Commanders-In-Quirk! Discover These Ten Presidential Fun Facts & Hobbies!

Published on March 26, 2024

Credit: Jéan Béller

Let’s face it: Our "Commanders in Chief" are humans, after all. However significant their leadership was for the growth of our country, we should always keep in mind that they also had likes, dislikes, hobbies, and, above all, quirks just like the rest of us.

We have decided to document ten of our favorite presidential fun facts that celebrate the human side of our heads of state. Can you guess which president absolutely adored jelly beans before reading? It might surprise you!


Four score and many hats ago…

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Even though he is pictured bareheaded in the $5 bill and his memorial, it is kind of hard to separate President Lincoln from his iconic black top hat. And as anyone who had to play Lincoln will attest (which includes both Daniel Day-Lewis and elementary school students on President’s Day), top hats are rather roomy headpieces. This height served no functional purpose unless you were a certain president who had a habit of storing notes and papers on your hat.

According to historians, President Lincoln was incredibly messy during his lawyer years in Illinois. He came up with the solution of storing important documents in his top hat as a way to separate them from the mess in his office and, by the time he became president, this habit was well-known. Some believe Lincoln kept this tradition since it conveyed a powerful message: These ideas were coming straight from the president’s head.


Keep those feet warm!

Credit: Jonathan Taylor

As far as hobbies go, collecting socks might be one of the most useful ones. After all, doesn’t a huge assortment of colorful, comfy songs to choose from at the start of each day sound like a dream? In any case, we can think of at least one person who shared our passion for socks and that is former president George H.W. Bush.

As ¨President Bush himself said in 2014, "I'm a self-proclaimed sock man. The louder, the brighter, the crazier the pattern - the better." Several pieces of his collections have been pictured over the years: these include the American flag pair he wore when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a pair with his own face worn during a 2013 football game.


You can put it on the board!

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Most of us are aware of Ronald Reagan’s acting career before turning to politics. He was one of the most prominent actors in the 1950s, appearing in over 50 movies and acting as president of the Screen Actors Guild twice. However, you might be surprised to learn that when young Ronald first arrived in Hollywood in 1937, he had previously pursued a different career path.

President Reagan worked as a sports announcer for five years, covering major league baseball and college football for WHO in Des Moines, Iowa. During his time in the White House, he would continue to show his broadcasting skills while addressing the American public every Saturday on the radio.


Nutty for peanuts?

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Jimmy Carter’s past as a peanut farmer is very well documented. He was nicknamed "The Peanut Farmer" during his time in the White House, referencing the farm in which Carter grew and sold peanuts since his teenage years. His image is so heavily associated with peanuts that, in 1976, a roadside attraction of a large peanut bearing his enormous smile was built to support his presidential candidacy.

What is less known is President Carter’s love for anything peanut, particularly peanut butter. In a recent interview for his 99th birthday, he states he still enjoys an occasional scoop of peanut butter ice cream. Moreover, a delicious cake known as the "Jimmy Carter cake" includes both peanut butter and roasted peanuts on top of a cream cheese and chocolate layer.


President Reagan’s sweet tooth

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We could fill an entire article with the favorite snacks of U.S. presidents (and maybe we will in the future, who knows?). We could talk endlessly about FDR’s love for grilled cheese sandwiches or the above-mentioned Carter peanut craze. However, President Reagan’s obsession with jelly beans was simply too incredible not to include in this article.

Reagan first became infatuated with jelly beans when he was governor of California. In an effort to quit pipe smoking, he adopted eating these colorful pieces of candy as a stand-in. During his time in the White House, over 700 bags of jelly beans were ordered each month, and distributed among different government buildings. He gifted bags of Jelly Belly beans (his favorite brand) to foreign dignitaries and illustrious Americans, including the astronauts aboard the Challenger Space Shuttle. To commemorate their most famous fan, the Jelly Belly factory has a portrait of President Reagan made entirely of jelly beans.


We hold these fries to be self-evident

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From authoring the Declaration of Independence to conducting the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to this great nation of ours can’t be denied. However, there’s an outstanding accomplishment made by our Third President that sometimes goes unacknowledged by history books: he is credited with bringing the very first recipe of French fries to America.

