© 2022 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.
As I mentioned in Part 1, during the Covid-19 pandemic, I spent time going through my bookcases, and I found some long-forgotten treasures. One of these was a large Rand-McNally New Standard Atlas of the World, published in 1900, when many national borders were quite different than now.
To get an overview of significant events, births, deaths, and other information from 1900, click here. Some highlights taken verbatim from that site are:
- Dwight F. Davis creates the Davis Cup tennis tournament.
- In France, the length of a legal workday for women and children is limited to 11 hours.
- The second (modern) Olympic Games is held in Paris.
- L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is published in Chicago.
- The first line of the Paris Métro is opened.
- The first Michelin Guide is published in France.
- Winston Churchill is elected to Parliament for the first time.
- Milton S. Hershey introduces the milk chocolate Hershey bar in the United States.
By the way, it may surprise you to know that 1900 was not a leap year, even though it is a multiple of 4. As it happens, only those century years that are multiples of 400 are leap years. So, 1600 and 2000 were, but 1700, 1800, 1900, and 2100 are not. As a result, we have the oddity that 1896 was a leap year, and the next one was eight years later, in 1904.
Here are this month's topics:
In various parts of the English-speaking world, married women's names are often written in the form "Mary Brown (nee
Jones)" to indicate that Mary's married name is "Brown" and her maiden name is "Jones." The word nee
is an Anglicized version of the French née
. This designation can also be used if the woman's name was changed for reasons other than marriage. The male counterpart is né
. (I do know an American man who took his wife's family name when he married her.)
Speaking of things French, a written invitation to an event usually contains something like "RSVP
." Although I've heard people try to make the four letters into abbreviations for English words, they really are an initialism
(acronym, that is) for Répondez s'il vous plait
, which means "Please respond (by date
In English, men and women are often referred to more formally using the honorifics
, and Ms
. Back when I was a boy in rural South Australia, the local newspaper often had photos of groups of men and/or women, and the captions identified their names starting with honorifics. Oddly, instead of Misters
(the English plural of Mr.
) for men, the term Messrs
(the French equivalent) was used. For woman, Mesdames
(also French) was used. (As it happens, there isn't a universal way of writing the plural of Mrs. in English.) Although Mrs.
comes from Mistress
, introducing your wife as your mistress might have unintended consequences! While we might think that the term Ms. came about with the feminist movement of the 1960's, it actually dates back to the 17th
century. And regarding the commonly used American term ma'am
, as English actress Hellen Mirren
(in the role of Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison) famously said, "Don't call me ma'am. I'm not the bloody Queen." By the way, for the gender-neutral folks, we now have Mx
is a Protestant religion founded in England in the 17th
century. While I had heard of it previously, my first contact with a Quaker was when my family was hosted by a country-doctor couple in Wales in the 1990's. (He was a Quaker, and she was an atheist, although she did attend Quaker meetings.) The term Quaker
comes from "one who quake
s," as in "trembles at the name of the Lord." What sets Quakers apart from most other Christian religions is that they have very simple meeting houses, no clergy, it's not male-dominated, and there is no child indoctrination (Sunday school). The US state of Pennsylvania
, "The Quaker State
," was founded by Quaker William Penn
. When I visited the Monteverde cloud forest
area of Costa Rica, I met a number of American descendants living there who were Quakers. Being pacifists and not wanting to pay taxes to help finance the Korean (or any other) War, they began to leave the US in the 1950's. While they started out as dairy farmers, they eventually got involved in ecotourism, which is how I came across them. US President Nixon was a Quaker.
