Posts by Max Cryer

Superstitions and why we have them – Onions

Witches don’t like onions, so keeping one or two in the house is a good protection – but left whole, not peeled or cut.

However there is an ancient superstition that a peeled onion will ‘absorb’ germs, thus shortening the span of an illness by taking all the danger into itself and preventing others in the household from catching the affliction.  Modern medical experts have advised that  because something has been believed for a long time does not mean it is true, and the ‘cut onion’ information is not true and should be disregarded.

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Max’s Dogs – Top dog or Underdog

Dog JacketTop dog or underdog

Dogs in any grouping – a wild pack or even just a domestic group – have an ‘alpha’ who is dominant.  The term shifted to the popular sport of  dog-fighting – with two references, one actual and one predicted.  During the fight the superior dog  could be seen on top.  If a particular dog had a track record of achieving this supremacy, those taking bets on a forthcoming fight would refer to that participant as a ‘top dog’ while a newcomer, or fighter with an unimpressive track record, would be the ‘under-dog’. 

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Who said that first? – Hear no evil, see no evil

It’s doubtful that anyone ever said it in English before the end of the 17th century. The concept of ‘see not evil, ‘hear not evil’, ‘speak not evil’ related back to Confucius in China, several hundred years BC, and then travelled to Japan, where it was known for centuries as a moral maxim. By a trick of the Japanese language, the maxim eventually became known world-wide.

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Curious words – (Out for a) duck

From Max Cryer’s  CURIOUS English words and phrases – the truth behind the expressions we use:

(Out for a) duck

 Cricket usually has a visual scoreboard and if a player leaves the field having made no runs,  a great big zero stands next to his or her name on the scoreboard.  A practice arose many years ago of referring to this  zero – because of its shape- as a duck’s egg, and this was shortened to just a duck. So if he or she was out for a duck, it means there was no score.

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“I will do thy bidding gently…”

Richard Wagner was  devoted to his King Charles spaniel named Peps, who  actually participated  in his master’s composing.

Wagner’s biographer H.T. Finck records that Peps constantly sat near Wagner when the composer was at the piano. Sometimes Peps would leap on to the table and peer into Wagner’s face, howling piteously.

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M’aidez or Mayday?

Max

From Max Cryer‘s  book ‘Is It True?’

The distress call ‘mayday’ is English for the French term m’aidez.

 Using the word ‘mayday’ dates from 1923, when a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport was asked to think of an easily understood  word which could indicate distress.

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