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Welcome to the Greenwood.Net Curiosity Corner

Chessy Grin

May 12, 2021

Curiosity Corner
Dr. Jerry D. Wilson,
Professor Emeritus of Physics
Lander University

Question: Why are people told to say “cheese” when having a picture taken? (Asked by an anonymous amateur photographer.)

Reply: Say cheese! And snap, a photo is taken of your smiling face. Saying cheese has been around for a long time. When saying cheese, articulation of the long “e” sound requires us to draw back our lips and show our teeth, hopefully in a pleasant smile. “Breeze” or “please” would also work, but “cheese” seems to have won out in popular usage.

But be careful! Don’t give a cheesy grin when not having a picture taken. This implies insincerity.

Another common practice is for a photographer to tell a group of people to, “together, say one, two, three!” You get the long “e” for the grin, and if said in unison, everyone smiles at once.

Question: Dr. Wilson, I know what “point blank” or “point-blank range” means, but where does this phrase come from? (Asked by a curious hunter.)

Reply: Yep, point blank means you can’t miss, and point-blank range means you are too close to the target to miss. This derives from archery, with “blank” coming from the French word “blanc,” which means white. The target in archery at one time was often a piece of white cloth. It is believed that the “point” refers to the point or tip of an arrow about to be fired.

In aiming, if the point coincides with the target, it will be hit as long as it is within “point-blank range.”

In ballistics, point-blank range is the distance between a firearm and a target such that a bullet in flight is expected to strike the target without adjusting the elevation of the firearm.

In academics, point blank might mean a student didn’t have a clue about a point being made. (I’ve seen a lot of point-blank expressions in class.)

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): “Happiness is having a scratch for every itch.” -Ogden Nash

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC, 29649, or email jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to www.curiosity-corner.net.

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