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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Winter Solstice / A Question About a  - 2004-12-17

Broadcast: December 17, 2004

DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

This is Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

Music from this year's top Grammy nominees …

And a question from China about the meaning of a "hat trick."

But first -- a little lesson in astronomy.

Winter Solstice

Next Tuesday is the December solstice. At twelve hours forty-two minutes Universal Time, the sun will reach the point farthest south on its path. Winter will officially begin for people in the northern half of the world, and summer for those in the south. Jim Tedder has more.

JIM TEDDER: We do not usually think of the sun moving north to south in the sky, only east to west. But the movement northward and southward marks the change of seasons.

The word solstice comes from Latin. It means that the sun is standing in place.

The December solstice takes place when the sun is directly overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn. Sao Paulo, Brazil, is along this southern latitude. The June solstice takes place when the sun is directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer. That is about the same northern latitude as Havana, Cuba. On that day, around June twenty-first, the sun appears at its northernmost position in the sky.

People who live at or near the equator are said to live in the "tropics." That is, the area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. These are simply lines drawn on a map to mark the area that receives sunlight directly overhead during the year. The distance between them is about two thousand five hundred kilometers.

People who live along the equator experience fairly equal days and nights all year.

Next Tuesday, here in Washington, we will have about nine and one-half hours of daylight. The farther north you travel, the longer the nights are. Reykjavik, Iceland, will have less than four hours of daylight.

But in Murmansk, Russia, the sun will not rise at all on the day of the solstice. In fact, people there last saw the sun on December third. And they will not see it again until January seventh.

Hat Trick

DOUG JOHNSON: Our question this week comes from a listener in China named Reed. He often hears the expression "hat trick" used about football. He would like to know what this means.

Football? We thought it came from ice hockey!

Well, we discovered that the term "hat trick" really came from the British sport of cricket in the eighteen hundreds.

The Oxford English Dictionary says a hat trick is when one bowler in cricket takes three wickets by three balls, usually one after another. Players often received a new hat from their team as a reward.

The expression "hat trick" in cricket first appeared in print by the late eighteen seventies. Over the years, the term spread to other sports. For example, in horse racing, a hat trick is when a jockey wins three races in one day. In hockey and soccer football, a hat trick is when a player scores three goals in a single game.

And just recently we saw the term used in a headline on a story about a game in American football. It was about a player who scored -- you guessed it -- three touchdowns.

Hat trick is sometimes used in baseball when a player hits a single, double, triple and home run in one game. Yes, that is four things, but who's counting?

Today people use “hat trick” to mean just about anything that comes in threes. Examples might include a lawyer who wins three cases one after another. Or a politician who has won three elections.

So if you know someone who has made three victories of any kind, you can say that he or she has scored a hat trick. But there is another term we hear nowadays, a play on the word repeat: "Three-peat."

Grammy Nominations

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has just announced the nominations for its yearly Grammy awards. The awards will be presented in February. The Grammys recognize excellent musical recordings and those who create them. Faith Lapidus tells us who has the most nominations this year.

FAITH LAPIDUS: The artist with the most nominations for Grammy Awards this year is Kanye West. He is nominated for ten awards, including Best New Artist, Album of the Year and Song of the Year. That nominated song is on the nominated album, “College Dropout.” Here it is: “Jesus Walks.”


Usher has eight Grammy nominations. His best-selling album is the nominated “Confessions.” It has sold about seven million copies. Here is the top song from that album, “Yeah”.


Another artist with eight Grammy nominations is Alicia Keys. Her Best Album nomination is for “The Diary of Alicia Keys.” We leave you now with Alicia Keys singing a song from that album. It is nominated for best song: “If I Ain’t Got You.”


DOUG JOHNSON: This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC.

This program was written by Mario Ritter and Nancy Steinbach. Paul Thompson was the producer. And our engineer was Efeem Drucker.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.