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Posted in Bible, Historical articles, Interesting Words, Language, Plants on Wednesday, 22 May 2013
This edited article about interesting words originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 262 published on 21 January 1967.
September is harvest time in Cyprus for one of its most important exports – the long, flat, chocolate-coloured pods that hang in rich splendour from large, green-leaved trees.
These are carob trees and they flourish throughout the Levant. They grow to heights of 40 to 50 feet, blossoming with tiny red flowers which have no petals.
The pods that grow on the carob tree are about six inches long and shaped like runner beans. They taste sweet, like hardened honey. In Sicily, alcohol is distilled from the pods, and also a sweet syrup.
Carob pods are sometimes called St. John’s Bread or locusts. The Bible tells us how John the Baptist lived in the wilderness wearing “his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.” (Matt. 3, iv.) These locusts were probably carobs, not the insects of the same name, for the substitution of the letter G for R in the Hebrew word for carob changes it into the word meaning locust.
To make sure that the pods are completely ripe, the Government of Cyprus proclaims each year the moment to begin harvesting. It is against the law to gather the pods before this permission has been given.
The pips of the locust are not eaten. They are glistening brown and the shape of watermelon seeds. The locust harvest is gathered into huge sheds where the pods are ‘kibbled’, or cut up, for cattle fodder. The pips are exported for use as industrial gum.
In ancient days, the pips had another use, for not only are they very light in weight, but they are astonishingly regular in size. On a jeweller’s delicate scales each seed hovers at about one carat in weight. There are 142 carats in an ounce.
The pips are so uniform in size that everywhere the carob grew, people came to use the pips as a unit of weight, especially in the markets for small and precious objects like gold and diamonds. Thus, their weight became figured in terms of a carob pip or, as the unit eventually became known, a carat.
The carat which is used in weighing diamonds and other precious stones was not standardised until 1877, when a group of jewellers from London, Amsterdam and Paris agreed that 205 milligrammes should equal one carat. After 1914, 200 milligrammes were accepted as the standard weight of a carat.
The carat is also the term used to describe the purity of gold. Any given weight of gold is divided into 24 parts. Pure gold is 24 carat gold. If a ring is set in 22 carat gold, it means that of the 24 parts, 22 are pure gold and two are alloy. Gold is a ‘soft’ metal, and for this reason a wedding ring, for which a long life is anticipated, is often made of gold with a high alloy content, for it will not wear out so quickly.
Posted in America, Famous battles, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Language, War on Wednesday, 22 May 2013
This edited article about Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 262 published on 21 January 1967.
Lincoln's address at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, November 19, 1863
Who said “. . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”?
The answer is Abraham Lincoln at the end of his Gettysburg Address.
Between 1st and 3rd July, 1863, one of the decisive battles of history took place around Gettysburg, a small Pennsylvania town. It was the climax of the American Civil War, which was fought by the North (the Union) to preserve the United States, and by the South (the Confederacy) for the right of individual states to settle their own affairs, which included slavery.
Southern armies had defeated Northern ones time and again, despite smaller numbers and lack of industrial resources. But at Gettysburg a long and bitter battle led to a Southern retreat.
On 19th November, 1863, a National Soldiers’ Cemetery was dedicated at Gettysburg; 15,000 people watched parades and ceremonies until the moment came for a distinguished statesman and fine orator, Edward Everett, to speak. His address lasted two whole hours! Then the Baltimore Glee Club sang an Ode, and finally President Lincoln rose to speak a ‘few words’ – words that will live forever.
From its famous beginning, “Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”, until the even more famous final words of the quotation, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address stands as a supreme comment on freedom and democracy.
It took about two minutes to deliver, and ‘long-continued applause’ followed. Lincoln’s friends thought he had spoken well, but his political enemies said the speech was a failure! Lincoln had said: “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here.” But the world has remembered.
Posted in Ancient History, Geology, Historical articles, History, Interesting Words, Language on Tuesday, 21 May 2013
This edited article about language originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 261 published on 14 January 1967.
Roman soldiers were paid in salt
The province of Salzburg, of which the city of Salzburg is the capital, is one of the most beautiful regions in Austria. It attracts many visitors who come each year to see the rich and varied landscape, through which the rivers flow into the broad plains of Bavaria. In winter people flock to the ski slopes; in August they come to the Salzburg Festival.
