Sunday, December 30, 2012


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bocksing Day

Today is Bocksing Day, and thank goodness it is almost over. Being myself rather evenly gruntled, I am so tired of fighting the disgruntled crowds who are returning disliked Christmas gifts.

Bocksing Day, named after a revered Chinese rail worker whose descendents settled far from Promentory,  began in rural Montana in 1939, the custom quickly spreading like the plague up into Canada. Canada quickly accepted it as their third national holiday. Eh?

As most of you know - all of you who observe it, at least - Bocksing Day takes place 6 days before the first day of any new year, and was REALLY so-named because it was customary for people in rural Montana to visit churches and place small coins (called "bocks") in the slot of the metal poor bockses located outside churches. While similar, this practice should not be confused with the summer custom of folding single dollar bills (called "bucks") and placing them under diner tables, using chewing gum (called spoggytwag) in medium-sized cities in Wisconsin, which custom is much older than Bocksing Day.

In western Canada, most particularly in the well-to-do Alberta regions of Pincher Creek and Cardston, where most people have several household employees and servants, the tradition was known as "Bacziating Day" (from the Swedish "to put one on the right horse") and entailed putting their servants in bockses (though spelled "baczies") and allowing the household children to beat the sides of said bockses in an apparent attempt to "humble" the servants. This origin is rather obscure, even by Canadian standards. Nonetheless, it was practiced 6 days before the new year in the greater Pincher Creek Valley, losing popularity in the bocksing season of 1942-1943 when one chambermaid was permanently deafened.

Bocksing Day is not really a known holiday outside the U.S. and (temporarily) in that one small Swedish community in western Canada.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

NOT a helter skelter, then?

Just when I thought I might have had this Britishspeak thing  conquered, I ran across another bunch of words last night, printed in the Mail online back in 2011 - The Mail is that most reputable and accurate of sources, you'll remember. Even the Brits are not likely to get any/many of these, though, because they are local words and phrases. And American readers? Forget about it! Even when you have the answers, you won't know what THAT word means. ;)

As mentioned above, these words are regional and even local, not UK-wide. I don't know any of them. I don't even know many of the local areas mentioned. For example...

Black Country

No matter. Be that as it may, unless you are from the area where the following words are used, you won't know what they mean. Worse than Geordie? It's true. You'll be happy to know the British Library is collecting, investigating, and carefully cataloguing these words. A good use of tax dollars, if you ask me. But then, I like to collect words too.

baffies (East Coast of Scotland)
bishybarnabee (Norfolk)
bobowler (Birmingham)
brash (South Wales)
brozzen (Swalesdale)
coopers ducks (Black Country)
deff (Birmingham)
dimpsy (Somerset)
dodderman (Norfolk/Suffolk)
dreckly (I think that one is a joke. Gottabe. Cornwall)
gambol (No, not what you think. Birmingham)
ginnel (West Riding of Yorkshire)
gopping (Manchester)
guddle (Northumberland/Scotland environs)
gurtlush (Bristol)
gully stottle (Ashington/Northumberland)
kets (Darlington)
ladgin (York)
nesh (Nottingham)
on the box (Black Country)
on the huh (Norfolk)
pitch (not soccer grass. West Country)
spoggy (Grimsby) (Assume Greater)
ronking (Black Country
tittermatorter (Norfolk)
tiss up (Leicester)
tranklements (Black Country)
twag (East Riding, Yorkshire)
twitchell (Nottingham)
while (Yorkshire)

There's BIG MONEY** in it for the reader of this blog who can give all the answers to the above words correctly without checking the Mailonline at

**Definition of "big money" varies.
Did you know you are paying the salary for the person who fills the position of "curator of sociolinguistics"? Bet you are proud.

Some of the comments were harsh:

"Kardashian means a semi-famous entity that acts as a life support system for a failing newspaper."


"We use 'Simples' as a collective noun for people who buy the DM."


Thursday, December 20, 2012

A hero passes

A hero to me, at least.

Senator Inouye passed away this past Monday.

As President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, Inouye was third in line to the U.S. Presidency, behind the  President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. He was the longest-serving Senator in U.S. history, save one. He represented his home state of Hawaii, first as a Congressman, then as a Senator, since Hawaii became a state in 1959.

After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, his government declared that American citizens who looked like him were enemy aliens. Like many Japanese-American boys, he responded by joining the U.S. Army to fight for his country. Not allowed to fight in the Pacific Theater, they were sent to Europe to fight the Nazis. America has never been graced with more patriotic or loyal soldiers than these "Nisei" boys and men. They were segregated and fought under constant suspicion and prejudice.

Daniel Inouye, and so many others like him, loved his country more than his country loved him.

