Jewish World Review Nov. 16, 2004 / 3 Kislev, 5765

Jeff Elder

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

A bit fuzzy about critters and varmints; booking passage on freighters to northern Europe; grand jury and regularones; more | Q: Recently while out to dinner with friends (from Pennsylvania), my husband (Alabama) and I (Kentucky) were discussing the distinction between a critter and a varmit. Your thoughts? - Dru Quarles, Charlotte, N.C.

A: Dru, I (Tennessee), see it this way:

A critter is any animal you are not currently mad at. Our furry friends in the woods, for instance. Bambi, Thumper, Flower - critters all.

A varmint (the preferred spelling) is any animal you ARE currently mad at. The raccoon that got into the garbage and made a mess, say. Varmint often seems to be preceded by "low-down." Women sometimes refer to men as varmints. I cannot fathom why.

The experts appear to back me up. Critter is "a pronunciation spelling of creature," says the Online Etymology Dictionary, and the most common meaning is simply an animal, whether wild or domestic.

Varmint, however, is a corruption of "vermin," John Russell Bartlett wrote in his 1848 "Dictionary of Americanisms." Varmints are said to be "noxious wild beasts." The man Bartlett quoted there to help establish the word's meaning? Davy Crockett, who was writing about shooting varmints. (He, of course, was born on a mountaintop in Tennessee.)

Donate to JWR

Q: I am completely burned-out on air travel. Do you know where I can find information online about booking passage on freighters to northern Europe? - Haskel Henderson, Virginia

A: Haskel, I'm with ya. As I get older and wider (that's not a typo), I get more claustrophobic about flying. A little sea air and sense of adventure would sure beat getting jostled around and packed in and told to return to my seat.

But taking a freighter might not be as easy as you think. Transatlantic passage can take a month, because many cargo stops are often made. And while the living conditions are said to be comfortable, a freighter doesn't boast the diversions and luxury of a cruise. Check it out for yourself at these informative Web pages:



— — —

Q: I've been wondering for years about this: What exactly is a grand jury and how is it different from a regular jury? - Marty Fox, Charlotte

A: A grand jury is selected and sworn in by a court, just like a trial jury. In fact, grand jurors are usually chosen from the same pool that provides trial jurors. But:

— Grand juries may sit for longer. In the federal system, a grand jury can sit for up to 36 months. State grand juries vary, but may sit for up to a year.

— Grand jurors don't convene every day. Many federal grand juries sit only one day a week. A state grand jury might sit twice a month.

— Grand juries don't decide if someone is guilty of criminal charges. Grand juries hear evidence and decide if someone should be charged with a crime.

You can find out more online at:


— — —

Q: If you are trying to fail at something, and you actually succeed, what have you really done? - Anonymous

A: OK now, lemme get my head around this. It appears to me that what you have done is: failed to fail. Which is not really the same as succeeding - even though you succeeded at this task - since your success was the result of your failure to fail.

No wonder you didn't include your name.

Isn't this the story of "The Producers," where they set out to make a Broadway bomb, but it becomes a smash hit?

Anybody else have ideas on this?

— — —

Q: What is 111,111,111 multiplied by 111,111,111?

A: I'm going to let you look into that yourselves, because the answer's very cool. So bust out that calculator.

— — —


On music ...

1. What Australian heavy metal band sang of "dirty deeds done dirt cheap"?

2. What British punk band put out the smash album "London Calling"?

3. Martin Scorcese's movie "The Last Waltz" centered on what group?

4. Buddy Holly got the song title "That'll Be the Day" from John Wayne's repeated line in what movie?

5. Who wrote "Me and Bobby McGee"?

— — —


1. AC/DC

2. The Clash

3. The Band

4. "The Searchers"

5. Kris Kristofferson

Appreciate this column? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here. If you send him a great question, he'll send you a Glad You Asked T-shirt.


