19 Aug 2020

With This Song, I Thee Wed

Q. “I now pronounce you…” The formal ceremony is over, the couple have kissed, family and friends are standing, clapping, dabbing at tears. Now, it’s time for the newlyweds to turn and walk back down the aisle. What music will lead them out? . A. For some, Mendelssohn’s Wedding March

15 Aug 2020

Oxford Or Seuss?

Q. Sixty years! It’s been sixty years since the brilliant Dr. Seuss – aka Theodor Seuss Geisel – wrote Green Eggs and Ham. ‘I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not like green eggs and ham.’ One of Seuss’ great gifts was his ability to make up words that

29 Jul 2020

P.S. X Loves You

Q. Not sure how to write that semi-casual business email, shower gift thank you note, mildly flirtatious text, love letter for the ages? You don’t have to look far on the internet to find templates for even the most obscure communications. But, what about back in the day? Where could

17 Jul 2020

Sugarplums: Real or Fairy Fiction?

Q. What are sugarplums? Wee fruits in hot, dry lands? Ordinary purple plums coated in sugar? Fairy tale fancies? A. Tchaikovsky gave the fairy in charge of these mysterious edibles a signature Nutcracker Dance and a sparkling celesta accompaniment. . Nina Kaptsova. Bolshoi Ballet. 2010 . Poet Clement Moore celebrated

03 Jul 2020

Downton Dining Disturbance

Q. What would it take to throw a wrench into the rigid world of Edwardian dinner parties? . A. Revenge is a dish best served backwards. In the fastidiously ritualistic world of Edwardian Britain, it was easy to exact revenge on one’s nemeses at dinner. Want to mortify the hosts?

22 Jun 2020

Fairy Tale Famished

Q. Why are there so many starving characters in Grimm’s Fairy Tales? . A. As you grit your teeth through Grimm horrors and triumphs, you’re constantly faced with extreme hunger, be it in tatty children wandering too far from home or a behooded villain out for a human snack. The

09 Jun 2020

Conjunction Junction

Q. As beleaguered teachers work to enliven their lessons and fill online learning hours, it begs the question: which school time learning songs best caught your attention, helped you learn concepts, then actually stayed in your head? . A. When edutainment songs don’t work, they really don’t work. RIP awkward

29 May 2020

Controversial Royal Portraits

Q. What have been some of the most controversial royal portraits over the years? A. This whole business of painting portraits – let alone royal portraits – is not for the faint-hearted. What if your all-powerful subject hates what you create? What if the royal trusts you, likes the portrait,

23 Apr 2020

The Sweetest Flower

Q. Which flower has the most entrancing scent?   A. ‘The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem For that sweet odour which doth in it live….’ So writes William Shakespeare in Sonnet 54. Does the rose have an uncommonly sweet odour? Do we deem it fairer because of

11 Apr 2020

Signs To Keep Them Honest

Q. Is there anything you can do to inspire people to pay up when they’re not being monitored? . A. Well, you might start by painting some eyes in the vicinity. In one study, University of Newcastle researchers Melissa Bateson, Daniel Nettle and Gilbert Roberts kept their eyes on an