For extraordinary valor in combat, Lt. Inouye (later captain) was awarded his country's highest military honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Desperately wounded, he still tore a hand grenade from the lifeless fingers of his shredded right arm and threw it left-handed as best he could at the Germans. It was on target. He survived. He lost his right arm but he made it home. He became a lawyer. Then he went to Washington to represent our newest state in Congress. The rest is history. His passing leaves a giant hole in the U.S. Senate. He was so quiet, most of the younger generation has never heard of him.

Richard Nixon certainly remembered him until the day he died.

As I write this, Senator Inouye lies in state in the rotunda of our Capitol. Not everyone gets that honor. Rosa Parks was the second African-American and first woman. Daniel Inouye is the first Asian-American. He rests on the same catafalque as Abraham Lincoln did in 1865.

It just occurred to me that that's a long way from being labeled an "enemy alien."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wey Saye Aye Guy. Or something.

lass • lad • gannin • giz • aaal • hoy • alreet • lang • dee

bonny • graft • bairn • gannin • deed • ma and da • fower

broon • hoose • gadgee • doon • canny • divent • lush • telt

themorra • tab • nu • yasel • wey aye • pet • wi/wiv • iz • yem

sel • wor • yee • neet • polis • toon • oot • mint • proper

proper mint • reet •

I think I know two of these, and can guess a couple more. Why? I don't know. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Whale of a tale

"In 1952, a 70-foot whale was caught off Norway and preserved on a 100-foot lorry which toured Europe, Africa and Japan, appearing in such unlikely places as Barnsley, Yorkshire, before ending up in Belgium permanently."

Or perhaps not permanently; haven't checked lately. And besides...

Did you know Gregory Peck almost drowned filming the last throes of Moby Dick as Ahab? Well he did. 1956. Several years before he was Atticus Finch.

Barnsley, you know, is famous for cricket umpire Dickie Bird and chat show legend Michael Parkinson, two facts I have lived many years in the wilds of America without knowing. I was not blissfully ignorant, simply ignorant. I wish I could tell you more about Barnsley, but the only other fact Google could come up with had something to do with Christmas and right royal knees, and I don't really want to learn about royal knees today.

The dictionary says "cattle" is a plural noun, but doesn't say what the singular is. I have always wanted to know this. I mean, you can't say the singular is "cow" right? Adullamite knows things like this, just short of expert, sometimes, so perhaps I will get his opinion on the subject. Remind me.

3 days past Halloween and sneaking up on GF day and bonfires, I reckon.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Not for Girls

Not that old, as candy bars go. Originally made by Rowntree's of York, if you are wondering about the name origin. Before Nestle gobbled them up. (Haha.) It is chocolate of a sort. Not as sweet (good) as American chocolate but quite thick. At least it was before they started making them smaller and smaller and smaller. I have been thinking about importing these to the U.S. but my gut feeling is to just leave these in britain.

Some think the warning is just a cute advertising slogan; few realize this candy bar has a preservative that makes females sterile. Not illegal in York if you have a warning on the package.

A couple of possible alternate advertising slogans I just thought up:

1. "At least it's not Marlite!"
2. "Yorkie -- when you can't find American chocolate"
3. "I can't believe it's not better"

Disclaimer: It's been more than a month since I've tasted this product**

**Or ever, actually.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Good Taste

Mostly for Australians, this. Vegemite and Aeroplane brand jelly. Thank you to Jenny. I wonder if there is any truth to the rumor that there is now a Vegemite flavored Aeroplane jelly? I have never taken the opportunity to try Vegemite (or its disgsting-tasting British cousin Marmite) but I'm sure I would like Aeroplane jelly. With ice cream. Especially Ice cream which contains an emulsifier to make it creamy smooth discovered by a research chemist in the early 1950s by the name of Margaret Roberts. Yes, the same one who later married a guy named Denis and changed her last name.

Here we call your jelly "gelatin" and the leading ready-mix brand is "Jell-O." There nothing like a quivering square of lime Jell-O (with some curled up carrot slivers trapped inside) next to your tepid tomato soup at the homeless shelter on a Saturday night. At least according to the amazingly descriptive Hunter. Though Canadian, I'm sure she also wouldn't be caught dead with a spoon of Marmite stuck in her mouth. But you never know.

Someone said they like to smear a dab of Vegemite on their crisps. Does that thought make the American stomach churn or what? I'm guessing not Coco Crisps.

I used to think jelly (American) was just "preserves" with the seeds strained out. Now I understand it is really made out of the juice and a thickener (pectin?) and there were no seeds to begin with. That leaves "preserves" and "Jam" (American usage.) I know preserves have seeds in them. Jam? Seeds too, I think. Must be some difference.

This is pure memory and conjecture, not looking anything up.

Showing age: "I like bread and butter, I like toast and jam, that's what my baby feeds me, I'm her lovin' man.

