Question: My grandmother used to talk about people who were born with a wooden spoon in their mouth. I would laugh to myself that she got the phrase confused. I was watching a British series on PBS, and the phrase was used. Can you explain? - S.E.E., Columbus, Ohio

Answer: Being born with a silver spoon in your mouth is preferable, but for those of us in the working class, we deal with wooden spoons.

There is also a wooden spoon wife, which is the opposite of a trophy wife. This comes from the British tradition of awarding a wooden spoon to a person who finishes last in a competition.

Q: In the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey," the computer HAL 9000 gives Dave Bowman some specifics about his origin. Where, according to HAL, was he created? - W.L., Chester, Pa.

A: HAL says he "became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois, on the 12th of January, 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song."

Q: When and where was actor Vin Diesel born? - O.P., Goodyear, Ariz.

A: The talented actor, director, screenwriter and producer was born July 18, 1967, in New York City. His given name is Mark Sinclair Vincent; he took the name Vin Diesel while a bouncer in New York.

Q: The shortest nine-inning Major League Baseball game was 51 minutes. What was the shortest doubleheader? What are the details of the shortest game? - R.E.C., Elmira, N.Y.

A: On Sept. 28, 1919, the New York Giants defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 6 to 1 in 51 minutes.

On Sept. 26, 1926, the New York Yankees dropped a pair of games to the St. Louis Browns, 6 to 1 and 6 to 2. It took two hours and seven minutes to play both games. Game No. 1 lasted 1 hour 12 minutes, while game No. 2 lasted 55 minutes.

DID YOU KNOW? Rodney Dangerfield's trademark white shirt and red tie are on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

Q: What is the origin of the phrase "dead as a doornail"? - N.C.K., Manhattan Beach, Calif.

A: At one time, nails were handmade and expensive. When an old structure was torn down, the nails were salvaged for future use.

However, when buildings were constructed, doorway nails were bent over to prevent them from working their way loose due to repeatedly opening and closing the door. When salvaging the nails, the doornails were useless - or dead - which brings about the phrase "dead as a doornail." It's been in use since the 14th century.

Q: I recall hearing that the first name of the singer and actress Della Reese is DellaReese. Is this correct? - H.L., Keyser, W.Va.

A: Delloreese Patricia Early was born July 6, 1931, in Detroit. She changed her name in 1949.

Q: I came across a menu from a modern-day revival of a medieval banquet. One of the items was "endored chicken." What is "endored"? - D.B., Ada, Minn.

A: In culinary terms, it means to glaze, creating a finish of tinted gold or other color.

One old translated recipe I came across gave this as one of the final steps in preparing chicken: "Have ready a thin batter made of the egg yolks and flour and seasoned with ginger, pepper, saffron and salt. With skin removed, paint the batter over the bird several times while cooking. With this recipe, the chicken will be colored yellow-orange from the saffron glaze."

Q: A television commercial in the early 1980s for FedEx featured an incredibly fast-talking actor. Do you know who he is? - P.J., Flint, Mich.

A: His name is John Moschitta Jr. According to "The Guinness Book of World Records," at the time he was the world's fastest talker, able to articulate 586 words per minute. He's appeared in more than 750 commercials in several movies and TV shows.

His record was broken in 1990 by Englishman Steve Woodmore, who spoke 637 words per minute. That record was broken on Aug. 30, 1995, by Canadian Sean Shannon, who spoke 655 words per minute.

Q: I go to New England to ski almost every winter. I always enjoy looking at the ice fishing sheds on lakes. These sheds are known by many names, but this year I heard a new one - it was the name of a man, but I forget who. Is this something you can answer? - M.L.F., Elkton, Md.

A: Well, I can give it a try. These ice shanties are known by many names, including an ice shack, ice house, fishing shanty, fish house, fish coop and ice hut, just to name a few. The structures can be as inexpensive as two-by-fours and some plastic, or, the ice cabins can be two-story dwellings complete with heat, beds, electricity and cooking facilities.

Now, to answer your question: I have a strong inkling that you heard the term "Bob house." There are various spellings, including Bobhouse and Bob-house. Bob houses are portable structures on wheels. No one knows why they got that name, though one theory is that bobsleds were used to bring the structures onto the lakes or ponds.

Q: Our tour bus in the English countryside stopped so we would have a chance to walk around the quaint village. A woman in her front yard asked a passerby if she wanted to stop in for some "ninny broth." She did, and the two entered the house, leaving me perplexed. I have never heard of ninny broth. Neither had our tour guide; she suggested I heard it incorrectly. I'm sure I did not. Do you know the term? - C.B., Miami

A: "Ninny broth" is a very old slang term for "coffee."

Q: What were the circumstances that caused a naval officer to spend every day aboard a ship and never be allowed to see or go ashore? He was known as "The Man Without a Country." - R.J.B., Prospect Park, Pa.

A: "The Man Without a Country" is a short story by Edward Everett Hale. It was first published in 1863 in the Atlantic Monthly. The story is of American Army Lt. Philip Nolan, who develops a friendship with Aaron Burr. When Burr is tried for treason, Nolan is tried as an accomplice. During his testimony, Nolan renounces his nation.

He says, "I wish I may never hear of the United States again!" The judge grants his wish and orders that Nolan spend the rest of his life aboard warships with no right to ever set foot on U.S. soil and to never hear news of the U.S. again.

"The Man Without a Country" has been adapted for film several times, as well as a made-for-television movie in 1973, starring Cliff Robertson and Beau Bridges. An opera of the story was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 1937, and the story was created for disc and a three-act radio play.

Q: What happened to Brynn Thayer, the actress who played Matlock's daughter? - F.L., Pottsville, Pa.

A: Brynn Thayer was born Oct. 4, 1949, and has appeared in more than a dozen television series. Like you mentioned, she is most well-known for her role as Leanne MacIntyre in "Matlock." She is the co-founder of ZazAngles, a charitable organization that generates funds for research of ALS disease. She's been married three times.

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