Feast Eve of St. Vincent of Saragossa

Apparently that’s what tonight is, so yet another reason to celebrate, unless of course your beer is mothery (thick, mouldy, stale.)  I’m a little disappointed, since I thought the meaning of mothery was going to be something much more mother-y.

It’s also not clear to me why St. Vincent was honoured with a “Day”.  His only claim to fame (other than the fact that he was a martyr for his faith) seems to have been a reputation for excessive drink.  He was a patron of wine and vinegar makers, as well as drunkards.  So why is this morose looking fellow not pictured waving a wine glass in the air (or at the very least a vinegar cruet).  Maybe its a  hangover that’s making him look a tad gloomy.  It’s giving me a headache trying to imagine what a drunkard patron does exactly.  Whatever.  Any excuse for a party.  Boozer Defender Day.  Bottoms up!

Bowssening for the Insane

From James Pettigrew’s Superstitions Connected with Medicine and Surgery, 1844, comes this delightful word, bowssening;  casting mad people into the sea.  Or, immersing them in water until they are well-nigh drowned.  This was a process recommended by high medical authorities in the 1700’s as a cure for madness.  I think it’s probably safe to assume that the high medical authorities in those days were all crazy as coots.

The Cornish call this immersion bossenning, from beuzi or bidhyzi signifying ‘to dip or drown’.  I googled “Cornish people” to see if they’re still around and they are!  Best to avoid Cornwall I think if you possibly can.  Or at least the parish of Altarnun where they took the disordered in mind to the brink of a square pool, tumbled him in with a sudden blow on the breast and proceeded to toss him up and down until he was quite debilitated and his fury forsook him.  Wow.  Sounds like a cure to me.  After that they carried him to church and sang masses over him.  Now seriously, would that not MAKE you crazy?

Altarnun looks like such an idyllic little spot.  Too bad now when I look at these pictures all I can see is some poor demented soul being dipped repeatedly off that bridge and then carried up this lovely little path dripping wet (although no longer screaming) to celebrate his miraculous cure.  And perhaps to silently pray for one little extra favor from God having to do with avoiding pneumonia.

Maybe they just practiced this emotion calming measure  on very rare occasions as an example to others.  Like a deterrent of sorts.  Act crazy and this could happen to you!  I’d be putting my sane face on every day since I take dipping and drowning very seriously and would go to great lengths to avoid both of those things.  Scary stuff when the cure is worse than the malady.


Exhibit in the Franklin Institute, Philadelphi...

Exhibit in the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was so excited to see that awesomely weird word!  It just cries out for an exclamation point!  If I had to rename this blog space I think that SPURTICLES would be the perfect choice!!

Except that it means (of all the mundane things) spectacles.   Or at any rate it did in Devonshire in 1891.  In Newfoundland in 1937 they experimented with calling them ‘sparticles’,  probably because of their inborn vowel dysfunction there, but the term didn’t last.

There’s a long blurb about it being Benjamin Franklin’s birthday too, although this being a weekend there are two dates on the same page and they don’t specify on which exact day he was born.  Perhaps at midnight on the 16th.  Destined to invent bifocals once he got old enough to need them and got tired of switching back and forth from his distance spurticles to his reading spurticles.  I wonder why he didn’t call them bispurticles.  Anyway, he claims they helped him learn french.  Because while eating and conversing with the french it is a good plan to be able to see ones food, while also being able to look up and focus on the french speaker who talks with his features and gesticulations as much as he does with his mouth.  If not more so.

Benjamin Franklin 1767

Benjamin Franklin 1767 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today it’s only very ancient or very persnickity people who cling to their stupid bispurticles being content to see far away and up close and missing out on everything in between.  The vast majority adapt themselves to progressive lenses so that they have clear vision at every distance.  For these people it’s important to see the dash of their car and their computer screens and the dust on things a little further away than arm’s length where you don’t feel like getting off your butt to clean anything, but it’s nice to be able to see it all just the same.