Question: When he came home early one morning, much to his surprise, what did he find her eating with some other guy?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Vincent Motorcycles: Those Were The Days

Above: Rollie Free's famous American record run at Bonneville on September 13, 1948 aboard an HRD V-Twin non-blown Vincent. First run just under the record, Rollie discarded his leathers and stripped down to speedos, swimming cap and borrowed tennis shoes for his final run. He removed the seat and laid down flat to avoid wind resistance and steered by staring down at the painted stripe. The above might just be the most famous motorcycle picture of all time (at least to motorcycle racing fans.) Instead of being killed, he tuned in an average speed of 150.313 for the then new American speed record for unstreamlined and unsupercharged bikes. WHAP! Take THAT!

This bike sold at auction in 2010 for a cool million dollars, the first motorcycle to ever fetch that price.

In 1949, a prize and trophy was offered for the first successful British attempt at the world record (held since 1937 by BMW at 173,54 mph.)  NSU (Germany) upped the record to 180.29 mph in 1951. Vincent built a special brand new supercharged Black Lightning (below) which was then extensively modified for a British attempt at the record. In 1953, Les Graham was scheduled to make the attempt, but sadly Les was killed in a crash at the 1953 Senior Isle of Man TT. The supercharged virgin Vincent Black Lightning changed hands several times, but never made a record attempt.

The below picture is of the supercharged Black Lightning, itself an empty legend.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Self-Improvement and English Brides for American Servicemen

This is a rerun from a long time ago from one of my other blogs. The reason I'm running it again is because Adullamite's post today about American servicemen in England who took home English brides reminded me of an old friend in the Air Force who was stationed in England and did the same thing - met and brought home Janice (and married her). I met Dennis and Janice after we were out of the service, but Adullamite's post brought back memories. I myself was never stationed in England, the Air Force felt I would enjoy Southeast Asia much better. So I missed out on England. But I was a part of the Communications Command, a couple of times, that Adullamite shows pictures of in his post. Just not in Communications Squadrons in England, only in the U.S. If you were alive back during those years, then you already know what I was doing in Southeast Asia, and probably know what the Air Force was doing over there as well. Anyway, I was there while Dennis was guarding whatever was important to us in England and chasing English skirts. The below post mentions Janice, the English bride, and that's why I am rerunning this post. Go read Adullamite's post afterward.

I was just over at Lidian's "KitchenRetro" blog, reading her current post, and her retro ads reminded me of a telemarketing call I received several years ago about changing career fields.

The name of the company in question was something like "Foley-Belsaw" and they had ads on all the back pages of comic books and inserts in all the Sunday Parade magazines. Anyway.

At the time I was the Branch Manager for a Texas Savings & Loan, the tiny "branch" being located in far-away Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our purpose for existing was to originate mortgage loans, which the home office would then fund. This meant I spent half of my workday sucking up to real estate agents and getting them drunk enough to steer their buyers to my company when it came time for them to apply for their home loan, regardless of my interest rate. The rest of my day was spent fighting with FHA and VA bureaucrats, trying to convince them that my buyers were not really deadbeats, and the U.S. government should by all means insure or guarantee every loan package I placed in their in-baskets.

I was moderately successful. I may have even been responsible for the current economic crisis. Who knows. This was... ummmm... more than 10 years ago. I was a very young go-getter. Much too young and go-getting for such a responsible position which came with a new company car and a credit card, in addition to the keys to the office. But I was the only one who knew the ins and outs of government home loan programs (that's a different story) who lived in Albuquerque who was willing to work for a really paltry salary as long as I had a free shiny car to drive around. Plus the S&L president had no desire to leave Texas more than once, so he hired me immediately and I drove him to the airport and never saw him again.

The actual loan processing (verifications-collecting and government form typing) was done by my wonderfully inept secretary, Janice (not her real name)*, a young immigrant from England I had hired for an even paltrier salary because I owed her husband money. Janice was an incompetent typist who put all those extra "U"s in her words, who claimed to be a high school graduate from some unpronounceable inner-city London high school (not really unpronounceable, I just couldn't understand Janice), but was a friendly receptionist. Unfortunately it took her an hour to take a loan application because neither the husband or wife sitting in front of her desk could comprehend her accent. I don't know if it was cockney or what. It damn sure wasn't Oxford. Janice was my only employee. Affable, yet unwilling.

Honest to God, this post is really about a telemarketing call I received from Foley-Belsaw. Or whatever their name was.

So, one Saturday morning I am at home kicking back and the phone rings. A nice telemarketing lady from Foley-Belsaw. This was before the days when I automatically screamed obscenities and hung up on telemarketers.

Here I should say that as a teenager working at a movie theatre (that's how the owner spelled it) taking tickets for, like, $13 a week and sex from the popcorn girl down in the storeroom (also a different story), I was desperate enough to mail in a coupon for information about how to make something of my life from Foley-Belsaw. Or whatever their name was.

