Questions are everywhere: Simple ones, complicated ones, mundane ones, unanswerable ones - it can be overwhelming. When it comes to questions about history, this is definitely true.
Wanting to know more about the people, places, and things from bygone eras is common, but getting answers to history-based questions isn't easy. Limited resources, long-forgotten ideas, and even buried secrets prevent us from getting clear answers to some of our most pressing inquiries.
When you do get insight into a historical quandary, it can be incredibly satisfying. We found many answers to questions that have been on our minds lately, and we have to admit, we're pretty content with what we learned. Vote up the answers that leave you saying, "Good to know!" too.
- 11,636 VOTES
What Does It Mean When A Country's Name Ends In '-ia'?
Around the world, countries end with the suffix "-ia" - something that is especially true in Eastern Europe. When "-ia" is used in Latin and Greek, it creates an abstract noun referring to like a collection of people or locations. Within the Roman Empire, for example, territories like Germania were named after the people living there. Contemporary usage embraces the same tradition, with countries like Russia as the "land of the Rus."
There are instances of Latin being used to describe other abstract aspects of territories, however. Australia, for example, comes from "austral," which means "pertaining to the south." Nigeria derives its name (used by British imperialists since the 19th century) from the Niger River, while Algeria is a Latinization of the city of Algiers adopted by French imperialists.
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What Does The 'QR' In A QR Code Mean?
QR codes were developed in 1994 by Denso Wave, an automotive company in Japan. Barcodes, which QR codes are increasingly replacing, were invented by Norman "Joe" Woodland during the late 1940s. He and Bernard "Bob" Silver, a student at Woodland's alma mater, received a patent for barcodes in 1952.
The difference between a barcode and a QR code is the shape, which is essential when it comes to the amount of data the latter holds. Because a QR code is vertical and horizontal, it has the ability to carry hundreds of times more data than its horizontal counterpart.
When it comes to what QR means - it simply stands for "quick response."
- 31,031 VOTES
When Did White Flags Become A Signal Of Surrender?
To wave the white flag is to give up, surrender, and signal non-violence, a practice that traces back many centuries. During the Second Punic War (218 to 201 BCE), a ship from Carthage was said to have displayed "white wool and branches of olive" to indicate it wanted to discuss terms. White flags of surrender can be traced to Han China and Rome during the first and second centuries CE.
White was also used to distinguish noncombatants on the battlefield during the Middle Ages. Hugo Grotius mentions "hanging out a white flag as a tacit sign of demanding a parley" in his The Rights of War and Peace, and during the American Civil War, white flags were waved to protect individuals tending to the wounded.
Support for the white flag as an international sign of ceasefire and truce can be found in the Hague Conventions of 1899 as well:
An individual is considered as a parlementaire who is authorized by one of the belligerents to enter into communication with the other, and who carries a white flag. He has a right to inviolability, as well as the trumpeter, bugler, or drummer, the flag-bearer and the interpreter who may accompany him.
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Has Iceland Ever Been Invaded?
While conflicts between Icelanders and outsiders took place during the Middle Ages, fighting with other countries has never really reached Icelandic shores. The one exception took place during World War II, when the British launched Operation Fork.
In May 1940, British troops arrived in Reykjavik by ship in a preemptive move to keep Iceland out of German hands. Despite having gained sovereignty in 1918, Iceland was still in joint monarchy with Denmark, which had just fallen to the Germans.
Iceland declared itself neutral, and the invasion of its shores prompted a protest by the government. The British brought additional equipment to Iceland, Canadian reinforcements arrived soon after, and the US sent troops once it officially joined the war in 1941.
The occupation of Iceland lasted through the war, but was also the impetus for the country declaring itself completely independent from Denmark in June 1944.
As of 2022, Iceland has no standing military and has never officially declared war, although it is a member of NATO.
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What Have Astronauts Left Behind On The Moon?
Since humans first walked on the moon in 1969, they've been leaving behind markers of their time there. Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin placed the first lunar flag, something China was only the second country to do in 2020. An additional US flag was placed on the moon for each of the subsequent Apollo landings, making six total.
Before heading back to Earth, the crew of Apollo 11 discarded a camera, tools, and the tube that held the American flag to lighten their load. Apollo 14 astronauts in 1971 played golf at the end of their mission, reportedly leaving three balls behind.
After Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke reached the moon, he deposited a family photo that read "This is the family of astronaut Charlie Duke from planet Earth who landed on the moon on April 20, 1972." The ashes of Gene Shoemaker, an American astrogeologist, were taken to the moon after his passing in 1997.
Among the other lunar trinkets are a feather, a hammer, a commemorative sculpture for the 14 astronauts and cosmonauts known to have lost their lives as of 1971, and a golden olive branch.
Roughly 106 objects in total sit on the moon, including lunar buggies, technical and science equipment, crashed aircraft, and observational devices. This doesn't seem to include 96 bags of human waste.
- 6765 VOTES
Who's The 'Pete' In 'For Pete's Sake?'
The phrase "For Pete's sake!" may or may not be one that you use, but the saying does have a place in the English language, as does "For the love of Pete!"
Largely exclamations or utterances used to express frustration, aggravation, or some comparable feeling, the "Pete" in these sayings often swaps for "Christ" or "God" - likely to avoid taking the Lord's name in vain.
This is one explanation for where the idiom "For Pete's sake!" comes from, but it doesn't clarify who Pete actually is. No one knows for certain, but the leading contender is St. Peter.