In the 1950's a popular brand of cigarette tobacco in Australia was Peter Stuyvesant
. I thought nothing of that until many years later when I discovered that it was named for the man who had been the governor of Dutch New Amsterdam (which later became New York City when the Brits took control). I never did understand why the makers might have thought that Aussies would be attracted to that connection (assuming they even knew about it). Stuyvesant died at age 80 in 1672, while his namesake ciggies did not debut until 1954. Perhaps he died of lung cancer; hmm?
is known around the world as the US financial hub on Manhattan Island, New York City. But how did it get its name? One of the two theories
is that back in the late 1600's, the Dutch settlement on that island was small, and a wall ran around the northern boundary to keep out "Native Americans, pirates, and the English." The street by the wall became Wall Street!
The title Duke of York
has been given to the second son of English/British monarchs since the 15th
century. (The current title holder is Prince Andrew
.) In 1664, King Charles II granted his brother James (the Duke of York) the land that currently contains the US state of New York, hence its name and that of New York City. "New York, New York, it's so nice they named it twice!" From my elementary school days Down Under, I remember that "The grand old Duke of York
, he had ten thousand men. He marched them up to the top of the hill and he marched them down again. And when they were up, they were up. And when they were down, they were down. And when they were only half-way up they were neither up nor down." Now, when Charles becomes king (and gives up his title Prince of Wales), his first-born son, William, will take on that title. However, will his second son, Harry, get to be Duke of York? That is, will Uncle Andy be de-Yorked? As best as I can tell, NO; Andrew will keep that title until his death.
Have you ever drunk a Bloody Mary
? Although the origin of its name is not known for certain, one of the prime candidates has to do with Mary I, Queen of England
, who because of her staunch Catholicism, went about executing Protestants. "Off with their heads, wot!" According to Wikipedia, this drink contains, 'vodka, tomato juice, and other spices and flavorings including Worcestershire sauce, hot sauces, garlic, herbs, horseradish, celery, olives, salt, black pepper, lemon juice, lime juice and celery salt. Some versions of the drink, such as the "surf 'n turf" Bloody Mary, include shrimp and bacon as garnishes.' Speaking of Catholics vs. Protestants: One day at a Catholic girl's school, Sister Mary Elizabeth asked her students what they'd like to be when they grew up. Maria said she'd like to be a nurse in a poor neighborhood. "Wonderful," said Sister. Next, Theresa said she'd like to be a missionary Doctor in Africa. "Fantastic," said Sister. Then Jane said she'd like to be a prostitute
! Well, Sister fainted on the spot! Later, when she had been revived, she asked Jane to repeat what she'd said, and Jane did. Sister replied, "Praise the Lord! I thought you said, 'a Protestant
Speaking of Worcestershire sauce
, one can actually use too much of it, and sometimes I get pretty close to that limit when I have a bottle in hand! To all you Americans, here's a lesson in correct pronunciation: Worcester is the county town of Worcestershire. And the town's name is spoken as if it was spelled "Wooster," not "war cester." OK, got that? (BTW, with Warwick, the county town of Warwickshire
, one does not pronounce the second w unless one wishes to be labelled a philistine
! You don't want to be accused of having pedestrian
tastes do you?) Apparently, the sauce is a source of umami
, and is the British equivalent of Asia's soy sauce. Speaking of savory sauces, often when one sits down for a British pub meal, the condiments on offer include brown sauce
, which, frankly, seems like an uninviting name. Apparently, it's so boring, no-one ever came up with a proper name for it. That said, I have been known to sprinkle the odd packet of it on my full English breakfast
In recent years, there's been a lot of media coverage of Islam
and its adherents, Moslems. Now it seems that if a religion has been around for a bit, it inevitably breaks into sects of one kind or another. And so it was with Islam, with its Sunni
factions. [I'm reminded of something a Protestant once said: "The only thing worse than not being Christian, is being Catholic!"] And when the sects are not fighting a common enemy (think the Crusades
), they are fighting among themselves (think proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia). The basic dispute between the two Islamic groups is the line of succession to the prophet Muhammad
. Regarding groups with very strong differences of opinion, if you have never read "Gulliver's Travels
," do learn about the Big-Endian/Little-Endian controversy regarding which end of a boiled egg one should open. (I first learned about these terms as they apply to computer science
: fruit or a vegetable? Apparently, a botanist says fruit
, while a horticulturist says vegetable
. I say, "Who cares? Just shut up and enjoy it!" BTW, like Worcestershire sauce, tomato is also a source of umami
. And, yes, people do disagree about how to pronounce
the word: tomayto/tomarto! Now I've seen yellow and black tomatoes, but my attitude towards them is that I'll pass on eating one unless I'm very hungry and eating in the dark. After all, everyone knows that proper
tomatoes are bright red! (BTW, if you haven't seen the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes
," I recommend it.)
