Getting to Know You – Without Permission

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Seemingly Innocent Things

That Reveal Shocking

Amounts of Information

About You

We live in the digital age, and it has never been easier for… well, anyone to find out all your dirty little secrets. While we expect agencies like the NSA, the FBI, and Google to know a terrifying amount about us, there are a bunch more innocuous things that a person with the right know-how can use to learn things about you or the people around you that you’d never expect. For example…

 10. Your Netflix Ratings Can Reveal if You’re Gay

Netflix is a great service. For a few bucks a month you get unlimited access to a constantly changing library of content, most of which is tailored towards you. Netflix does this with a number of algorithms that take into account what you watch, for how long, and what overall rating you gave it, and then compares it with similar data from other customers.

It would seem that the only real thing you’d be able to tell about someone from their Netflix habits would be what kind of movies they like, and which celebrity they have a crush on. However, by simply cross-referencing the data Netflix has with other sources (for example movie reviews on IMDb), it is shockingly easy to discern someone’s actual identity from a list of movies they liked. It is then possible to extrapolate from this data and determine someone’s sexuality, political affiliations, and where they live.

As unlikely as this sounds, a team of researchers in 2009, taking part in a competition with Netflix to improve their algorithms, were able to learn all this and more about a bunch of customers. One of these customers later sued Netflix because the data (which was completely anonymous) revealed that she was gay, something she hadn’t even told her family, and she was worried it could be used to out her before she personally felt comfortable doing so. Then again, the lady in question had children, so we’re guessing she could have denied being gay fairly easily if she wasn’t ready to tell someone. It’s for this reason that we highly advise rating every film you see on Netflix arbitrarily to throw them off in the future. Hey, speaking of politics!

9. Owning a Cat is an Indicator of Your Political Views

ike choosing a video game console, or how you like your steak cooked (well-done all the way for this author, come at him in the comments), whether you prefer cats or dogs is a weirdly polarizing topic. While we’re sure there a number of educated guesses you could make about a person based solely on the fact they own a cat, such as their living situation or how often they use that Snapchat filter that makes you look like a dog, you wouldn’t think cat ownership would be an indicator of political affiliation. Weirdly, though, there’s data to support the fact that it kind of is.

As discussed in a 2014 Time magazine article, a number of seemingly unrelated things are actually a fairly useful and accurate indicators of a person’s place on the political spectrum. While some of these things are a little more obvious than others – for example, highly conservative people are less likely to agree that watching pornography while in a relationship is acceptable and liberals are more likely to disagree with the statement “I am proud of my country’s history” – some are a little more… odd.

For example, for reasons that aren’t quite clear, people who agree with the statement that they prefer cats to dogs, by and large, appear to be more liberal than those who disagree, whereas people who use Internet Explorer are more likely to hold conservative views. Though we could chalk this up to being an interesting quirk of statistics, we feel it would be unwise to fully rule out that the possibility that cats want us to live a socialist utopia, free of Internet Explorer. That’s a future we’d actually be kind of curious about, which we’re assuming would be punishable by death in a cat-ruled society.

8. Facebook Has Better Face Detection Software Than the FBI

Due to the secretive and presumably super boring nature of most of their work, the inner workings of the FBI aren’t made privy to the public and, as such, we have no idea what awesome gadgets and technology they have access to that we don’t know about. One thing we can be sure of, though, is that they’re worse at analyzing faces than Facebook.

According to statistics released by both the FBI and Facebook, Facebook’s proprietary facial analysis software is able to accurately identify a person in a photo 98% of the time. A figure that dunks just all over the Feds, who admit that their own software has an accuracy rating of just 85%. Their main reason for this discrepancy is that the FBI very often only have a single photo to go on to identify a person. Facebook, meanwhile, often has hundreds of every person using the site, from multiple angles, allowing them to build a comprehensive image on an individual’s features. In other words, Facebook probably has a better idea of what you look like than the people who see you every day.

