Charles Panati, 43, a former college professor, industrial physicist and science editor of Newsweek, doesn't tackle that question in his book "Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things" (to be published in September by Harper & Row, $19.95). But he covers more than 500 other everyday items, expressions and customs.
- Chanel No. 5 is so named because 5 was the lucky number of its creator, Coco Chanel. Chanel was so superstitious about the number that she introduced the perfume on the fifth day of the fifth month in 1921.
- To induce housewives to listen to his aluminum cookware pitch in 1917, door-to-door salesman Edwin W. Cox promised the women: A free sample of a yet- unnamed dishwashing pad he had invented. Cox knew a major housewife complaint was the way food stuck to pots and pans. So he devised a pad that combined the abrasiveness of steel wool with the cleansing power of soap. He did it by dipping small, square pads into soapy water, letting the pads dry and then repeating the process. He offered the pads as free inducements to listening to his sales schtick. His wife christened the invention SOS, for Save Our Saucepans.