Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Updates and miscellany

As I write, Flt Lt Ace McCool and his crew are winging their way eastward to Mali. They are flying the Royal Canadian Air Force's backup Globemaster, not the one that got stuck on the runway at CFB Trenton this morning. That's all ye know and all ye need to know about the capabilities of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Quick, what do you call the 600th anniversary of something? The 200th is a bicentennial. The 300th is a tricentennial. After that it all gets a little hazy. I hope a reader will enlighten me, though, because this year marks the 600th anniversary of a significant development in English Common Law. Read on.

How are you described in your will or on your title deed. In much of the UK, USA and Canada you are probably identified by your given and surnames, as well as your place of residence and your occupation. Like this: Walter Whiteman, of the City of Springfield and County of Nassau, Orthoepist.

We owe that very specific form of description to the Statute of Additions, enacted in England in 1413. [Yes, Kramer. It's "statute", not "statue". Ed.] Happy whatever-ennial.

In my review of Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue, I pointed out that the author speaks -- rather a lot, actually -- of two of the Anglo-Saxon words for the female genitalia. The more common of the two was, in Chaucer's day, relatively harmless, certainly not the C-bomb that it has become today. Speaking of C-bombs, though, Bryson tells us later in the same book that the corresponding word in Danish is "cock". Can any Danish-speaking reader verify this? Sounds like a cock-and-bull story to me.

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