I subscribe to a daily trivia email that gives the percentage of the quiz-takers who answer the questions correctly.
The questions are rarely difficult, but I have noticed that the percentage of right answers for the more traditional “general knowledge” questions on history or literature tend to drop into the seventies, while those on rock groups and sports score in the high eighties.
Different generations, different interests.
Nevertheless, I’m always puzzled by the low scores for questions that seem to contain the answer in the question.
The leaves from which tree inspire a palmette design?
Palm Pine Plum Fern
When I saw that question, I said to myself “Doh!” To me it was like Groucho’s question “Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?”
The percentage of quiz takers that got this one right was 71%. Honest.
Two common types of palm tree are palmate and pinnate.
palmate: adj. from Latin palma, “hand.” Having a shape similar to that of a hand with the fingers extended.
pinnate: adj. from Latin pinna, “feather, wing.” Resembling a feather; having parts or branches arranged on each side of a common axis.
The Latin word palma also referred to the palm fronds that symbolized victory and were bestowed upon a contest winner or victorious general. The ancient practice is reflected in the English expression to win the palm: to succeed in some endeavor.
Military decorations often feature leaves in the design. Leaves on medals awarded to U.S. service personnel tend to favor the laurel and the oak, but the RVN Gallantry Cross features a pinnate palm leaf.
Palm has numerous meanings in English.
Meanings of palm as a noun:
the inner surface of the hand that extends from the wrist to the base of the fingers.
the similar part of the forefoot of an animal
a unit of length equal to either the width or the length of the hand
the part of a glove that covers the palm
the blade of an oar or paddle
the flattened part of the antlers of certain animals
Meanings of palm as a verb:
to pick up furtively
to conceal in the palm of the hand
to commit a basketball violation by letting the ball rest momentarily in the palm of the hand while dribbling
Like all body part words, palm has given the language many expressions.
to palm off: to dispose of or pass off by deception
to have an itching palm: to have a strong desire for money (the idea is that the palm must be scratched with coins, i.e. bribe money)
In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the grief-stricken Brutus insults his friend Cassius with this expression:
Let me tell you, Cassius, you yourself
Are much condemn’d to have an itching palm,
To sell and mart your offices for gold
Words that derive from palm:
palmate: adj. 1. Of an antler: in which the angles between the tines are partly filled in to form a broad flat surface 2. Of a leaf: having (esp. five) lobes, veins, or leaflets radiating from a common point like the fingers of an outspread hand; 3. Having finger-like branches, esp. diverging from a short or flattened base. 4. Of the foot of a bird or animal: webbed.
palmer: n. A pilgrim, esp. one returned from the Holy Land, traditionally carrying a palm branch or palm leaf as a mark of pilgrimage.
Chaucer mentions palmers in his prologue to The Canterbury Tales as he lists April activities:
Then folk long to go on pilgrimages
And palmers [wish] to seek foreign shores
To distant shrines famous in various lands
palmette: n. An ornamental design used on ancient pottery, and later on furniture, carpets, etc., having narrow radiating divisions and resembling a stylized palm leaf.
palmetto: n. Any of various fan palms,
palmistry: n. The art or practice of supposedly reading a person’s character or future by examining the lines and other features of the hand, especially the palm and fingers; chiromancy.
palmier: n. In French cookery: a biscuit made of sugared puff pastry, shaped like a palm leaf.
palmitic acid: n. a solid saturated fatty acid, CH3(CH2)14COOH, found in palm oil and in many vegetable and animal fats.