The Festival was first staged in 1917, and includes the production of plays, operas and concerts, often featuring the music of Mozart, who was born and lived in Salzburg.
Salzburg is on the curve of an alpine river, the Salzach, and once aspired to be the ‘Rome of the north’. Narrow, sloping streets with houses built tall to conserve space, crowd the narrow piece of land between the swiftly flowing river and the steep mountain ledge which towers above.
The grandest buildings are those of the Prince-Archbishops who ruled the region until a century and a half ago. There are princely palaces, churches by the dozen and a cathedral with a dazzling white interior which its builder hoped would rival St. Peter’s, Rome. The nave is more than 100 yards long, the dome nearly 240 feet high, and the building can hold about 10,000 people.
In the middle ages, the Archbishops of Salzburg were Imperial princes as well as churchmen and the importance of Salzburg was firmly established.
In Salzburg, too, is the world’s oldest nunnery, where Julie Andrews was filmed in The Sound of Music, the story of the Trapp family. Frau Trapp had been a novice there.
Salt drew the earliest settlers to this region. Whole mountains of salt have been mined, leaving behind vast caverns. So many of them inter-connect that a person can walk through them for 25 miles without coming to the surface.
Salt is less important to Salzburg now, but for centuries the main job on the river Salzach was to carry salt boats on their way to the Danube. Castles sprang up along the series of rivers to exact tolls from salt and other goods.
Salzburg was a trading centre for salt in Celtic and Roman days. Hence its name – Salzburg, or salt fortress.
The Romans ruled this area for several centuries. They settled amongst the Celtic population, building settlements in places where the river was wide enough to facilitate trade. They began to build up a network of roads. The region prospered because, as men’s diet broadened to embrace agricultural products, extra salt became a valuable seasoning, imperative to health and almost as precious as gold.
Surviving phrases emphasise the value of salt – phrases like being ‘worth one’s salt’, ‘the salt of life’, or, as a measure of distinction, ‘sitting above (or below) the salt.’ At one time the Romans paid their soldiers in salt, for which the Latin word is sal. Later, the Romans replaced salt with a money allowance for buying it. They called this sum a salarium, or salary. Today, the salary is still the term used to describe the regular payment made to people at work.
Posted in America, Famous Inventors, Historical articles, History, Inventions, Language on Tuesday, 14 May 2013
This edited article about Morse Code originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 254 published on 26 November 1966.
In 1811, an American student sailed for England to study the art of historical painting. His name was Samuel Morse and he took lodging in London at No. 141 Cleveland Street, where he stayed for three years. The old house is still standing, and a blue plaque records the young man’s stay there.
Samuel Finley Breese Morse, the son of a clergyman, had a very varied career. He was, in turn painter, politician, businessman, inventor and journalist.
Samuel was not a studious youth, and reports from Yale University labelled him ‘a fickle student’. But while at college, he developed a passion for painting miniature portraits. Determined to learn more about this form of art, he ignored parentai protests and sailed for England.
He returned in 1815, laden with canvases. These, he thought, would make him a fortune, but he was disappointed. Americans were not eager to buy pictures of English historical scenes.
Reluctantly, Samuel turned to portraiture to make a living. In this he was more successful. His pictures were liked and it became fashionable to be ‘painted’ by Morse.
His outlook was much wider than his easel, however, and he enjoyed toying with practical ideas. He was responsible for much of the early development of the daguerrotype process. He also invented a marble-cutter and a pump – and experimented with ideas for an electro-magnetic telegraph.
This last was a device that really made his name. Other people had had similar ideas before him, but he was the only one persistent enough to follow them through, when even his partners abandoned him.
Morse’s problem was to find a convenient code for communication, and for this purpose he developed the series of dots and dashes now so well known as the Morse code.
In 1843, Congress commissioned Morse to erect the first telegraph system between Baltimore and Washington. The new telegraph spread rapidly in Europe and elsewhere, but its inventor’s patent rights were contested, and he had still to fight hard for the fortune it made him.
Always a lively controversialist, Morse founded the daily Journal of Commerce, which is still published in New York, and expressed himself vigorously in its columns. He favoured the education of women, and founded a college. In old age he was a philanthropist.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Interesting Words, Language on Monday, 13 May 2013
This edited article about pins originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 253 published on 19 November 1966.
