A very short history of shoe sizes……

  Did you know that until the first decade of the fourteenth century, people in the most civilised European societies, including royalty, could not acquire shoes in standard sizes? And even the most expensive custom-made shoes could vary in size from pair to pair, depending on the measuring and crafting …

The language of nations…….

  This is from the preface to Nathan Bailey’s Universal Etymological Dictionary of 1721: Some have remark’d that there is a constant Resemblance between the Genius of each People and the Language which they speak, and thence The French who are a People of great Vivacity have a Language that …

A very short history of trousers…….

  St. Pantaleone was a fourth-century Christian physician and martyr known as the “all-merciful.” Beheaded under orders of Roman emperor Diocletian, he became the patron saint of Venice, and a reliquary containing his blood (allegedly still liquid) is housed in the Italian town of Ravello. Pantaleone is probably the only …

Napoleon and the dog……….

  Napoleon may have marched to victory over most of Europe, but prior to Waterloo he met with his first defeat in Josephine`s bed on his wedding night. They married on the 9th of March 1796 following a small civil ceremony. Later that night as they returned to her apartment, …

The brontasaurus and Tennyson……

  I was saddened to read recently that brontosauruses never actually existed. Not only does that mean that one of the toys of my childhood was mischristened, it also means that there is no creature called a thunder lizard, and I think that’s a shame. You see, sauros was just …

The wonderfully odd Henry Jennings…..

  Henry Jennings (1731 – 1819) was an obsessed collector who was deeply attached to his purchases. Once he acquired a beautiful statue of Venus and he insisted that it be placed at the head of his dinner table and attended by two liveried footmen. Sculptures. Books, paintings, stuffed animals, precious …

A short history of the corset……

The corset, from the Old French cors, “body” was popular from the late Middle Ages to the 1950`s. It was a close-fitting undergarment, extending from the hip to the breast, tightened by lace, reinforced with stays to give an hourglass shape. Corsets seem to have had their origin in Italy …

Ambulance….

  Today medical care is considered a priority in Europe and elsewhere around the world. But this has not always been the case. Surviving written records from past civilisations reveal that care of the sick was not usually considered a priority. Sometimes a chronically or terminally ill person was just …

To chew the fat……..

  When Christopher Columbus and his crew first arrived in the Americas, they noticed that many of the native people chewed the dried leaves of a plant that was unknown in Europe. They also noted that some people placed burning leaves in a cylinder, called a tabaco, and inhaled the …

Where does schedule come from?…..

  In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used strips of the pith (interior) of the papyrus plant to form sheets of writing material. The Romans called the leaf of the papyrus plant scheda, a derivative of which was used to form the word schedula, Latin for a “small …