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Would like some enlightenment on the following: (1) Which is the mountain depicted in the logo of Paramount Pictures? (2) Why do women laugh hysterically? --Rajeev Balakrishnan, Hyderabad, India

I turned this one over to my assistant Jill, thinking to hone her skills on a couple softballs. She riposted as follows:

(1) Mount Everest.

(2) Because of men.

"Now, Jill," I said, "millions rely on the Straight Dope as their primary information resource. We mustn't settle for the cheap laugh. Are you sure you've thoroughly explored these answers?"

"Well," she said, "I could be wrong about Mount Everest."

One despairs. However, as it turned out, the identity of the mountain was the weak link of the entire investigation. (And yes, I know it doesn't make any conceivable difference. It's the principle of the thing.) The people we initially spoke to at Paramount thought it was Mount Everest, but we strongly suspected these people had no idea whatsoever. (This is a common phenomenon in the entertainment business.) Inquiring further, we learned that:

(1) Paramount was originally a film distribution company founded by William Wadsworth Hodkinson.

(2) Hodkinson had sketched the company logo based on memories of mountains from his youth near Ogden, Utah.

(3) Although Hodkinson's biography doesn't specify a particular mountain, many people familiar with the area believe it was Mount Ben Lomond (9,712 feet), in the Wasatch Range. Every time we called Paramount to confirm this we got a different story, but the consensus seems to be that, while Hodkinson didn't necessarily have one mountain in mind, Ben Lomond is a conspicuous landmark in the Ogden area and would have figured prominently in his mental construct of a generic mountain. For what it's worth, just about every tourist outfit in Utah proclaims that the Paramount mountain is Ben Lomond as a matter of settled fact.

(4) At least one Paramount historian (Leslie Halliwell) prefers to call the picturesque peak the Mountain of Dreams. Oh, my.

(5) But maybe it's the...Mountain of Nightmares! At least one conspiracy theorist (see members.tripod.com/therev67/antitrust) believes that the mountain, actually a pyramid in disguise, is an emblem of the Illuminati, the well-known secret cabal. He points to other pyramids, triangles, or stylized letter As in the logos of companies such as Viacom, America Online, and--this one especially caught my eye--Creative Labs, maker of Sound Blaster computer sound cards. (Check out the A in both creative and blaster. The bastards are rubbing it in.) All are tools of the conspiracy. The kicker, however, is a pyramid with a radiating eyeball of power on what I take to be banknotes issued by the Bank of Estonia. Yowsah, one thinks. Maybe this guy is on to something.

(6) Nah.

(7) Anyway, the logo was redesigned a while back and to my mind now depicts pretty much Anymountain, rendering this whole discussion moot.

(8) Answer to question number two above remains "because of men." You don't see women posting crap about the Bank of Estonia.

One last thing. Toward the end of our research, another urgent issue came to light. Why did the Paramount mountain originally have 24 stars surrounding it, when now there are only 22? We've considered the matter deeply, and here is our answer:

(1) We don't know, and

(2) We don't care.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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