Pin Money – the first of two cartoons highlighting the different worlds of the rich and the poor
Pins of one sort or another have been holding clothes together for thousands of years. We know this for certain because, amongst the finds which archaeologists have dug up, pins appear again and again.
Many of the oldest ones are fatter and more lethal than anything we know now – almost like miniature daggers! In a Bronze Age grave, two pins for securing a robe were found, and they were twelve inches or more in length.
The Romans made many pins in both metal and bone. Most of them were quite plain, for everyday use, but some had ornately carved heads. On some a glass ball was clasped on to the top, or a carved hand stretched out its fingers; even human heads were carved on some, sporting elaborate hairstyles which must themselves have been secured by pins!
Beautiful medieval pins have been found, too, several with carved heads bearing crowns. Others can be seen in illustrated manuscripts.
Read the rest of this article »
Posted in Historical articles, History, Interesting Words, Language, Scotland, Sport on Saturday, 11 May 2013
This edited article about Scotland originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 251 published on 5 November 1966.
Few places in Britain have a more time-worn atmosphere than the long street in Edinburgh called the Royal Mile. The street runs from the grim, black castle on the crest of the hill, down past the ruined Holyrood Abbey and the restored royal palace of Holyrood House.
Medieval ‘skyscrapers’, among the oldest in Europe, still cling precariously on the height close by the castle. More than half a dozen storeys high, these old tenements are black and shabby, but they were once the best houses in town. This was before people of influence moved down into the flat land below the castle, where Edinburgh’s New Town was laid out in the early 19th century.
This ‘new town’, which had squares of classical proportions and long, wide streets such as Princes Street, Queen Street and George Street, was inspired by the Scottish-born architects, the Adam brothers.
The tall assembly hall of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland stands on the hill alongside the tenements. Farther down the street are St. Giles, the Presbyterian’s principal ‘kirk’, the black stone official chambers of the city’s Lord Provost, and the restored medieval cross where royal proclamations are still made.
The errand boys of Edinburgh once congregated here. They were called ‘caddies’, a Scottish version of the French word, cadets, meaning ‘youngsters’ or ‘juniors’. An English traveller, Edward Topham, referred to them in 1776 as “a set of men who are called in this country caddies, who constantly attend the Cross in the High-street and whose business is to do anything that anybody can want and discharge any kind of business . . .” In other words, they were jacks-of-all-trades, willing to turn their hands to most tasks.
Golf was the principal sport in Scotland, and one of the most frequent tasks of the caddies was to carry the players’ clubs on the links. The term ‘links’ referring to a golf course, which has now become world wide, originated in Scotland and is still the term used in Scotland to describe any stretch of semi-waste land along the sea. (Early golfers had found their courses among the natural plateaux and hollows of sand dunes near the sea shores.)
When Scotland’s King James VI came to London as England’s King James I, he played golf on Blackheath, near the old Greenwich Palace, and here two caddies were employed. One of them was called the forward caddy, and players used to cry “fore” to warn him to follow the ball that had just been hit.
Caddies no longer serve as messengers and handymen in Edinburgh, and mechanical devices are replacing caddies on the Scottish links, as elsewhere. But, especially in big matches, a golfer will still occasionally call for a caddy.
Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Language, Religion, Royalty on Tuesday, 7 May 2013
This edited article about Westminster Abbey originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 244 published on 17 September 1966.
King Edward, later Saint Edward the Confessor, watches the building of West Minster from a litter where he lies ill, by Peter Jackson
In several ancient oak chests at Westminster Abbey lie the parchment scrolls which are the Abbey records. These records, or muniments, as they are called, are evidence of the peculiar right of independence which this great church has enjoyed from any other religious authority since it was founded by the devout King Edward the Confessor in the 11th century.
Included in the scrolls is a 13th century muniment, carefully penned and tasselled with seals, which specifically cites the Abbey’s freedom from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London, in whose area it lies.
This freedom has always been observed. Indeed, with the exception of ten years during the reign of Henry VIII, Westminster Abbey has been a ‘royal peculiar’ church which means that it has been responsible only to the Sovereign, and no one else, during its history.
The Abbey’s independence dates back to its foundation in 1050 by Edward, who devoted a large part of his revenues to building it. From his palace at Westminster, across the way, he watched workmen struggling with huge slabs of stone on the site he had chosen near an ancient church called St. Peter’s, dating back to the 8th century. Edward called his new building the Abbey Church of St. Peter.
