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Do You Really Have to Wait an Hour to Swim After Eating?

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By Haylee Read, Swinburne University

No one knows when, exactly, parents began terrifying their children with the prospect of a post-lunch drowning. But there are a few theories as to why some parents forbade their kids from swimming after eating: Some say it originated from a need for a break from parental supervision. Parents are required to maintain constant vigilance while their children are swimming. Applying the “one hour rule” offers a simple break for the parents after lunch and a frustrating wait for children. 

But another theory is that the idea was based on the widely accepted belief that after eating, much of the available blood in the human body floods to the stomach to aid digestion. It was assumed that this flooding would leave the limbs so devoid of blood that they would unable to function normally and would cramp up. Naturally, it followed that this cramping would cause a swimmer to drown.

Blood does flow to our stomachs after eating a big meal, but does this draw enough blood to cause our limbs to cramp?

The truth is, blood does flow to the digestive organs after we eat, but we have enough blood to perform many functions in the body simultaneously and keep all of our muscles functioning correctly. In fact, our bodies produce adrenaline when we exercise which helps the body deliver oxygen to the muscles that need it most. Some professional swimmers eat right before they swim so they have the fuel to compete over long distances at higher performance levels.

And even if a swimmer did cramp, it would not be enough to cause a swimmer to drown. Even with a stitch it is possible to float on your back, and in shallow water, a swimmer can simply stand up. An incident of drowning from swimming on a full stomach has never been documented.

There is a difference in the quantity of food eaten, however. If a swimmer has just consumed a large meal, the body will have to work harder to break down the fat and protein. This could lead to a stomach ache, and it has been proven that a very full stomach during exercise can cause discomfort or even vomiting.

The verdict? It's perfectly safe to swim after eating. But if you have just eaten a large meal, it might be best to avoid any strenuous activity for a few minutes to curb any stomach discomfort or nausea.

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Words
Why Is 'Colonel' Spelled That Way?
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English spelling is bizarre. We know that. From the moment we learn about silent “e” in school, our innocent expectations that sound and spelling should neatly match up begin to fade away, and soon we accept that “eight” rhymes with “ate,” “of” rhymes with “love,” and “to” sounds like “too” sounds like “two.” If we do sometimes briefly pause to wonder at these eccentricities, we quickly resign ourselves to the fact that there must be reasons—stuff about history and etymology and sound changing over time. Whatever. English. LOL. Right? It is what it is.

But sometimes English takes it a step too far, does something so brazen and shameless we can’t just let it slide. That’s when we have to throw our shoulders back, put our hands on our hips and ask, point blank, what is the deal with the word “colonel”?

“Colonel” is pronounced just like “kernel.” How did this happen? From borrowing the same word from two different places. In the 1500s, English borrowed a bunch of military vocabulary from French, words like cavalerie, infanterie, citadelle, canon, and also, coronel. The French had borrowed them from the Italians, then the reigning experts in the art of war, but in doing so, had changed colonello to coronel.

Why did they do that? A common process called dissimilation—when two instances of the same sound occur close to each other in a word, people tend to change one of the instances to something else. Here, the first “l” was changed to “r.” The opposite process happened with the Latin word peregrinus (pilgrim), when the first “r” was changed to an “l” (now it’s peregrino in Spanish and Pellegrino in Italian. English inherited the “l” version in pilgrim.)

After the dissimilated French coronel made its way into English, late 16th century scholars started producing English translations of Italian military treatises. Under the influence of the originals, people started spelling it “colonel.” By the middle of the 17th century, the spelling had standardized to the “l” version, but the “r” pronunciation was still popular (it later lost a syllable, turning kor-o-nel to ker-nel). Both pronunciations were in play for a while, and adding to the confusion was the mistaken idea that “coronel” was etymologically related to “crown”—a colonel was sometimes translated as “crowner” in English. In fact, the root is colonna, Italian for column.

Meanwhile, French switched back to “colonel,” in both spelling and pronunciation. English throws its shoulders back, puts its hands on its hips and asks, how boring is that?

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Love Scratching Furniture?
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Allergy suffering aside, cat ownership has proven health benefits. A feline friend can aid in the grieving process, reduce anxiety, and offer companionship.

The con in the cat column? They have no reservations about turning your furniture into shredded pleather. No matter how expensive your living room set, these furry troublemakers will treat it with the respect accorded to a college futon. Do cats do this out of some kind of spite? Are they conspiring with Raymour & Flanigan to get you to keep updating home decor?

Neither. According to cat behaviorists, cats gravitate toward scratching furniture mostly because that love seat is in a really conspicuous area [PDF]. As a result, cats want to send a message to any other animal that may happen by: namely, that this plush seating belongs to the cat who marked it. Scratching provides both visual evidence (claw marks) as well as a scent marker. Cat paws have scent glands that can leave smells that are detectable to other cats and animals.

But it’s not just territorial: Cats also scratch to remove sloughed-off nail tips, allowing fresh nail growth to occur. And they can work out their knotted back muscles—cramped from sleeping 16 hours a day, no doubt—by kneading the soft foam of a sectional.

If you want to dissuade your cat from such behavior, purchasing a scratching post is a good start. Make sure it’s non-carpeted—their nails can get caught on the fibers—and tall enough to allow for a good stretch. Most importantly, put it near furniture so cats can mark their hangout in high-traffic areas. A good post might be a little more expensive, but will likely result in fewer trips to Ethan Allen.

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