Henry VIII had Walmer Castle
built as a fort in County Kent "to protect against invasion from France and the Holy Roman Empire." Later, it became the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
, a title that was held by numerous, distinguished people, including Winston Churchill, Robert Menzies (former Australian Prime Minister), and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The five (cinque in French) ports are Dover, Hastings, Hythe, New Romney, and Sandwich.
My adopted home state in the US is Virginia
, the first state, having been settled in 1607. It was named by Sir Walter Raleigh
for Queen Elizabeth I, the "virgin queen," really! As a citizen of the British Commonwealth and as a school student in Australia, I learned about King John signing the Magna Carta
(Great Charter) at Runnymede
. When I visited that site, I was surprised to not find any significant English memorial of that historic event! However, there were three American memorials: There is a tree planted by QEII
in soil from Virginia to commemorate the anniversary of the founding of that state; there is a small monument
erected by the American Bar Association acknowledging the English law as a basis; and there is a memorial garden
in a grove dedicated to President John F. Kennedy.
I first learned about the soldier/statesman/explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton
when I was visiting my Dutch historian friend, Gerard. Burton is a prominent character in Phillip Jose Farmer's sci-fi series, "Riverworld
," to which Gerard introduced me and which I highly recommend. From time to time, as a I read various pieces about history, I some across references to Burton. And I was most surprised to find that a well-known biography about him was written by the mayor of a small town very near where I currently live in Virginia.
We tend to think of Western European countries as having been around for a good, long while. But not so, Belgium
, which is rather new, becoming independent in the 1830s . The country is multilingual. The Flemings
in the northern part, Flanders
, speak Flemish, a dialect of Dutch, while in the southern part, Wallonia
, the Walloons
speak French. (A few people speak German.) "In Flanders Fields
" is a well-known poem about WWI. The red poppies
that grew over the graves of soldiers killed in action became a symbol around the world on Armistice Day
. My main exposure to Flemish was on a bus tour from Dubrovnik, Croatia, to Mostar, Bosnia. The guide was originally from Flanders, and she spoke Flemish and English to her group.
Speaking of newish countries, Finland
was created in 1917 while Russia was preoccupied with revolution. Over the years, Finland was occupied by Sweden and Russia. The country is officially bilingual, supporting Finnish and Swedish. As a result, all public signs are in both languages. Although part of Scandinavia, the language Finnish is not
related to other languages from that area. I've had the good fortune of visiting this fine country a number of times, going to the Arctic Circle on one trip to meet Santa Clause, in person, well north of there to Lapland on another, and around the country by train and bus.
The UK Houses of Parliament
are instantly recognizable around the world. But did you know that they are formally known as the Palace of Westminster
. Although the structure looks quite old, it was destroyed by fire and completely rebuilt starting in 1840 to look old! Its distinctive tower houses the main bell, Big Ben
. The week I hiked into London while completing my 187-mile walk along the Thames Path, because of unusually high humidity, the big clock slowed down and then actually stopped! On a separate trip, my teenage son and I sat in the Visitors' Gallery during sessions of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The first European explorer to come across New Zealand
was the Dutchman, Abel Tasman. Sometime later, the islands were named Nova Zeelandia
(from Latin), after the seafaring Dutch province of Zeeland
. In Dutch, this became Nieuw Zeeland
. (Dutch explorers had also named Australia Nieuw Holland
.) The Māori name for the country is Aotearoa
, meaning "land of the long white cloud." (The Australian state of Tasmania
and the Tasman Sea are named after Tasman.)
is a woven fabric whose name was derived from the city of Damascus
, capital of modern-day Syria.