While serving as American Minister to France, Jefferson collected over 150 of his favorite French recipes to bring back home. Jefferson’s recipe for pommes de terre frites, which were round-shaped instead of sticks, didn’t really catch on until the 1900s but set the base of what would eventually become one of America’s favorite foods.


A night to remember

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While it is an evening we will probably remember for the rest of our lives, prom nights are not particularly luxurious events. Don’t get us wrong: we have nothing but admiration for the enormous work that goes into turning a high-school gym into the setting of a magical event, but tight budgets sometimes have to cut a few corners. However, if you happened to be in the 1975 class of Holton-Arms School, you might have enjoyed a prom night in a rather unusual place: the White House.

Susan Ford, daughter of President Gerald Ford, petitioned at the behest of her classmates to hold her prom night in the White House. While some conditions had to be arranged (for instance, an assurance that no expense would be covered by the government), the White House administration agreed and Susan’s class was able to enjoy a night to remember at the Executive Mansion.


A groovy president!

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Many presidents have been rather musical. Harry S. Truman played the violin, Richard Nixon was a talented pianist, and Warren G. Harding even celebrated his nomination in the 1920 Democratic Convention by showing off his tuba-playing skills. However, President Clinton’s prowess with the saxophone is perhaps the most well-known.

Before turning to politics, Clinton did briefly consider a music career: he avidly practiced the saxophone as a kid and even became the first chair of Arkansas’ All-State Band. Most famously, Clinton appeared in the Arsenio Hall show during the 1992 election and played a cover of "Heartbreak Hotel" on his trusted saxophone. This performance also proved to be a smart political move , since it helped him gain traction with young voters.


Boom, Boom, Dynamite!

Credit: University of Texas at Arlington Photograph Collection

While not the only cheerleader president (both Reagan and FDR were cheerleaders in their college years), George W. Bush’s cheering days are perhaps the most well-known. He became head cheerleader in his senior year of high school at Philips Academy: some photographs remain from those days on which we can see the future 43rd president electrifying the crowd through a megaphone. From 1964 to 1968, President Bush attended Yale University , where he also became part of the cheerleading squad.


Tee up!

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We end this article with one of America’s favorite pastimes. Millions of Americans relax after a long week by hitting the greens. In case you happen to live far away from a golf course, you might seek to escape your worries by practicing on a putting green. That is exactly what President Eisenhower, an avid golfer, sought to recreate when he installed a putting green in the White House: a place on which to momentarily unwind and enjoy himself, before going back to his presidential duties.

The putting green, installed in 1954, was later on dismantled by President Nixon. George H.W. Bush reinstalled it in 1991, and President Clinton moved it back into its original location in 1995. It sits there to this day, a small oasis on which commanders-in-chief can momentarily loosen up.


Uncover The Native Roots Of 13 English Terms

Published on March 26, 2024

Credit: Boston Public Library

The rich tapestry of Native American languages has woven itself into the linguistic fabric of modern English. From everyday words to the names of places and people, Native American contributions are ubiquitous yet often overlooked.

Let's explore thirteen instances where Native American languages left an indelible mark on the English language.



Credit: Avin CP

The undisputed king of salads everywhere is a plant native to South and Central America, so it should come as no surprise that its name shares the same geographical origin, too. This plump, umami -rich berry was first domesticated by the indigenous people of Mexico, who called it tomatl , literally meaning "swelling fruit." As with many indigenous words, it was slightly altered when it was assimilated into the English language, becoming the familiar tomato .



Credit: Joshua J. Cotten

This medium-sized mammal native to North America derives its modern name from the Algonquian arahkun, meaning "animal that scratches with its hands." Kind of a cute name if you ask me! The word went through many successive translations, from the original Algonquian word to interpretations like _raugroughcum_—that sort of sounds like a growling animal, you gotta give it to them—to arocoun around the year 1600, before eventually settling as raccoon .



Credit: SaiKrishna Saketh Yellapragada

Grab your oars and get ready to paddle into the rivers of language because canoe is also a word of Native American origin! It comes from the Arawakan canaoua, and it refers to the dugout boats made by the indigenous inhabitants of what now is Haiti. It first came into English from the Spanish version of the word canoa. Afterward, the word went through many variations, like cano and canow, before settling in the modern spelling.



