VitaminQ - a temple of trivia lists and curious words
Vitamin Q: the book!
~ Saturday, May 28, 2005
... to Vitamin Q, a blog run by South London-based poet and puzzle writer Roddy Lumsden. Each week I post a few lists and other items related to the foibles of language and other trivia. Comments, suggestions or corrections are always welcome via the email above. The 350 page book version, containing lots of original material, is available via the link at the top left, or at Amazon, here (UK, Europe) or here (US - now available at last!!).
~ Thursday, May 26, 2005
Interesting derivations of dog breed names:
1 Affenpinscher – this comical breed has a name which translates as monkey biter! It is a pinscher (German terrier) which has an ape-like appearance.
2 Dandie Dinmont – this small terrier is named after a character in Walter Scott's novel Guy Mannering who breeds similar dogs.
3 Schipperke- bred to work on barges, its name means little boatman in Dutch.
4 Shar Pei – means sand-skin in Chinese, since this dog has a rough, sandpapery skin.
5 Malamute – named after the Inuit people (the Mahlemut) who bred them.
6 Poodle – from the German verb pudeln (to paddle in water); the breed was originally used for retrieving waterfowl
7 Springer Spaniel – springing means flushing out game birds; spaniel refers to the dog's supposed Spanish origin.
8 Papillon – named after its dramatic ears which vaguely resemble butterfly wings.
9 Yarmouth Toller – this retriever was bred to toll (luring wildfowl close to the hunters) and is named after Yarmouth County in Nova Scotia.
10 Basset – this short-legged dog gets its name from French bas, meaning low.
11 Jack Russell – named after a 19th century English clergyman who developed the breed for fox hunting.
12 Pug – probably from its ape-like face; pug, a word for a goblin, was a common dialect name for a monkey.
13 Boston Bull – developed in New England from various breeds, including the bull terrier.
14 St Bernard – bred by Bernardine monks in Switzerland to haul carts.
15 Pharaoh Hound – although this breed is found on Mediterranean islands, its ancestors are thought to be the wild wolf-like dogs which can be seen in Egyptian hieroglyphics.
16 Corgi – Welsh for watchdog.
17 Schnauzer – this hairy-snouted German breed's name translates loosely as Nosey.
18 Bichon Frise – French for fluffy-haired lapdog.
19 Pointer – this breed has the strange habit of stopping and pointing at game with a foreleg, rather than chasing after it.
20 Whippet – this dog's name is an apt archaic word meaning to move quickly.
~ Sunday, May 22, 2005
THE ANTS ARE MY FRIEND...
Twenty things which listeners have heard in the chorus of REM's 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight' (the correct lyric is 'Call me when you try to wake her up'):
1 Calling Chuck Yeager
2 Tony's got away from us
3 Colin went to try Jamaica rub
4 Calmly celebrate her
5 Coming from Jamaica
6 Only child, wake her up
7 Tell me a jawbreaker
8 Come and eat your bacon up
9 Call me in Chaddeweka
10 Commonly a child awake, uh-huh
11 Call me Cheryl Baker
12 Coming to Arabia
13 Colin the shadowmaker
14 Come on let me chat a week, Aha
15 Comedy will try to break her heart
16 Calling chabaikerra
17 Tommy shall wait for her
18 Cabeza hueca ('empty head' in Spanish)
19 Come Anita Baker
20 Only in Jamaica
~ Monday, May 16, 2005
Explanations of the nicknames of some British football teams:
Aberdeen (The Dons) – their ground is close to the river Don
Alloa (The Wasps) – due to the gold and black strip
Arsenal (The Gunners) – the cannon on their badge reflects the fact that the team once played near Woolwich arsenal
Ayr United (Honest Men) – from a line about the townsmen in Robert Burns' poem 'Tam O'Shanter'
Barnsley (The Tykes) – from a word meaning rascal, kid, or Yorkshireman
Berwick Rangers (The Borderers) – although they play in the Scottish league, this side are based just over the border in England
Blackpool (The Seasiders) – the town is England's most famous traditional beach holiday resort
Bolton Wanderers (The Trotters) – from a name for Bolton natives relating to their apparent habit of 'trotting' (using tricks or scams)
Bournemouth (The Cherries) – from a red strip and the proximity of the ground to a cherry orchard
Bradford City (The Bantams) – after the chicken which has vaguely similar colours to the club strip
Brentford (The Bees) – due to yellow and black strip and the letter B
Bristol Rovers (The Pirates / The Gas) – from a pirate (rover) on the club badge; from their ground next to a gasworks
