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MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Do We Wear Green On St. Patrick’s Day?

Whether you’re Irish or not, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Today’s the day when people around the world get decked out in green to flaunt their Irish pride & celebrate the legacy of St. Patrick. But take a look at the earliest depictions of the famous Christian missionary and you’ll notice something strange: He’s typically shown wearing blue, not green. So, why do we wear green on St. Patrick’s Day?

As difficult as it might be to imagine, Ireland wasn’t always associated with green. In 1541, King Henry VIII, wanting to cement England’s centuries-old reign over the island nation, declared himself king of Ireland & even gave it a new coat of arms: a gold harp against a blue background. More than 200 years later, when King George III established an order of knights called the Order of St. Patrick, blue’s connection to Ireland became even more pronounced: the order’s official color was a shade of sky blue that came to be known as “St. Patrick’s blue.”

Meanwhile, Irish nationalists were looking for ways to separate themselves, politically & chromatically, from the English. The color green first appeared during the Great Irish Rebellion of 1641, when military commander Owen Roe O’Neill brandished a green flag with a harp to represent the Confederation of Kilkenny, which was trying to put an end to Protestant control of the region. Then, in the 1790s, the Society of United Irishmen—a revolutionary group advocating for republicanism—donned uniforms of green shirts, green & white striped pants, and felt hats with green cockades (or rosettes). The era also gave rise to patriotic poems and ballads, many of which used the color green, along with Ireland’s rich natural landscapes, as an emblem of Irish pride & resilience.

Over time, green became strongly symbolic of Ireland in general, and St. Patrick’s use of the (green) shamrock to explain the holy trinity in his teachings had a more lasting influence than his association with the color blue from the Order of St. Patrick. Green became a part of Ireland’s national flag in 1848 and, as droves of Irish immigrants arrived in America throughout the 19th century, they brought with them the tradition of wearing green to celebrate his feast day.

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MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Are There No Snakes In Ireland?

With the arrival of another St. Patrick’s Day, let’s investigate one of the all-time biggest bits of lore surrounding the Emerald Isle: why are there no snakes in Ireland?

Legend says St. Patrick used the power of his faith to drive all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea…which would’ve been impressive image, if it had happened. But sadly, there’s no way that it could have. Because there never were any snakes in Ireland, partly for the same reason that there are no native snakes in Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica. Because Ireland is, well, an island.

Once upon a time, Ireland was connected to a larger landmass. But that was during an ice age that kept the land far too chilly for cold-blooded reptiles. As the last ice age ended around 10,000 years ago, glaciers melted, which poured even more cold water into the impassable expanse between Ireland & its neighbors. Other animals, like wild boars, lynx, and brown bears, all managed to make it across, as did one lone reptile: the common lizard. Snakes, however, missed their chance.

Ireland’s reputation as a serpent-free haven has, strangely enough, turned snake ownership there into a status symbol. There have been numerous reports of large pet snakes escaping or being released. But as of yet, no species has managed to take hold in the wild. And that, in & of itself, is actually a small miracle.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me an email:

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MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Are Pilots’ Stations Called “Cockpits”?

I’ve always been fascinated by the audio that comes from a plane’s cockpit. But have you ever wondered…“Why is it called a ‘cockpit’ in the first place?”

In aviation terms, the cockpit is the control center from which the pilot directs the functions & flight path of an aircraft. Commercial planes have them, as do military aircraft. Heck, even spaceships have them (Han Solo & Chewbacca spent most of their time in the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit). But the earliest planes didn’t use the term (remember, Orville Wright controlled his aircraft while just laying on top of the wing). So, how did the pilot’s station come to be known as the “cockpit”?

Well, there are a few possible explanations, though none are gospel. What’s known for certain is that the word “cockpit” first appeared in the 16th century as the term for an arena in which roosters were forced to attack one another in cockfights. Cockfighting areas were dug into the ground, so as to keep the roosters from getting out & away, hence the word “cock pit”. But that doesn’t really have anything to do with airplanes, though (especially considering that the concept of flight wasn’t really on folks’ minds in the 1500s).

One connecting thread, though, might’ve been a London theater called The Cockpit, which had been built on the site of an old rooster-fighting cockpit before the theater got torn down in the 1600s to make way for apartments for government officials. But even with the theater gone, Londoners ultimately continued calling the new apartment building The Cockpit. And, because it was where the brain trust of the country resided, “cockpit” started to become synonymous with “command center”. Pilots may have also taken a cue from another definition of the term. The term cockpit expanded to include any type of war zone, and since fighter planes would regularly engage in combat with other aircraft, they were essentially in an airborne cockfighting ring, or cockpit.

One other theory revolves around the word “cockswain” (nowadays usually spelled as “coxswain”), which was a term for a person in charge of a sailboat. The cockpit came to mean the area from which the boat could be steered, after which the term likely could’ve potentially migrated to the world of aviation.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Fly an email my way:

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Andy Webb, a 27-year Radio entertainer & content creator, is WFRE’s Program Director & host of “The Free Country Free Ride” weekday afternoons from 3pm-7pm.

From his very first job in 1995 in his hometown of Meridian, MS, Radio has been the only occupation Andy’s ever known; from the age of reel-to-reel tape to today’s digital audio, he worked his way up through late-night air shifts all the way up to morning drive. Andy’s been featured across many different formats, including Country, Classic Rock, Adult Contemporary, Hot AC, Southern Gospel, and even Urban AC.

As testament to his talents & commitment to fun-yet-informative Radio, Andy was awarded the Mississippi Association of Broadcasters’ “Radio Personality of the Year” award 4-out-of-5 years, from 2006 to 2011. And he’s been named one of the “Best Program Directors in Country Radio” by Radio Ink magazine in both 2022 & 2023.

Andy attended The University of Southern Mississippi on an Opera Performance scholarship, but he always followed the path Radio set before him, a path which has taken him from his hometown to Hattiesburg, MS, to Charleston, SC, and now Frederick, MD.

Andy is devoted to his wife, Emma (WFRE’s Midday host), and daughter, Isabel, and loves spending his infrequent free time golfing, wood-working, motorcycle riding, and horseback riding.

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