That is the only way I can think of that they got my name. Not sure how they got my phone number. Perhaps it was only a coincidence.

So the nice lady told me she was calling to help me improve my lot in life, employment-wise, and I'm thinking maybe she is going to help me get promoted to VP at the home office. Turns out her idea of career advancement involved learning how to repair small engines.

"Do you think you might be interested in something like that, sir?"

"Ummm... interested in WHAT?"

"Learning to repair small engines. Like boat motors and lawnmowers."

"No. Why would I?"

Here I could hear the pages in her script being shuffled in the background.

"Perhaps welding?"

"Welding? What about welding?" I still hadn't grasped the purpose of her call. "You're not from the home office, are you?"

"Yes, sir, I am. Foley-Belsaw. Or whatever our name is."

"Ummm... I work for a mortgage loan company. I am their local manager."



"I think your future might lie in repairing large commercial refrigeration units."

"Why would you think that?"

"I just do. Now let me just verify your mailing address... "



"Well, sir, actually I don't HAVE your mailing address. I was wanting for you to give it to me."

"I don't think so. But I really appreciate your interest in me."

"Forestry technician."

Finally I got wise and hung up. But I said "Sorry, no thanks" before I did.

That's what Lidian's post today reminded me of.

*Actually Janice was her real name. Who cares?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Paintings Pundits and Parody

Odds and ends.
Blind leading the blind

Willie in Wellies

Saturday night special: Manchester patten shoes

Darwin and son

Welsh dental instruments

The Tridents will cost HOW much?? No way!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cider With Rosie: Remembering Laurie Lee

" 'It's cider,' she said. 'You ain't to drink it though. Not much of it, any rate.' Huge and squat, the jar lay on the grass like an unexploded bomb. We lifted it up, unscrewed the stopper, and smelt the whiff of fermented apples. I held the jar to my mouth and rolled my eyes sideways, like a beast at a water-hole. 'Go on,' said Rosie. I took a deep breath...

"Never to be forgotten, that first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of the old orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples, and Rosie's burning cheeks. Never to be forgotten, or tasted ever again..."

(Cider with Rosie, 1959)


"... the death of Hannah and Joseph Brown, grown feeble and infirm, separated by well-meaning authorities in the Workhouse because they can no longer take care of themselves, and who quickly die of old age and fright, because they have never been apart before."


Laurence Edward Alan "Laurie" Lee, MBE, 1914 - 1997, English poet, novelist, screenwriter.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sticking to it

Wikipedia speaks of ironclads and armor.

The first ironclads to have all-steel armor were the Italian "Dulio" and "Dandolo". Though the ships were laid down in 1873 their armor was not purchased from France until 1877. The French navy decided in 1880 to adopt compound armor for its fleet, but found it limited in supply, so from 1884 the French navy was using steel armor. Britain stuck to compound armor until 1889.

(When someone pulled them free?)

About Ironclad Warships

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More Amazing BritishSpeak

Remember when I first started this blog (some of you do) I used to ask you to tell me examples of British words and phrases that Americans don't use, and tell me what they meant? Was that stupid, or what? After a couple of weeks I realized what an impossible request that was, and I stopped doing it. After all, how would you know what common words Americans didn't use? Duh. Of course you tried. You always try. And so I started out with a list of words you gave me that the whole world knows we use differently. Petrol. Boot. Bloody. Bonnet. Those words usually meant SOMETHING to Americans, just not what they meant in the UK.

I finally ended up buying boxes of books on the subject from Amazon, and then another box of Enid Blighton's books. On the subject of translating British into American, I recommend this one. Of course.

Later I learned there were nuances and variations WITHIN the UK as well. The Welsh have some words. Irish have special words. Scots? Never mind Scots. The Aussies and South Africans have their own weird lists. I found out why you are called Poms by those people. I thought "kak" was Afrikaans. (Turns out it's just your "cack".) I know what a stunned mullet is now, but I don't hang around Aussies much anymore.

But soon I realized you couldn't just make a list for me because, except for the obvious, you really didn't know you were using words and phrases that were "special" to an American. Basically, I stopped asking you and started reading. If I came across something I couldn't figure out on my own, I asked you what it meant and when it was supposed to be used. I don't know why. It was just fun.

My list grew and grew. Some words on it now are pretty absurd. Mainly I get words and phrases from you by reading blogs and newspaper posts and their comments. Outraged comments to newspaper posts, mostly political, are a very good source of British specialized profanity too, by the way.

I haven't shared any with you in a long time. This blog has long since branched out from learning only your words to learning about your country, history, habits. I basically live a life of analysis, and you are a never-ending source. "Fodder" I would call it if you weren't reading this right now.

