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 …

Where did the word Holiday come from?…

In Saxon times and in the Middle Ages, days were long and hard for craftsmen and peasants alike, who laboured from sunrise to sunset. The regularity of their existence was periodically interrupted by Church feast days which were set aside for religious celebration instead of work. The Old English word …

Gorm, Feck, Ruth and a jolly good gruntle…

There is a wonderful line in P.G. Wodehouse’s , The Code of the Woosters which reads: I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled. The resurrection of palimpsest words is a simple, practically failsafe, form of humour. There are thousands of them loitering in …

The Importance of being Idle…

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