Sunday, May 28, 2006

May 28: Five Alive Day

Today is the birthday of the first quintuplets to survive infancy. Born in Ontario, Canada in 1934, the Dionne Quintuplets were born two months premature. The five identical sisters, Annette, Cecile, Yvonne, Marie, and Emile, achieved celebrity status as news of their miraclous survival inspired both Americans and Canadians raveged by the Great Depression.

Although the quintuplets survived, their lives were anything but perfect. The Ontario government took them from their parents and put them on display in a hospital known as Quintland. Between 1934 to 1943, millions of people visited Quintland to see the girls who were put on display for the general public (1).

The word quintuplet comes from the Latin word quint for 'five.' It's the same root from which we get the word for a 'group of five': quintet.

Quint is also the source of the noun quintessence and the adjective quintessential which relate to the "purest or mosty typical example of a thing," as in Hamlet's speech where he praises the potential of mankind, calling him the quintessence of dust:

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? (Hamlet, Act II.ii)

The number five's relationship to the highest or most pure example of a thing has its roots in ancient and medieval philosopy, where there were thought to be four basic elements: earth, air, fire, and water. The fifth element, known as the quintessence, was "thought to be the substance of the heavenly bodies and latent in all things," according to the American Heritage College Dictionary.

The story behind quintessence might explain the traditional American grading system, based on five grades: A, B, C, D, and F. It might also explain the predominence of the number five in rating system of all kinds, including five-star restaurants, 5-star generals, and 5-star movies.

The Roman root for five is pent from which we get:

pentagon: A five-sided polygon.

pentathalon: An athletic contest with five events.

pentameter: A line of poetry consisting of five metrical feet.

Pentateuch: The first five books of the Old Testament.

pentagram: A five-pointed star.

Today's Challenge: Five Famous Fives

1. What is the name of the 1970 film where Jack Nicholson's character orders toast?

2. Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior are known as what?

3. This term has its origin in the Spanish Civil War when one of Franco's generals announced that he would lead four columns, attacking Madrid, and that once he attacked a "una quinta columna" would join his troops from inside the city. The term evolved through later wars and conflicts to refer to any group of traitors. What is the term?

4. Sixties pop group who recorded the hits: "ABC" and "I'll Be There"?

5. Probably the most famous of all symphonies. It begins with three short notes followed by a long fourth note. What is the title?

Quote of the Day: Five Quotes about Five

If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog? Five? No, calling a tail a leg don't make it a leg. --Abraham Lincoln

We should all be obliged to appear before a board every five years and justify our existence...on pain of liquidation. --George Bernard Shaw

Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust. --Zig Ziglar

Give me five minutes with a person's checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is. --Billy Graham

The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses. --Hanna Rion

Answers: 1. "Five Easy Pieces" 2. The five Great Lakes 3. The Fifth Column 4. The Jackson Five 5. Beethoven's Fifth

1 - CNN:

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