From time to time I try to make a post on this blog which is germane to the reason it was started. This is one of those posts. Here are some new ones added to my list within the past week or so, along with some old friends.

holy joe
keep (in a store (shop), instead of "stock")
directed/redirected (mail: addressed/forwarded)
bottle (courage, gumption)
go off the boil
cuddy (this is probably Scotish. A kind of horse)
turn up (not "turnip") :)
streets ahead
ends in tears
bung (not a keg plug)
choc tops
silencers (not used for guns)
tarting it up
nap hand
tricky trev

Old friends: Candy floss, film wrap, pillar box, pants, dog's bollocks, carriageway, roundabout, tube. If you know all these, then you are either a long-time reader or... one of THEM. :) :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Speaking of Ceremonies

The Olympics are over. I watched the closing ceremonies last night (or as much as NBC would let me watch between commercial breaks and editing) and, as always, I was sad for them being over so quickly.

For those who watched the closing ceremonies, weren't they just super? No complaints here. All the athletes seemed to be happy, all the right rock stars and performers were chosen to bedazzle, and even Prince Harry was whistling to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" and singing along with The Walrus song. Me too. Coo-Coo-Ca-Choo.

I've seen a few Olympics come and go now, and I can't remember any that were  better than these.

Bravo, London.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

London Olympics: Epitome of Athletic Purity

It must be tempting for organizers of an event as large as the Olympics to introduce a political agenda into the mix. After all, what a huge advertising opportunity, right? That's why it was so refreshing to watch the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics, though greatly edited and greatly delayed for those of the American persuasion. Not one speck of crass political propaganda was evident during the delightful pageantry of the opening.

For starters, the opening ceremony was placed under the direction of politically neutral Danny Boyle. The non-slumdog millionaire Oscar-winning director of Slumdog Millionaire knew he was taking a chance, risking his prestigious Slumdog reputation on directing the opening ceremony. Well, by gosh, his reputation is untarnished; he pulled it off without a hitch and without any political overtones whatsoever.

When asked if he were trying to make a political point by including a LENGTHY tribute to the NHS, Boyle, with a straight face, replied, "We had no agenda other than the values WE feel are true."

But, why promote a clearly political institution on the world stage of the Olympics? To make Sudan feel bad that they have no national health care program? How does the NHS tie in with world sports?

Boyle, his nose beginning to grow noticeably, continued with the class and grace befitting a rich man representing a great nation: "There's no bullshit in it and there's no point-making either."

Mr. Boyle DID allow that while the Industrial Revolution played a small part, perhaps, in the rise of the United Kingdom to prominence on the world stage of history, it was not that big of a deal and it was not until the establishment of "free" health care for "all" that the UK could finally hold it's head high with the humanitarian pride it enjoys today. He continued by telling how, anyway, it is China who now sets the standard for the world, whether it be in putting on an opening ceremony or being at the top of the heap of great nations. That's how I took it, anyway.

One assumes it was a nod to the Industrial Revolution that Boyle stuck in some chimneys before rolling out the hospital beds. I sort of get it.

Here is a synopsis of the totally non-political opening ceremonies, written by some dastardly anti-liberal unbeliever. I was amazed at the lies about the NHS presented in the hate piece that follows:

(Excerpted from The National Review)

"The Boyle ceremony got underway with images of a bucolic Britain being swept away by a cigar-chomping elite that builds satanic mills filled with oppressed workers as steeplejacks hang from the towering chimneys. Later, 600 doctors and patients recruited from National Health Service hospitals were featured in a bizarre tribute to socialized medicine, with children bouncing up and down on 320 hospital beds arrayed in front of a giant Franken-baby wrapped in bandages. Villains from British children’s literature, ranging from Cruella de Vil to Lord Voldemort, sweep in on the children, in an apparent reference to conservative forces seeking to reform the tottering NHS. The 15-minute sequence ended with a series of red lights triumphantly spelling out “NHS.” Left-wingers were thrilled. “Brilliant that we got a socialist to do the opening ceremony,” tweeted Alastair Campbell, former communications chief for the Labour party. Boyle denied he was promoting a political agenda."

Link to full article.

Well, HOLY MACARONI! What do you think of that? What baldfaced lies. What a right-wing hatchet job! Can you imagine anyone criticizing something as grand and benevolent as the NHS?

And they even continued with more libelous nonsense:

"Care Rationing Cited in 90% of NHS Providers."

"Two-thirds of Britons earning more than $78,700 a year have taken out private health insurance because they don't trust the NHS."

"Horror stories about the NHS abound."

Rick Dewsbury of the Daily Mail was aghast at the worship of the NHS during Friday’s Olympic ceremony. Dewsbury recounted the 2009 case of Kane Gorny, a 22-year-old NHS patient. Gorny was admitted to the hospital for a hip replacement. A series of hospital employees refused his request for a glass of water and failed to give him diabetes medication. He went so far as to call the emergency operator for help. When the police arrived, nurses assured them that Gorny was confused and needed no outside help. A day later, he was dead of dehydration. The official inquest into his death was published this month. It found that neglect by hospital staff — “a cascade of individual failures” — contributed to his death.

