Meet Mr Eldrick Tont; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS
Byline: Charles Legge
What is the origin of Tiger Woods's middle name Tont?
WOODS'S first name, Eldrick, was coined by his mother, as it began with 'E' (for his father, Earl) and ended with 'K' (for his mother, Kultida). Tiger's mother was of Thai extraction and his middle name Tont is an anglicised version of the Thai nickname 'dton' meaning 'royal' or 'king'.
He was nicknamed Tiger in honour of Colonel Vuong Dang Phong, Deputy Chief of Binh Thuan Province, whom Earl Woods had befriended during the Vietnam war. The colonel had also been known as 'Tiger'.
Anthony Kern, London SW13.
What is the evidence from history or archaeology of a catastrophic event occurring around the year AD 550?
ACCORDING to contemporary written records, supported by dendrochronology (tree ring analysis), for 12-18 months in AD 536-537, a thick, persistent dust cloud darkened the skies between Europe and Asia Minor.
Such a cloud would reflect and/or absorb solar energy, thus decreasing the temperature of the Earth in its shadow. It would also block sunlight, thus inhibiting photosynthesis and cause crop failure.
The cloud stretched as far east as China, where frosts and snow were recorded in the summer months. Tree ring data across Europe, Siberia and Mongolia and as far south as Argentina and Chile reflect diminished tree growth that lasted more than a decade.
The dust cloud caused a succession of poor harvests, famine and drought, and there is evidence in Northern China and Scandinavia of upwards of seven out of ten people being killed by famine or disease.
The period coincides with the Justinian plague, which may have been exacerbated by a weakened immunity caused by malnutrition.
Contemporary reports from the era give clear evidence of the catastrophe: the Annals of Ulster record 'a failure of bread in the year 536 AD', and the Annals of Inisfallen mention 'a failure of bread from the years 536-539 AD.'
Byzantine historian Procopius recorded in a 536 AD report on the wars with the Vandals: 'During this year, a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness ... and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear.'
Michael the Syrian wrote: 'The sun became dark and its darkness lasted for one-and-a-half years... Each day it shone for about four hours and still this light was only a feeble shadow ... the fruits did not ripen and the wine tasted like sour grapes.' Scientists are divided over the cause of the dust cloud: a violent volcanic eruption, a meteorite impact and a near miss by a large comet have all been postulated.
The most recent evidence of sulphate deposits in ice cores strongly supports the volcano hypothesis. The sulphate spike is even more intense than that which accompanied the lesser episode of climatic aberration in 1816, popularly known as the 'year without summer', which had been connected to the eruption of the volcano Mount Tambora, in Indonesia.
J. Wheeler, Glasgow.
QUESTION Is it true that Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe on the table at a United Nations assembly?
YES, the notorious incident was at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 1960. The Soviet leader had been angered by a speech given by the British prime minister Harold Macmillan.
However, the most curious aspect of the incident is that subsequent photographs indicated Khrushchev was wearing both of his shoes when he banged the table. It seems that he must have borrowed the shoe of an aide to make the point.
Khrushchev was notorious for his blunt speaking and undiplomatic outbursts. Some admired it as an expression of unsophisticated, peasant authenticity. However, as the years went on he came to be seen more and more as an embarrassment to the Soviet Union. …