The wonderful world of Horace…..

Quintus Horatius Flaccus aka Horace was probably the world`s first autobiographer. He tells us far more about himself, his character, his peculiar foibles, and his way of life than any other great poet in antiquity. A firm believer in the ” Life is brief and death is coming, so enjoy …

Absence makes the heart grow fonder…

Born around 50–45 BC, the Latin poet Sextus Aurelius Propertius in one of his Elegies pronounced that ‘Passion is always warmer towards absent lovers’ (Semper in absentes felicior aestus amantes). The phrase first appeared in English 1500 years later as the title of a poem by an anonymous writer. This …

To cut off your nose to spite your face…..

Paparazzi and gossip columnists aren’t new. News sheets, pamphlets and  satiric  poems  have  been in existence for centuries, often stridently attacking the Establishment. In late 17th-century France  no high-profile figure  was  safe from the chatty but vicious  observations of French gossip    Gedeon Tallemant  des  Reaux.  His  targets  included  the  King,  the …

A bull in a china shop……

Although the expression in its current form came first from the pen of Frederick Marryat, the idea had been around for a long time before that – but not quite as we know it. James Boswell came close when in 1769 he wrote that the ‘delicate and polite’ Mr Berenger …

“A drinker with a writing problem”……

The greatest Irish writer of his generation who wrote the critically acclaimed Borstal Boy and The Quare Fellow described himself as “a drinker with a writing problem”. Raised on whiskey by his maternal grandmother because “it was good for the worms”, Brendan Behan achieved national notoriety with a series of …

A rather short history of dentures….

Those crazy Etruscans, who inhabited Italy in the area that is now modern Tuscany, are regarded as the best dentists of the ancient world. They extracted decayed teeth, replacing them with full or partial dentures, in which individual teeth were realistically carved from ivory or bone and bridgework was crafted …

The rather odd history of the Penthouse….

Penthouse is a fine example of a word that has come about by the workings of folk etymology. Old French had the word apentis to denote ‘an outhouse projecting from the side of a main building’.The word was a borrowing of medieval Latin appendicium, ‘appendage’, a derivative of the Latin …

Whatever happened to the euphemism?….

Is the euphemism dying out? Growing up in 1960’s England there was an entire sub-lexicon of phraseology to cover just about everything.. It was the Golden age of euphemisms. Nobody died of pneumonia, diphtheria or tuberculosis, they were peaky, then poorly, then passed over. Some adults had to be watched …

The Fork…

Roman patricians and plebeians ate with their fingers, as did all European peoples until the dawning of a conscious fastidiousness at the beginning of the Renaissance. Still, there was a right and a wrong, a refined and an uncouth, way to go about it. From Roman times onward, a commoner …

Easter eggs….

Only within the last century were chocolate eggs exchanged as Easter gifts. But the springtime exchanging of real eggs—white, coloured, and gold-leafed—is an ancient custom, predating Easter by many centuries. From earliest times, and in most cultures, the egg signified birth and resurrection. The Egyptians buried eggs in their tombs. …