) paperback books finally hit the market. The paperback format became incredibly popular, but they were inevitably perceived as somehow inferior, with lesser-anticipated titles even debuting as paperback exclusives and some reviewers only considering hardback releases.

That leads us to the second reason: Because of the built-in prestige, booksellers can sell new releases in hardback (which actually cost more to make) at a higher price and make a killing, making back any money they spent in the lead-up to publishing. Then, some time later, they can re-market the cheaper-to-make paperback version and make another killing.

Oh, another key reason: Hardbacks are big and easier to display prominently on bookstore shelves.
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Bees and Beekeeping

What happens when a beehive gets too full?

When there are too many bees to fit in an established hive, they split into two groups. One stays in the hive with a new queen, and the other ventures off into the wilderness with the old queen, in search of a new home. Those scout bees even have special dances to alert the others when they've found a suitable replacement (and show them how to find it), and they essentially choose a new home democratically, with other bees copying the dance to indicate their agreement.

Maybe we should take some cues from the bees—can you imagine if you got to your polling place and the two candidates were locked in an epic dance battle, and you had to copy their moves to cast your vote for the winner? Sounds like fun to me.

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Eyes
The Difference Between

What is the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor or a doctor of osteopathic medicine who can do surgeries and diagnose all eye diseases. Some specialize in certain eye conditions, and many are involved in scientific research.

An optometrist, on the other hand, has a doctor of optometry (OD) degree. Optometrists mostly prescribe corrective lenses, but they can also diagnose eye abnormalities and prescribe medications for them. The specific conditions optometrists are allowed to treat can be restricted at the state level.

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Human Behavior

How can you tell when someone's lying?

Although it’s not an exact science, there are a few facial expressions and reactions that could indicate when someone is lying, according to FBI agent Mark Bouton. These giveaways include:

  • Eyes darting back and forth
  • Rapid blinking
  • Closing their eyes for more than a second
  • Looking directly to the right, up and to the right, or down and to the right
  • Fake smile
  • Touching their face
  • Pursing their lips
  • Sweating or blushing
  • Shaking their head
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Holidays and Traditions
Christmas

Why do some people celebrate Christmas in July?

In the Southern Hemisphere, seasons are opposite of the Northern Hemisphere, meaning December falls in the summertime. Some places in countries like Australia and South Africa hold Midwinter Christmas events in July so that they have a winter feel like Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere. These countries still celebrate actual Christmas on December 25.

Alternatively, the Northern Hemisphere celebrates Christmas in July ironically. The Hallmark Channel will show Christmas films during this time to coincide with the premiere of that year’s Keepsake Ornament collection, a marketing ploy that has literally helped to bolster the phrase “Hallmark holiday.”

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Supernatural and the Occult
Fables and Folklore
Superstitions

Why is it bad luck to walk under a ladder?

The practical reason why walking under a ladder is considered bad luck is that it’s just plain dangerous. The more superstitious theory is that the shape of a ladder against a wall forms a triangle, a symbol of the Holy Trinity in Christianity. Some believe that walking under a ladder would “break” the Trinity, a blasphemous act that could attract the devil.

That's not the only explanation, though. Some believe a ladder against a wall resembles a gallows (associated with death by hanging), and the ancient Egyptians believed walking under a ladder could accidentally allow you to see a god climbing up or down it.

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Legal Definitions

What is a conservatorship?

When an adult is incapable of making decisions about their own life, a conservatorship can be a way to help them. A conservator takes responsibility for the conservatee's personal life and/or finances, making sure the conservatee is taken care of.

In Britney Spears' case, her father and a lawyer were named her conservators in 2008 after her very public breakdown. They controlled both the personal and financial aspects of Britney's life until 2019, when the lawyer stepped down and Britney's dad temporarily relinquished his conservatorship over her personal life to a "care manager."

It's back in the news now because this arrangement is temporary, set to expire on Aug. 22, 2020. A judge might renew it, but some fans are convinced Britney wants out of the conservatorship entirely, going as far as trending "#FreeBritney" in an effort to show support for the Princess of Pop. Here's hoping it all works out for the best.

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Decathlon

What are the ten events in a decathlon?

The decathlon's ten events are spread out over two days.

First day events: 100-meter dash, running long jump, shot put, high jump, and 400-meter run.

Second day events: 110-meter hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw, and 1,500-meter run for the second day.

To determine an overall winner, the International Association of Athletics Federations sets a table to convert performance in each event to a score, and the athlete with the highest sum of all ten scores is the winner. The table is updated periodically to keep up with new world records in each event, which can have interesting effects on previous scores—a 1985 revision of the table bumped up British decathlete Daley Thompson's score from the previous year, causing him to break the world record retrospectively.

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Stain Removal

What causes the yellow stains on my pillows?

