Pilgrims…

The Holy Land, the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome, those of St James at Santiago de Compostela in Spain and St Thomas a Becket in Canterbury were great centres of medieval pilgrimage. A pilgrim was easily identified by the way he dressed. He wore a rough grey …

Starbucks and your sex life….

Despite the fact that every other shop in most cities seems to be a bloody Starbucks (or something similar), this is not a modern day occurrence.In the 17th century, London had over one thousand establishments catering to a strange new craze imported from Arabia in the early months of 1615. …

Italics and old dictionaries….

I was about to write a witty post about that really irritating phrase “pushing the envelope” when my eyes drifted up the column in the dictionary to entrepreneur. It was in italics because it was foreign, exactly the same as its gallic neighbour entre nous. So I flicked back through …

Crap….

According to a popular legend, the word crap comes from Thomas Crapper, the supposed inventor of the flush toilet. The story goes that Crapper’s name was stamped on all his lavatorial devices, and when servicemen in World War I went to the latrine they would say, “I’m goin’ to the …

Geeks and Nerds….

Computer fanatics seem to attract pejorative words to describe them. (Now why should that be?). More often than not, they are words previously known in other contexts, but given new strength and life in the computer age. Geek and nerd both come into this category. The online New Hacker’s Dictionary …

What exactly is an Ace?….

In Roman times an as was the name given to a small copper coin, possibly of Etruscan origin. The same word was also used to denote a ‘unit’ of weight, measure or coin. When as was borrowed into Old French in the twelfth century, it most commonly referred to ‘the …

The wonderful world of Echolalia……

In the 1970’s I was at school with a fellow who whenever a crowd was gathered at a rugby or cricket match, would shout ‘Give us a G!’ And the crowd would chorus ‘G’. Then ‘Give us an I!’ ‘I.’ ‘Give us an R!’ It was usually halfway through that …

The wonderful world of Horace…..

Quintus Horatius Flaccus aka Horace was probably the world`s first autobiographer. He tells us far more about himself, his character, his peculiar foibles, and his way of life than any other great poet in antiquity. A firm believer in the ” Life is brief and death is coming, so enjoy …

Absence makes the heart grow fonder…

Born around 50–45 BC, the Latin poet Sextus Aurelius Propertius in one of his Elegies pronounced that ‘Passion is always warmer towards absent lovers’ (Semper in absentes felicior aestus amantes). The phrase first appeared in English 1500 years later as the title of a poem by an anonymous writer. This …

To cut off your nose to spite your face…..

Paparazzi and gossip columnists aren’t new. News sheets, pamphlets and  satiric  poems  have  been in existence for centuries, often stridently attacking the Establishment. In late 17th-century France  no high-profile figure  was  safe from the chatty but vicious  observations of French gossip    Gedeon Tallemant  des  Reaux.  His  targets  included  the  King,  the …