7. Stores Like Target Can Predict When You’re Pregnant

You probably remember a few years ago, a story breaking about the store Target correctly predicting that a young girl was pregnant. It got her in trouble when the store sent vouchers for baby stuff to her house, which were noticed by her father, who didn’t know she had a bun in the oven. What you probably didn’t hear about, or see discussed, though, is how Target was able to  do this. Now you’re probably thinking that the girl bought a pregnancy test in a Target, or something a few months earlier, or something. Which is a good assumption, but it’s not how it went down. The store was actually able to make the prediction based purely on the fact the girl had bought cotton balls and some unscented lotion a few weeks earlier. On their own these items don’t seem all that unusual, but the girl’s loyalty card also showed that she’d recently also purchased mineral substances for the first time.

Again, these don’t seem like solid indicators of pregnancy, but Target’s vast reams of data showed that in cases where women bought these items unexpectedly, several months later they’d buy diapers and other baby-related items, too, suggesting that the former items were bought during pregnancy. This allowed the store to accurately predict that the girl was pregnant. Of course they don’t get it right every time, but the fact they’re even able to get it right once is evidence enough that humans are depressingly predictable when it comes to shopping. Speaking of which…

6. Credit Card Companies Know if You’ll Skip Out on a Debt Based on if You Like Birds

Credit cards are like handguns, in that you probably shouldn’t let a person with poor impulse control hold one lest they wave it around in a store and walk out wearing a floor-length chinchilla coat. As evil as they all are, credit card companies, like any of us, just want to get paid. To this end, they hire people to pore through the reams of data they collect to better allow them to predict whether a person is good for the money they borrow.

 One of the more unusual predictors of whether a person will pay back a given debt is, rather oddly, buying fancy bird seed. As stupid as it sounds, analysis shows people willing to drop 20 bucks on premium, bald eagle-friendly bird seed seldom ever default on a payment. As innocuous as such a purchase seems, it’s one of those things that is indicative of a person’s overall personality. Think of it like littering, or being rude to waiters: it’s a small, almost trivial thing, but the kind of person who does it likely acts like an entitled douche in other areas of their life. As summed up by author Charles Duhigg:

“If you buy premium wild bird seed, you’re spending a lot of money on something that you’re going to give away to birds you don’t own. They [Credit card companies] basically figured out that the types of people who do that, pay off their credit card on time, because they feel this sense of moral obligation.”

Because of this, bird seed and other such purchases are often taken into consideration by credit card companies when it comes to deciding how much credit to give a person.

5. Buying Underwear can Indicate the State of the Economy

The economy is a weird, nebulous entity that few people are capable of fully understanding. That’s why we’re going to give you all a crash course in something known as the ‘underwear index’. Basically, there’s an observable and studied correlation between sales of men’s underwear and the current state of the economy. In a nutshell, during times of economic hardship, men buy fewer pairs. Which seems… well, obvious. We all make sacrifices when times are tough, but underwear is unique in that while it’s an essential purchase, it is one that can be put off.

Economists liken it to “driving your car for another 10,000 miles instead of having it serviced.” It’s a minor choice that says a lot about the person making it. Unlike other items of men’s clothing that are purchased sporadically, underwear is a predictable purchase, so when sales of it drop, it is a fairly reasonable indicator of the current state of the economy. If 10 million dudes aren’t willing to drop 10 bucks on a new dong pouch, there’s a good chance that the economy they work in isn’t all that strong.

4. Whether or Not You Kiss Your Partner Before Work Can Influence if You’ll Die in a Car Crash

Few things are more intimate than kissing, and we’re just going to go right ahead and say that if there’s a person out there who lets you kiss their face, all available research says that you should be doing as much as possible. Research has shown that men who kiss their wives before work every morning live longer, earn more money, and are 50% less likely to be killed in a car crash.

You may scoff at this, but numbers never lie and they all point to kissing your partner or spouse being awesome. Now, we don’t live in the Harry Potter universe, so the act of expressing your love doesn’t cast a magical bubble around you or anything. It’s more an act that’s indicative of how you live the rest of your life. Like a lot of other things on this list, kissing is a minor thing that says a lot about your overall personality, with people who do it the most being more likely to be hold a positive outlook on life (sad people are notoriously bad kissers).

