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 since.
Q: Why do ships and aircraft use ‘mayday’ as their call for help?
A: This comes 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 round 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 (mis)pronounced it ‘love.’
Q. Why do X’ 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 fulfil 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 do people clink their glasses before drinking a toast?
A: 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.
A: Long ago dishes and cookware in Europe were made of a 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 caught on.