According to Wikipedia, Jet
"is a type of lignite, the lowest rank of coal, and is a gemstone. … It is derived from wood that has changed under extreme pressure. … The adjective jet-black
, meaning as dark a black as possible, derives from this material."
In March of 2020, just prior to the US lockdown for COVID-19, I was vacationing in Tahiti where I was at the downtown port talking to passengers disembarking from a cruise ship. Tied up near the ship was what I thought was a super- or mega-yacht. Now when I grew up in rural Australia, I came to know a yacht
as a small boat with several sails, that held 1, 2, or 3 people, and bobbed about on a freshwater lake. But when I stepped off the length of this baby, I figured it was about 350 feet (108 meters) long. After speaking to someone nearby, I found out it was brand new and had just been delivered to fellow Aussie, James Packer
, who had paid US$200 million for it. Apparently, a yacht longer than 100 meters is known as a gigayacht
. At 14 knots, the twin diesel engines, and fuel tanks with 91,000 gallons give the yacht a range of 6,500 nautical miles. Now, what would you do with a spare $200 million?
There I was working on my German vocabulary when I came across the term fata morgana
, which certainly didn't sound German to me; in fact, its origins are Italian! It means mirage
. Other foreign language surprises I recall were learning that nostril
in Spanish is la ventana de nariz
, literally, window of the nose
, and toe
is el dedo del pie
, literally, finger of the foot
I first came across the term wrangler
in the context of cowboys handling horses and cattle. But then I started seeing it in movie credits, usually in the context of a handler of some kind of animal or inanimate product. According to Wikipedia, the word `is derived from the Low German "wrangeln" meaning "to dispute" or "to wrestle." It was first documented in 1377. Its use as a noun was first recorded in 1547. Its reference to a "person in charge of horses or cattle" or "herder" was first recorded in 1888.' My most recent encounter with the word
was as a Cambridge University England student "who gains first-class honours in the final year of the university's degree in mathematics."
Growing up in Australia, I learned that a yahoo
was a derogatory term meaning "A rough
." (I have since learned that such creatures are, unfortunately, not
limited to my home country!) I was surprised to learn recently that the word was invented by Jonathan Swift in his book "Gulliver's Travels," in which Yahoo
is the name of a race of brutes
I had heard of dumdums
, special kinds of bullets designed to expand on impact. It was developed at the British Royal Artillery Dum Dum Arsenal, in the town of Dum Dum, India
The use of the term "quack
" as a slang synonym for doctor, is well known. However, it is more appropriate to use it for someone who claims to have some medical background when they don't. Apparently, the term comes from the Dutch word "kwakzalver," which means "a seller of ointment."
Regarding people of mixed race, according to Wikipedia, "In the slave societies of the Americas, a quadroon
was a person with one quarter African and three quarters European ancestry (or in Australia, one quarter aboriginal
ancestry)." Other terms are octoroon
, and mestizo
There I was watching a nature program about monkeys when the term "opposable thumb
" was mentioned. When I went to Wikipedia to read about this, I was surprised to find so much information about thumbs! Interestingly, the medical term for a thumb is pollex
, from Latin. In the good old Roman days
, the width of the thumb was 1 inch wide, and was 1/12 of a Roman foot.
The French Foreign Legion
is not just a military group seen in old films about north Africa. It is very much alive and well today! "As of 2018, members come from 140 different countries."
comes from the Latin for "elsewhere."
