A: The song is by Burt Bacharach and the vocals are performed by the Ron Hicklin Singers.
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They were an extraordinary group who performed the themes for many films and TV series from the 1960s to the 1980s, including Happy Days, Wonder Woman and Batman.
Q: What does the term “halcyon days” refer to and where does it come from?
A: “Halcyon” or “alcyon” was an old name for the kingfisher.
According to an old myth this bird had the power to calm the wind and waves, allowing it to breed in nests on the sea around the time of the winter solstice.
The term “halcyon days” came to be applied to a period of around two weeks in the second half of December when the weather was calm and peaceful.
It is now used for any period of idyllic calmness.
Q: We know that the possessive form of the pronoun “it” is “its” without the apostrophe just like his, hers, ours, yours and theirs but how about “ones” when “one” is used as a pronoun? I have seen many examples in print where “one’s” occurs and this seems to be normal.
A: “One’s” is correct for the possessive form. The point is that his, hers, ours and the others you mention are surviving possessive forms of old English pronouns.
There has never been such a form for “one” used as a pronoun so the possessive is “one’s”, just like someone’s, anyone’s or any normal possessive of a noun or person’s name.
The “apostrophe-s” form for possessives in general only became usual around the 17th century.
By the time “one” became commonly used as a pronoun, “one’s” was the natural way to form a possessive.
Q: My son and I were watching Winston Churchill on TV making his V for Victory sign. I told my son it’s an insult to do it today and he asked how long it has been a rude gesture. Can you tell us?
A: There’s a difference between the Churchillian V-sign and the rude V-sign: Churchill’s has the palm of the hand towards the recipient of the sign, the rude sign has the back of the hand facing the person at whom the gesture is directed.
Churchill originated the V for Victory gesture, which went very well with the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, as the dot-dot-dot-dash rhythm of the theme is Morse code for the letter V.
The rude V-sign is older but not nearly as old as many think. There is an old myth that it dates back to the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 when British longbow soldiers gave a two-finger salute to the French in response to an alleged French practice of cutting off the index and middle fingers of captured bowmen. It’s a nice story but the French just killed captured bowmen, which was much simpler than cutting off their fingers. And in any case the first reference to the story was in the 1970s. The rude V-sign, in fact, was not recorded until 1901. Its true origin is highly uncertain, though it may have something to do with the medieval horns of the devil or the “horns of a cuckold”, a man whose wife has been embraced by another.
Q: Where can I find the answer to the “Secret” question which appears each day in the Day & Night column in the Daily Express?
A: Infuriating isn’t it? They won’t even tell me the answers.
The Day & Night writers tell me this is the question they are most often asked but the item is intended for pure mischief, simply to give you something to speculate about.
You won’t find the answers in our newspaper.
Q: While watching a recent TV documentary on nuclear weapons I seem to recall that during the development of such weapons the issue of a cobalt bomb was raised. This I believe was dropped on the principle that it was inhumane. Can you clarify what the detonation of such a bomb would have caused?
A: In the late 1950s the idea of the cobalt bomb was what led to the idea of a “doomsday device” that could end all life on Earth.
Compared with other atom bombs and even more powerful hydrogen bombs, the radioactive fallout produced by a cobalt bomb could consist of longer-lasting isotopes which would render affected areas uninhabitable for decades.
According to one calculation, people could only safely emerge to live outside shelters after about 100 years.
In the black comedy film Dr Strangelove, the Russian ambassador says: “If you take, say, 50 H-bombs in the 100 megaton range and jacket them with Cobalt Thorium G, when they are exploded they will produce a doomsday shroud. A lethal cloud of radioactivity which will encircle the Earth for 93 years!”
Amazingly that prediction was based on genuine scientific data, though they assumed optimal efficiency in creating radioactive isotopes which tests (on a much smaller scale of course) never came close to achieving in practice.