Instead of putting his church under the authority of the Bishop of London, whose seat lies at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City, Edward gave St. Peter’s into the hands of Benedictine monks under a self-governing abbot. This abbot was not subject to a bishop, but only to the Sovereign, and, like many other abbots of the time, was a wealthy landlord who ruled over most of surrounding Westminster and other estates.
Despite the fact that there was a Bishop of London with a cathedral of St. Paul’s, it became customary for the ‘royal peculiar’ abbey church to be used for the crowning or burial of all monarchs who followed Edward. From 1289-1547, the House of Commons even met in the Chapter House there.
Naturally there was much rivalry between St. Paul’s in the City and the Abbey. The Abbey was called ‘Westminster’ chiefly to distinguish it from St. Paul’s in Eastminster. There was a constant fear among the monks that the Bishop of London would claim the Abbey, and so much was made of a legend that an aged and holy stranger, none other than St. Peter himself, had asked a Thames fisherman to row him across the river to the Abbey site, which he had sanctified as a church.
As the coronation and burial church for kings, Westminster Abbey accumulated large gifts of royal land, and thus became very wealthy.
In 1539 Henry VIII, head of the newly established State Church, dissolved many of the wealthier monasteries and seized their lands. Some of these lands went to the Crown, others were sold or given away.
A portion of Westminster Abbey lands was given to the Bishop of London at St. Paul’s. This caused much public comment, leading to the disgustful remark, ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ – which has given us our familiar phrase of today.
A year later the Abbey lost its independence for a brief time. In 1540 Westminster was declared a bishopric, and Thomas Thurleby was appointed the Anglican bishop of Westminster Abbey. He was the first and only man to hold this appointment, which lasted ten years.
In 1553, Henry’s daughter, Queen Mary, reappointed an abbot, but her sister Elizabeth abolished this post and appointed a Dean instead as senior member of the Abbey. But Elizabeth re-established all the Abbey’s other old rights and reaffirmed its charters – although St. Paul’s retained its portion of Westminster’s lands for many years afterwards.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Interesting Words, Language, Royalty on Saturday, 4 May 2013
This edited article about Elizabethan food originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 242 published on 3 September 1966.
Main meals in Elizabethan days were gargantuan affairs. Held at quite different times of the day from our lunch or dinner, they consisted of several elaborately concocted meat dishes, followed by numerous dainty puddings and tartlets.
Kitchens were huge, hot places where teams of servants laboured over open fires. The Elizabethans had their own form of pressure cooker: a large cauldron containing earthenware jars submerged in water, filled with preserves and custards, and a wooden platform on which puddings were steamed. Vegetables were cooked below the jars, and bacon was boiled at the bottom of the cauldron. In this manner an entire dinner could be cooked in one pot.
Roast meats were cooked separately on a spit turning above the hearth, basted by the youngest scullion.
Meat went off quickly, so most of it was cut up, combined with spices and fruit, and eaten with a spoon-shaped implement. The main joint was served whole, pieces being hacked off with a knife and eaten with fingers by the family and guests.
A typical banquet of the day, served either at eleven in the morning or in the late evening, might include peacocks on a bed of parsley, garnished with chestnuts or a special sauce made from rams’ carcasses; or a goose stuffed with carps’ tongues. Rare singing birds were roasted and eaten as a delicacy – or else concealed in a large, empty pie, to fly out, singing, and delight the guests.
Afterwards there would be custard tarts, little meringues gilded with pure gold, and perhaps biscuits baked in walnut shells with artfully concealed poems; cheese, fruits, green ginger, pickled cherries and nuts, and lozenges of lemon and rose water.
But probably pride of place in the whole meal would be taken by a joint of beef, which might take anything up to twelve hours to cook. One of the best cuts was the lean sirloin, or joint of meat taken from the middle back of a bullock. This joint took its name from the old Norman French word for it, surloyne, meaning ‘above the length’.
King Henry VIII, a great trencherman with a reputation for pounding the table to demand more food, greatly fancied a sirloin of beef. On one occasion, so the story goes, one such joint so suited his palate that he decided to reward the meat instead of the cook.
Rising to his feet and calling for silence among his gorged courtiers, Henry took up a sword and tapped the remaining hunk of beef on the bone in front of his plate, solemnly declaring: “I dub thee Sir Loin.” Gales of laughter must have greeted this royal witticism.
