Question: I was at a yard sale, where I bought what the seller called a pigeon lamp. What did I buy? -- G.B., Baraboo, Wis.

Answer: Well, you bought a Pigeon lamp. Charles-Joseph Pigeon (1838-1915) invented the lamp in 1884. He worked as a salesman for a Paris department store and became a dealer in lamps. The Pigeon lamp, a nonexploding safety lamp, made him famous and wealthy.

Q: It is common to see women in medieval pic tures wearing large cones on their heads. This cone often had a veil of some sort attached. Does this headgear have a name? -- L.Y.F., Santa Rosa, Calif.

A: It does -- it's called a hennin. Hennins were popular in the 15th century in northern France and northern Europe. A truncated version resembles a flowerpot. There are many versions of hennins, including ones that are heart-shaped and beehive-shaped.

Q: I teach a Sunday school class of third- through sixth-graders. They keep asking me why the Tropic of Cancer has that name. You are the only person I could think of to ask. -- G.W., Alexis, N.C.

A: The Tropic of Cancer is an imaginary line indicating the latitude and most northerly position at which the sun reaches its highest point. When the Tropic of Cancer was given its name, the sun was positioned in the constellation Cancer during the June solstice. The same is true of the Tropic of Capricorn during the December solstice.

Q: Some time after the movie "E.T. the Extra-Ter restrial" (1982) came out, Drew Barrymore hosted "Saturday Night Live." What year was that? How old was Drew at the time? -- H.L., Redding, Calif.


A: Drew Barrymore was 7 years old when she hosted "Saturday Night Live" in 1982. She is the youngest person to ever host the sketch show. The second youngest person is Macaulay Culkin, who hosted the show in 1991 when he was 11.

Q: I think it was in your column a few years back where I read that a famous actor grew up thinking his mother was his sister. Who is the actor? -- M.L.S., Chan dler, Ariz.

A: The actor is Jack Nicholson. He was raised by his grandparents, who he thought were his real parents. He was told that his mother, June, was his older sister. A reporter discovered the truth in 1974 -- Nicholson was 37 years old when he found out.

Q: I love bagpipe music, and I go to any event where it is being played. I have a question about the dress of the bagpipe players: They have a pouch below the belt in the front. What is the pouch for? Does it have a name? -- S.B., Ankeny, Iowa

A: The pouch is called a sporran. It serves as a pocket for the pocketless Scottish kilt. Sporran is Gaelic for "purse."

Q: I would never want to get into a debate over which Frank Lloyd Wright home is the most famous. Two of my favorites are Taliesin and Taliesin West. Which of the two homes is the oldest? What does the word Taliesin mean? -- R.U., Newton, Kan.

A: After spending a year in Europe, architect Frank Lloyd Wright returned to the Wisconsin valley where his Welsh ancestors settled. In 1911, he began construction of Taliesin, near Spring Green. In Scottsdale, Ariz., Wright built Taliesin West, which, in 1937, became his winter home.

Taliesin is the name of a sixth-century Welsh bard. In Welsh mythology, Taliesin is the god of the bards.

Q: True or false: Tug-of-war was an Olympic sport. -- T.Z., Ocala, Fla.

A: It's true. Tug-of-war was added as an official event in the second modern Olympics, held in 1900. It had a short time in the spotlight -- tug-of-war was an Olympic sport only until 1920.

Q: About 10 years ago, General Mills changed the name of my favorite cereal, Cheerios. It added "2" cereal pieces in with the usual O's. What was the name of the cereal? What did the 2's rep resent? -- V.L., Lafayette, Ind.

A: In 1999, General Mills introduced Millenios as a limited edition cereal to commemorate the millennium. The text on the box read, "Once in a lifetime." Millenios were produced through 2000.

Q: During the War of 1812, the British captured Washington, D.C., and burned the Executive Mansion along with many other buildings in the city. Where did the president and his wife live when they returned to the city? How did their temporary building survive destruc tion? -- A.L.B., Scottsdale, Ariz.

A: British forces destroyed much of Washington, D.C., in 1814. When the troops advanced on the city, Col. John Tayloe, a wealthy Virginia plantation owner, offered his home, the Octagon House, to the French for use as their embassy. The French accepted, and the building was spared. Tayloe later offered the house to James and Dolley Madison as a temporary residence. They, too, accepted.

The Octagon House, a three-story brick building, was given its odd shape to fit the building lot.

Q: Is there a technical term for a person who is a connoisseur of wine? -- J.K., Enid, Okla.

A: A wine connoisseur is an oenophile.

Q: Why are things re lated to Ireland some times called Hibernia or Hibernian? -- C.L., Mil ford, Pa.

A: Hibernia is the Latin name for Ireland. It comes from the Latin "hibernare," meaning, "to spend the winter."

Q: The Arc de Tri omphe was one of many impressive images I have from my visit to Paris. Many streets or avenues converge at the Arc. How many? -- P.L., Evansville, Ill.

A: Twelve avenues radiate from the Arc de Triomphe.

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