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Fleur-de-lys. (Paul Kooi/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Fleur-de-lys. (Paul Kooi/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

COLLECTED WISDOM

The truth about the fleur-de-lys. Scout’s honour Add to ...

The first question this week reminds Collected Wisdom of its youthful days in the Boy Scouts, when we learned to do things such as light a fire without matches. It’s easy, really – all you need is a Zippo and some kerosene.

The question

Ross Towler of Halifax wonders why Robert Baden-Powell, who was English, chose the French symbol of the fleur-de-lys as the emblem of the Boy Scouts.

The answer

Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouting movement, was a British military officer who became a national hero for his 217-day defence of Mafeking during the Boer War. According to Pierre C. Pepin, who is working in Fuzhou, China, Baden-Powell chose the fleur-de-lys because it was used on arm badges to identify British soldiers who had qualified as scouts and were experts at reconnaissance.

However, there’s more to it than that, says 12-year-old Sandy Atkins, a member of the Third Aurora Scouting Group, who has been poring over the Scout Handbook. He writes: “The three points of the fleur-de-lys stand for the parts of the Scout Promise: duty to God, obedience to the Scout Law and service to others.”

Finally, John Petitti, executive director of marketing and communications at Scouts Canada in Ottawa, tells us that the fleur-de-lys was one of Baden-Powell’s favourite symbols because it was used to point to the north on old maps.

“The classical description of this shape in Scouting literature connects the compass rose with the purpose of Scouting’s principles – namely that Scouting gives one’s life direction,” he writes.

The question

Why are some hard-boiled eggs very easy to peel and others impossible? asks Raymond Wiens of Langley, B.C.

The answer

“As a farmer with four laying hens named Penelope, Pansy, Petunia and Valerie, I have some experience with eggs,” writes John Borden of Meaford, Ont. “In short, the fresher the eggs, the harder they are to peel. Conversely, of course, the older the eggs, the easier they are to peel.”

More details on this come from Laura Wright of Puslinch, Ont.

“The ease with which you can peel a hard-boiled egg is determined by how well the inner membrane [beneath the shell] is adhered to the albumin (egg white), which is determined by its freshness,” she writes. “Generally, an egg needs to be at least a week old from the day it was laid to be easy to peel.”

The age of eggs when they reach the grocery store varies, Ms. Wright says, but some eggs can arrive at the store in as little as three to four days after being laid. Those eggs are likely to be difficult to peel.

“If you have some very fresh eggs that you want to peel but don’t want to wait a week for them to age, just leave the eggs out of the refrigerator for a half a day or so. This will accelerate the aging process. One day out of the fridge is roughly equivalent to aging in the fridge for seven days.”

Help wanted

Can people really pick up radio waves on their teeth braces or on metallic parts of their dentures? Jackie Phillips of Toronto wants to know.

How does the military handle soldiers who faint at the sight of blood? asks Eric Morris of Montreal.

Greg Pinks and his daughter Nicole ask: If you had only one type of food for the rest of your life (think desert island), what food would keep you alive the longest?

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