Jan 5, 2010

Really Random

Last night, while attending my first meeting with the Northumberland Scribes, there was a flurry of discussion over the meaning of the word “yahoo”. Before it became a search engine/email server, the yahoo had quite a different role.

A Yahoo is a legendary being in the novel Gulliver's Travels (1726) by Jonathan Swift.

Swift describes the Yahoos as vile and savage creatures, filthy and with unpleasant habits, resembling human beings far too closely for the liking of protagonist Lemuel Gulliver, who finds the calm and rational society of intelligent horses, the Houyhnhnms, far preferable.

The Yahoos are primitive creatures obsessed with "pretty stones" they find by digging in mud, thus representing the distasteful materialism and ignorant elitism Swift encountered in Britain. Hence the term "Yahoo" has become synonymous with "cretin," "dinosaur," and/or "Neanderthal."

American frontiersman Daniel Boone, who often used terms from Gulliver’s Travels, claimed that he killed a hairy giant that he called a Yahoo.

Serial killer David Berkowitz referenced yahoos in a lettter sent to New York City police while committing the "Son of Sam" murders in 1976.

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To make a one-pound comb of honey, bees must collect nectar from about two million flowers.

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Ever wonder how the idea that cats have nine lives started?

According to Brewer's Dictionary Of Phrase & Fable, a cat is said to have nine lives because it is "more tenacious of life than many animals."

But why nine? Nine, a trinity of trinities, is a mystical number often invoked in religion and folklore. The cat was once revered in Egypt, and this is probably where its nine lives began. The priesthood in On - known to the Greeks as Heliopolis and now a suburb of Cairo - worshipped Atum-Ra, a sun god who gave life to the gods of air, moisture, earth and sky, who, in turn, produced Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys.

These gods are collectively known as the Ennead, or the Nine. Atum-Ra, who took the form of a cat for visits to the underworld, embodied nine lives in one creator. A hymn from the fourth century BC says, "O sacred cat! Your mouth is the mouth of the god Atum, the lord of life who has saved you from all taint."

Vestiges of this ancient, cat-worshipping religion lingered in Europe until at least the middle ages. The cat was no longer divine but was still regarded as magical and otherworldly. The ailuromorphic gods are long forgotten, but the cat's resilience still inspires fascination, which is why the myth of the cat's nine lives has endured for so long.

6 comments:

ralfast said...

"Cats were once worship as gods. Cats have not forgotten."

:D

Lost Wanderer said...

Interesting pots ... and wow about the bees ..2 million flowers. Maybe that's where "busy bees" come from ??

Medic said...

It was great having you at the Northumberland Scribes meeting last night! I hope you come back for more.

I love your site, I'm sure I'll be spending a lot of time here, you have an incredible writing voice!

Jamie D. said...

Fascinating about the yahoo(s) - I think I read Jonathan Swift a long, long time ago, but didn't remember that.

Great randomness, as always! :-)

Tara McClendon said...

I've never thought to look at the origin of the word Yahoo (and I've read Gulliver's travels). I always associated Yahoo with wahoo.

C R Ward said...

Ralfast: My cats sure haven't forgotten!

LW: You know I'm going to have to look that up now, don't you? :-)

Medic: Thank you! I enjoyed meeting you all very much!

Jamie: Thank you! It was fun twitting with you last night. :-)

Tara: LOL me too!