Question: My wife and I are both in our 80s. As far back as we can remem ber, we've used these sayings: "See you later, alligator," "After a while, crocodile" and "You know what I mean, jelly bean." Much later in our lives we added, "Sure do, tennis shoe." Is there an identifi able source for any of these? -- A. & J.R., Peoria, Ill.

Answer: The source of "see you later, alligator" and "after a while, crocodile" is the 1950s song "See You Later Alligator," written and recorded by Robert Guidry. Bill Haley and His Comets recorded the most popular version of the song in 1955.

"Do you know what I mean, jelly bean" comes from musician John Benitez, also known as "Jellybean" Benitez. His sister gave him the nickname Jellybean because of his initials, J.B.

"Sure do, tennis shoe" are lyrics of a children's song by Dr. Jean Feldman. Dr. Jean is a well-known educator who has written numerous books and songs to make learning enjoyable for children and teachers.

Q: It's been many years since I've had the oppor tunity to see the statue The Little Mermaid in the Copenhagen Harbor. How old is the statue? Who was the model? I under stand that it has been the subject of many incidents of vandalism. Is this true? -- G.L.B., Norwalk, Conn.

A: In 1909, Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of Carlsberg brewery, attended the ballet "The Little Mermaid," based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale. He was so moved by the performance, he commissioned a statue by Edvard Eriksen. Ellen Price, who performed the title role in the ballet, posed for the statue. However, she refused to model nude, so the body was modeled after Eline Eriksen, the sculptor's wife.


The Little Mermaid was unveiled on Aug. 23, 1913, and was donated to the city of Copenhagen by Jacobsen. The statue has been vandalized -- including being decapitated -- many times over the years.

Q: Being a lifelong Green Bay Packers foot ball fan, my favorite quar terback has always been Bart Starr. Is Bart his real first name? I assume he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, but when? -- S.K., Lexington, Mass.

A: Bryan Bartlett "Bart" Starr was born in Montgomery, Ala., in 1934. He graduated from the University of Alabama and entered the NFL Draft in 1956, where the Packers chose him in the 17th round.

After his playing career ended in 1971, Starr stayed with the team as an assistant coach, eventually becoming the Packers' head coach from 1975 to 1983. In 1965, Bart and his wife, Cherry, helped co-found Rawhide Boys Ranch in New London, Wis., to help at-risk and troubled boys throughout the state. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

Q: In the 1970s, a friend of the family used to collect Barr Notes. Being young, I wasn't the least bit interested in her collection. As I look back, I now wonder what it was that she collected. I think it was paper currency. Was it? -- N.C.B., Horse shoe Bend, Ark.

A: You are right; it was paper currency. Joseph W. Barr was secretary of the Treasury from Dec. 21, 1968, to Jan. 20, 1969, during the administration of Lyndon Johnson. United States paper money depicts the signature of the Treasury secretary. Because he served the shortest term in that office, many believed that notes with his name would be scarce, which is not true; there were more than 458 million $1 bills with his signature. The $1 note is the only currency to have his signature.

Q: I've heard of Black Bart since I was a kid. Was there really an Old West bandit by that name? Or was he just an other myth? -- H.L., Boston

A: Black Bart was real. As far as stagecoach robbers go, Black Bart was one of America's most unusual. He was polite, never used profanity, wrote poetry and, according to many, he never fired a gun during a robbery.

Black Bart's birth name was Charles Bowles, and he was born in England in 1829; his family emigrated to upstate New York in 1931. Around the age of 20, he headed to California to mine for gold, where he had some success. He robbed his first stagecoach in 1875 and continued until 1883, when he was captured and sent to prison for four years. In early 1888, he disappeared and was never heard from again.

Q: Every now and then, I say, "The best laid plans of mice and men go astray." My daughter says she's never heard the phrase before. Where did it originate? -- T.R.H., Fleetwood, Pa.

A: The phrase, of course, means no matter how well you plan something, you should always expect the unexpected; in other words, have a plan B in mind. The line is paraphrased from the 1786 poem by Robert Burns, "To a Mouse." Although there are several thoughts as to what the poem means, one theory is that it describes how a mouse's home is destroyed by a farmer's plow even though the mouse thought he had a perfect location. The actual line reads: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley." The phrase is also the source for the title of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men."

Q: Why do we fly the American flag at half-mast to mourn the loss or show respect of someone? -- R.T.N., Bennington, Vt.

A: According to legend, after a battle, defeated forces would lower their flag to make room for the victors to fly their flag above theirs. Around the 17th century, it was customary to lower a ship's flag to half-mast when a crew member was lost. The lowered flag made room for the invisible flag of the Angel of Death.

The correct term for non-nautical use is "half-staff," not "half-mast."

Q: I'm not sure how many times actress Elizabeth Taylor has been married. The last time was to some guy who was a former construction worker; as I recall, he was much younger. How much younger? There is also a poker hand named after him. What is it? -- B.G., Yuma, Ariz.

A: Larry Fortensky was born Jan. 17, 1952, while Elizabeth Taylor was born Feb. 27, 1932. The two met at the Betty Ford Clinic in late 1988. The following year, they left the clinic and remained friends. They were married at Michael Jackson's estate, Neverland, in October 1991. The marriage did not last: On Oct. 31, 1996, the couple officially ended their union. This marriage was Taylor's seventh, but she was married eight times; it was Fortensky's third trip down the aisle.

The poker hand named after him is a four of a kind with all tens. It's a play on his last name, which is pronounced "four-ten-ski."

Q: I have a question for you about the TV series "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." The actress who played the role of Dobie's mother had an unusual name. What was it? -- B.F., Lake Sta tion, Ind.

A: Florida Friebus (1909-1988) played the role of Winifred "Winnie" Gillis, the mother of Dobie Gillis. After the series ended, she appeared in many other shows, including: "Perry Mason," "Father Knows Best," "Peyton Place," "Ironside," "Sanford and Son," "The Bob Newhart Show," "Barnaby Jones" and "Rhoda." Besides appearing on television, Friebus was also a writer and Broadway actress.

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