Jewish World Review July 27, 2004 / 9 Menachem-Av, 5764

Jeff Elder

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Consumer Reports

I'm Jeff Elder and I approved this answer; terms penny, nickel and dime; more | Q: Why are we hearing every politician this election year say "I'm so-and-so, and I approved this message?" By the way, Kay L. Cosgrove, my wife, also approved this message. - Richard Cosgrove, Richfield, N.C.

A: Running mates, eh?

Richard, why not put this campaign season's catch phrase to work for you? If you're doing chores in the yard this weekend, holler to the neighbors:

_"I'm Richard Cosgrove, and I pruned these hedges!"

Or come in and tell Kay:

_"I'm achey, and I approve this massage."

The McCain-Feingold campaign finance law of 2002 required candidates to identify themselves and say they approved an ad.

The main goal of the law was to crack down on "soft money" contributions, which had flowed to political parties. But the act also took aim at nasty ads. Previously many voters complained that they couldn't tell who was behind hit-piece commercials.

But does it work, or is it just a ridiculous tagline? Many critics say the tone of ads has remained negative, but with the surreal addition of two of the most famous men in the world telling us their names and that they approve of the words coming out of their mouths.

Wanna make this message your phone message? Download a ringtone from the high-tech company engadget at Whenever your cell phone rings, George W. Bush, John Kerry or Ralph Nader will identify himself and "approve this message." No word on whether the Nader ring will ensure fewer calls.

There are other ways to work the phrase into your life. At the gym:

_"I'm a bodybuilder, and I improved these flexes."

At the museum on your European vacation:

_"I'm an art fan, and I just Louvre these frescoes."

Working at a classy restaurant:

_"I'm a valet and I moved this Lexus."

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Q: Where did they come up with the terms penny, nickel and dime? - Stacy, Charlotte, N.C.

A: Stacy, I could just short-change you with the quick word origins.

But you're not some penny ante reader. And that would hardly be worth one thin dime, a plugged nickel or one red cent.

_Some believe the penny (or "pennig" in Old English) was named after the Saxon king Penda. Others believe it got its name from the pans into which molten metal for coins was poured. The German "pfennig" might come from "pfanne" or pan.

According to the U.S. Mint, the penny still turns a profit because each one costs 0.81 cent to make.

Why is honest Abe the only president on a coin facing to the right? That's the way he faced on a plaque by sculptor Victor David Brenner, and Teddy Roosevelt said to just leave Lincoln that way on the new penny in 1909, the Lincoln Centennial Year.

_The word nickel stems from the German "kupfernickel," or "copper demon." (Nickel was the word for "Nick," a name for the devil.) Miners gave nickel this name because the ore looked like copper but yielded none. Our coin took that name when the 5-cent piece began being made with the metal nickel.

How it came to contain nickel is interesting: Once, except for the copper penny, coins were made by size according to how much precious metal they contained. The 50-cent coin contained half as much silver as the dollar, the quarter had one-fourth as much, and the dime one-tenth as much. Problem: By the time they got down to the 5-cent piece (or "half disme" as it was called), it was tiny and hard to use. So in 1866, the Mint made it larger by changing its content from silver and copper to copper and nickel - and that's where it got its name.

Today, quarters, dimes, and half dollars have a copper core and an outer layer of 75 percent copper and 25 percent cupro-nickel alloy. Nickels are made from the same 75-25 alloy. The penny, once copper, is now copper-plated zinc.

_The word dime goes back to the Middle English for one-tenth, "disme," and the Latin "decima."

Quick: Who's on a dime? FDR, of course. Has been since 1946. But what about before then? It was a Winged Liberty Head or "Mercury" type. On the back is a torch for liberty, an oak branch for strength and an olive branch for peace.

You can cash in on many other facts at After all, it's your money.

And we're all in this nation together - as each coin tells us: "E Pluribus Unum," bub.



On swimming pools ...

1. Ker-SPLASH! What's it called when you jump into the pool with your knees hugged to your chest?

2. What explorer's name do kids yell in a swimming pool hide-and-seek game?

3. What actress was famed for backstroking through movies of the late `40s and early `50s?

4. What U.S. swimmer aspired to shine like Mark Spitz at this summer's Olympics?

5. True or false: According to a 2000 Roper poll, about one-quarter of Americans have skinny-dipped in "mixed company"?



1. A cannonball

2. Marco Polo

3. Esther Williams

4. Michael Phelps

5. True.


NOTE: In response to a recent column on sitting close to the television, Lt. William Hill, the assistant department head of optometry for the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, notes that kids often have an increase in the degree of myopia (nearsightedness) when they frequently sit close to a TV or computer. He reminds kids to sit back at a normal viewing distance from these screens.

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Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here. If you send him a great question, he'll send you a Glad You Asked T-shirt.


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