Shakespeare was the first to use beetle as a verb. In Hamlet he writes, “the cliff that beetles o’er his base into the sea”. Here beetles means that it hangs over – like a shaggy eyebrow?
Beetle-browed means having shaggy overhanging eyebrows, which is odd considering that
beetles don’t have eyebrows but big horns.
To beetle about [more…]
French lawyer and gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote in 1825 “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are”. Or as we say nowadays – we are what we eat.
Maybe that is why we have always used food to describe the various aspects of our lives.
Your head was once referred [more…]
As I write this column, the person who has been the holder of more nobility titles than anyone in the world has died today. At 88, she was also one of Europe’s wealthiest aristocrats.
Maria del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva was born in 1926, in the Liria Palace, Madrid, only daughter of [more…]
We associate Easter with chocolate eggs and a long weekend, but once Easter was bigger than Christmas. It still is in many denominations, a far more important event to Christians.
Christmas, being our big razzmatazz celebration, when families get together, with decorations and presents, puts Easter in the shade, but Easter was once a similar [more…]
One reason we have so many synonyms is a legacy of English history.
Anglo-Saxon was spoken until the Normans invaded England in 1066 when William the Conqueror made French the language of the courts. Anglo-Saxon was spoken by the peasants and French by the aristocracy, which is why so many English words have twins. [more…]
One of the big decisions I had to make recently was whether I want to be called Grandma or Nanna – or any other variation such as Nanny, Nan, Gran or even Grandmama!
Yes, I have just become a grandmother! While it’s not a life-changing decision, it made me think about why there isn’t [more…]
Many of the ancient pre-Christian celebrations were hijacked when Christianity arrived, and adapted – or toned down. Some of them have been forgotten altogether.
Candlemas on 2nd February was known as the festival of light in pre-Christian times. It marked the mid-point of winter, half way between the winter solstice (shortest day) and the spring [more…]
Christmas is coming and once again we prepare for the big day, as people have done for over a thousand years.
The date of 25th December was first declared by Pope Julius I, around 336 AD. The exact day on which Jesus was born was not recorded, so why was this date chosen? There were [more…]
“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” – Mark Twain.
Calling a woman a dog implies she’s ugly. Calling a man the same thing implies that he’s uncouth or of low morals, although it could also [more…]