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3002.  Tue Dec 09, 2003 8:20 am Reply with quote

Bous also comes in as an early form of writing:
In the beginning one wrote from right to left, but during the transition to the present custom, one wrote alternatingly from the left and from the right, as when plowing. This is called boustrofedon (from bous 'ox' and strophe 'turn').

3005.  Tue Dec 09, 2003 8:27 am Reply with quote

Good Spanish bastard question, Jack. I'd give him the bastinado.

3009.  Tue Dec 09, 2003 9:56 am Reply with quote

Jenny - mille grazie for strappado. Most satisfying and apt. Kind of makes you want to spend an afternoon in the library wrestling with Braithwait: I mean what do you suppose Art Asleepe, Husband? is all about. A sort of Mars/Venus primer for the ambitious newly weds of the C17th?

3022.  Tue Dec 09, 2003 1:09 pm Reply with quote

Somewhere hereabouts there was a post about different sizes of infinity. So having exhausted the Bs in the OED, the EBr, Cruden's Concordance you might think you were getting somewhere. But with the web the tortuous outpourings of the human "mind" take a great leap onto prairies unknowable.
blogwise is a sort metablog, grouping them by categories but also, as here, alphabetically. 1400 Blogs anyone?

Not me: that way madness lies....

3026.  Tue Dec 09, 2003 2:45 pm Reply with quote

Menocchio - yes I had a good giggle at Art Asleepe, Husbande? I've just been reading up on the evolution of the mating behaviour of balloon flies (see post 3025) and it strikes me as amusing that men and balloon flies have evolved such similar mating tactics, with all the time and effort involved, and then so many of them just roll over and go to sleep afterwards unless a sharp wifely elbow in the ribs, of the sort Braithwait obviously envisages with his title, keeps them awake.

Sophie J
3908.  Tue Jan 06, 2004 12:41 pm Reply with quote

Derives from the French slang term “bouseaux”, meaning “hick, peasant, or yokel”. However, said too loosely, it can easily sound like “bouse”, which means cow poo.
s: Collins Robert French Dictionary

3950.  Wed Jan 07, 2004 7:48 pm Reply with quote

The names of two completely different fish – the blenny and the burbot are both derived from words meaning 'slime'.

Blenny comes from the Latin blennius which is from Greek blennos, 'slime', and burbot comes from French bourbotte (formerly bourbette) from the French bourbe, also meaning ‘slime’.


3965.  Thu Jan 08, 2004 5:41 am Reply with quote

When Napoleon's soldiers came to Moscow, they needed to eat fast. 'Bistro !’ they would say, the Russian word for ‘fast’
Moscow had a rich folklore of the fabulously fat, upon which its own self-image, as the capital of plenty, had been fed. In the early nineteenth century Count Rakhmanov, for example spent his whole inheritance - said to be in excess of 2 million roubles - in just eight years of gastronomy. He fed his poultry with truffles. He kept his crayfish in cream and parmesan instead of water. Count Musin-Pushkin was just as profligate. He would fatten his calves with cream and keep them in cradles like newborn babies. His fowl were fed on walnuts and given wine to drink to enhance the flavour of their meat. Sumptuous banquets had a legendary status in the annals of Moscow. Count Stroganoof hosted famous 'Roman dinners', where his guests lay on couches and were served by naked boys. Caviare and herring cheeks were typical hors-d'oeuvres. Next came salmon lips, bear paws and roast lynx. These were followed by cuckoos roasted in honey, halibut liver and turbot roe; oysters, poultry and fresh figs, salted peaches and pineapples….

…it was not unusual for 200 separate dishes to be presented at a meal. The menu for one banquet shows that guests were served up to 10 different kinds of soup, 24 pies and meat dishes, 64 small dishes (such as grouse or teal), several kinds of roast ( lamb, beef, goat, hare and suckling pig), 12 different salads, 28 assorted tarts, cheeses and fresh fruits. When the guests had had enough they retired to to a separate room for sweets and sugared fruit…
- Orlando Figges, ‘Natasha’s Dance: A cultural history of Russia p163


4003.  Thu Jan 08, 2004 10:28 pm Reply with quote


Glorious post. The packet of Jaffa cakes I had for dinner tonight is like ash in my stomach.

Meanwhile, here's my take on the origin of 'bistro' researched a year or so ago.

