Teeth and words……

  Why doesn’t English have an expression for the space between the teeth when Malay does – gigi rongak? And that’s not the only gap in our dental vocabulary: mrongos (Indonesian) to have ugly protruding upper teeth angil (Kapampangan, Philippines) to bare the fangs like a dog laglerolarpok (Inuit) the …

Hello…….

  The first and most essential word in all languages is surely ‘hello’, the word that enables one human being to converse with another, such as: aa (Diola, Senegal) beeta (Soninke, Mali, Senegal and Ivory Coast) bok (Croatian) boozhoo (Ojibwe, USA and Canada) daw-daw (Jutlandish, Denmark) ella (Awabakal, Australia) i …

Pythagarus, beans and death….

  Pythagarus viewed as either a Shamanistic shyster or intellectual innovator, is still one of the most important names in Western philosophy. He and his followers followed some rather strange rules such as not to stir fires with iron pokers or to eat meat or beans This was because he …

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 …

Evil Literature……

  In 1926 Ireland, the Catholic Church was so concerned about saving souls that they established a committee to decide which publications should be deemed as “sordid” and “objectionable” The good fathers decided upon the following titles: Woman`s World Woman`s Realm The Sporting Life Girls Companion Home Companion News of …

The pickled herring sandwich……

  “At 6.00 he took a shower. He boiled some potatoes and had open sandwiches of pickled herring in mustard sauce with chives and egg on a rickety table outside the cottage, facing the bridge. He poured himself a shot of aquavit and drank a toast to himself. After that …

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 …