The wonderful Alexander Pope…….

Poor old Pope: He was a hunchback,barely five feet tall, and he was a Catholic. On account of the latter he sits forever on the naughty step of the (read Protestant) Tradition of English poetry. His revenge: being more epigrammatic than anybody ever (with the possible exception of Oscar Wilde) …

March 22nd…..

Shortly after America declared its independence from Britain, it adopted the bald eagle as its national bird. Until the day he died, Benjamin Franklin regretted the decision. In a letter to his daughter in 1784, he wrote: For my own part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen …

A kiss is just a kiss…….

Apparently not…as you will find out below: 1. Herquebus (c.1566) The noun buss, meaning ‘a kiss, especially a loud or vigorous one – a smacker’, is first found in the mid-16th century, according to the wonderful people responsible for the OED. It may be a variant of the earlier bass …

March 21…….

On March the 21st, 1754, British nobleman and author Horace Walpole coined the word “serendipity” in a letter to his friend Horace Mann. Walpole used it in reference to the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, in which characters continually make pleasant discoveries by accident. “Serendipity” was one …

March 20th….

WHEN: March 20,1865 KIDNAPPER: John Wilkes Booth TARGET: Abraham Lincoln As the Civil War reached its final stages, Booth and six fellow Confederates plotted to kidnap President Lincoln and use him to bargain the surrender of the Union. On the day of the planned kidnapping, Booth assembled his associates on …

American English v English English…..

I am pleased to announce that I have been taken on by an American literary agent, the charming Priya of the Lotus Lane Agency. This prompted me to dig up from one of my many boxes an American-English dictionary. It is a slim volume, almost bulimic, and it was first …

March 19th……

On this day, Pope Pius VII was crowned at Venice in a papier- mâché tiara, a replacement for the one stolen by Napoleon during his overthrow of Pius’s predecessor in 1798. Constructed from bits of paper and held together with glue, the new tiara was supposed to be temporary, but …

March 18th…..

On March 18, 1915, Wenseslao Moguel, a Mexican revolutionary in Pancho Villa’s army, was captured by federal troops and sentenced to death by firing squad. Moguel was shot nine times, including a mercy shot—the “coup de grace”—to the head at point-blank range to ensure death. He took the bullets but …

A very short history of jeans……

In the 1850s a Bavarian immigrant called Levi Strauss arrived in San Francisco hoping to sell supplies to the miners. He had with him several rolls of cotton canvas intended for tents. Instead, Strauss identified a ready market for stout canvas trousers and overalls suitable for the rugged conditions in the …

The rather odd history of restaurants……..

The opening of the first restaurant is credited to a certain Monsieur Boulanger, a Parisian soup-seller, who in 1765 opened an establishment offering customers a selection of wholesome soups and meals. This was something of a novelty. Eighteenth-century diners were not accustomed to being offered a choice when forced to …