01 Jan 2021

12 Grapes for 2021

Q. Why is there a run on grapes in Spain on the days leading up to New Years Eve? . A. The grapes are for a tradition said to date back to the late 1800s. How to bring in a New Year of good fortune and health? Eat one grape

05 Nov 2020

Heard It Through The Grapevine

Q. Where did this expression come from: ‘heard it through the grapevine’? . A. On hearing the expression, most think quickly of the Marvin Gaye 1968 hit – 15 weeks at #1, the top-selling Motown single of the decade. ‘I bet you’re wonderin’ how I knew ‘Bout your plans to

23 Sep 2020

Robert + His Rules

Q. Who is this Robert and why do so many people follow his meeting rules? . A. Official meetings across the world still sample generously from the rules of Robert: General H.M. Robert, that is. The General’s Rules are particularly handy when we are trying to run virtual meetings where

22 Aug 2020

Kraken?

Q. Kraken? . A. Thanks to the Seattle Hockey naming czars, that Kraken is getting even more attention. As if this mythical, massive Norwegian sea creature wasn’t already lording its pop-culture prominence over Jörmungandr, Six-Headed Scylla, Lernean Hydra, and all the other mythological sea monsters. We’ve seen Kraken in video

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

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

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