Mr. Know-It-All Artists
Many early artists are believed to have been poisoned by their tools, which contained toxic materials such as lead. (Kevin Reilly Creative Commons)

Question: I once read that many of the early artists were poisoned. Was there some type of conspiracy against artists? - W.J., Newport, Tenn.

Answer: Hardly. Many artists are believed to have suffered from some type of poisoning because they were using products that would be banned in today's paints, such as lead, mercury and cadmium.

Q: In major league baseball, what player has been hit the most times by a pitch? - H.J., Watervliet, N.Y.

A: That record goes to Hughie Jennings of the Baltimore Orioles, who was hit 287 times in his career. Jennings, who played and managed from 1891 to 1925, was hit 51 times in 1896 alone.

In close second is Craig Biggio, who was hit 285 times before he retired in 2007. Biggio, who spent his entire 20-year career with the Houston Astros, played second base and is one of 28 members of the 3,000-hit club.

DID YOU KNOW? Actor Richard Burton was born Richard Jenkins. He adopted his stage name at 17 in honor of his schoolmaster and tutor, Philip Burton.

Q: We live in southern Florida. My daughter asked where the name of the town Hypoluxo originates. Do you know? - P.C., Florida

A: The town of about 2,500 residents was named after a Seminole term for Lake Worth, loosely meaning "water all 'round -- no get out."

DID YOU KNOW? Singer Faith Hill had the role of Mel Gibson's wife in "We Were Soldiers" (2002), but left the film and was replaced by Madeleine Stowe.

Q: I enjoy watching "Law & Order" reruns on TV. Frequently, the detectives are instructed to pull "LUDs," the record of phone calls. What does "LUD" stand for? - P.C., Kerrville, Texas

A: The acronym stands for "local usage details," which is a list of a person's incoming and outgoing phone calls over a specified period of time.

Q: When confronted with an offensive odor, we might say "P.U." What do the initials stand for?

A: No one knows. Actually, no one even knows how to spell it, since P.U. is not an abbreviation. There are several explanations; the one I like best is that it's a shortening of the word "puteo," Latin for "to stink."

Q: What can you tell me about the incredibly funny radio show "The Bickersons"? - P.A.P., Coventry, Conn.

A: The radio comedy program "The Bickersons" began in 1946 and continued until 1951. The show's married protagonists, portrayed by Don Ameche (1908-1993) and Frances Langford (1913-2005), spent most of their time together squabbling.

Q: What can you tell me about the actress who plays Flo in the Progressive Insurance TV ads? - S.A.I., Reading, Pa.

A: Flo first appeared on TV in 2008; she is played by actress and comedian Stephanie Courtney. Courtney has appeared in radio and print advertisements, web banners and more than 50 commercials. She has appeared in movies like "The Brothers Solomon" and "Blades of Glory."

Q: I recall reading about an old sailing ship that was discovered and raised about 40 years ago. It is now on display in England. Can you tell me more about it?

A: It sounds as if you are talking about the Mary Rose. The ship was built between 1509 and 1511 and served in Henry VIII's navy for more than 30 years until it sank off the south coast of England on July 19, 1545, during a battle with France. Its resting place was discovered in the early 1970s, and it was raised on Oct. 11, 1982. More than 20,000 artifacts were found in or near where the ship had rested for more than 400 years. The vessel and artifacts are on display near where it was built in Portsmouth, England.

Oh, Henry named the ship after his favorite sister, the 13-year-old future queen of France.

DID YOU KNOW? New York City's Manhattan College is actually located in the Bronx. Famous alumni include former mayor Rudy Giuliani and author James Patterson.

Q: Several years ago, you answered a question about a unit of measure to determine one's beauty. I can't remember anything about it. Can you remind me what it's called? - C.H., Clearwater, Fla.

A: It's a humorous unit called a "millihelen," referring to Helen of Troy. She was said to have a face that launched a thousand ships. If someone had the beauty to launch one ship, she was scored as a millihelen. Ten ships? Ten millihenens. However, there is a negative helen, which measures the number of sunken ships or the amount of "negative beauty" that can turn ships around.

Q: During a sleepless night, I turned on TV and watched a talk show with a female host. The guest was a cocky wannabe actor. He called her "esum" and then belittled her for not knowing what the word meant. I decided watching an infomercial was more interesting and turned off the show. I looked up the word "esum," but had no luck. Are you familiar with it? - J.K.Z., Buffalo, N.Y.

A: The word is "eesome," which means "pleasing to the eye or attractive." None of the sources I looked up had a root for the word, and several said eesome is obsolete.

Q: This past winter I was cuddled on the sofa with my girlfriend. There was over a foot of fresh snow on the ground and more coming down. She said, "The next time we have a snowstorm, I would like to be with you in Key West, in a hot tub watching the sunset drinking 'bellemis.'" I asked her what this drink was, she said she wasn't sure, but it sounded great when she read about it. Can you tell us what bellimis are? Have you ever tried one? - R.L., Pottsville, Pa.

A: I think she must be talking about a Bellini cocktail. The Bellini is made with Champagne or prosecco, a dry or extra dry Italian sparkling white wine. Added to the bubbly is peach puree or peach nectar. The drink was created by Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy. The unique pink color reminded Cipriani of the color of the toga worn by a saint in a painting by 15th-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini - thus the name of the drink. The Bellini was created anywhere from the mid-1930 to the end of the 1940s.

You asked if I've ever had one. The answer is no, but by the time you read this, I assure you I will have.

DID YOU KNOW? Andy Griffith graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1949, where he earned a bachelor's degree in music. He originally attended school to study to be a Moravian preacher before changing his major.

Q: A local furniture store ran an ad promoting their line of bonded leather furniture. I haven't heard the term "bonded leather" in a long time. What is it? - T.L., Mesa, Ariz.

A: Bonded leather is lower-cost upholstery material made by shredding leather scraps, mixing it with adhesives and placing it on a cloth, cardboard or paper backing before using it on a finished product, such as a chair or sofa. It is also called reconstituted leather or blended leather.

- Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.