April 9, 2013 - Jenkins's Ear Day

There is a war that lasted three years (1739-1741) that is known as the “War of Jenkins's Ear.”

Never heard of it? You may have heard of the countries involved: England and Spain.

How did a war get such a weird name?

Well, first of all, you must understand that England and Spain fought quite a few wars. They fought over religious differences, piracy and dominance of the oceans, and competition for new lands. They fought because of shifting alliances with other nations and plotting between various kings and queens.

Basically, any old excuse would do!

In this case, they fought because a master mariner named Robert Jenkins walked into England's Parliament and complained that he had been attacked by Spanish pirates. Exhibit 1 was his own disfigured head, and Exhibit 2 was the ear that had been been cut off—and that he had pickled!

Strangely enough, his complaint came SEVEN YEARS after the attack, which was on this date in 1731!

Why the delay before reporting the atrocity? Nobody is sure. Why had Jenkins been carrying around his pickled ear all these years? Again, no one knows. Nevertheless, England declared war on Spain and fought for years—supposedly over an ear!

Learn more about this war at How Stuff Works

Did you know...?

Two other famous loss-of-ear incidents include the time that boxer Mike Tyson bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear during a bout, and the time that Vincent van Gogh cut off part of his own ear (or, some historians theorize, his friend Paul Gauguin, another famous painter, cut off the ear in a fight).

Trust me, nobody is going to attack your ear—these incidents RARELY happen. But people accidentally hurt their ears or hearing all the time! You can take care of your ears by following these tips:

  • Don't put things into your ear canal. Even poking around with cotton swabs can harm your ears. If you think you have too much earwax, dirt, or anything else in your ear, ask for appropriate help—a parent, a doctor, a nurse.

  • Don't listen to loud music—especially with earphones/earbuds.
  • Dry your ears with a towel, and shake out water, after swimming. If you get swimmer's ear—an itchy or painful infection—seek medical attention.

  • Wear a hat, or put sunscreen on the top of your ears, when you are outdoors in bright sunlight. Wear a hat or ear muffs when you are outdoors in very cold weather.
  • Wear earplugs or noise-canceling headphones if you have to be somewhere very noisy.
  • When flying, yawn frequently as the plane takes off or lands. Or chew gum during ascent and descent.

Learn how our ears work at the Children'sUniversity of Manchester website.

Did you know that your inner ear helps you keep your balance? Learn more at this BBC website.

Gary G. Matthews has an illustrated page that allows us to see what happens inside our ears as we hear different sounds. (Click "Play with sound.")

If you like to learn through cute-but-a-bit-corny videos, check out Study Jams's offering on ears. 

Also, Plan Ahead:

Next Tuesday is One Day Without Shoes. Take a peek at this motivating video to see what the day is all about.  

Also on this date:

(A.K.A.) Finnish Language Day

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