Posts by Max Cryer

Who said that first? – (To) know what’s what

(To) know what’s what

Sometimes said of society matrons who understand perfect etiquette and the science of dinner-table seating. Or pundits who know local political gossip and the status of the financial markets. The term first appears in Hudibras by Samuel Butler (1663):

He knew what’s what, and that’s as high

As metaphysic wit can fly.

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Superstitions – Baldness

In spite of extensive advertising claims to the contrary, most men afflicted by baldness find the condition irreversible. An American superstition claims that baldness can be delayed by cutting the existing hair very short then singeing the cut ends. Another superstition claims that when a man starts to go bald, he can slow the process by stuffing cyclamen leaves up his nose.  And sprinkling parsley seeds on the head three times a year is also believed to help.

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Max’s Dogs – Every dog has its day

Doberman (n) is named after Friedrich Louis Dobermann, a German tax collector who realised he needed some protection from being robbed while doing his collecting. He bred Manchester terriers with Pinschers and Rottwellers with greyhounds, until finally producing the Doberman (the final ‘n’ of his name gradually faded away.

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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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