Recently, I was involved in the preparation of a tax return for a non-profit organization, and I had need to consult IRS (Internal Revenue Service) Publication 526 Cat. No. 15050A, "Charitable Contributions." There, I found the following: "Expenses of Whaling Captains: You may be able to deduct as a charitable contribution any reasonable and necessary whaling expenses you pay during the year to carry out sanctioned whaling activities. The deduction is limited to $10,000 a year. To claim the deduction, you must be recognized by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission as a whaling captain charged with the responsibility of maintaining and carrying out sanctioned whaling activities. Sanctioned whaling activities are subsistence bowhead whale hunting activities conducted under the management plan of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. Whaling expenses include expenses for: • Acquiring and maintaining whaling boats, weapons, and gear used in sanctioned whaling activities; • Supplying food for the crew and other provisions for carrying out these activities; and • Storing and distributing the catch from these activities." Who knew that such advice even existed!
is right here on earth. It's a community located in the US state of Michigan, and has a population of around 70 people!
When referring to temperature in the metric system, the terms Celsius
seem to be interchangeable, and they are! The scale was originally named centigrade from the Latin centum
, 100 steps. However, later it was renamed Celsius "after the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius (1701–1744), who developed a similar temperature scale." BTW, -40 Celsius is also -40 Fahrenheit!
Many of us have heard the term Ides of March
, which is usually associated with the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. Just what is an ide? Actually, the word is used in the plural, ides
. For most months, it's the 13th
day, but for some months, including March, it's the 15th
"is the ethereal fluid that is the blood of the gods and/or immortals." And watch out, it's toxic to humans!
is a well-known intersection in London, England. According to Wikipedia, "Around 1611 or 1612, a Robert Baker acquired land in the area, and prospered by making and selling piccadills
, … each of which is a large broad collar of cut-work lace that became fashionable in the late 16th century and early 17th century."
I have long known the term "Grand Prix
," but always in the context of motor racing. It's French for "Grand Prize," and is actually used in numerous contexts (follow the link). According to Jack's Reference Book (1908), it was first used for a horse race at Longchamps, France, established by Napoleon III in 1863.
The term "peeping Tom
" is well known as "A person who watches another without the other's permission and usually without the other's knowledge, especially for the purpose of deriving sexual pleasure from the sight of the other." But who was Tom and at whom was he peeping? For an explanation of that, click here
. Basically, Tom looked at Lady Godiva riding naked through the town.
Did you ever hear of a 10-gallon hat
? It's a kind of cowboy hat that is sometimes mentioned and worn in Western movies. Its origins are likely from several different Spanish terms
neither of which has to do with the amount of water such a hat could hold.
As I travel the world, I find that America and its people are either loved and admired, or despised. Rarely do I find someone without an opinion on them. I recently discovered a possible explanation for some of America's traits in the works by prominent US historian, Frederick Jackson Turner
(1861–1932). In his Frontier thesis
he talks about "how the idea of the American frontier shaped the American character in terms of democracy and violence. He stresses how the availability of very large amounts of nearly free farm land built agriculture, pulled ambitious families to the western frontier, and created an ethos of unlimited opportunity. The frontier helped shape individualism and opposition to governmental control."
It seems that the humble umbrella
started out as protection against the sun (as in parasol
), with use in rain coming later. I grew up in Australia, which like some other countries in the British Commonwealth, uses the slang term brolly
. On one trip to London, England, I figured that as I would be there a week, it was bound to rain, so I should take an umbrella, something I never carried at home. Not having one of my own, I took my wife's. In London, I was in a supermarket, and when I left, I noticed I'd left my brolly at the checkout. As I was walking back to retrieve it, a man came out carrying it to see if he could find its owner. When I approached him saying it was mine, he was quite surprised. After all, it was a woman's umbrella, and I was a man! Apparently, real men don't carry paisley-patterned brollys!
You probably know that "utopia
is an imaginary community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens." But did you know that this word was invented by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book "Utopia
," which describes "a fictional island society in the south Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South America?"
