Guinea, Guinea or indeed Guinea…

Let`s have a look at the word Guinea. There is Guinea the country in Africa, New Guinea the Asian country, and  the guinea the unit of currency. They are all connected. Let us start, as the word did, with West Africa. There is in the Tuareg languages of north western …

What exactly are The Dog Days?…

The Dog Days start today. Well, it depends who you ask, really. But if you ask the Book of Common Prayer the Dog Days start today, and that’s good enough for me. Dog Days have nothing directly to do with dogs: they are named after the Dog Star, also called Sirius, which is …

The importance of being a Fainéant…

A fainéant is an idler and a sluggard. Somehow you can surmise that without bothering to dig out your dictionary. Fainéants sound lazy. Why, dear inactive reader, did you suspect immediately that a fainéant was a lazybones, a lie-a-bed, and a lotos-eater? Perhaps it was the suggestion of faint, with …

Cardinals, Cardinal sins and Cardinal numbers…

Way, way back in ancient Roman time, there were hinges, which were called cardos. If something belonged to the hinge it was cardinis. The word was of great metaphorical use as the centre-point around which things turned, for example the celestial poles. So the central and most important priests, those …

Onion breath…..

The problem with onions, as we are all aware, is that the damn things smell. Onion breath has been around since the very first chap spotted one and took a bite out of it. Once you’ve eaten an onion, it is obvious that you have which is why Don Quixote …

A short history of Robin Hood…

Our eponymous hero makes his debut in writing in the late fourteenth-century poem Piers Plowman, which is commonly attributed to William Langland, a contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer. It was a timely moment for the outlaw to enter literature: English literature as we know it was starting to emerge, and the …

A short history of the “F” word …

No other word in the English language gets more colloquial usage than the notorious F-word. The word and its host of variations could and would fill a small dictionary. It is still extraordinary to consider that this short, graphic, four letter swear word is one of the most used nouns, …

The history of the Mile High Club…

The first authenticated shag in an aeroplane took place on November 10th, 1916. Lawrence Sperry ,under the guise of giving flying lessons to the wealthy socialite Mrs Waldo Polk, became the first couple to join the fraternal order of the Mile High Club.They were indulging in a version of physical …

To steal your thunder…

When someone steals your thunder they are taking credit for something that you should properly be credited for. The phrase was in regular use by the 19th century, especially by jealous politicians claiming their brilliant and original ideas had been stolen by another. The expression itself, however, was coined in …