Let’s talk about Spice…..

What you need to remember is that before spices appeared in Europe, the medieval diet was decidedly monotonous. People ate a limited range of local produce and then, through the long winter months, the supplies they had managed to dry or preserve in brine. Small wonder, then, that when the …

February 20th 1437…..

Tennis has the unusual distinction of contributing to the deaths of not one but two European monarchs. The first was King Louis X of France (he was actually history’s first recorded tennis player): In 1316, he caught a chill after an exhausting game, developed pneumonia, and died. The second was …

Overstaying your welcome…..

Always be wary of overstaying your welcome. As the Italians say, ‘L’ospite è come il pesce: dopo tre giorni puzza’, the guest is like a fish: after three days he smells bad: desconvidar (Portuguese) to withdraw an invitation il est comme un cheveu dans la soupe (French) he is not …

On this day in 1906……

Brothers John and Will Kellogg—creators of the Kellogg breakfast cereals—formulated their recipe for cornflakes in the Battle Creek Sanitarium, the health resort they ran together in Battle Creek, Michigan. Diet at Battle Creek was bland—mainly sugarless gruels, fibre-rich grains, and low-fat granolas. Like other religious conservatives of the time, the …

Eskimo, Esquimaux and snow…….

The number of different Inuit words for snow has been the subject of endless debate, few people taking into account the fact that the now-offensive group name ‘Eskimo’ (from the French Esquimaux, derived from North American Algonquian and literally meaning ‘eaters of raw flesh’) covers a number of different language …

Do bees buzz?……

In Albanian, Danish, English, Hebrew and Polish, to name just a few languages, bees make a buzzing sound, and cats miaow. However, no language but English seems to think that owls go ‘tu-whit, tu-woo’ or a cockerel goes ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’. And not everyone agrees about the birds and the bees either: …

I am passionate about….

Advertisers and politicians latch on to fashionable words to sell their products – remember vision, excellence, and mission statement? The 2000s have seen a plague of the word passionate, particularly in the more liberal leaning newspapers. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), its main senses are “marked by anger, …