Bury (The Shakers) – religious group the Shakers, a Quaker offshoot, were founded in the Bury area
Celtic (The Bhoys) – from an early nickname 'the bold boys' rendered in a supposed Irish accent
Chesterfield (The Spireites) – from the famous bent church spire in the town
Clyde (Bully Wee) – apparently from their being a fine ('bully'), small ('wee') club from a large city (Glasgow)
Crewe Alexandra (Railwaymen) – the town has a famous railway junction
Crystal Palace (Eagles) – a hopeful nickname applied after their former nickname 'The Glaziers' (relating to the Crystal Palace building) became redundant
Darlington (Quakers) – due to the great influence of Quakers on the town economy
Derby County (The Rams) – after the mascot of an army regiment in which many Derby men served
Dumbarton (The Sons) – a contraction of 'sons of the rock' – the town is built around a castle built on an extinct volcano
Dunfermline Athletic (Pars) – unexplained (despite much research) nickname; the most common suggestion (that they were once so awful they were dubbed 'paralytic') seems unlikely
Everton (Toffees) – due to Everton mint toffees made in the area
Exeter City (The Grecians) – it is said that an 18th century re-enactment of the battle of Troy in the town meant people in some areas were known as Greeks / Grecians
Fulham (The Cottagers) – after their former ground, Craven Cottage
Heart of Midlothian (Jam Tarts) – rhyming slang for 'Hearts'; the team is named after a stone cobble formation in the centre of Edinburgh marking the county centre
Luton Town (Hatters) – from the town's involvement in the hat industry
Mansfield Town (The Stags) – from a stag on a former coat of arms of the town which is close to the famous Sherwood Forest
Northampton Town (Cobblers) – the town was famous for its shoemakers
Norwich City (The Canaries) – Norwich are one of the few top teams to play in yellow
Partick Thistle (Jags) – because thistles are jaggy plants
Peterborough United (Posh) – supposedly from a 1920s advert asking for 'posh players for a posh team', a forerunner of the current club
Plymouth Argyle (The Pilgrims) – the Mayflower pilgrims set off from Plymouth
Portsmouth (Pompey) – a nickname for the town as well as the team, this is the most debated of all: so many suggestions have been made that the truth will probably never be found
Sheffield United (The Blades) – due to the city's famous steel industry (esp. cutlery)
Walsall (Saddlers) – the town had a big leather industry
West Bromwich Albion (Baggies) – from bags used to collect money at early games or patched trousers worn by their ironworker supporters
~ Saturday, May 07, 2005
NOT BY THE COVER
Amazon.com has a new feature which it calls 'statistically improbable phrases'. This uses computer technology to scour famous books and find unusual phrases which occur within and rarely in other books. The resulting phrases often give a flavour of the book as a whole:
1 War and Peace ('downy lip' / 'hundred roubles' / 'cried the count')
2 The Secret History ('house chairperson' / 'red moustache')
3 Morvern Callar ('goldish lighter' / 'glittering knee' / 'north pier')
4 Jane Eyre ('poor orphan child' / 'bethought myself')
5 American Psycho ('wool tuxedo' / 'her asshole' / 'drink tickets')
6 1984 ('chocolate ration' / 'girl with dark hair' / 'three farthings')
7 Don Quixote ('intrepid heart' / 'fulling hammers' / 'good squire')
8 Lord of the Flies ('his spear' / 'blow the conch')
9 Oliver Twist ('merry old gentleman' / 'his cocked hat')
10 Cold Comfort Farm ('cletter the dishes' / 'little green parlour')
11 Yellow Dog ('porno people' / 'cur moment')
12 Decline and Fall ('indecent behaviour' / ' capital fellow')
13 Ulysses ('matrimonial gift' / 'brown mackintosh' / 'seaside girls')
14 American Gods ('little brown cat' / 'buffalo man' / 'fat kid')
15 Brave New World ('soma holiday' / 'synthetic music' / 'pleasant vices')
16 The Color Purple ('she ast' / 'talk bout' / 'new mammy')
17 Death On the Nile ('observation saloon' / 'ten minutes past one')
18 Trainspotting ('shakes his heid' / 'get ootae' / 'doss c**t')
19 The Go-between ('game larder' / 'green bicycle' / 'village team')
20 Catch 22 ('bloated colonel' / ' fifty missions')
21 The Naked Lunch ('old gash' / 'old junky' / 'sick morning')
22 On the Road ('old maestro' / 'bureau car')
23 Pride and Prejudice ('dining parlour' / 'her ladyship')
24 Tropic of Capricorn ('sour rye' / 'stiff prick' / 'little dough')
25 A Clockwork Orange ('malenky bit' / 'oddy knocky' / 'old moloko')
Thanks to Hazel for the idea
~ Thursday, May 05, 2005
IN THE JUNGLE...
