Sing a song of sixpence……….

Sing a Song of Sixpence, A bag full of Rye, Four and twenty Naughty Boys, Baked in a Pye. The earliest mention of this rhyme dates from the eighteenth century. The reference to blackbirds in a pie may refer to a medieval practice for putting live creatures, and even musicians …

Merry Crimbo and a cool Yule………

  Idily reading the sports pages this morning, I noticed a stray reference to “crimbo”, meaning “Christmas”. Crimbo! This word, which must have seemed cheerful, irreverent and rather modern at one point, today feels rather dated – to me, it is somehow redolent of the 1980s, although the OED has …

A very brief history of Boxing Day……

  Today is  boxing day. Once upon a time, there was a thing called a Christmas box. A Christmas box was a box with a small hole cut in it, like a piggy bank, through which coins could be dropped. It was kept in a church and, like a piggy …

Let`s talk about Apostrophes….

  I used to be taught by a teacher who insisted on apostrophising everything. He would always refer to the ‘phone and the ‘papers, the punctuation point standing in for the missing tele and news. The habit was at the same time wondrously fastidious and gloriously silly. It would be …

A very short history of chastity belts…..

  In his 1969 book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), Dr David Reuben, a physician and surgeon, described chastity belts as an “armoured bikini” with “a screen in front to allow urination and an inch of iron between the vagina and temptation.” …

Celebrity Celibates……

  Hans Christian Anderson (1805 – 1875) The wonderfully weird writer of fairy-tales declared his love for many prominent, ultimately unavailable women. He enjoyed visiting prostitutes, but only to sit and chat with them. He died unmarried and a virgin and was so terrified about being buried alive he insisted …

Beckett and the breadcrumb……

  When Samuel Beckett lived briefly in Berlin, his regular haunt was a restaurant called the Giraffe. While sitting there one day after finishing his meal, he was asked by his waiter “Why is there no expression of hope in your work?” After a trademark Beckett silence, he picked up …

To call a spade a spade

    This phrase derives from an ancient Greek expression: “to call a fig a fig, a trough a trough”. It is first recorded in Aristophanes’ play The Clouds (423 B.C.), and was also used by Plutarch in his Moralia half a century later .Apparently some scholars believe that both …

The Oscillating Osculator……….

  In 1939, Max Factor Jr created The Kissing Machine or Mechanical Osculator. This came about after workers who were previously employed to test the indelibility of the lipstick-  in essence having to count the number of kisses it took on tissue paper before the lipstick wore off, quickly got …