Sunday November 13, 2011

Q: A pressing question for these hard economic times: How much money do you need to be happy?

A: That's the wrong way to look at it, say happiness experts. While it's true the wealthy are happier than the poor and wealthy countries are happier than poor ones, money actually buys little happiness, reports the University of California, Berkeley "Wellness Letter." "That's because people don't spend it right," according to a recent study in the "Journal of Consumer Psychology."

The authors offer tips on spending money for happiness:

n Buy more experiences -- vacations, adult-education classes, concert tickets and fewer material goods. Any pleasure from possessions quickly wears off.

n Consider how purchases might affect your day-to-day life, aiming for more "uplifts" and fewer hassles.

n Buy many small pleasures rather than one large one, especially if money is limited.

n Delay consumptions and prolong anticipations. Looking forward to an event is a great source of pleasure, even if the event ends up being a letdown.

n Spend money on others. Giving money or gifts strengthens social bonds by amplifying the happiness of others, which in turn amplifies our own happiness. Q: From a Cleveland, Ohio, reader: "Why are bad doctors called ‘quacks'"?

A: The term comes from the Dutch "quacksalver," which is cobbled together from "quack" (to make a sound like a duck) and "salve" (ointment), says Richard Lederer in "A Man of My Words: Reflections on the English Language."

In bygone days, a quacksalver was a snake-oil doctor who traveled about "hawking" (quacking) all the maladies his salves could cure. Adds Anu Garg in "Another Word a Day": It's that duck-like staccato sound of the snake oil peddler that gave us this colorful synonym for a charlatan.

Q: To get your money's worth on a roller coaster, which seat should you avoid?

A: The different cars of a multi-car coaster provide some unique experiences, says Louis A. Bloomfield in "How Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life."

The front cars go over the crest of a hill slowly and reach high speed only well down the hill. The last cars accelerate upward dramatically as they crest the first hill, yielding a strong sense of weightlessness. In fact, the track engineers must be careful not to make the acceleration too rapid or rear-car riders could be flung right out of their seats.

So where you sit in a roller coaster does matter.

The first seat offers the most exciting view but with less-than-spectacular weightless feelings, which are generally best in the last car.

"Probably the dullest seat is the second; it offers a relatively tame ride and an unchanging view of the people in the front seat. That's the seat you might want to avoid."

Q: What's a wise-cracking linguist apt to ask (and answer) upon turning up in Twinsburg, Ohio on Halloween?

A: Two questions: "What do you call a town full of twins?" ("Call it Duplicity!") and "What do you ask twin witches?" ("Which witch is which?")

Though Twinsburg can't claim any real witches, every August thousands of twins converge there for "Twins Days Festival" -- so many in fact you might think you had an acute case of diplopia (di-PLO-pee-uh), or double-vision, from Greek "diplo" (double) + "opia" (vision).

(From Anu Garg's "Another Word a Day").