Psychologists believe that kissing your partner each morning is a strong indicator that you’re, overall, a positive person, which in turn suggests you live a healthier lifestyle, which in turn suggests you’ll live longer, earn more, and be less likely to drive into a ditch. Again, it’s not that kissing magically fixes all your problems, but if you have someone in your life you care about romantically, it’s probably not a bad idea to do it more. The worst that can happen is you get to grab a handful of butt, which is always great.

3. Owning an iPhone Makes You a Terrible Person (According to Android Users)

The internet has a collective throb on for anything that involves making fun of iPhone owners, which is why studies like the ones we’re about the quote often go viral when they’re released. For example, in late 2016 a study was conducted that found that iPhone owners, in general, seem to display lower levels of “honesty and integrity”, a finding that was gleefully touted across the web by avid Android users.

While the study did indeed find a seemingly concrete correlation between personality and the brand of phone a person had in their pocket, to the point the lead researcher said they could predict what type of phone a person used based on a simple, unrelated questionnaire with about 70% accuracy, it’s not the whole story. One thing that was mysteriously left out of all the articles slamming iPhone users is that the study also showed that iPhone owners were more likely to be female, have a degree, and earn significantly more than their Android using peers. Which goes hand-in-hand with data showing rich people tend to be douchebags anyway, due to a sense of perceived entitlement.

2. Using Twitter Means You Have Shorter Relationships

Most everyone these days uses social media. The internet has resulted in a noticeable increase in the amount of people being joined at the hip, with anywhere between 5 and 10% of long term relationships today beginning online, depending on your source. With the advent and subsequent removal of the stigma surrounding online dating, the sites that offer the service have an unbelievable amount of information related to the world of getting our freak on with the opposite sex. One of the more unusual things people parsing through the endless reams of data sites like OKCupid have is that there’s a link between relationship length and the use of Twitter.

Though nobody at OKCupid is exactly sure why this is the case, the site’s co-founder has explained that the data shows a “measurable and consistent” difference between the overall length of Twitter users’ relationships compared to those who don’t tweet that much, or at all. The key thing here is that this only seems to apply to people who use Twitter all the time. You know, like those people who always Tweet pictures of their food and stuff. Numerous theories have arisen about why exactly this seems to be the case, ranging from shorter attention spans of Twitter users to an increasingly narcissistic society. Or, you know, it could just be that people who use Twitter all the time are kind of boring to be around? Anyway, erm, why not follow us on Twitter?

1. Simply Liking the Taste of Beer Means You’re More Likely to Put Out on a First Date

Sex on the first date is a weirdly antiquated taboo that, nonetheless, has a huge social stigma surrounding it. But lets say that, like 99% of people in the world you, our viral young (or young at heart) reader, like sex and want to be matched with someone who similarly likes doing the horizontal hug. All you have to do is ask if they like the taste of beer.

Again gleaned from data released by OKCupid, the site found that among users of all ages, genders, and sexualities, the single biggest signifier of whether they would consider having sex on a first date is if they responded positively to the question “Do you like the taste of beer?” There’s no data about why exactly this is the case, but we’re guessing that it has something to do with those people spending their first date getting hammered. Oh, uh, totally unrelated… happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! Wink, wink.

 Interestingly, while the beer question was the only accurate signifier OKCupid could find that indicated a woman would enjoy some intercourse a few hours after meeting someone, for men there were a few more… interesting results. For example, the site also found that men who’d find the prospect of nuclear annihilation exciting, can imagine themselves taking a life, and would feel comfortable launching a nuke were also more likely to have sex on a first date. Then again, if you’re comfortable ending the world in a nuclear holocaust, we’re guessing the taboo about touching genitals moments after meeting isn’t something you’d be all that concerned about.

Getting to Know You

– Without Permission

Foolish Puns #34

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Foolish Puns

If I think I’ve seen an idiot before, is that a case of deja fool.

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I believe I will be able to run my car on politicians promises but I’m having trouble with the fool injection system.

