The Pryor Times

November 27, 2012

The truth of ‘The Great Escape’

Mr. Know-It-All
Gary Clothier

— Q: The movie “The Great Escape” is one of my all-time favorites. I know the film was based on an actual prison break during World War II. When and where did the escape occur? -- L.I.D., Daytona, Fla.

A: The escape took 600 men more than a year to plan. The prison camp was Stalag Luft III, located in what is now Poland. The escape occurred on March 24, 1944.  

While most of the film is based on true events, two events were fabricated: Steve McQueen’s motorcycle scenes and the theft of a German airplane by Hendley (James Garner) and Blythe (Donald Pleasence).  

Paul Brickhill (1916-1991) wrote the book on which the film is based. He piloted a Spitfire aircraft that was shot down over Tunisia in March 1943. He was taken to Stalag Luft III, where he assisted in the escape preparations.

Q: Artist Frederic Remington, famous for his illustrations, paintings and sculptures, has a name synonymous with the Old West. His middle name was unusual -- Sackrider. Why was he given that name? -- G.F., Bel Air South, Md.

A: Frederic Remington was born in 1861 in Canton, N.Y. He was the only child of Seth Remington and Clara Sackrider Remington. His middle name is his mother’s maiden name.

Remington attended Yale University, but he left school after one year to care for his ailing father. After his father died, he took a job as a reporter. He made his first trip west in 1881 and sold his first sketch to Harper’s Weekly that year. Remington died in 1909 at age 48.

Q: What is the medical term for getting gray hair? -- D.C.M., Pottsville, Pa.

A: Poliosis. It comes from “polios,” the Greek word for “gray.”

Q: What is the root of the word “minister”? -- H.M., Mesa, Ariz.

A: Minister can be traced to Latin “minister,” meaning “attendant” or “servant,” indicating humility for men of the church.

Q: I don’t think about the American hobo very often, but when I do, I always picture him with a stick over one shoulder with a bag at the end. I believe there is a name for this bag. Do you know what it is? -- O.B., Santa Fe, N.M.

A: It’s called a “bindle.” Bindle comes from a German word meaning “bundle” or “bale.” You are right -- the bindle made with cloth or a blanket is part of the visual American culture of the hobo.

Q: At our wedding reception, the best man read a poem he wrote for us. It was beautiful and something I’ll keep forever. I’m told there is a word for this type of poem, but I have never been able to find out what it is. Can you tell me? -- J.H., Greensboro, N.C.

A: I can -- it’s an “epithalamium.” An epithalamium is a form of poem that is written in honor of a bride and/or bridegroom.

Q: If I were to measure 2,000 pounds of something, I would have a ton. Is there a term for 100 kilograms? -- T.M., DeRidder, La.

A: “Quintal” is one word that comes to mind.

Q: I was reading a biography of a person who was a roleo champion. I’ve never head of a roleo. What is it? -- P.H., St. Louis

A: A roleo is a logrolling competition. In the match, two people stand on a floating log and attempt to dislodge the other while the log spins. The last one standing wins. Logrolling is also known as log birling.


(Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)