The story of this pun on the French name for the joint has also been attributed to James I and Charles II, but it was much more likely to have originated with Henry (1491-1547), since it was some time in the mid-16th century that the ‘u’ in surloin was changed to an ‘i’.
Henry was so fond of beef that he often ate it for breakfast as well, washed down by beer. So did his daughter, Elizabeth I. But Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, preferred to breakfast on fried eels, barley cakes and mead.
Although in restaurants today most meat is served ready-sliced, in some places it is still customary to carve a loin of beef before the table of the eaters. It is courtesy to place a coin on the trolley for the white-clad carver, in appreciation of the meal to come.
Posted in Ancient History, Language, Legend, Literature, Myth, Religion on Friday, 3 May 2013
This edited article about the Aegean Sea originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 241 published on 27 August 1966.
King Aegeus saw the black sails of Theseus' ship and flung himself into the sea, thereafter known as the Aegean Sea, by John Millar Watt
When people think of Greece, they think of her ancient buildings, her civilisation and her mythology. A sense of history follows visitors everywhere: an atmosphere created as much by the historic Parthenon as the deep, deep blue of the Aegean Sea.
The Aegean Sea lies between Greece to the west and Asia Minor to the east. Its coastline hides a score of small coves and beaches. Its coastal waters are scattered with many fertile islands producing wheat, wine, oil, figs, raisins, honey and silk.
Legend connects the Aegean Sea with a famous king of Athens: Aegeus, whose son, Theseus, was perhaps Athens’ greatest hero.
King Aegeus had wronged the King of Crete, who, as recompense, demanded that each year Aegeus send him seven maidens and seven youths. The King of Crete let them loose in an underground labyrinth to satisfy the hunger of a monster which he kept there. This creature, called the Minotaur, had the head of a bull and the body of a man.
Theseus, who had never been defeated in battle, decided to accompany the next group of victims to Crete, destroy the Minotaur, and bring the young Athenians safely back to their homeland. The ship which was to carry them to Crete had black sails, in mourning for their departure, but Theseus promised his father that if he was successful, he would set white sails on his return as a signal that he had triumphed over the monster.
When he arrived in Crete, Theseus was befriended by Ariadne, daughter of Minos, the king. She gave him a ball of thread with which to guide himself through the labyrinth in search of the monster. Theseus entered the maze and made one end of the thread fast at the entrance, unwinding the ball as he walked along the crooked tunnels. It is said that he found the monster asleep and beat him to death with his bare hands. Rewinding the thread, he led his companions out of the labyrinth.
Joyously they sailed for home, but Theseus had forgotten something . . . the white sails he should have set to announce his victory.
King Aegeus had kept a continual lookout for his son’s return. He saw the ship approach, and he saw the black sails. Stricken with grief and despair, the unhappy king threw himself into the blue water which, for ever after, has been called the Aegean Sea.
Posted in Cars, Historical articles, History, Interesting Words, Language on Friday, 3 May 2013
This edited article about the limousine originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 240 published on 20 August 1966.
Two hundred and fifty miles south-west of Paris lies the large and modern city of Limoges, built around the remains of an ancient town that dates back to Roman times. In 1768 large deposits of kaolin (china clay) were discovered in the area, and there sprang up an industry which today produces some of the world’s finest porcelain china and decorative enamel work.
The surrounding countryside is hilly and the valleys are deep and thickly wooded, while small but rich meadows and well-tilled land show that agriculture is the predominant occupation.
In medieval times, this part of France was the home of the troubadours, the travelling minstrels who accompanied themselves on stringed instruments.
Limoges stands in the old province of Limousin – a name also given to a special kind of garment still worn by some of the country people. Like a large cloak, a limousine is made from black wool, and the person wearing it has complete protection against wind, cold and rain.
In the early days of motoring, France was one of the leading countries in car manufacture. The bodywork of these early automobiles was copied from the open horse carriages of the day. Passengers had to wrap themselves up in clothes that were as all-enveloping as a limousine cloak if they were to have a comfortable journey.
When glass windows and leather hoods were introduced into the body designs, people were protected from the weather and it became unnecessary for them to wear such bulky clothing.
The enclosing bodywork became known as a limousine because it was as protective as the cloak.
Nowadays the term has been replaced by saloon, or sedan, a word used to describe a car with a fixed roof and wind-up windows.