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When the King asked the fool for a joke the fool just shrugged. He was the court gesture.

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Of course you know about the self-taught comedian who made a fool of himself.

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Some foolish people gain by experience many perils of wisdom.

 

Foolish potters make wisecracks.

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My elderly aunt loves telling jokes while she knits. She is a real knitwit.

If towels could tell jokes they would probably have a dry sense of humor.

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I’m a sap for tree jokes.

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If jokes could be owned like land, then no good pun would go undeeded.

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Byte-ing humor can be found reading jokes online.

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Foolish Puns #34

Pun Central

Top 10 Best Sellers – WIF Bookshelf

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Best Selling Novels

of All-Time

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Since these are the bestselling novels of all time, you will not find any non-fiction, religious, or political books, like The Holy Quran, The King James Bible, and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. If we were to include them, they would be the top three in the order that they are listed.

 We chose to exclude those books because people had a spiritual or political reason to buy them. Would these books have become mega bestsellers without religious or political pressure? Who knows, but it is a major influential factor, so they have been left off the list.

nstead, these are all fictional stories that were written by a single person who sprung the idea from their head.

10. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: 80+ Million

On this list, you will find some of the greatest books that showcase some of the most esteemed authors to ever live. And then there’s The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. This book that has its own Wikipedia page dedicated solely to people’s criticism of it, ranging from its historical and religious inaccuracies to its poor literary quality. Despite this, some people must have liked it because 80 million copies have been sold since it was published in 2003, and the series it’s a part of has inspired not one, but three disappointing movies from Tom Hanks and Ron Howard.

The book starts off with a murder in the Louvre in Paris, and Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is called to the scene because the victim, the curator of the museum, wrote a coded message in blood. Soon, Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu Abraham are following clues to uncover a secret that has been protected for over 2,000 years. Since there are 80 million copies out there, then there is probably a good chance you know that the secret is Jesus Christ had children with Mary Magdalene. If you didn’t, well, at least now you don’t have to read The Da Vinci Code and you can pick a better book to spend your time reading.

9. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis: 85+ Million

Irish-born Clive Staples Lewis went to Oxford University and specialized in literature and philosophy. After school, he was given a teaching position with Magdalen College, which is a part of Oxford. While there, he joined the literary discussion group, the Inklings, which included another author on this list, who wrote the book in our #6 spot.

Lewis was a prolific writer, but he is best known today for his seven-book series The Chronicles of Narnia. The most famous book and introduction to the series, and the bestselling book of the series, is The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which was published in 1950.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe takes place in 1940 and tells the tale of four English siblings who are sent to the English countryside because of the Blitz. While there, they discover a magical wardrobe that is a gateway to another world, Narnia, which is full of talking animals and magical creatures. When the children arrive, the world is in perpetual winter because the White Witch has cast a spell to keep Narnia frozen. To help their friends in Narnia, the children must work together to defeat the White Witch and break her spell.

At first, the critics didn’t love The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but readers did. It’s estimated that over 100 million copies of it have been sold. The other books in the series were also bestsellers, but none of them reached the levels of the first book.

8. Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin: 100+ Million

One of China’s greatest novels is Dream of the Red Chamber, or The Story of the Stone, which was written by Cao Xueqin, a writer and painter who was homeless and drank too much. He wrote the book in chapters during the 1750s and he exchanged the chapters with friends and family, often for food or some wine. He died in his 40s in 1763.

A collection of the chapters formed into a novel wasn’t published until 1791. However, even today, it is debated what the true version of the story is. There have been alternate endings that have survived and even completely different manuscripts have popped up. Today, there is an academic field solely dedicated to studying the variations of Dream of the Red Chamber called “Redology.”

Often compared to Gone With the Wind, Dream of the Red Chamber is a sprawling saga about the decline of a wealthy family and it is full of astute observations about life in 18th century China. It’s a massive book, the English edition is over 2,500 pages long, and there are over 400 characters and several different story lines. One of the most famous storylines involves a man named Jia Baoyu, who is in love with one of his cousins, but he is forced to marry a different cousin and this leads to a terrible tragedy.