I wish I had known this word sooner.  Because one day a customer told me he needed to book an appointment with our obstetrician so he could get a subscription for glasses.  I wanted to say Ah!  Well!  Good luck with that then!  Smiling sweetly.  Backing away slowly.  Instead I suggested he make an appointment with our optometrist for a new prescription.  He looked at me as if to say, what is wrong with you, did I not just say that??  It would have been a much more interesting scenario to start blathering away about regular spurticles vs. bispurticles and good old sparticles from Newfoundland.  Making him strongly consider booking with a different obstetrician altogether.  Hind sight is such a beautiful thing.  No spurticles needed to see that clearly.

My Kindle Collection So Far

I seriously have not read this many books one after the other for a long long time.  Totally forgot what I’ve been missing.  It took me a couple of days of browsing to finally push that little download button,  but after that there’s been no turning back.  I get antsy towards the end of each one already thinking about what I’ll read next.  They are averaging around ten dollars a download.  I think that’s pretty reasonable.  I’m still buying books when I see the good ones and can get them at a discount.  And really, there’s nothing like the feel of a nice solid little page turner in your hands.  But this flat little kindle with it’s buttons and screen has its own appeal. 

Okay!  One sentence book reviews! 

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow – Joyce Magnin.  Lovely lazy read with a couple of shockers thrown in to wake you up. 

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley.  Murder mystery solved by a precocious 11 year old chemistry buff with a penchant for creating poisons in her lab.

Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout.  Olive weaves her way in and out of this string of delicious short stories, reminding me of myself as an old lady with an interesting history because of the people with whom I’ve interacted,  in both good and bad ways. 

Amy and Isabelle – Elizabeth Strout.   Single mother/teenage daughter; one fateful year of complex secrets changes everything.   

Shadow Baby – Allison Mcghee.  Another precocious 11 year old lets us into her little world of the real and the vividly imagined.

The Help – Kathryn Stockett.  I’ve been pulled into the world of three different women in Mississippi, 1962, during the civil rights movement.

That last one I’ve not finished yet,  but know already that when I’m done I’ll have learned more from it than I might have done from some long boring factually correct documentary. 

There!  Lovely long scroll down of what my books would look like if I actually had them in my library and not just as electronic particles from cyber space.  I’ve not completely outgrown picture books.  It’s nice to see the covers.


Chouse – to cheat, to defraud.  Similar in origin to such words as burke, boycott, and bogus.  It is now classed as slang in England but for a long period was much used by standard English writers.  In America, however, the word is still looked upon as orthodox and is applied to all kinds of fraudulent dealing and deceit.  (John Farmer’s Americanisms, Old and New, 1889)

Surprisingly enough, this weird word comes up on a thesaurus search.  Along with bilk, bamboozle, con, deceive, dupe, flimflam, foil, shaft, and swindle.  Among others too numerous to mention.  It appears there are nearly as  many words to describe what you’re doing as there are flimflams to commit.

But what exactly is the point of bamboozlement if you’re just going to die the next day in an earthquake in Haiti?  So very very sad for all the lost souls and all the devestated survivors there. 

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” (Agatha Christie) 

What a mixed up blog.  What a perplexing world.


My word-a-day educational pursuit for this year has been inspired by Jeffrey Kacirk’s Forgotten English, a 365 day calendar of vanishing vocabulary and folklore for 2010.  My brilliant plan is to use whatever word comes up as the title of my daily (hahahaha….daily) blog and then just go with it.  So that idea was 12 days ago, but it’s still a good one.  I’ll pretend I’ve been jammocked.  (Jammock – to squeeze, press, beat, crush, or trample into a soft mass.  Hence, jammocked, worn out, exhausted.)  But I’m not really.  And no word for excessively lazy and unambitious has surfaced yet.

