Cabinet, Caesar salad, bazooka, holy smoke,

Created date

February 15th, 2019

(The president’s) cabinet

There’s been much talk lately about the president’s cabinet—a group of advisors, each of whom is in charge of a specific department. On certain dates, these advisors, or “cabinet members,” gather with the president at a “cabinet meeting” to discuss various matters of national importance.

The question is: Why do we keep using the word “cabinet”?

The answer takes us back to the administration of James Madison, perhaps one of the brainiest presidents ever to serve the United States. No doubt, President Madison was well familiar with multiple languages, which is probably why he was the first commander-in-chief to refer to his team as a “cabinet.”

The word comes from the Italian term cabinetto, meaning a “private room.” A cabinetto, or “cabinet,” therefore, is a good place to discuss serious, sometimes confidential, business away from listening ears.

President Madison thought so, as has every president since.

“The press seemed to enjoy the president’s latest cabinet meeting, which was a contentious one.”

Caesar salad

For nearly a century, the Caesar salad has been a staple in fine restaurants around the world. Built on a bed of romaine lettuce and topped with egg, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, anchovies, black pepper, Dijon mustard, Parmesan cheese, and croutons, this green concoction can sometimes command a hefty price on choice menus.

But before you jump to conclusions, know that its imperial status has nothing to do with Emperor Julius Caesar.

In fact, the salad is named after Caesar Cardini, an Italian restaurateur who, in July 1924, experienced a rush in customers that depleted most of his kitchen’s stock. To make do with what he had, he created the Caesar salad, and the rest is history.

“If you go to that restaurant, I strongly suggest the Caesar salad.”


During World War II, the bazooka was literally a lifesaver for troops going up against heavily armored German tanks. This shoulder-mounted rocket launcher had real penetrating capabilities and got its job done on the battlefield.

Yet how does something so formidable get such a goofy name? In the early 1940s, popular radio disk jockey Bob Burns sometimes played an instrument that resembled a trombone.

He called it a “bazooka,” and it wasn’t long before the troops who listened to his show named their weapon in honor of it.

“The bazooka was the surest way to neutralize enemy armor.”

Holy smoke

The inclination of every good Catholic would be to attribute this idiom to the selection of a pope, wherein a wisp of white smoke indicates that a new pontiff has been chosen. Alas, this isn’t so.

Actually, the exclamation “Holy smoke!” comes from Sir J. Beaumont’s 1627 poem “The Epiphany,” in which he writes:

“Who lift to God for us the holy smoke of fervent prayers…” For the lay reader, Beaumont was describing the burning of incense.

In the late nineteenth century, the phrase found its way into the English lexicon as an exclamation, free of sacrilege.

“‘Holy smoke!’ he exclaimed, as the fireworks lit the night sky.”