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The Quick 10: 10 Failed Assassination Attempts

Today happens to be the anniversary of the day Sara Jane Moore tried to take President Ford out in 1975. Had it not been for the quick thinking of the guy next to her, Nelson Rockefeller would have been president and who knows where history would have taken us. Ford isn't the only U.S. president to narrowly escape disaster - here are nine other tales of presidents

1. Andrew Jackson, 1835. I love this one, because when house painter Richard Lawrence's shots misfired, Old Hickory beat him with a cane until he could be apprehended. Dude was tough.

2. Teddy Roosevelt, 1912. Teddy was giving a speech in Milwaukee when he was shot once by saloon-keeper John Schrank. Unperturbed, Roosevelt announced that he had been shot but insisted on finished out his speech anyway. His thick speech and his glasses case stopped the bullet from being fatal. The bullet was never removed.

3. Franklin Roosevelt, 1933. Giuseppe Zangara shot five times at Roosevelt. He wounded four people and killed Chicago mayor Anton Cermak. The shooting happened on February 15; Zangara was executed in Florida's infamous Old Sparky for Cermak's murder on March 20.

4. Harry Truman, 1950. Two Puerto Rican pro-independence activists walked right up to the Blair House, where Truman was staying, with intent to assassinate Truman. One of the men distracted Secret Service while the other approached a guard booth and killed the guard inside. President Truman looked out his bedroom window; one of the activists was only 31 feet away. Both men were killed by gunfire - one at the hand of the other, and one by the Secret Service.

5. JFK, 1960. Years before Lee Harvey Oswald, 73-year-old Richard Pavlick intended to crash his car, loaded up with dynamite, into Kennedy's car. Pavlick saw Jackie and Caroline saying goodbye to the President and decided to call the operation off. When he was pulled over for a moving violation a few days later, he still had dynamite in his car and the Secret Service nabbed him.

6. Richard Nixon #1, 1972. Arthur Bremer intended to shoot Nixon when he was visiting Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. He was unable to get a good shot and there was too much security due to Vietnam War protests. When he gave up on that attempt, he settled for shooting Democratic Presidential Candidate George Wallace a month later instead.
7. Nixon #2, 1974. Samuel Byck, a former tire salesman, hijacked a plane at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport. He shot both the pilot and the co-pilot and told a passenger to fly the plane. Byck was shot through the glass of the aircraft door and ended up finishing himself off before the police could make their way into the cockpit.

8. Gerald Ford #1, 1975. Charles Manson devotee Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme tried to shoot Ford when he was shaking hands in a crowd in Sacramento. She tried to fire on him when he reached to shake her hand, but the firing chamber was empty.

9. Gerald Ford #2, 1975. Just 17 days later, on September 22, Sara Jane Moore fired at Ford in San Francisco. The guy standing next to Moore saw what was happening and jerked her arm away, making the shot miss the President. She was paroled just last year.

10. Jimmy Carter, 1979. Carter was in L.A. to give a speech when a man was arrested with a gun. His story was that he was only there to distract Secret Service; other hit men with sniper rifles were waiting in the wings to assassinate Carter. The man, Raymond Lee Harvey, escaped conviction because there was a lack of evidence.

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
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TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

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