His name is Mudd……

  This a derogatory phrase used to describe a person who is unpopular or completely out of favour due to some act. The obvious allusion might seem to be one of someone so low in society’s opinion that they are no better than mud, but this is not the origin …

Salome…..

  Salome is best known as the siren in the Bible who shed seven veils – but her name and veils have no biblical basis whatsoever. Matthew 14:6 and Mark 6:22 tell the story, describing the young woman only as Herodias’s daughter and never mentioning her style of dancing. In …

Shut that door…..

  Much has been written about the “win at all costs” mentality of the Soviet bloc during the Olympic games of yore. Everything from chemical enhancements, blood transplants and even bribery seemed to have been tried. There is however a wonderful, if a somewhat apocryphal story about the Javelin competition …

To pigeon hole someone…..

  To Pigeon Hole a person is to classify them and give them a specific identity when more than one might be more appropriate. The English used to keep pigeons as domestic birds, although not as pets, but for food. Pigeons generally do not stray too far from a place …

The peculiar history of “rigmarole”

  Rigmarole is a most unusual word with a rather interesting origin. It is used to describe something disconnected, rambling and difficult to see a way through. It is now well over 700 years old and dates back to 1291 when the Scottish noblemen signed a deed of loyalty to …

Chance would be a fine thing…..

  When Hindle Wakes, a play written by Stanley Houghton opened in 1912 ,it immediately caused an outcry with its depiction of non marital sex. It was banned in many theatres but its notoriety ensured that it was one of the most popular plays of the time. Apart from a …

James Carr Boyle and the horse(s) with no name….

  GK Chesterton once wrote “The Victorian Age made one or two mistakes, but they were mistakes that were really useful; that is, mistakes that were really mistaken. They thought that commerce outside a country must extend peace: it has certainly often extended war. They thought that commerce inside a …

How to speak Art Gallery (part 2)…..

    PUTTO (POO-toe): Putti (note the plural) are those naked, chubby babies that cavort through Italian paintings, especially from the fifteenth century on. “Putto” means “little boy” in Italian, and originally the figure was derived from personifications of Eros in early Greek and Roman art; by extension, the term …

Schlep, Shmaltz and Schmooze……

  Schlep comes from the Yiddish word “shlepn,” meaning to “drag” or “pull,” and it has retained this meaning in one of its modern uses, in which it is synonymous with the English word “lug.” It is more frequently used, though, to describe an arduous or difficult journey and, most …

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 …