Wild hogs: Journalist Henry Mayhew recorded one of the most remarkable bits of folklore common among the toshers: that a “race of wild hogs” inhabited the sewers under Hampstead... These black swine “have become almost as ferocious as they are numerous”. (Smithsonian Magazine Toshers were men who made a living fishing in London’s sewers for coins, rope, metal or anything they could sell.)
Noah Webster was vehemently anti-British, and went out of his way to use as many variant spellings as possible. (MML Webster was a spelling reformer.)
The Myth of the US Immigration Crisis: The country doesn’t have a wave of undocumented workers. That ended a decade ago. (Bloomberg.com)
And that music they all listen to is just noise and you can't tell if they're boys or girls half the time here's my invoice. (Jon Dryden Taylor @jondrytay)
European culture, in contrast to crass American and Soviet materialism, was idealist and anti-materialist, defined especially by literature and the arts. (qz.com)
Head-itching fact of the day: in the immediate post-war years René Magritte supported himself painting fake Picassos, Braques, de Chiricos. (Hamish Thompson @HamishMThompson)
Housing minister says first-time buyers should rely on inheritance from their grandparents. (Independent)
This reminds me of that thing about cake that Marie Antoinette famously never said. (M. v. Aufschnaiter @mva_1000)
The Cat and the FiddleOrigin theories abound, linking this nonsense poem to everything from Hathor worship, to the naming of constellations (Taurus, Canis minor etc), or even the annual flooding of the Nile. Some have argued that it describes priests urging the working poor to work even harder. (folklorethursday.com)
It was the duty of the god-parent to buy their god-child a pair of boots/shoes on the child's birthday, so that should the child's parents die by any and various means, then the child would be able to walk the distance to the god-parent's house. (Guardian commenter)
The caged birds [in Goya’s The Red Boy] may symbolize the soul, the cats may be an evil force. (Wikipedia)
It is said that Michelangelo included a concealed human brain on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. (MJ)
Sylvia Sim was more famous than “Dickie”. While Attenborough was portrayed in the media as the “ultimate luvvie”, liable to weep at any time in public and especially in homage to fellow thespians, Sim escaped parody. (A Times obituary of Sylvia Sim, Lady Attenborough, drags in clichés about her husband, making a tenuous connection to Sim herself. Why mention them, unless the Times just wants to get in another dig at “luvvies” who have a nasty habit of caring about other people and voting Labour?)
Prince Charles never leaves home without his white leather loo seat, a Christmas present from his sister... Other packing essentials include a silver-plated porcupine-quill toothpick, a small red-and-gold cushion for his bad back, and solid-gold collar stiffeners, all stowed in his Louis Vuitton monogrammed luggage with a selection of 60 suits by tailors Anderson & Sheppard costing £3,000 a pop, and more than 200 handmade Turnball & Asser shirts at £350 each. ... A fussy eater, he likes vegetables steamed in a particular mineral water, and takes tea between 4pm and 5pm: muffins with boiled eggs - the chef boils seven eggs at a time to ensure at least one is perfect. (Condé Nast Traveller It was three boiled eggs last time. And it’s TurnBULL and Asser.)
Relativity, quantum physics, string theory etc etc have restored doubt, mystery and humility to the quest for knowledge and understanding - or at least that should be the effect. (DT)
Scientism is notorious for being its own echo chamber and having names for keeping other opinions out, like “peer review”. It’s just another #FakeReligion filled with fanatic zealots. (via Twitter)
The true meaning of Christmas is being drowned out by materialism. (Pope Francis)
Unlike some others, Van Mildert college at Durham University was trivial to navigate, and very pleasant, centring around a lake that was rumoured to have been intended as a car park that flooded. (AG)
Why is it that Labour is often said to have a 'soul', over which there is always a 'battle'? It's never struck me as anything but weird. (@PolProfSteve Steven Fielding)
In the 17th Century Coffee houses sprung up around the City and were places of debate, gossip, business and promotion. It’s also worth bearing in mind that before then, people were mainly drinking weak beer all day (which was far safer than disease-ridden water) so it was basically the first time anyone was having fully sober discussions! ... A tradition developed whereby ships were sold ‘by the candle’ which meant it was an auction governed by the time it takes for a candle to melt. The final sale was confirmed when a pin (stuck into the candle wax before melting) dropped in front of the eager crowd; hence the phrase “You could’ve heard a pin drop”! (lookup.london)
Boxing DaySamuel Pepys talks about the 26th as 'Boxing Day' because the wealthy would give their servants the day off, sent home with a box of treats. (Dan Snow @thehistoryguy)
In the days of rich gentry in England, they would go visiting each others' mansions for weeks at a time, living off their hosts. At the end of the visit they would leave some money in a large wooden box near the front entrance. Every year on Dec 26th, the servants would open the box and split the money. You know this if you read a lot of Jane Austen. (MC)
The residents of the manor would bring food and small gifts to their tenants. (EB)
It's the day you gift your servants with a "Christmas box" and switch places with them for the day. (AS)
(Another says job-switching happened in the Army. According to former nurse Monica Dickens, doctors and surgeons served patients and nurses their Christmas lunch – and carved the turkey. A "Christmas box" was a tip given to regular tradespeople who called at your door - bringing mail, bread, milk, coal, groceries and collecting trash. If the tip wasn't big enough, coal or trash would be accidentally spilled on your path or doorstep.)
Sense and SenilityIn Sense and Senility, an episode of Blackadder, two old actors demonstrate what to do if anyone quotes from the “Scottish play” (Macbeth) or whistles in a dressing room. You face each other and chant:
Puck will make amends – ow!
"Ow" because the ritual ends with pinching the other’s nose. This has become Chinese whispered to:
Pluck to make amends!
Obvious, they’re plucking each other’s noses, aren’t they? No, it’s from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, which ends with the character Puck, aka Robin Goodfellow, promising “And Robin will restore amends!”. (Footnote: “Orchestra stalls” is rhyming slang.)
Or, per Sir Tony Robinson,
Hot potato, take off his drawers, pluck to make amends!
Some suggest that the BBC subtitles/Ceefax were misleading. But didn’t Sir Tony have the script? Or perhaps he didn’t read scenes he wasn’t in. Meow!
The curse of Macbeth, which forbids actors to name the play, only goes back to the late 19th C, & Max Beerbohm. (historian Tom Holland)
Street beggars are making "up to £200 a day" on the streets of Yeovil, according to a South Somerset District Councillor. (somersetlive.co.uk Local homeless pregnant woman says more like £2.)
A lot of people have tried to tell me that the homeless people by our shop "aren't really homeless, they're just pretending to get money". (Dee Dee @deedeelea “Tramps choose their way of life” has become “Homeless people don’t want to be housed, they prefer to be free”.)
“That ‘homeless’ woman outside Tescos is dropped off every morning by a Mercedes!” (In this urban legend, the car is always named. But if you were a Fagin running a begging ring, would you risk one of your operatives being seen getting out of a car as conspicuously expensive as a Mercedes? Every morning?)
More here, and links to the rest.