Answer Man: Who or what is Chevy Chase?

News-DemocratMay 19, 2014 

Q. What's the deal with "Chevy Chase"? There's that town in Maryland, the comedian -- even a street in west Belleville. What's the significance? I keep asking friends, and they don't know, either.

-- Tom Grigsby, of Belleville

A. As that well-known comic would say, that's why I'm the Answer Man and they're not. Turns out the name has remained popular even as the 650-year-old battle on which it is based has been forgotten by most.

In 1388, Lord Percy, the English earl of Northumberland, decided to take a large group of friends onto a hunting ground (or chase) in the Cheviot Hills -- hence "Chevy Chase."

But the Scottish Earl of Douglas had forbidden this hunt, so when Percy and friends ignored the ban, Douglas called it an invasion of Scotland and attacked. The ensuing bloody conflict became known as the Battle of Otterburn.

Like so many battles through the ages, this one probably would have faded into the mists of time had it not been memorialized in ballad -- not once, but twice. The first was "The Hunting of Cheviot." Perhaps written as early as 1430, it was published in one of Scotland's first printed books, the circa-1540 "The Complaynt of Scotland." The second -- and better-known -- was published about the same time the Pilgrims were landing in the New World, 1620.

"The old song of 'Chevy-Chase' is the favorite ballad of the common people of England," Joseph Addison wrote in "The Spectator" in 1711. "Ben Jonson used to say he had rather have been the author of it than of all his works. Sir Philip Sidney, in his discourse of poetry, speaks of it in the following words: 'I never head the old song of Percy and Douglas that I found not my heart more moved than with a trumpet ... '"

The name apparently has remained a favorite even as the reason behind it has been forgotten. In Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights," for example, Catherine Heathcliff makes fun of Hareton Earnshaw's reading ability by saying, "I wish you would repeat Chevy Chase as you did yesterday; it was extremely funny."

So as a descendant of the Scottish clan Douglas, it seems only natural that Cathalene Crane would have nicknamed her own funny grandson, Cornelius Crane Chase, "Chevy."

Q. I know they're not for another two years, but when we have national elections, do the states of Alaska and Hawaii along with Puerto Rico vote before us, the day of or the day after?

-- Irene, of Belleville

A. You may live in a far-out time zone, but if you're a resident of one of the 50 states, you vote the same day as everyone else.

According to Hawaii's office of elections, the state's polls were open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (11 a.m. to 10 p.m. CST) Nov. 6, 2012. It was almost the same in Alaska -- 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (10 a.m. to 11 p.m. CST) Nov. 6. So in any tight race, you'd have to wait a while to see who won their seven electoral votes.

But if you're living in Puerto Rico -- or Guam or the Virgin Islands, for that matter -- you're totally out of the picture. Despite continuing efforts to change the law, nobody legally residing in a U.S. territory votes for president or elects members to the U.S. Congress.

Q. When can we safely dispose of old insurance policies? We have been keeping the declaration sheets for at least 10 years and the actual policies for three years past the renewal or expiration dates. Our folders are getting really full!

-- D.F., of Belleville

A. Boy, you scared me for a minute. When it comes to saving records, I'm the biggest pack rat I know. I even have a copy of the first income tax form I filed in 1970. Yet, when it comes to insurance policies, I generally throw the old ones out almost as soon as the new ones arrive. Have I been setting myself up for a disaster?

No, says my agent, Bob Friederich of Farmer's. In his own 30 seconds of smart, Professor Friederich says you're basically wasting space and time.

"You don't need that," he said. "The policy is renewed every year, and all insurance companies now have them on file from the day you start until the day you end. We can go back and get those 'dec' sheets if we ever need them."

The old policies are out of date, anyway. If, for example, you buy replacement-cost coverage, that coverage is going to go up ever year, so the amount listed on your 2012-2013 dec sheet wouldn't even be relevant anymore.

"I've had people come in here with every invoice that they've ever had and there's no need for that," he said.

The only exception might be if you filed a claim while the old policy was in force and it still has yet to be settled. Yet even then, the company would have the policy on record. New claims would be filed under the current coverage.

"I can't think of any reason to have them. I can't think of anything it would benefit you."

Today's trivia

Where would you find the world's oldest surviving parliament?

Answer to Saturday's trivia: Nowadays, it's almost expected that every major movie will have a 3-D version. But the first full-length feature film in color was the 1952 flick "Bwana Devil," about two man-eating lions that terrorized workers building the Uganda Railway across the Tsavo River in 1898.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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