From time to time, I've been known to make a large pot of creamy onion and potato soup. Then when I eat some, I add the magic ingredient, cayenne pepper
. There's a connection between that name and the town
of the same name in French Guiana
. As it happens, the cayenne pepper fruit measures 30,000–50,000 SHU on the Scoville scale
, a unit of "measurement of the pungency (spiciness or "heat") of chili peppers, as recorded in Scoville Heat Units."
- When growing up in rural South Australia, we set off fireworks on "Guy Fawkes" night. As it happens, Guy was a very naughty boy, and was arrested for helping plan to blow up the English House of Lords. Our fireworks were much milder than barrels of gunpowder! This night was November 5, but Down Under, that's before the start of summer, when things are quite dry and fire danger is high. So, after many years, common sense dictated that the Aussies abandon the practice.
- While reading a page on the UK newspaper Guardian's website, I came across the following question and answer: 'When did the term "First World War" get used? And when did people realise that the "Second World War" was such?' One response was, 'The term "First World War" came into use on or close to 3 September 1939. That is to say, as soon as the Second World War started. Until then it had been referred to as The Great War.'
- Even though the terms Satan and The Devil seem to be used interchangeably, I was surprised to find that each has its own (lengthy) entry on Wikipedia.
- Occasionally, when watching a movie involving sailing ships, we hear about Davy Jones' Locker. Just who was Davy Jones, and what did he keep in his locker? Of course, the term "is a metaphor for the bottom of the sea: the state of death among drowned sailors and shipwrecks." It has been suggested that Davy is the ghost of Jonah who was swallowed by a whale.
- Something we all take for granted when shopping is the Universal Product Code (UPC code), which "is a barcode symbology that is widely used worldwide for tracking trade items in stores." According to Wikipedia, "The first UPC-marked item ever to be scanned at a retail checkout was a 10-pack (50 sticks) of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit chewing gum, purchased at the Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio, at 8:01 a.m. on June 26, 1974." In the late 1960's, after school, I worked at a supermarket. This was before UPC codes (and computers that can track them) were introduced. As such, prices had to be marked on each item, and when prices changed, new price labels had to put over the old ones. And the checkout operators had to memorize the prices of each week's sale items.
- The modern-day use of the word "etiquette" has to do with social customs. However, the word comes from French, and meant, "property, a little piece of paper, or a mark or title, affixed to a bag or bundle, expressing its contents, a label, ticket."). Later, "The French Court of Louis XIV … Versailles used étiquettes (literally "little cards") to remind courtiers to keep off of the grass and similar rules."
- The English-speaking world has adopted the Japanese word "tsunami" (pronounced tsu-na-mi), which literally means "harbor wave." In the year following the Fukushima earthquake and subsequent tsunami, I was in Crescent City, California. While at a beach, I came across a notice asking anyone who finds human remains washed up on the beach to contact authorities. Apparently, such things did cross the Pacific Ocean from Japan after that disaster. That adds a whole new meaning to flotsam and jetsam!
- The concept, and subsequent symbol for, zero makes for some interesting reading; take a look! BTW, as a kid in Australia, we referred to that number as nought. Of course, Americans just have to spell that naught!
- Recently, I was watching a legal drama video, and I heard for the first time the abbreviation SC (Senior counsel). Being from a British Commonwealth country, I was familiar with QC (Queen's Counsel) and, from reading, KC (King's Counsel). These are titles given to a lawyer who has attained a certain level of achievement. Now some countries have left the Commonwealth, and some of them have renamed these titles to SC, as they no longer have a queen or king. A person who has achieved any of these titles is often said to have "taken silk."
- Speaking of British-based legal dramas, they have barristers and solicitors rather than what Americans would call lawyers or attorneys. The former primarily argue cases in court while the latter deal with the clients directly. So, when a case goes to court, a client works with a solicitor who then works with a barrister who handles the client's case in court. (For some entertaining reading/TV episodes about life in the English lawcourts, I highly recommend "Rumpole of the Bailey.")