The word ‘bistro’ comes from the French bistro(t) ‘a small shop or bar’ . Its first known usage in English dates from 1922 . Bistro(t) started out as Parisian argot – originally the underground jargon of the rogues and thieves of Paris, rather like Cockney Rhyming Slang in London, much of both of which have since entered ordinary speech.

Nobody knows where the word ‘Argot’ comes from.

There is an obsolete French usage of the word argot meaning ' the spur of a cock, a similarly situated excrescence on another animal, or a spur left over from pruning a tree'.

s: OED

According to legend, during the occupation of Paris by Russian troops after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, victorious Cossacks throwing their weight around in the city’s bars and cabarets were in the habit of yelling ‘Bystro! Bystro!’ – the Russian for ‘Quickly!’. The word caught to mean a café with prompt service.

s: kbk/bis

Most lexicographers are sceptical of the 'bistro' story. Several alternative theories are offered including that ‘bistro’ was originally argot for ‘tavern-owner’ or ‘a place where bad wine is made or drunk’ or that it comes from ‘bistre’ the brown paint pigment made from soot used by painters before the invention of sepia, hence, ‘a sombre, smoky place’. The word ‘bistro’ first appeared in print in the French language in 1884 and was later followed by the form ‘bistrot’ in 1892. By 1901, it was in widespread usage across France to mean a small, unpretentious café.

s: kbk/bis

The Russian explanation is an attractive one, but it’s a suspiciously long time between 1814 and 1894 for the word to have taken to enter the language. Almost everyone who had heard a Cossack yell it in 1814 would have been long dead by 1894.

Incidentally, the word 'cabaret' in French originally meant simply a ‘tavern or bar’ before the modern usage of a night club (or a show put on in one).

Nobody knows where either the word ‘cabaret’ or the word ‘bistre’ (as in the brown sooty pigment) come from .

s: OED

4690.  Sat Jan 17, 2004 11:38 am Reply with quote

Bathing beauty

British Naval slang slang name for a blancmange – because it shivers and has lovely curves.

4692.  Sat Jan 17, 2004 11:46 am Reply with quote

Becket n.

The evenly spaced little loops around the top of a pair of trousers or the waist of a raincoat through which a belt is passed are beckets.

So is any piece of rope, each of whose ends is secured - e.g. rope handle of a wooden bucket.

In Naval slang, beckets are pockets.[/i]

4697.  Sat Jan 17, 2004 12:39 pm Reply with quote

So the rope handle of a bucket would be a bucket becket? I rather like that.

A BACKET is a type of child's car seat:

I can only find BICKET as a surname - Harry Bicket seems to be a well-known interpreter of Baroque music:

I can only find BOCKET as a German word (for bouquet?) or as a surname.

Ah well. It was an interesting google while it lasted.

5155.  Fri Jan 23, 2004 10:21 am Reply with quote

What are Brimham Rocks?

This was a standard school day out trip in Yorkshire when I was at junior school. I probably have some old black and white snapshots taken when I was about ten... They are a number of curiously shaped stones near Pately-bridge with odd shapes sculpted by wind and weather.

They cover an area of about 60 acres and the largest is estimated to weigh 100 tonnes.

Their names include : Baboon Rock, the Yoke of Oxen, the Druid's Writing Desk, the Wishing Rock, the Idol Rock, the Turtles and the Dancing Bear.

Could be suitably confusing as a question.

5156.  Fri Jan 23, 2004 10:23 am Reply with quote

More Yorkshire places (these courtesy of

Where is Blubberhouses?

Blubberhouses is a small township near Fewston, seven miles from Otley.

There are many theories as to the origin of this peculiar name, one being that it is derived from the Norse Blaaber Hus - the house of bilberry. Another attributes it to Blue Boar, an inn so named at Blubberhouses long ago.

Grainge, in his history of Knaresborough, states the name to have most likely have originated in whortleberry, which theory may contain some truth.

Ancient documents refer to the place as Blueburgh, Blueborrow, and Blubberhouse.

5725.  Wed Feb 04, 2004 8:29 pm Reply with quote

A new word to me, culled from the documentary on Shakespeare I am watching. Shakespeare's father was a trader in illegal wool, for which the term was a brogger.

Q - What is a brogger?
Might produce some interesting answers - Japanese blogger etc.


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