I am shocked and amazed at the lengths the wild-eyed radical right opponents of anything good will go to smear the efforts of those who obviously care for the well-being of the common citizens. It is nothing short of a disgrace.

In the UK, citizens don't have to pay for medical care. It is free for all. GPs abound. In the UK, nobody sues doctors, which would cause them to prescribe unneeded "cover my ass" lab tests. Let me tell you, the USA could learn a lot from the NHS.

God willing, the U.S. is not far behind. We can only hope.

Here's link to help you understand how heath care in the UK can be provided for free.

Crocodiles Rocked

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Happy Women's Day South Africa

August 9, 1956: Apartheid is challenged.

I started this blog gathering wondrous special words from all over the former British Empire. It was fun. I don't blog about those countries much anymore, and the followers from those countries, even Canada, have fallen away. But today is special in South Africa.

I want to say Happy Women's Day. Seek out a special woman in your life and do something special for her, in honor of the 20,000 women who marched on Pretoria on this day and stood like rocks against apartheid.

wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo

"You strike a woman, you strike a rock, You have loosed a boulder. You will be crushed by it."

Read more about the background of Women's Day in South Africa.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Knights of the Round Table

Galahad, Launcelot, Gawain, Percivale, Lional, Tristram, Gareth, Bedivere, Bleoberis, Brunor, Lucan, Palomides, Lamorak, Bors, Safir, Pellas, Kay, Ector, Dagonet, Tegyr, Lybyus, Alymere, Mordred. Several other spelling variations.

Together with King Arthur, they numbered 24 around the Round Table. (There are 25 places around the Round Table of King Edward I, displayed at Winchester, pictured above, but Sir La Cote Male Taile was simply a nickname of Sir Brunor*, already listed, not two people/characters.) The Winchester Round Table is by far the coolest round table in existence today, and one of the most interesting artifacts to be seen in all of the U.K.

In the Winchester Round Table, King Arthur sits between his son/nephew Sir Mordred and Lancelot's son Sir Galahad.

Each has his own story and lineage and legend. The characters in the Arthurian legends are very complex and intertwined. These legends were gathered into one work - and fictionally added to by the author, like all the authors before him - into the one work considered as most comprehensive: "Le Morte d'Arthur."

Was there a real historical character around whom King Arthur was patterned? Probably. Legends and folk stories generally begin with some kernel of truth, some historical exploit, before they begin snowballing out of hand.

*A nickname given to Sir Brunor by Sir Kay.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Much has been written about King Arthur. Part legend, some truth, too, they say. Indeed that is the way of much of ancient history; if the chronicler [chronic Lur] didn't think the stand-alone history was interesting enough, he felt free to add his own stories to spice it up. Some might say history-writing is still that way today.

Anyway, there are tales of real history here and there, and tales of non-history mixed in. Is Arthur the part that was added in? Hard to say what is real and what is fantasy now, after so many years.

Most of the legends, the older writings, were pieced together to make one story, more or less, in Malory's  "Le Morte d'Arthur." This, too, contained much "original material" by the author. "Le Morte..." was first published in the late fifteenth century. Earlier bits and pieces were written by various authors, notably the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth century. Even he was not the first. Supposedly Arthur's name is mentioned in the ancient "Y Gododdin." Those of you who are fluent in ancient Welsh, please let me know what it says.

"Le Morte d'Arthur" is the more or less official version and was relied upon (stolen from) by more recent Arthur authors, such as T.H. White (The Once and Future King") and Tennyson's "The Idylls of the King." And myself, of course. Like you care.

Anyway, returning to the above map, Lothian is a real area along the Firth of Forth, including the areas of West- Mid- and East-Lothian, as well as Edinburgh city.

King Lot was its king. Some spell it King Loth (though I am loath to do so myself.) King lot was the father of Sir Gawain. Except that Sir Gawain was (sadly) the product of Malory's fertile imagination and was one of many things he added to the history. Or not. Who knows? I prefer to believe there WAS a Sir Gawain and a round table and a magical sword named Excalibre. I just don't believe in Scotland.

King Arthur was supposed to have lived in the late fifth and early sixth centuries, a great British leader who defeated the Saxons and established a vast empire over Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and Gaul. Dunno. The story is so complex, and the characters so numerous and interesting that it is hard not to get sucked into the story. Hard for me at any rate. After Arthur, Lothian became a part of the Kingdom of Northumbria for a time. Then it was Pict back again from the pesky Angles. You had to be there to appreciate it.

Here I must stop, though, lest I be accused of being long-winded yet again. Or pause, at least. I have discovered if I break up a long story into several posts, some of you will think it is not just one long story.

