Toe the line….

When somebody is told to toe the line, they are expected to follow the rules and submit to authority. Originally this phrase refers to the lines drawn along the two front benches in the House of Commons which still exists. The two lines are strategically placed at a distance far …

Mad as a Hatter and Abraham Lincoln…

Mad as a Hatter is a term used to describe insanity¬† A popular explanation of the phrase suggests that it was connected to mercury poisoning or something called Korsakoff’s syndrome which was experienced by hat-makers as a result of the long-term use of mercury products in the hat-making trade. In …

Port and other ramblings…

Sailors have a thing about winds, and to them their favourite winds are the ones that blow your ship to where you want to go, normally your final destination..the port. However, if you happen to be a sailor who speaks Latin, then you will describe these winds as ob portunus, …

A Curious Guide to London (part 2)…

I am currently at work on a sequel to my Curious Guide to London book, and have come across some fascinating stuff which I will be posting some extracts over the next few weeks.. Brook House, in Upper Brook street in Mayfair was¬†the location of London`s first penthouse and belonged …

A very short history of coworking…

What with this dreadful Corona virus disrupting normal working activity, I was mulling over the concept of working when I came across the wonderful world of coworking. It seems to have appeared from nowhere but it does have a rather interesting history. Way back in 1995, a number of bright …

A Very Short History of Beans…..

During this Coronavirus lockdown I have been trying to keep myself entertained so I thought I would put together a short Kindle book on the history of beans. In which you will discover the decidedly odd history of the humble bean . Discover why Pythagarus would not eat beans, why …

Why do we call women Ms…..?

Miss, Mrs and Ms have a common ancestor: they are all versions of the word mistress (from Old French maistresse, the feminine of maistre). Mistress was used to address all women, but it evolved into two forms designating a woman’s marital status: Mrs for a married woman; Miss for an …

(To be) in someone’s black books

As long ago as 1175 there were a number of official books -bound in black leather which were actually called Black Books – containing straightforward matter concerning the Exchequer or the Admiralty. But the term gained its connotation of someone being out of favour in the reign of King Henry …

Grin like a Cheshire cat…

The first publication to mention this eccentric image was the work of satirist Peter Pindar (the pseudonym of John Wolcot), who wrote A Pair of Lyric Epistles (1795) containing the line: Lo, like a Cheshire cat our court will grin! Seventy years later William Makepeace Thackeray in The Newcomes also …

Good Luck…

The very best of luck to my students taking the CAE examination today, I am confident that you will all do very well. I have received a number of emails from India requesting help for the rather formidable Indian Civil Service Exam – apparently only 0.1 % of applicants get …