The truth about Harems

  Nothing evoked more mystery and romance to Europeans in the nineteenth century than the veiled women of the sultan’s harem. Harems started as a way for Ottoman warriors to “protect” their women when away from home for long periodsthe system was then adopted by the Sultanate. The reality of …

Pisse Prophets…..

  The examination of the urine had always been an important diagnostic tool. As far back as the thirteenth century there was a textbook on the subject called De Urinas. By the sixteenth century this had developed into a full blown discipline known as uroscopy. Specialists known as “pisse-prophets” would …

Chlorophyll and deodorant……

    In the sci-fi obsessed 1950s, for a short time chlorophyll was mooted as the new panacea for all things whiffy. It all started with a fellow called Benjamin Gruskin, , who in the 1930s developed a water-soluble form of chlorophyll, now known as chlorophyllin. Gruskin tested his chlorophyllin …

A brief history of knickers…….

  It seems hard to believe, but until the end of the 18th century, “decent” women had always gone knickerless. “Until the late 18th century, [women`s] underwear consisted only of smocks, shifts, stays and the highly important petticoats of all kinds” states the wonderfully named C. Willet Cunnington in his …

oops-a-daisy……

  The other day somebody asked me where the phrase oops-a-daisy comes from. Of course, I didn’t know, but I never feel that Ignorance should stand in the way of Opinion, so I muttered something about lackadaisical and tried to look wise. By extraordinary coincidence, it turns out that I …

The big cheese……

It’s a delightful little oddity of the English language that the phrase the big cheese has nothing whatsoever to do with milk products. The Urdu word for thing is chīz. This meant that back in the days of the British Empire Anglo Indians wouldn’t talk about something being the real …

Why do we cross our fingers?……

  If you cross your fingers when making a wish, or if you tell a friend, “Keep your fingers crossed,” you’re taking part in an ancient custom that required the participation of two people, intersecting index fingers. The popular gesture grew out of the pagan belief that a cross was …