North, South and Central America

How much do you know about the continents that make up the Americas? Probably not as much as you think. But you should know at least the following. The first thing you should already know is that there are only two continents in the Americas: North America and South America. Central America is not a continent, rather it’s part of North America. In terms of square miles, North America is the third largest continent after Asia and Africa. In terms of population, it’s the fourth after Asia, Africa and Europe, […]

What is a Fugue?

Music theory is complex by any standards and you’re not necessarily required to know everything, but there are some things you really should know. This is one. In classical music, a fugue is a composition formally structured around a musical theme or series of notes. Fugues are characterized by frequent repetition of the theme, sometimes in modified form, by various voices in the composition. The word derives from the Latin fugere (to flee) and fugare (to chase), and that’s exactly the impression given by a fugal composition: a theme being […]

Hooah Hooyah Oorah Huzzah HUA

You’ve heard these peculiar expressions in movies and maybe in real life as well, and you might have noticed that it’s pronounced slightly differently depending on the situation. Has anyone ever explained why? Probably not, because, like most thing in this book, you’re just expected to know. No matter the variant, it’s a military expression of acknowledgment and motivation that is also used to build unit cohesion and morale. It probably all started with HUA, a radio operator acronym meaning “Heard Understood and Acknowledged”. During WWII, spoken usage of HUA […]

Batting Average

This one is purely for non-baseball fans who nevertheless feel they need to keep up with the conversations. Here is what you should already know. The Batting Average is an indicator of a batter’s performance in baseball and softball. The average is calculated by dividing the number of hits by the number of at bats, calculated to three decimal places (more if needed to break ties). Batting averages can run from 0.000 (no hits) to 1.000 (a hit every time). “Points” (a “point” is 0.001) are used to compare batting […]

What Exactly is the United Kingdom

This well-documented and complex question dogs just about every non-Briton and undoubtedly many Britons as well. Especially in the English-speaking world, the UK occupies an disproportionate amount of our popular culture, so this question should be easy to answer. But just in case, here is a brief and succinct summary to help you remember what you should already know. The full name of the UK is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, so right away you see that it has two main components, Great Britain and Northern […]

The New Colossus

“Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” Especially in these times of global migration, chances are you already know that these lines are from the famous poem associated with the Statue of Liberty. Here is what else you should know to join the conversation. The poem is an immigrant-friendly sonnet called “The New Colossus” that American poet Emma Lazarus (1849–1887) wrote in 1883 to raise money for the construction of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the poem was engraved […]

Hippocratic Oath

It’s probably sufficient to know that the the Hipocratic Oath is traditionally taken by physicians in which they swear to uphold specific ethical standards. But unless you’re a doctor you’ve probably never had a reason to look into it any further than that. Here’s what you should know. The oath is credited to Hippocrates and is the earliest expression of medical ethics in the Western world. Hipocrates, born in 460 BC, is referred to as the Father of Early Medicine, and his intellectual Hippocratic School of Medicine revolutionized medicine in […]

Military Units

Like it or not, we live in a world where the news and popular fiction is shot through with military themes and references. It’s almost like even non-military types are supposed to know how many men are in a division or how many platoons are in a company. In most cases it doesn’t matter, but I often get the feeling that I missed something somewhere. Unless you’re in the military, chances are you’re like me and kind of gloss over the exact meaning when you see these terms or even […]

Energy, Mass and the Speed of Light

You know the equation, but here is some background information that you should also know. You never know when it might come in handy. In 1905, Albert Einstein had his annus mirabilis (Latin for “extraordinary year”), publishing four major papers in the prestigious German “Annalen der Physik” (Annals of Physics), one of the oldest scientific journals on physics. These four papers contributed to the foundation of modern physics and changed our views on time, space, mass and energy. The most famous of these is his third paper, now called Special […]

La Niña, La Pinta and the Santa Maria

Here’s one you definitely should already know. But just in case… Christopher Columbus, sailing for Spain, led a fleet of three small ships on his first voyage seeking the West Indies in 1492, when he accidentally discovered the Americas. The expedition consisted of two caravels, La Niña and La Pinta, and one carrack, the command ship Santa Maria. Spanish ships at the time were usually named after saints, so Nina and Pinta were only nicknames. La Niña’s real name was the Santa Clara, while La Pinta’s real name is unknown. […]