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

11 Apr 2020

That Horrid Saying

Q. Why do people use the expression ‘drinking the Koolaid’ to describe those who seem to believe whatever they are being pitched? . A. This is one of my least favourite sayings given its devastating origins. ‘Drink the Koolaid’ comes from the 1978 Jonestown tragedy where Jim Jones, the psychopathic cult