The Guide to Why: Your Nagging Questions Answered

If you’ve ever wondered why you are not alone. We’ve collected people’s most nagging questions and turned them into an article you can use…

Q: Why do people clink their glasses?


A: In earlier times it used to be common for someone to try to kill an enemy by offering him a poisoned drink. To prove to a guest that a drink was safe, it became customary for a guest to pour a small amount of his drink into the glass of the host. Both men would drink it simultaneously. When a guest trusted his host, he would only touch or clink the host’s glass with his own.

Q: Why do men’s clothes have buttons on the right while women’s clothes have buttons on the left?


A: When buttons were invented, they were very expensive and worn primarily by the rich. Since most people are right-handed, it is easier to push buttons on the right through holes on the left. Because wealthy women were dressed by maids, dressmakers put the buttons on the maid’s right! And that’s where women’s buttons have remained.

Q. Why do ships and planes use ‘mayday’ as their distress signal?


A: The word originates from the French word “m’aidez” – meaning “help me” – and is pronounced, approximately, ‘mayday.’

Q: Why are zero scores in tennis called ‘love’?


A: In France, where tennis became popular, the shape of the zero on the scoreboard looked like an egg and was called ‘l’oeuf,’ which is French for ‘the egg.’ When tennis was introduced in the US, Americans mispronounced it ‘love.’

Q: Why do X’s at the end of a letter signify kisses?

A: In the Middle Ages, when many people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using an X. Kissing the X represented an oath to fulfill obligations specified in the document. The X and the kiss eventually became synonymous.

Q: Why is shifting responsibility to someone else called passing the buck?


A: In card games, it was once customary to pass an item, called a buck, from player to player to indicate whose turn it was to deal. If a player did not wish to assume the responsibility of dealing, he would ‘pass the buck’ to the next player.

Q: Why are people in the public eye said to be ‘in the limelight’?


A: Invented in 1825, ‘limelight’ was used to light up stages in theaters by burning a cylinder of lime which produced a bright light. Therefore, a performer ‘in the limelight’ was the center of attention.

Q: Why do we refer to someone who is feeling great as being ‘on cloud nine’?


A: Cloud types are numbered according to the altitude they achieve, with nine being the highest cloud. If someone is said to be on cloud nine, that person is floating well above worldly cares.

Q: In golf, where did the term Caddie come from?

A: When Mary Queen of Scots (who lived in the 1500s) went to France as a young girl, Louis, King of France, learned that she loved the Scots game ‘golf.’ He had the first course outside of Scotland built for her enjoyment. To make sure she was properly chaperoned (and guarded) while she played, Louis hired cadets from a military school to accompany her. Mary liked the game so much that when she returned to Scotland she took the practice with her. In French, the word cadet is pronounced ‘ca-day’ and the Scots changed it into caddie.

Q: Why is money collected in piggy banks?


A: In Europe, dishes and cookware used to be made of dense orange clay called ‘pygg’. When people saved coins in jars made of this clay, the jars became known as ‘pygg banks.’ When an English potter misunderstood the word, he made a container that resembled a pig and it became really popular.