Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

(Randy Squires/AP)
(Randy Squires/AP)

COLLECTED WISDOM

Does spit really make shoes shine? Add to ...

Welcome, recruits, to the CW (Cowardly Wimps) Regiment, whose motto is, Si dubitas, fuge (“If in doubt, leg it”). We're famed for showing a clean pair of heels, and here at boot camp you'll learn to produce a shiny pair of toecaps too.

THE QUESTION

“My late husband used to spit on his shoes as he shined them,” writes Roberta Robinson of Calgary. “Did the spit do any good? If so, why?

THE ANSWER

“For many years, I worked as a bootblack to raise funds for charities,” writes Ian Turner of Toronto. “It is quite common for a bootblack to dampen the polishing cloth, or sometimes the boot, before applying the final coat(s) of polish.”

He says using spit or water can help the polish stick to the boot and not to the damp cloth.

Meanwhile, Mike Elmer of Hamilton has a slightly different take. He tells us that he has “paraded innumerable times with a variety of marching bands, always assured that onlookers could clearly see that my boots were the shiniest of all.”

The secret? “Spit, water, or my own warm breath.” He says the water content acts as a lubricant on the polish so that vigorous rubbing with a cloth will work the polish into the underlying wax, “creating in time a durable and mirror-like coating.”

THE QUESTION

Why, wonders Eric Mendelsohn of Toronto, do life-insurance policies offer a greater benefit if death is accidental?

THE ANSWER

“The arc of life concludes with death, typically occurring late,” writes life-insurance agent Malcolm Elston of Toronto. “However, accidental death can occur at any time, often in the early or midlife years, when people have greater financial responsibilities and commitments.”

For instance, a 40-year-old with two children, a working spouse, two cars and a mortgage has much greater financial responsibilities than a retired senior with grown children and no mortgage.

Therefore, Mr. Elston says, insurance companies offer double or triple payouts for accidental death because, while the risk is less, the financial need is greater.

Here's a more skeptical view from Arthur Chapman of Winnipeg. He says it's simply a question of odds. By offering more benefits for accidental deaths, the insurers are promising something they will rarely have to deliver. “The simple fact is that we're all going to die, but the vast majority of us will do so from natural causes. Promising additional accidental death benefits is an inexpensive way of attracting customers while rarely having to give anything in return.”

FURTHER NOTICE

More now on our item from last week about double doors.

“The reason for one side of the double door being kept locked is not pure laziness,” writes Brij Seoni of Waterloo, Ont. For the double doors to function properly (meaning to remain closed and open only when a knob is turned), one side has to be held fast, which can be achieved only by keeping it bolted. “If it is not kept bolted, the [whole]doorway will open by a simple push, making the knob ineffective.”

HELP WANTED

  • If a 20-year-old receives a liver transplant from a 60-year-old, how long can the recipient expect the liver to function? Wally Silke of Toronto wants to know.
  • Mairead Stewart of Toronto wonders why men have lower voices than women. What is the purpose of this?
  • How did the stock market symbols of the bull and the bear originate? asks Joni MacFarlane of Hillcrest, Alta.

Let's hear from you: If you have the answer to one of these questions (or a question of your own) send an e-mail to wisdom@globeandmail.com. Please include your location and a daytime phone number.

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeDebate

 

Topics:

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories