Thursday 25 July 2019

Received Ideas in Quotes 13

She said we couldn't be too careful what habits we formed and what ideals we acquired in our teens, because by the time we were twenty our characters would be developed and the foundation laid for our whole future life. (Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery)

In the past so many children died before they were five that their parents didn’t really care: I loved her with the utmost love of which my soul is capable, and she is taken from me. Yet in the agony of my spirit in surrendering such a treasure, I feel a thousand times richer than if I had never possessed it. (William Wordsworth, after the death of his daughter)

The first English printing press, in the 15th century, was operated by Belgians who didn’t know the language and made numerous spelling errors (such as "busy" in place of "bisy"). And because they were paid by the line, they sometimes padded words with extra letters: "frend," for example, became "friend." In the next century, other non-English speakers in continental Europe printed the first English Bibles, introducing yet more errors. Worse, those Bibles were then copied, and the writing became increasingly corrupted with each subsequent rendition. (

An acre is the amount of land one man could plough with one ox in one day. A stone is roughly the weight of the largest rock a man could comfortably hold in one hand. A mile is about 1,000 paces.
Boxing Day gets its name from the small earthenware boxes that the poor would use in medieval times to save for Christmas treats. They would smash these open and spend the contents on something special in the festive season.
(Steve Stack, 21st Century Dodos)

The King of Spain, who in great part was roasted, because there was not time for the Prime Minister to command the Lord Chamberlain to desire the Grand Gold Stick to order the first page in waiting to bid the chief of the flunkeys to request the House-maid of Honour to bring up a pail of water to put his Majesty out.
(W.M. Thackeray, Book of Snobs Did this kind of story give rise to the urban legend that it takes a chain of flunkeys three hours to fetch the Queen a cup of coffee, and when it arrives it’s cold?)

My Mum warned me against picking up things in the street or on the common because "the Germans might drop things that looked like toys as booby traps".
I was particularly warned about fountain pens of all things! At age 2!! (Children were also warned about pencils and chocolate.)

Esther McVey claims that foreign aid has been wasted on building a runway facing the wrong way. When asked where this happened she replies "Er, it's in one of the... er, er, continents... er, abroad." (She’s thinking of the island of St Helena – where the runway is the right way round and works fine.)

What to say about getting an Oscar: “The last time I saw mine it was in the garage.” (Per Julian Fellowes)

What to say about Glastonbury: There’s nowhere to buy socks. (LW)

Early glass marbles are not likely to have been made commercially, but were made by glass workers at the end of their working day for their own children. (London Mudlark Glass workers seem to have spent quite a lot of time "at the end of the day" making dump weights and spiral glass canes.)

Apparently, when the Norman Foster’s Hongkong and Shanghai Bank HQ was being designed back in the late 1970's, the future of Hong Kong as the date of the handover approached was not too certain, so the HSBC building was designed to be taken apart and put back together in another location, should "the need arise". (

Catholics were regarded as disloyal, as lazy and incompetent bog Irishmen and women unfit for public office and of little use in business. (Nick Ross, Guardian 2019-03-13)

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of tripe when it comes to the causes for autism: smoking, bad parenting, Coca Cola, mercury, vaccines, The Devil, milk, bees, air pollution and the Finnish metal rock band Lordi... (

There’s a superstition in magazine publishing that readers won’t buy mags with green covers. It probably comes from the days before adjustment layers in Photoshop; converting greens from RGB to CMYK can make them lose a lot of vibrancy if you’re not careful. (@artmonogatari)

Humpty Dumpty was a brandy/ale mix, plied to potential "King's shilling" recruits – all the King's horses and all the King's men. (@maknazpy It’s in the OED, so it must be true! The rhyme occurs in several languages, and it’s clear that it’s a riddle to which the answer is “an egg”.)

The myth that Napoleon Bonaparte was short stems primarily from the fact that he is listed as 5 feet 2 inches tall at the time of his death. However, this is 5 feet 2 inches in French units. (
I’m not sure why you think giving cash to someone who’s asking strangers for it “doesn’t help them,” when it very immediately helps them have cash they didn’t have a minute before. (Daniel Mallory Ortberg)

On Tyneside in the 1950s someone returned a library book with a kipper inside it. So I hear. (Ian Watson)

The individual himself is still the most recent creation. (Nietzsche)

Velvet-collared coats are a “fashion started by English aristos to show solidarity with their French cousins who were losing their heads in the French Revolution”. (@dah_61)

Most annoying things people say to blind people: You're so brave. You're so inspirational. I feel so sorry for you. How did you lose your sight? Feel my face. How many fingers am I holding up? Do you really have a job? Have you seen
Daredevil? Can I pray for you? (@Kevinsatizabal)

A Times interviewer asks Peggy Seeger if she felt guilty about having an affair with the married Ewan McColl. “Not really... I was selfish. If a husband or a wife is unfaithful, there is something wrong with the marriage anyway.”

Deep problem here is how "news" has come to be defined. Man under investigation is going to say "I didn't do anything wrong." This is not news, because we know this is what he would say whether it was true or not. Yet, Twitter today full of journos saying "it's obviously news."
(@Metatone2 Imagine scrutinising each news story to see if it contains anything any reader might expect to have happened, and then deleting that sentence.)

“Dad, can you help me with my homework?”
“What’s an example of a fairy tale?”
“All it takes to get ahead in this country is hard work.”


More herbs from the
Macbeth witches' cauldron; 'scale of dragon' is the leaf of Bistort, 'tooth of wolf' is the deadly Aconitum, and 'gall of goat' possibly refers to the root of Tragopodon known as 'goat's-beard'. (@VenetiaJane)

Legend says anyone who stays a night at Tinkinswood Burial Chamber on evenings preceding May Day, St John's Day or Midwinter Day would die, go mad or become a poet. (@pilgrimmaguk Also avoid sleeping in direct moonlight or spending the night in the Chamber of Horrors.)

