Thursday, October 2, 2008

37 - Answer(s)

Q: Bill Jeffers - ANSWER MY QUESTION ALREADY! Why do we call chicken meat chicken, turkey meat turkey, but we call cow meat beef, pig meat pork, etc. Is it because there are so many different types of cow and pig cut? Or do birds get special treatment in the meat world?
A: To answer this question we must venture back to 1066 and the Norman conquest of England (Wikipedia article here). There are two things that we’re interested in about the invasion. First, the invading Normans spoke Old French and the English spoke Old English. Second, following the invasion a new nobility was formed by the conquering Normans while the English made up the peasant class. Lots of other things are interesting about the conquest, but these two basic facts are all we need to answer the question.

The establishment of these new classes and differences in languages meant that the same animal was now known by two different words depending on where the animal was. The peasants called their livestock in their fields by their Old English names. These can be roughly translated as “cow”, “pig”, “sheep”, etc. The Norman nobles referred to the meat that they were being served at table by the Old French names for the animals the meat came from. Thus, “cow” became “bouef” (beef), pig became “porc” (pork), “sheep” became “moutons” (mutton).

Now what about chicken and turkey? Well they are technically considered another French word, “poultry”. But I suspect that the languages were merged more by then, and that they used the same word on the farm and at the table.

Q: Sarah LaBombard - After just talking to you, word on the street is that you're a big puss.....is this true?
A: I am a big puss. A huge puss, in fact. My puss-itude knows no bounds.

But what is meant by “puss”? Well the main way that I think I’m a puss is my lack of courage in certain situations. For example, I don’t like calling strangers on the phone. I get uncomfortable, nervous, and often sound like a moron. The only way I can avoid this is to rehearse what I’m going to say. Sometimes I go so far as to write out notes before the call so I can keep myself on track.

There are other ways I could get into, but I’ll save them for another time. For now it’s enough to know that yes, I am a big puss.

Q: Karyn Graves - Why is the location of a one game playoff based on a coin toss instead of head-to-head record, or even most runs scored???
A: Every year Major League Baseball flips a coin for every possible tiebreaking game during the runup to the playoffs. This is something that’s escaped my notice, which makes me feel somewhat sheepish.

My first reaction is to agree with you, Karyn. It makes sense that the regular season matchups between the two teams tied for a playoff spot should factor into how that tie gets resolved. Head to head record does seem the most logical thing. The question then becomes did the two teams play each other an equal number of times at each other’s home field. Generally this is true, so it makes sense to use head-to-head matchup to decide such things.

The coin toss adds randomness to the process, which can be said to add fairness. The theory is that it doesn't matter how you did during the regular season when it comes to the playoffs. Why should regular season performance come into play when deciding where a playoff is played? My answer to that question is that regular season performance DOES matter in the playoffs, specifically in the area of seeding. Because of that it stands to reason that regular season matchups should be used in determining playoff location. If and only if there is a tie on that front should they resort to a coin flip.

In closing, I'm very sorry that the Twins lost the coin toss and subsequently the one-game playoff to the White Sox. I was rooting for you. May your luck improve next year.