Unusual names of parrots and their relations:
Gang Gang Cockatoo / Kaka / Moustached Parakeet / Blue Bonnet / Slender-billed Corella / Galah / Masked Shining Parrot / Perfect Lorikeet / Peach-fronted Lovebird / Demerara Conure / Kea / Double-eyed Fig Parrot / Mealy Amazon / Red-sided Eclectus / Vernal Hanging Parrot / Painted Parrot / Turquoise-rumped Parrotlet / Guaiabero / Adelaide Rosella / Major Mitchell's Cockatoo / Lear's Macaw / Buru Racket-tailed Parrot / Plum-crowned Parrot / Scaly-naped Amazon / Niam-Niam / Fairy Lorikeet / Monk Parakeet / Modest Parrot / Rainbow Lory / White-bellied caique / Superb Parrot / Glaucous Macaw / Cactus Conure / Society Parakeet / Geelvink Pygmy Parrot / Festive Amazon
~ Monday, May 02, 2005
ALE MEET AGAIN
A VitQ special! My friend Gareth and I took non-beer drinker Andy on a 'real ale tasting', taking notes as we went. It should be noted that beers are chageable, and it can be the bar's fault not the brewer - so these were our judgements on what we gulped on the night. Sorry this is a bit long, but we enjoyed it, believe me.
1 Tiger (Everard's, Leicester) 4.2%
Appearance: Gareth – same colour as Tizer; good head / Roddy – marmalade, light tan shoe polish / Andy - almost headless, clear, inviting Smell: Gareth – very mild / Roddy – slight smell of lemon, wine gums / Andy - very mild; barely beerlike Taste: Gareth – subtle fruity taste with astringent finish; a bitter bitter; socks, in a good way / Roddy - tonic water, envelope glue, wine gums / Andy - delicate Comments: Gareth – an almost session beer but just on the bitter side of guzzleable / Roddy – a little tart, giving way to grass-root sweetness / Andy - subtle but good; could probably drink a gallon without irritation
Rating: Gareth - 6 / Roddy - 4 / Andy - 7 / Average Rating: 6
2 Guzzler (York Brewery, York) 3.6%
Appearance: Gareth – stout head; colour between honey and a dehydrated man's urine / Roddy – very pale, froth thick, straw gold / Andy – gold with a fine, creamy head Smell: Gareth – floral, hoppy / Roddy – ginger, sherbet lemons / Andy – yes, good Taste: Gareth – dry citrus with a lip-smacking drier finish; straw and lemon / Roddy – lemon meringue, apricots, lemon squash, bike tyres / Andy – like kitchen cleaner, but in a good way! Yes, I do know what kitchen cleaner tastes like Comments: Gareth – moreish but leaves you needing an aqua chaser / Roddy – nice mix of squashy sweetness and undertones of sourness and rubber / Andy – couldn't drink more than a couple; it's a grower
Rating: Gareth - 7 / Roddy - 7 / Andy – 7.5 / Average Rating: 7
3 Osprey (Cotleigh Brewery, Somerset) 5.0%
Appearance: Gareth – amber / honey; great head / Roddy – light, yellow gold; clingy head; slightly viscous / Andy – dark gold Smell: Gareth – vague fruity smell / Roddy – wax, aluminium, shoe polish / Andy – can't smell this one Taste: Gareth – complex, judderingly heavy, leading to a sweet-sour honey taste / Roddy – caramel, nickel, grapefruit, hard toffee / Andy – works on the taste buds as you drink on Comments: Gareth – to be savoured not glugged; lovely but a little too strong to drink more than a few / Roddy – light colour for a strong one; strong aftertaste; not one to drink while playing cards / Andy – a little more character than others; a beer I could drink in quantity
Rating: Gareth - 6 / Roddy - 6 / Andy - 8 / Average Rating: 7
4 Landlord (Timothy Taylor, Keighley) 4.3%
Appearance: Gareth – no real head, copper / tawny colour / Roddy – watery, misty gold, barley sugar colour, nearly no head / Andy – puddle water – possibly could be the glass Smell: Gareth – none I could pick up / Roddy – malt, biscuits, malt biscuits / Andy – can't smell this one either Taste: Gareth – distinctive bitter mouthful with malt undertones, dry finish / Roddy – rainwater, brandy, barley sugar, star anise / Andy – malty, quite like the Osprey Comments: Gareth – one of my favourites; not a bad pint here, but not a good one either / Roddy – never a personal favourite, though others go mad for it / Andy - similar though not as good to Osprey
Rating: Gareth – 7.5 / Roddy - 6 / Andy – 6.5 / Average Rating: 7
5 IPA (Fuller's, London) 4.8%
Appearance: Gareth – copper colour, less head than a French aristocrat during the revolution / Roddy – copper, clear, Irn Bru, headless, slightly viscous / Andy – dark and clear, no head Smell: Gareth – kinda woody / Roddy – full-fat milk, mould / Andy – sorry, I am a man with almost no sense of smell Taste: Gareth – deep malty and metallic flavour; 2p coins, brown sugar, toffee / Roddy – metallic, toffee, frothy coffee, furniture polish, pot plant leaves / Andy – malty with a slight tang Comments: Gareth – nice but not my kind of beer / Roddy – dark, deep, too much so for an IPA? Classic 'ale' taste / Andy – good swilling beer; I could ease my way through a few of these
Rating: Gareth – 6.5 / Roddy - 8 / Andy - 7 / Average Rating: 7
6 Brewers Gold (Pictish Brewery, Rochdale) 3.8%
Appearance: Gareth – golden – what did you expect? Decent head / Roddy – ligher than gold; spare froth; slightly viscous / Andy – gold, no head, looks like a lager Smell: Gareth – lemon washing up liquid (but nice) / Roddy – musk and ginger / Andy – strong, hoppy Taste: Gareth – very hoppy and spicy; vague lemon and ginger notes / Roddy – ginger cake-icing, slight wheat / lemon, spice; touch of the US microbrews / Andy - a little like Guzzler; full flavour Comments: Gareth – moreish session beer, could drink it all night / Roddy – very, very good – dark but not chemical undertone to a fruity, sexy beer / Andy – very moreish, very distinctive, a class drink
Rating: Gareth - 8 / Roddy - 9 / Andy – 8.5 / Average Rating: 8.5 - The Winner!
