Hailstones from hell

While people often exaggerate tiny hailstones as "golf-ball size" when describing them to others, in June of 2003 Aurora, Nebraska, experienced one hail of a hailstorm. The National Climate Extremes Committee documented the hail size that fell in that storm, with many being about the size of a softball. One particular hailstone found from that storm is the largest ever properly documented, a full 18cm in diameter, or just a little smaller than a standard soccer ball.

Where these phrases came from


Our understanding of the phrase "blood is thicker than water" is that family comes before everything, but the origin suggests the exact opposite. In ancient Middle Eastern culture, blood rituals between men symbolised bonds that were far greater than those of family. The saying also has to do with "blood brothers", because warriors who symbolically shared the blood they shed in battle together were said to have stronger bonds than biological brothers.

2. "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater" is a warning against discarding something valuable or important while disposing of something worthless, but it has a literal origin. During the 1500s, most people bathed once a year. Even when they did bathe, the entire family used the same tubful of water. The man of the house bathed first, followed by other males, then females, and finally the babies. You can imagine how thick and cloudy the water became by that time, so the infants' mothers had to take care not to throw them out with the bathwater when they emptied the tub.


3. Meaning to reveal a secret, "letting the cat out of the bag" has its roots in 18th-century street fraud. Suckling pigs were often sold in bags, and a popular scheme was to replace the pig with a cat and sell it to an unwitting victim.

4. To "bust someone's chops" is to give someone a hard time. And the most plausible theory is that it refers to the 70s delicacy of wearing a long, ridiculous pair of mutton-chop sideburns. These peninsula-shaped patches of hair were a global phenomenon and when these men got punched in the face their chops were busted.

Real estate industry will make anything an selling point

Lost key collection

A reader writes: "A few years ago I volunteered at the police post at Mission Bay and at that time there were two drawers full of unclaimed keys. Most people probably went home to get the spare set and did not bother inquiring."

Joan Crawford sure knew how to throw a party

Video pick

The perfect Christmas song for the Souther Hemisphere White Wine In The Sun by Tim MIchin

Got a Sideswipe? Send your pictures, links and anecdotes to Ana at ana.samways@nzherald.co.nz