10 Aug 2020

A Trip Of Goats

Q. Ten, twenty years ago, who knew that goats would so dominate – in memes, at yoga, on Zoom. We know they can scream, sprint, hop, and dance. But what do we call this onslaught of goats? What is their collective noun? . A. A gathering of goats is officially

27 Jul 2020

Why Fuchsia, Taupe + Cerulean?

Q. Before paint companies stormed into the colour invention business, how did some of the more unusual shades get their names? . A. One person’s turquoise is another person’s … You’ll find much debate around the precise qualities of any one colour, but these colour circles should at least get

13 Jul 2020

Everything’s Coming Up Danger

Q. What are some of the more unusual meanings that the Victorians assigned to flowers? . A. For some of the more unusual Victorian floral meanings, look to Kate Greenaway, an illustrator and author born 1846 in Hoxton, England. Alongside the nursery rhymes and bedtime tunes in the Treasury of

29 Jun 2020

Caught Red-Handed

Q. Afraid to ask, but where does the expression ‘caught red-handed’ come from? . A. Caught Red-Handed Blood on their hands. Today, if you’re ‘caught red-handed,’ you’ve been busted in the midst of a transgression; there’s no denying what you’ve done. The phrase dates back to 15th Century Scotland where the

15 Jun 2020

Late Night, No Laughs

Q. Yet another strange slice of pandemic life: watching late night comedy and Zoom sets without any audience laughter. It makes one think of laugh tracks – how did they come to be and what’s their future in a socially distanced world? . A. It’s been jarring watching late night

13 May 2020

Knock On Wood

Q. Why do so many of us knock on wood to stave off bad luck? . A. As far as superstitions goes, wood-knocking is ever popular. A 2012 CBS News poll estimates that: • 51% of us knock on wood to escape bad fortune. • 16% will not open their

27 Apr 2020

Old Idioms For Odd Times

Q. What are some forgotten sayings that we might consider reviving? . A. We scanned the Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms (because, you know, time …) to find old-fashioned sayings that could well be revived for life as we currently know it. In our words … . . Cut the cackle

21 Apr 2020

Travel Superstitions

Q. Why are there so many superstitions around travelling? Which ones have deep historic roots? . A. With all of the mystery and unpredictability of travel, it is no wonder that it has attracted so many superstitions. Anything for an illusion of control. Many clutch their lucky talismans in ever-squishier planes,

17 Apr 2020

Secret Drawers

Q. In what type of antique am I most likely to find a hidden compartment (hopefully stuffed with long-forgotten treasures and expensive secrets?) A. Secret compartments were particularly popular in the 18th Century. Craftsmen employed great imagination and tricky mechanics to conceal hidden storage in valences, wardrobes, hollow dividers or

11 Apr 2020

Warding Off Evil

Q. What are some cross-cultural superstitions to scare off evil and where did they come from? . A. When my Jamaican Mum was about to enjoy a cocktail, she’d take a moment to fling a few drops up in the air: “For the good spirits!”  Old school Jamaicans know to