Thought Leadership

OFF-TOPIC: Things I learned

By Colin Walls

It started during lock-down last year. My wife and I started to record things that we had learned each day – doing our best to note something every day. I will admit that we have flagged somewhat lately, but I wanted to share a few of my pearls of wisdom:

The word vaccine comes from the Latin for cow.

This is not a word that I think about most of the time, but, of late, it has been rather topical. The Latin word for cow is vacca and some early vaccines were made from bovine products.

The most popular participatory sport in UK is Dodgeball; basket ball is #2.

I have never heard of Dodgeball and would not know if I was witnessing people playing it! Note this is considering participation in sports; most people just spectate.

In the US Senate there are 2 members for each state. 5 mid-west states have a combined population of 7m; California has 40m.

This does not seem very democratic to me, but I have almost no understanding of US politics.

Parents announcing babies tend to say “proud” about a boy and “happy” about a girl.

Interesting, but I wonder why?

2.3% of Americans believe that the world is flat.

I recall reading that the Flat Earth Society is very active and has members “all around the world”.

Wheelie bins were invented in 1968.

These ubiquitous [here anyway] plastic garbage cans seem to have been around for ever, but have only really become common in the last 20 years.

Boylston Street in Boston is named after the doctor who started treating smallpox.

This is not strictly true. It was actually named after Ward Nicholas Boylston, who was a descendent of Zabdiel Boyston, who was the first physician to perform smallpox inoculations in North America. The town of Boylston, MA is also named after him.

Belfast sinks had that name because there were water restrictions in other parts of the UK, which meant that butlers’ sinks were shallow. This was not the case in Belfast, so they were deeper.

Large ceramic kitchen sinks are quite fashionable in the UK nowadays. I never understand why, as they are heavy to install, expensive and crack or stain easily, but each to their own. Traditionally, they were considered butlers’ sinks [I am not sure what butlers used them for] and I often wondered where the name Belfast sink came from.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at