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 …

Protagonist v Antagonist…..

  In ancient Greece, every actor was evaluated according to ability and then ranked as a protagonist, deuteragonist, and tritagonist. The prefix told the actor’s position: protos means “first,” deuteros means “second,” and tri translates to “three.” The “agonist” in each of the rankings traces its origin to the Greek …

Naughty Lord Palmerston……..

    Despite his ill-fitting false teeth and appalling bad breath, Britain’s prime minister was seemingly irresistible to women during the Crimean War. “Lord Cupid” as he was known in Parliament, fathered seven illegitimate children and once tried to shag one of Queen Victoria`s ladies-in-waiting while he was visiting Windsor …

The Religous Potato…..

  Britain in the seventeenth century was quite an unsettling place to live, what with Puritanism and superstition being the norm. Women in particular were still being persecuted for witchcraft as depicted in the 1968 film The Witchfinder General starring a wonderfully snarling Vincent Price. It seems that a certain …

Foolscap…..

What exactly is Foolscap? Foolscap paper is one of those things that I’ve never really been sure about and to which I have never really thought about. I had never, for example, noticed that it’s a contraction of fool’s cap. But it is. That’s odd because foolscap is an old …

Turnips, Germans and Sex…..

  In many western European languages, the turnip, like many other ostensibly sexless objects, possesses gender — masculine in French (navet), masculine in Spanish (nabo), feminine in German (Ruhe). This linguistic curiosity once led the touring Mark Twain to remark  “In German, a young lady has no sex, while a …