Aaaargh alert

I expect some of you have already seen this triumph of the education system, but in case you haven’t…

The Tesco supermarket chain has produced some sweatshirts or tee-shirts for small babies. One bears the legend:


Another reads:



Mousehole memories

As you can see from the map, the village of Mousehole is due south of Penzance and is about 2.5 miles (4km) away. The name is pronounced ˈmaʊzl and is thought to be a reference to a cavern in the cliffs nearby. The original Cornish name is Porthenys (pronounced pərˈθenɪs), which means “island cove”.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about Mousehole here before , but what has prompted me this time is the discovery of an interesting short film about the place. It was made by The British Council and was released in 1943. The film is part of a large collection of films made by The British Council and can be viewed for free here. The village is not actually named in the film, but there is absolutely no doubt that it is Mousehole.

The British Council website looks very interesting, but I haven’t had time to investigate it thoroughly yet. Apart from the historical interest of what life was like in the 1940s in England, there is the added bonus that some of the narration for the films is in beautiful antique RP.

Map credit: Google Maps.

The whimsical warning whitebeam of Watersmeet

Wind-beat whitebeam! airy abeles set on a flare!
Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!
Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Starlight Night

This is about a rather pleasing example of whimsicality. The picture shows the leaves and flowers of Sorbus aria – the common whitebeam. The second element of the common name derives from Old Englsh bēam “tree”, which is cognate with German Baum and Dutch boom. Other tree names which contain this element are quickbeam and hornbeam.

In the 1930s the botanist E.F.Warburg discovered what he thought was a new variety of whitebeam by the side of a road near Watersmeet in North Devon. He was not completely convinced that his discovery was a new species, however. In 2009 a research project headed by the National Museum of Wales concluded that it was indeed a new species and were left with the question of what to name it. The first specimen that Warburg found had a “no parking” sign nailed to it, so the first thought was to call the species Sorbus no parking. They chickened out on this proposal and finally the species was named Sorbus admonitor – “Warning Sorbus”.

By the way, isn’t whimsical a splendid word…

Photo credit: J.F. Gaffard. Used under this licence.

Great what?

In the picture you can see Onopordum acanthium, otherwise known as Scottish thistle (among other names). I suppose it was the New Year’s celebrations which prompted a question in my mind: why are there so many different words for things from north of the border?

Apart from Scottish, which I suppose is the most general term, we have:

  • Scotch: applied to whisky, eggs and bonnets
  • Scots: as in the Flying Scotsman
  • Scot: as in He’s a Scot.

There’s no use wondering about the term scot-free, however. That has nothing to do with Scotland. It derives from a Middle English word meaning, according to the OED:

A tax or tribute paid by a feudal tenant to his or her lord or ruler in proportion to ability to pay; a similar tax paid to a sheriff or bailiff.

Photo credit: Unknown author. Used under this licence.