11/09/04: The Love Potion No. 9 Inside Your Brain; more
11/02/04: Keeping football when it goes into the NFL stands; metal used for foil capsule covering cork on a bottle of good wine; Why are they called wisdom teeth?; more
10/25/04: Why do we vote on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November?; the 'lost generation'; more
10/13/04: Those blinding blue headlights; largest breed of dog?; more
10/05/04: The album that helped spin CDs into the mainstream; Does the soul weigh anything?; more
09/28/04: Why can't we stop a hurricane before it gets started?; How long is 'in the blink of an eye'?; Is a mule male or female?
09/21/04: Why is it called a Cobb salad?; barns painted red; more
09/07/04: Identifying body from dental records; Where does all the corn go and what are its' uses?; hose Susan B's; more
08/25/04: Put a steak on it; What prevents a spider from becoming entangled in its own web?; good palindromes; more
08/19/04: Clams and cabbage and dollars; method actor v. character actor; more
08/11/04: Origins of the news anchor; f only female mosquitoes bite, what do the male mosquitoes eat?; more
07/27/04: I'm Jeff Elder and I approved this answer; terms penny, nickel and dime; more
07/22/04: Intelligence quotient; who devised the Electoral College?; more
07/13/04: Ice man cometh; How far away from a TV should one sit?; more
07/07/04: Buying back childhood toys; Barbie's full name; How was the Slinky invented?; more
06/23/04: Soda jerk! One chocolate brain freeze; Brands that become generic name for a product; more
06/16/04: Innies and outies; 'goody two-shoes'; major league baseball pitcher with an infinite lifetime ERA?; more
06/08/04: How search engines work; time travel; more
06/01/04: Song of life includes a crackle and hiss; Why don't we fall out of bed while we're sleeping?; more
05/19/04: Getting all goose-bumpy; more
05/12/04: That odd smell after you eat asparagus; only horseshoe-shaped toilet seats in public restrooms?; more
05/03/04: Fun facts about the 7 modern wonders; What does WD-40 stand for?; difference between flotsam and jetsam; more
04/20/04: RFK wrote his own eulogy; Hardy Boys books; more
03/23/04: The first AP college basketball poll; U.S. presidents who changed their names; cutting hair away from an old English sheepdog's eyes; more
03/03/04: Hunger from snow?; igloo secrets; why dinner was noon-time meal and supper at night; more
03/03/04: History of pockets? Lint me your ears; more
02/25/04: Quiznos' surreal new pitchman; "XYZ "; more
02/19/04: Zambonis; Why does popcorn pop?; Why do we drive on the right side of the road, while the British drive on the left?; more
02/11/04: The weirdest questions I was ever asked — and answers
02/05/04: Lightning CAN strike twice; how people got their last names; more
01/22/04: Joke history: The Romans had Top X lists; refreezing raw meat
01/15/04: Rick Springfield's still moot; the wettest land area on Earth; more
01/06/04: The reason behind the coin ridges; where 'baby corn' comes from; more
12/29/03: Can the colorblind see rainbows?; What causes moles? What's the difference between moles and freckles?
12/22/03: It's all lunch to me
12/04/03: The sad poem in a romantic comedy; Why do some coins, like quarters and dimes, have ridges?; more
11/25/03: Diner lingo; How do chickens know what size eggs to lay?; a computer input device is called a mouse, what is the plural?; more
11/19/03: Did Betsy Ross sew the first official American flag?; Do the 9 numbers in our Social Security number have special meaning? Will they run out of numbers or have to re-issue them?; more
11/11/03: How to be a Nielsen rater; Why did Charles Schulz name his comic strip "Peanuts"?; Was Chef Boy-ar-dee a real person?; Why are Georgetown University teams called the Hoyas?
11/05/03: Decoding the laws of buoyancy; What actually happens when you crack your knuckles?; origin of the expression "three sheets to the wind
10/30/03: Buttoning on the 'correct' side; when you breathe on your hand it feels warm, but when you blow on your hand it feels cool?; Why do dogs eat (and enjoy eating) dirt?; more
10/23/03: 'American Pie' explained; Why are tennis balls seamed like baseballs?; more
10/14/03: Origins of comic strips and hush puppies; a college football quiz; dogs that don't bark
09/24/03: Why do snooze alarms go off every 9 minutes?
09/17/03: Glad You Asked: Fun with college football
09/09/03: What's so great about Wiffle Ball?
09/03/03: What kinda wine goes best with heartache?; What did people do before alarm clocks were invented?; which has more caffeine: coffee or tea?
08/26/03: These inventors were just toying with us
08/12/03: Why do wheels appear to turn backward on film?; showdown over high noon
08/07/03: Wood'n you know it? Money doesn't grow on trees; all we are is dust in the wind
08/05/03: Where have you gone, Calvin, Opus and Cow?; fine feathered friend pecking on itself
07/31/03: How a dashing hero became a notorious traitor
07/29/03: Little red caboose rolling outta sight; From my 'I'll be a monkey's uncle' file
07/24/03: Road scholar: A lesson on asphalt; when identical twins marry
07/23/03: The sweet science of Life Savers' sparks; how do Pop Rocks work? ripping newspaper

© , The Charlotte Observer Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.