Before I go, I know most of you would be disappointed if I didn't work in the word "incubus" into this post somewhere. Let me think.

Merlin was a cambion. A cambion is a being born of a human mother and an incubus. Did you know that a cambion doesn't have a pulse or doesn't have breath, until he is seven years old? Of course you did.

A cambion is not simply a person from Cambia, then.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Very Cool Car

1929 Bentley. Around  a million bucks or so. Still...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Snot Cricket


cricket 1 |ˈkrikit|nounan insect related to the grasshoppers. The male produces a characteristic rhythmical chirping sound. • Family Gryllidae: many genera and species, including the field cricket and the house cricket.ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French criquet, from criquer ‘to crackle,’ of imitative 2nounan open-air game played on a large grass field with ball, bats, and two wickets, between teams of eleven players, the object of the game being to score more runs than the opposition.Cricket is played mainly in Britain and in territories formerly under British rule, including Australia, South Africa, the West Indies, New Zealand, and the Indian subcontinent. The full game with two innings per side can last several days; shorter matches are usual at the amateur level and have become popular at professional level since the 1960s.PHRASESnot cricket Brit., informal a thing contrary to traditional standards of fairness or rectitude.DERIVATIVEScricketer nouncricketing adjectiveORIGIN late 16th cent.: of unknown 3nouna low stool, typically with a rectangular or oval seat and four legs splayed out.

I'm guessing Snot Cricket is that kind of cricket played on a slippery field. Pitch. Bowl. Whatever.

I have learned cricket from elsewhere on this blog in posts written by experts, so I will regale a bit.

"The male produces a characteristic rhythmic chirping sound." (In Georgia: Chirpin' sound.)

I can't relate that to wickets in the least. You'll just have to hold that thought about the male cricket players rubbing their legs together. Actually I didn't know females didn't make that noise too. Chirpin' I mean.

From criquer: 'to crackle.' Lordy don't THAT lose something in the translation? Stick to chirpin' and forget the French. Please.

"An open-air game played on a large grass field with ball, bats, and two wickets, between teams of eleven players, the object of the game being to score more runs than the opposition." Man, if THAT doesn't clear up the rules, you are pretty hopeless. What more could you want in the way of an explanation of the game of cricket? Nada. Zilch. What the hell about innings? He asks.

"Cricket is played mainly in Britain and in territories formerly under British rule...." Fair enough, but then they start listing all the countries formerly under British rule. What is the point of that? Some dictionary. An American dictionary, of course. It's like when I get those checks from my credit card companies every Thursday "to use for anything I want to buy" and then they make a list of all the things they can think of that money is good for. You know? RBS is the worst.


"The full game can last several days..." Bet it seems like YEARS, eh? Not to the English. Sorry. Btw, if you DO go back searching this blog for the REAL cricket posts, be sure not to miss the photo of the elderly English gent with all the hair on his back. Now, I am not trying to denigrate elderly British cricket fans who take off their shirt when they are sitting right in front of you - plenty of American men have too much hair on their backs too - I only mention it in passing so you will know there is something to look at during the match, besides the game, as the weeks between innings drag by.

Now, then, "Phrase Snot cricket": a thing contrary to traditional standards of fairness or rectitude.

So, if someone tries to break the rules, or bend the rules, and you catch them, you just yell out "That Snot Cricket!!" Or, if Jewish, "That Snot Kosher!"

I really AM learning this BritishSpeak stuff, but, God, sometimes it is like pulling teeth, you know?

Feeling extra old today. "Memory almost full" it says. And it's not talking about my computer.

Holy mackerel.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Old Bailey

The Old Bailey is a court building - we would call it a courthouse - which is one of several buildings housing the Crown Court in central London. The Old Bailey deals with important criminal cases of the Greater London area (and sometimes exceptional cases from throughout England and Wales.)

A part of the present building stands on the site of the medieval Newgate Gaol, on Old Bailey Road. The road follows the line of London's fortified wall (bailey.)

My patio is walled. I wonder if just any wall can be called a bailey? But then I wonder about a lot of things that come to very little.

The court was rebuilt and reopened in 1674, following the Fire of London. Hangings in the street outside were a public spectacle until 1868. Typical of the genteel and reserved British, riotous crowds would gather to pelt the condemned with rotten fruit and vegetables and rocks as the unfortunate made his way to the gallows. In 1807, 28 people were crushed to death after a pie-sellers stall overturned. Gosh, those were the days, eh?

I wonder if it existed very long before the fire? If so, perhaps it was here where Guy Fawkes took his swan dive off the gallows, splattering his head like a ripe melon on the cobbles to rob the hangman. Boy, that sure showed him, wot? But no head left to pike. I don't remember if he was still quartered or if they all just went home after that. Ah, gentle Albion. (I recently learned of Albion from this rather unusual blog.)

