Posts by Max Cryer

Superstitions – Spilt milk

Back in the days when fewer household conveniences were available, if hot milk was required it was boiled over an open fire. A superstition grew that if the mild boiled over and some fell on the coals, then bad luck would come to the house – unless someone very quickly sprinkled salt on the area.

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Max’s Dogs – Every Dog has its day

Lie doggo means to keep still, but not necessarily because one is tired or asleep. When a dog wishes to, it can become impressively motionless, lying low and quiet, with only the eyes flickering. Thus a person going into hiding or keeping quiet about something is like a dog – still, and giving out no clues. Adding the ‘o’ to the relevant noun somehow lifts the word ‘dog’ out of the ordinary (as in boy/boyo).

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?


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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