The short answer is moisture. Specifically, the moisture that comes from perspiration can cause your pillow to become discolored. A compound found in sweat called urea is often responsible for those unsightly stains.

Other moist culprits of pillow stains can include saliva, lying down with wet hair, and chemicals in certain types of makeup.

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Sloths

Why do sloths move so slowly?

The reason sloths move so slowly is because they are trying to conserve energy. Their herbivorous diet consists mostly of leaves, meaning it does not offer the benefit of fats or protein. This lack of nutrition leaves them without much energy (or desire) to move around.

On average, a sloth will travel less than 125 feet per day, and it can take them up to a full minute to move just a foot.

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Florida

Why are there so many "Florida Man" stories?

It’s surprisingly easy for journalists in Florida to get access to police incident reports due to the state’s strong public records laws.

"Florida has got one of the broadest public records laws in the country," Barbara Petersen, president of Florida's First Amendment Foundation, told CNN. "As soon as that incident report is filed (by law enforcement), we can go and make a public record request and get it."

Other theories for why such an abundance of unbelievable stories surface in Florida include its large, diverse population, its year-round hot and sunny weather conditions, and its lack of adequate mental health funding.

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College Applications and Entrance Requirements
Ivy League Universities
Education

What are the Ivy League schools?

The eight Ivy League schools are:

  • Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island)
  • Columbia University (New York City)
  • Cornell University (Ithaca, New York)
  • Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire)
  • Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey)
  • Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut)

The Ivy League was established in 1954 as an athletic conference, so even though each of the eight schools has a long and distinguished history, the distinction doesn't necessarily have anything to do with academics.

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Domestic Dogs
Color Blindness

Why are dogs color blind?

There's a widespread belief that dogs only see in black and white, but that's just not true—they can see some colors. Structures in the eyes called cones are what allow us to see color, and most humans have three types of cones; dogs, however, only have two—they lack red-green cones and therefore can't really see those colors. They likely appear gray or brown.

As for why that is, dogs' vision evolved to be optimized for hunting in low light, meaning their night vision is ultimately more important than their color vision.

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Toys
Play-Doh

What was Play-Doh originally made for?

The substance that would come to be known as Play-Doh was originally sold by a company called Kutol as a wallpaper cleaner. But walls in the 1950s were a lot less sooty than they had been in 1912, when the company was founded—coal's popularity was declining, and sales of the wallpaper cleaner were slumping. Kay Zufall, a teacher who happened to be the sister-in-law of one of Kutol's big wigs, came up with the idea of letting kids play with the stuff, and it was a big hit. Play-Doh hit the toy market in 1956, and it's become a phenomenon, having sold 3 billion cans since that debut. It's so iconic it even got its own perfume.

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Bastille Day

What's the "Bastille" in Bastille Day?

The Bastille was a prison and fortress built in the 14th century to protect Paris's eastern entrance. At the height of its use, it held political prisoners, but by 1789, it was mostly vacant except for supplies like gunpowder. In fact, the Bastille was supposed to be demolished and replaced with a town square. Revolutionaries had other ideas, though—they wanted to get at that gunpowder, so they stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789, losing about 100 people in the process. However, they ended up winning the day and proceeded to execute the Bastille's governor and dismantle the building entirely.

Interestingly enough, they don't even call it Bastille Day in France—they use la Fête nationale or le 14 juillet.

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Subjective Questions
Education

If you could make one change to the education system, what would it be?

The complete digitalization of books. The textbook industry in the United States is a massive scam, as they barely change anything between editions that can end up costing students hundreds of dollars per new book! It's also made worse when courses require these new editions over old ones, making the barrier for entry based mostly on an individual's economic status. Access to these types of resources should not only be free, but made easily available via technology.

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Plumbing
Physics
Thunderstorms and Lightning

Is it safe to take a shower during a thunderstorm?

No—in fact, the CDC encourages avoiding all water in your house during a thunderstorm. Your plumbing and the water coming out of it can conduct electricity if lightning strikes your home, and that can lead to you getting seriously hurt. Granted, this is a pretty rare occurrence, but experts still advise against it as an easy way to avoid something potentially fatal. You should wait half an hour after hearing the last boom of thunder before hopping into the shower.

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Big Ben
London

Why is the clock tower in London called Big Ben?

It's not. The "Big Ben" moniker technically refers to the bell inside the clock tower—the tower itself is officially called Elizabeth Tower, in honor of Queen Elizabeth II. The bell was installed in 1858 and was probably named after Sir Benjamin Hall, a civil engineer and member of the House of Commons whose name is inscribed on the bell.

There is a less likely theory that the bell was named after Ben Caunt, a bare-knuckle boxing champion who went by "Big Ben." Though this theory is a lot more fun, it can't be proven.

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