Today, the Old Bailey has it's own website complete with searchable records of trial proceedings through the ages, currently available for your voyeuristic pleasure, 1674-1913, should you be one of the people who can read the English of that era which called walls baileys.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Eugenics Lite


"I would have loved to have been in a band, but sadly I just wasn't good enough."
—Tony Blair, British Statesman

Saturday, June 30, 2012

On this day in history

On this date in history people were still talking excitedly about the Archduke Ferdinand being assassinated a few days ago, and wondering if that might portend a WWI and, if so, would that mean there might later be a WWII? And if so, why bother with WWI when they could just wait for WWII and get it all over with at once? Many people were (excitedly) taking about this.

No, as interesting as the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was, especially to the Serbs, it was much less interesting than the Mayerling Affair. I mean Mayerling "Incident" - which ended with the previous heir to the throne looking like the above picture. In fact, that is Crown Prince Rudolf himself, his head wrapped in a royal turban because his recent shotgun-assisted suicide proved to be beyond the art of even the royal undertakers. If you get my drift.

Yes, old Franz Joseph had had his share of misfortune during his long ineffective life. He had survived an assassination attempt himself, being stabbed in the neck but not fatally. And then his wife went crazy. This, I think, was after his little brother was executed by a firing squad in Mexico, having been found guilty of pretending to be an emperor. Then there was his only son Rudolf, apparently unable to just live with his wife and keep his mistress, he pulled the shotgun Romeo and Juliet trick. Except neither woke up in between and neither was poisoned. And never was there such a tale of woe as Marie-et and her Rudofio. I'm sure Shakespeare would have liked my little adaptation. Anyhow.

Then his unbalanced wife was assassinated. ¡Que Lastima! the Mexicans must have thought.

And now Franz Ferdinand. He who also loved. But the Habsbourg curse held, and the Great War ensued.

Following the suicide of Rudolf, the old Emperor's other younger brother was next in line. "No thank YOU!" says he, a couple days later, and so HIS son, Franz Ferdinand, became heir presumptive. He of the blank staring pig-like eyes of resignation. After Serajevo, Karl (Charles I and IV) became emperor after the probably-happy-to-go old Franz Joseph died during the war, in 1916. As it turned out, there was to be no more Austrian-Hungarian Empire after the war, and no need for Karl. But, if you are taking notes, his full name was Karl Franz Joseph Ludwig Hubert George Leroy Otto Marie von Hapsburg-Lothringen (English: Charles Francis Joseph Louis Hubert George Otto Mary of Habsburg-Lorraine.)

Life is fair, so der Kaiser became a gentleman farmer in The Netherlands, and passed away quietly, surrounded by doting grandchilluns, and the Americans, having spent 4 or 5 months winning the war in Europe, made a motion picture about a hick named Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper. I think.

The book that records the annals of all this is called "A Fall of Eagles" but I think it should have been titled, "A Pack of Idiots."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Trouble in Blogger comments?

If anyone is having problems commenting on any of my 3 blogs, I would appreciate you letting me know. Problems like slow typing -  if the comment display typing does not keep up with your keyboard typing, lags behind your typing. Thanks.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Yuri Gargarin, first man in space, 1961.

André-Jacques Garnerin, first parachute jump, 1791, (from a balloon.)

Queen Victoria, first monarch to live in Buckingham Palace, 1837.

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, first actual British Prime Minister, 1905. (That's when the title was first "officially" recognized by Edward VII. The title was used starting in the latter 19th century. Before that, various titles were used for the position.)

Jean François "Blondin" Gravelet, first person to walk across Niagara Falls on a tighrope, 1859. (Actually, he walked across the Niagara River Gorge, considerably below the falls, near where the present-day Rainbow Bridge is.) But he was more spectacular than anyone: he did it several times; he did it pushing a wheelbarrow; he did it blindfolded; he did it in a sack; he did it carrying a man on his back; he balanced on a chair with only one chair leg on the wire.

Jules Leotard, first flying trapeze circus act, 1859.

Matthew Webb, first known person to swim across the English Channel, 1875. Drowned in 1883 while attempting swim across the whirlpools and rapids down-river from Niagara Falls.

Queen Isabella of Spain, first woman's image to appear on a U.S. postage stamp, 1893.

Ferenc Szisz, winner of the first Grand Prix, held in Le Mans, 1906. The Romanian drove a Renault.

First time Scotland won the World Cup: Bwahahahahahahahahah. Right. No, wait. That's the wrong attitude. Let me think of a first. Ok: First time Scotland qualified for World Cup was 1950 (but refused to play.) Scotland actually qualified a lot:

In 1954
In 1958
In 1974
In 1978
In 1982
In 1986
In 1990
In 1998

First player of a Scotland team to score a goal at a World Cup? Jimmy Murray of the Hearts (1958 in a 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia.)


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