The other words of interest to date have been as follows:

gilravage – to hold a merry meeting with noise and riot but without doing injury to anyone.  (Sounds like a party)

cat in pan – to turn cat in pan is a proverbial expression signifying a changing of sides in religion or politics.  (So if you don’t actually have a strong preference in either one of those departments, you cannot do this.)

ackenpucky – any food mixture of unknown ingredients.  (I often make this for dinner in a crock pot.)

affray – a skirmish or fighting between two or more.  It is oft times confounded with assalt.  But they differ in that an assalt is only a wrong to the party, but an affray may also be without word or blow given, as if a man shew himself  furnished with armour or weapons not usually worn, it may strike fear into others unarmed.  (Thank God we got that all sorted out.)

dight – to prepare;  to put in order, hence, to dress or put on.  (Dight yourself, we’re going out.)

genethliacks – the science of calculating nativities, or predicting the future events of life from the stars predominant at birth.  (Hmmph.  Mothers do this without any help from the stars.  Every mother immediately knows her child is destined for greatness.  And predicts it.  It’s not rocket science.)

aftertale – postscript.  (I love this one!  If I wrote letters I’d start right now adding a.t.’s at the end.) 

pinchery – a state of extreme carefulness approaching miserliness.  A state of want or deficiency, poverty.  (Never been accused of that first one.  Not a big fan of the second one.  Don’t be so pinchery when it comes to tipping the waitress, she’s had a hard day.)

ear-biting – This odd mode of expressing pleasure, which seems to be taken from the practice of animals, who, in a playful mood, bit eachother’s ears, is very common in our old dramatists.  “I will bite thee by the ear.” Romeo and Juliet.  (Seriously, does anyone remember that line?  I don’t.  But I’m dieing to try it out on someone.)

My one complaint about these page a day things is that they always combine Saturday and Sunday into one day.  So the 365 count is a blatant lie.  The great thing about this particular calendar is that it also includes big long fokelore blather on every page, so if the word isn’t enough for you, the rest of the page is guaranteed to give you your useless trivia quota fix for the day, if not the entire weekend.  Stuff like the Feast Day of Macarius, which I’ll celebrate next year if I remember it, and the Sally Lunn bun, so popular in Bath that they have a Sally Lunn Restaurant and a Sally Lunn museum.  I have been to Bath, and I missed both of those things.   Such a travesty.    And Haxey Hood Day in Humberside!  I don’t even CARE what that one is about.  The festivities end up in a pub where ample libations follow.  My kind of holiday.  Maybe they serve lamb’s wool,  a soft frothy beverage made of apple pulp whipped with ale.  Order that one in a bar and see what happens.   And here’s something to chant in your garden.  Stand fast root, bear well top, Pray God send us a good howling crop.  Perhaps this is where I’ve gone wrong with my house plants, not wishing hard enough for them to be howlingly healthy.

One little phrase that warms my heart, taken completely out of context but it doesn’t even matter – ….youngsters, whose hearts at every shot are bounded with joy…..beautiful.  If you don’t remember anything else today, stick that one in your brain somewhere and pull it out whenever you need a little pick-me-up.  Probably a better bet to raise your spirits  than attempting to choke down a pint of lamb’s wool, wouldn’t you say? 



Twenty Ten

I have a brand new addiction for 2010.  It’s an amazon kindle.  Absolutely fabulous.  I could go on and on and on, but it’s easy enough to look up.  Google kindle.  Reading has become a whole new exciting experience.  I want to down load everything!

We had a lovely Christmas, btw.  Family makes Christmas.  We are truly blessed.  It takes being on the verge of ancient to really appreciate that.  When you’re young and healthy and busy you spend way too much time obsessing about stuff that in the long run doesn’t really matter.  Wanting everything to be perfect and then it turns out that the imperfections are what you remember and cherish.


Our five gorgeous grandchildren.  Kind of scary how fast they’re growing up.






And baby M. makes six.  She won’t remember this Christmas, but that little face will be unforgettable for all of us, no matter what the future brings.

I’m on book number three since Christmas.  Not that I didn’t read before, but now it’s just such electronic FUN!  I’ll have to start book blogging again!  You have been warned!  And that’s not just another idle threat, I swear.