Are There Any Celtic Words in English?

Long-time followers of my blog may remember my post on the origins of English. The language tree in that post shows that English is largely derived from Germanic, specifically Anglo-Frisian. So, where are the Celts? Are there no Celtic words in English? As several of...

Space Farts and Crappy Jobs

The wee one’s fascination with bodily functions (as witnessed by her poetry) must be rubbing off on me, as I couldn’t stop browsing Quora to learn more about toilet habits, old and new. Sher Afgan and Silvia Serra have shared a brief illustrated history of...

How Did They Make Iron in the Iron Age?

The Iron Age (800 BC-100 AD) took its name from, well, iron. This kickstarted a number of technological and social changes, with centuries-old Bronze Age (2200-800 BC) civilizations based on copper and tin falling prey to invincible newcomers who wielded formidable...

History of the Cuirass

Cavalier guards, the charge is short, and therefore so sweet. The trumpet sings, the field is open, and somewhere saber ringing is heard. The sound of strings still echoes but the captain’s already on the saddle. Do not promise young maidens eternal love on...

The City that Vanished into the Sea

When people speak of climate change, I often think of Dunwich, a town on the Suffolk coast that has almost entirely vanished into the sea. Dunwich is a pleasant city that consists of just about one street and a museum, a shingle beach, and a nearby forest. As George...

Giannoulis Chalepas, Greece’s Mad Sculptor

Late last year, an article of mine was published by John Maberry’s Eagle Peak Annual on the life of one of Greece’s best-known sculptors, Giannoulis (“Little John”) Chalepas. I’m sharing here with John’s kind permission. Chalepas...

The Workers Who Tricked the Devil

I came across a delightful story on Atlas Obscura the other day and wanted to share with you. When the Gothic-style St. Mary Church (Marienkirche) was being built in Lübeck in the mid-13th century, local legend has it that none other than Satan himself stopped by the...

Medieval Matresses

First of all, let me apologize for the week-long delay in posting. I had my first vaccine (Astra) and it had quite the kick. Then, Electra had it and she was even worse than me. Between taking care of her and the wee one, I had precious free time in my hands for the...

Understanding Old English

How far back in history could you go until you could no longer understand the English language?Stanislava Suplatovich has the answer in Quora. To answer this question, she uses three examples. Here’s the first one: “See ye not yon twa bonny boys, As they play at...

Sea Shanties of the Ancients

When I was at school, we learned of Ri-Pa-Pe – the rhythmic chant of Athenian oarsmen pulling a trireme’s 180 oars. Contrary to what you might think, triremes were manned not by slaves but by some 200 free men from all social strata. Indeed, for a...