7 Black Magic (Hanby Brewery, Shropshire) 4%
Appearance: Gareth – black as a Satanist's soul (well, a little bit red too) / Roddy – dusky froth, dark ruby, cola colour / Andy – a classic mild Smell: Gareth – chemical and burnt; v vague roast chocolate / Roddy – footbath, chemistry set, bicarb, raincoats / Andy – good; cardboard but good Taste: Gareth – toffee, malt, toilet cleaner, oaked white wine, herbal medicine / Roddy - model railways, blackcurrants, chocolate, rhubarb, kiwi fruit, sea-waves, wine gums / Andy – unusual, flat but not unappealing Comments: Gareth – gets better as you adjust to it / Roddy – sour strong flavours and high alcohol for a mild – very strong character, unusual, not for all / Andy – I think you either like mild or you don't; 'a Tuesday lunchtime drink' - nice if you're in the mood
Rating: Gareth – 5.5 / Roddy - 6 / Andy - 7 / Average Rating: 6
8 Polly's Folly (Buffy's Brewery, Norwich) 4.3%
Appearance: Gareth – brown to rust coloured, not quite cinnabar / Roddy – thin froth, orange brown / Andy – another dark one; small, smooth head Smell: Gareth – sudsy smell, slightly sweet / Roddy – sweet sherbet, citrus, ginger / Andy – very little Taste: Gareth – bit spicy – cloves and vanilla notes; tasted like Calvin Klein's Obsession smells; 2p coins again / Roddy – vanilla, caramel, ice cream wafers, seaweed, thinners, fusewire / Andy – very full, a little sharp Comments: Gareth – nice but not a session beer / Roddy – not a strong 'iodine' beer but good; prefer full-on seaweed taste or none / Andy - announces itself a little too strongly; I'd be wilting after a couple
Rating: Gareth - 6 / Roddy – 6 / Andy – 6.5 / Average Rating: 6
The pubs were: The Angel, The Island Queen, The Narrow Boat and The Wenlock Arms, in Islington / Hoxton, London
The working purposes of some dog breeds:
large game coursing (Greyhound)
reindeer herding (Samoyed / Lapphund)
deer hunting (Deerhound)
hare coursing (Lurcher)
elk hunting (Elkhound)
rabbit hunting (Basset Hound / Beagle)
boar herding (Beauceron)
sled pulling (Malamute / Husky)
fox hunting (Harrier / Foxhound)
duck hunting (American Water Spaniel)
guarding (Dobermann / Mastiff)
monastery guard (Lhasa Apso)
gazelle hunting (Saluki)
barge guarding (Schipperke)
ratting (Welsh Terrier/ Jack Russell)
sheep herding (Puli / Border Collie / Alsatian)
game retrieving (Golden Retriever / Springer Spaniel)
raccoon hunting (Coonhound)
prayer wheel turning (Tibetan Spaniel)
badger hunting (Airedale / Dachshund)
puffin hunting (Lundehund)
waterfowl retrieving (Poodle)
tracking scent (Bloodhound)
fox worrying (Border Terrier)
cart pulling (Chow / Bernese Mountain Dog)
pulling fishing nets (Portuguese Water Dog / Newfoundland)
wolf hunting (Wolfhound / Borzoi)
carriage work (Dalmatian)
otter hunting (Otterhound / Sealyham)
Source: Dogs (B Fogle, DK)