QUESTION: Why does the weasel go "Pop"?

ANSWER: Before we get into that, let's observe that nursery rhymes are probably a huge scam designed to make children grow up into fans of slasher films. They're so bloody! Think about what happens to that pitiful baby rocking in the treetops. What kind of a demonic fiend would put a baby in a tree?Then there's the Three Blind Mice, who are mutilated.

Spouse abuse is another theme: "Peter, Peter pumpkin eater, had a wife and couldn't keep her, put her in a pumpkin shell, and there he kept her, very well."

Obviously, some of these are cautionary tales: Children learn, through metaphor, not to trust wolfish characters posing as friends, and not to be reckless, and so forth.

So what about the weasel? You have to wonder: Is the "Pop!" the sound of the weasel's eyeballs coming out of its head, or something gross like that?

Negatory. The word "weasel" did not originally refer to a furry critter. "Pop goes the weasel" was a dance hall song in 19th-century England. A "weasel," as everybody knew at that time, was a device used by tailors, cobblers and hatmakers. According to Jean Harrowven in "The Origins of Rhymes, Songs and Sayings," " `Pop goes the weasel' refers to a tailor's `goose,' or heavy iron." Our sources are not clear on what this device did or why it went `pop.' We've heard that it was part of either a stitching machine or a spinning wheel. One verse of the rhyme confirms the clothing reference: "A penny for a spool of thread, a penny for a needle, that's the way the money goes, Pop! goes the weasel."

But the real question is:

QUESTION: Why did Yankee Doodle stick a feather in his cap and call it "Macaroni"? Was he drunk?

ANSWER: No. Just foolish.

The Yankee Doodle song dates to pre-Revolutionary America. It became popular among British soldiers, in derision of colonial Americans, or "Yankees." In those days it was the rage, particularly in London, for young men to dress in elaborate, ludicrous finery. They were called "Macaronis," not in reference to pasta but perhaps to flamboyant Italians.

Yankee Doodle, by contrast, was just some hayseed from the sticks, riding into town on his silly little pony. He's so excited to be where the action is that he tries to affect the look of a dandy by sticking a feather in his cap. He thought that made him a Macaroni! What a dunce.

After the battle of Bunker Hill, the Americans started singing the Yankee Doodle song themselves, to mock the British - a way of saying, "See here, you snobs, we Yankee Doodle Dandies just kicked your kiester."

QUESTION: Why can't you dry clothes in a microwave?

ANSWER: Fire. Death. That sort of thing.

This is not a whimsical matter: Even as we speak, smart scientist-type people are trying to develop a microwave clothes dryer.

"The biggest problem is that you've got to have an adequate sensor system to determine that it's dry before it gets too dry," says Robert LaGasse, executive director of the International Microwave Power Institute.

You see, microwaves aren't like hot air. A hot-air dryer can parch your clothing, but the temperature will never rise above about 140 degrees. A standard microwave device, however, doesn't operate on low power. It goes full blast. The only way to control this is by shutting the machine off. But your drawers, in the microwave, might get so hot they'd spontaneously combust.

Fortunately there is a new technology that will allow microwave devices to operate on low heat. But there's still the metal problem. We all know what happens if you put metal in a microwave. Clothes have metal in them. Zippers. Buttons. Rivets.

What the microwave people are hoping is that clothing manufacturers will help them out by making clothes that are - yes - microwave safe.