Credit: Tarah Dane

The term moccasin , referring to a comfy type of soft leather shoe, has its roots in the Algonquian word makasin , meaning "shoe." While the versatile footwear has a Native American origin, it transcended cultural boundaries, finding utility as the footwear of various indigenous North American communities, as well as hunters, traders, and European settlers.



Credit: Alexey Demidov

The term hurricane has a fascinating linguistic journey, originating in the Spanish term huracan, itself derived from an Arawakan word. As with many Native American words, it first came to English through Spanish during the Age of Exploration.

According to the Taino people, indigenous to the Caribbean, Huricán was a god of destruction linked to wind, storm, and fire. Spanish explorers in the Caribbean adopted the term as huracán , eventually evolving into the modern hurricane by the 16th century.



Credit: Virgil Cayasa

First domesticated by the indigenous inhabitants of Mexico about 10,000 years ago, maize (i.e. corn) remains a staple food to this day, with its total production even surpassing that of wheat and rice. The word maize comes from the Spanish adaptation of the indigenous Taino term mahiz. Although it is more commonly called corn in the United States, most countries derive their word for the crop from the Taino term. Botanist Carl Linnaeus even incorporated it into the species name, Zea mays .



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Just like a real-life mangrove growing in brackish water, languages thrive in complex environments! And the etymology of mangrove is no exception, as it likely entered English through Portuguese mangue or Spanish mangle. However, its etymological roots delve deeper into South American and Caribbean indigenous languages, such as Taino. While some suggest a Malay origin, the use of the term for the American plant at that time remains challenging to explain.



Credit: Austin Neill

The etymology of buccaneer is quite intriguing, originating from the Caribbean Arawak word buccan. This term referred to the wooden frames used by the indigenous people of the region for the slow-roasting or smoking of meat. You might wonder, how exactly did this term end up being used to refer to 18th-century privateers? Well, originally, the designation applied to landless hunters on the islands who were adept at smoking meat in the Caribbean way. As local corsairs often bought their smoked goods, the term eventually expanded to encompass the corsairs and privateers themselves.



Credit: Estevao Gedraite

A savanna, a woodland-grassland mix with widely spaced trees, gets its name from the Spanish sabana, also borrowed from the Taino language, meaning "treeless grassland." The change in pronunciation of the letter b from Taino to Spanish carried over into English, becoming a v . In the U.S., particularly in Florida, "savannah" historically referred to the low-lying marshy ground since the 1670s, with the term "savannah-grass" documented by 1756. To be fair, the Taino people really made a huge contribution to our modern vocabulary!



Credit: Jenn Kosar

The name of this coveted snack actually comes from the Portuguese caju, derived from the Tupian word acajú, meaning "nut that produces itself." What does that mean, exactly? We’re not sure. But what's clear is that cashews, despite their colloquial classification as nuts, are not true nuts but rather a type of drupe, akin to olives and dates. As you finish this read, consider indulging in some cashews—not only are they a delightful snack, but they also offer many brain-boosting benefits!



Credit: Joshua Sukoff

The seemingly strange term caucus, signifying a political gathering, likely first originated in the British colonies of North America, notably Boston. While its etymology is debated, one of the leading theories links it to the Algonquian _caucauasu,_meaning "counselor." Others suggest a connection to the Greek word kaukos , meaning "drinking cup," in connection to private drinking clubs.



Credit: Danny de Jong

Are you ready to grill? Well, the Arawak peoples of the Caribbean are! The English word barbecue and its counterparts in various other languages have their roots in the Spanish term barbacoa, which, in turn, happens to originate from an Arawak word, barabicu. The words can be roughly translated as a "framework of sticks set upon posts," technically what we would now call a grill.



Credit: Abigail Lynn

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck? Probably not much. But did you know that the word for the beloved woodchuck (also known as a groundhog) stems from an Algonquian word? The etymology of the name woodchuck is completely unrelated to wood or chucking, and instead is derived from the Algonquian name for the animal: wuchak. The amusing twist in the name's origins might be attributed to a misunderstanding of the original name, or maybe just the work of a prankster. In any case, it stuck.

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