Let`s talk about expletives……

  I was thinking about a recent film I saw. It was about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and at one point he was talking about how he hadn’t enjoyed training as a doctor: ‘All those wretched patients,’ he said. Hmm, I thought. Did he mean by this that the patients …

A quick word on fingers and digits….

The fingers are the digits and are therefore used for counting. Thus did digits become numbers and when information is stored in numbers it becomes digital. The Old English names for the fingers are much more fun than those which have been more recently fangled. The index finger was once …

Nest egg…..

I had always assumed that a nest-egg (of the financial variety) was something that would hatch upon a rainy day. I made this mistake because I have never kept chickens. Chickens, being giddy creatures, are liable to lay their eggs and then, when they have hatched, to abandon their nest. …

Paracelsus and Gnomes…….

There was once a chap called Paracelsus. He was an alchemist, chemist, medic, and all-round clever clogs of the sixteenth century. Paracelsus was not his real name of course: that would be ridiculous. His real name was Phillippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus Von Hohenheim. Paracelsus was a moniker he acquired for …

The wonderful world of pareidolia….

Consider this exchange between Polonius and Hamlet.. POLONIUS: My lord, the queen would speak with you, and presently. HAMLET: Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel? POL: By the mass, and ’tis like a camel, indeed. HAM: Methinks it is like a weasel. POL: It is backed like a …

Unlucky 13….

Why is 13 considered so unlucky? Surveys show that of all bad luck superstitions, unease surrounding the number thirteen is the one that affects most people today—and in almost countless ways. The French, for instance, never issue the house address thirteen. In Italy, the national lottery omits the number thirteen. …

Cricket, Ben Stokes and Jerusalem…..

After watching the third test match at Headingley and Ben Stokes heroics, I was struck by the crowd suddenly launching in to a vey lusty rendition of Jerusalem. Anyway ,with that in mind, try and have a go at reciting the poem Jerusalem without making it sound like the hymn. Those …

Stalin and Thatcher….

I had a rather splendid day today. As regular readers are no doubt aware, I teach English during the summer months..Today saw the return of the Russians and their charming tour leader and a rather pleasant Russian English teacher. The result of which got me thinking about the English language …

Americans and speaking English….

I read recently that we British are getting rather hot under the collar about the English language. If you Google the word “Americanisms” you will find red faced pedants claiming that the Americans are swamping, killing and absorbing British English. If the British are not careful, so their argument goes, …

The race meeting that never existed…..

Racing has always attracted trickery, schemes and coups. But what follows is without doubt is the most delicious con of all time. The greatest sting in the history of horse racing took place on August 1, 1898. It was without doubt the most audacious scheme ever thought up. A very …