Is there any significance to Italian last names beginning with de, del, or della ("of," "of the")? Do they indicate nobility? Someone told me that della is the highest rank. (Thomas Della Fave, Irving, Texas,

As Edward MacLysaght writes in A Guide to Irish Surnames, “Reference should again be made to one popular misconception, often held outside Ireland, viz. that all Mac names are Scottish — with such well known Irish names as MacCarthy, Macnamara, MacMahon and MacGuinness prominent all over the world this should not be necessary, yet the illusion seems to persist.” (

Bach was not crusty, arid or esoteric, serene, detached, otherworldly – he liked to drink and smoke. (Radio 4 He had 20 children, too.)

Belief in neuromyths, like "learning styles" and the "left-brain/right-brain" myth, is rife among teachers around the world. (BPS Digest)

Got used to the assumptions of nepotism, of people assuming that I had some sort of responsibility to explain all [my father’s] (or the entire government’s) decisions, assuming I automatically thought the same as him all the time... or, my favourite, the blanket assumption that I would ‘follow in my father’s footsteps’ (despite it being clear to anyone after five mins that I have zero political ambitions of my own). So much so that two senior Labour people came up and asked if I was running for his seat... at his wake. Don’t even know where to start with that one. (Dom Goggins, son of politician Paul Goggins)

Americans in particular believe that they are superior to everyone else and exempt from other's flaws. (@Petahpie)

Powder is most injurious to the skin. (Girls Own Paper, 1880s)

People seem to mix up paid-for specific research vs paid-for specific results. (@BigInTheCountry)

Handing out all the dope about bad dress rehearsals being lucky. (Dodie Smith, It Ends with Revelations)

It was once believed that speaking the Welsh Language caused stupidity, sexual promiscuity and unruly behaviour.

“This sort of opinion can be seen particularly strikingly in societies where a minority language is spoken alongside a major language.” “Maori is simply not capable of being used as an official language or as the language of education beyond the very basic level.” ... There was a “comment in a New Zealand newspaper some years ago, which tried to make the point that Maori was no good as a language because it had to borrow words from English in order to express new ideas. English on the other hand could be seen to be a very flexible and vital language because it had throughout its history been able to draw resources from all over the place to express new ideas!”

Myth 10: Some Languages Have No Grammar
Myth 4: French is a Logical Language.

As the writer Thomas Lounsbury commented in 1908: "There seems to have been in every period of the past, as there is now, a distinct apprehension in the minds of very many worthy persons that the English tongue is always in the condition approaching collapse, and that arduous efforts must be put forth... in order to save it from destruction."
Somewhere in America, they’re still speaking “Elizabethan” or “Shakespearean” English: The more one reads, the less concrete meaning ‘Elizabethan’ and ‘Shakespearean’ have. In the popular mind they appear to mean nothing more than ‘old-fashioned’.
Language Myths, Laurie Bauer and Peter Trudgill)

Museum Place, Cardiff. The extension on the left of this house is built of rubble masonry, which consists of exotic igneous rocks — ballast brought from all over the world and dumped at the port.
(@pavementgeology And the builders carefully picked out the usable igneous rocks...)

If a captain could not find a cargo he would be paid for, he would use the cheapest bulky material available to fill the hold, usually sand or stone. Buying a relatively expensive product only to dump it in the sea when you reached the next port would be very bad for profits. (Page about Seaham explaining that marbles found on beaches were not “used as ballast”.)

THE VICTORIANSSome think of the Victorians as a bunch of moralising do-gooders... (PBS Victorians programme flag. It was the prevailing attitude of the age, the writer explained, with the subtext that we shouldn’t judge the Victorians by our standards. Victorian philanthropists were fighting extreme poverty and minimal, punitive welfare provision – plus what our history teacher called “laissez-faire capitalism”. )

Peter Ackroyd points out in his latest book (Dominion) that the Victorians thought of themselves as “at the cutting edge of progress”, says the Times. “For us, ‘Victorian’ means... a rigid, unchanging, hypocritical society, beset with stifling notions of respectability and rules of convention.”

Young people come back [from the Grand Tour] ever more debauched, conceited, useless and unprincipled. Nothing... can give a good name to such an absurd practice as travelling.
(Adam Smith)

Children shouldn’t be taught facts but “values, believing, independent thinking, team work, care for others,” says Jack Ma. (Would that take up the whole school day – week – term? What would the children do for the rest of the time? And how would they get into university after not passing any exams?)

It would be good if people could ditch the weird assumption that knowledge = fixity of account and a conservative impulse to limit the agenda for change. (@Counsell_C)
Social media makes children think the world is perfect and they need to aspire to that. Schools need to bust that myth. (Times Nov 2018 Don’t they mean “think everybody else’s life is perfect”? It happened before social media.)

The Flanders poppy has lost its original meaning. It's become a beating stick and a political tool. Time to let the dead rest in peace and ditch it.

Students at Cambridge rejected a motion to celebrate Remembrance Day because it’s “imperialist propaganda” and it’s “valorising war”.

So this morning has seen not only the usual round of crap online about 'minorities' refusing to allow poppies to be sold in their 'areas', which was debunked years ago, but a new twist: retailers in Glastonbury refusing to support the British Legion. (LW)

If it's not fake news about poppies, it's councils using other words for Christmas or Cadbury not selling Easter eggs. (Malcolm White)

More here, and links to the rest.
And why not get the whole lot in one handy volume?

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