The book was a massive hit in China, especially after a TV version was released in 1987, and it is believed that over 100 million copies of the book have been sold.

7. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie: 100+ Million

Arguably the most famous crime writer of all time is Agatha Christie, who is also considered the bestselling author to ever live. In total, she wrote 66 novels and 14 short story collections and she supposedly sold 200 billion of them; which is 28 books for every single person on Earth. Her bestselling novel of all time is And Then There Were None, which has a plot line that is so famous that you’ve probably seen dozens of variations of it in movies and television shows.

In the book (which had a really, really unfortunate original title), 10 strangers are lured to an island under false pretenses. The only thing that all of them have in common is that they were all somehow involved in the death of another person, but managed to avoid punishment. Then at dinner, they are accused of their crimes and told that throughout the night, they would be killed one-by-one. Sure enough, the characters start to die in a manner that resembles the lines in the nursery rhyme “Ten Little Indians,” which is where the novel gets its name, because the last line of the rhyme is “And then there were none.” The killer and how they performed the murders is then revealed in a post script.

The book, which is considered to be Christie’s masterpiece, has sold over 100 million copies to date.

6. The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien: 100+ Million

While he was a professor of linguistics at Oxford University, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was grading some papers when he suddenly wrote a line about a creature called “a hobbit.” From that line grew the book The Hobbit, which was published in 1937. At first,The Hobbit was considered a children’s book. However, that view continued to evolve with the publication of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in 1954 and 1955 and this expanded its audience.

The Hobbit has never been out of print and got a resurgence when the Peter JacksonTolkien movies were released. In total, it’s estimated that over 100 million copies of The Hobbit have been sold.

Of course, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is also a mega-bestseller. According to Forbes, over 150 million copies of the trilogy, which includes single books and all three in a single collection, have been sold.

5. Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling: 107+ Million

The story of Joanne Rowling, better known as J.K., is almost as Cinderella-esque as the protagonist of her blockbuster franchise, Harry Potter. Rowling was a single mother living on welfare in Edinburgh, Scotland, and she typed the original manuscript on a typewriter; meaning that if she changed one paragraph, she had to change anything that followed it. When she finished the manuscript in 1995, she looked around for a publisher, but was rejected by a dozen of them. One of the big problems with The Philosopher’s Stone (which is called The Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States) is that it was twice as long as the average children’s novel.

The winds of fate changed for Rowling when the chairman of a small publishing house called Bloomsbury let his 8-year-old niece, Alice, read the first chapter of the book. After she did, she demanded that he give her the rest of the book. Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book and gave Rowling a $2,400 advance. They also told her to get a day job because people didn’t make a living from writing children’s books.

Today, Rowling is worth about $910 million (she was a billionaire, but dropped off of Forbes billionaire list in 2012, because of charitable donations and Britain’s high tax rates), and it all stemmed from that book that couldn’t find a publisher and no one thought would be successful. That first book in the series has sold over 107 million copies as of 2010.

The rest of the books in the Harry Potter series were also smash hits and it is considered the biggest book franchise of all time. As of 2013, before the release of The Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, there were 450 million Harry Potter books in print.

4. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: 140+ Million

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a French aristocrat, writer, and pilot. After the Fall of France, Saint-Exupéry went into exile and ended up in New York City, where he continued to write. In the second half of 1942, he wrote and illustrated his magnum opus, The Little Prince. The novella was published in 1943 in North America, even though it was originally written in French because Saint-Exupéry spoke English poorly. It wouldn’t be published in France until 1946, an event that Saint-Exupéry wouldn’t live to see. In 1943, he joined the Free French Air Force and in 1944, he disappeared while doing a reconnaissance mission over Germany. His ID bracelet was found 50 years later in a fisherman’s net off the coast of Marseilles, but his body has never been found.

The Little Prince looks like a children’s book, but it actually has a lot of keen observations and insights regarding human nature and relationships. The book is about a pilot who crashes in the Sahara desert and meets a young boy with curly blond hair. The boy tells the pilot that he’s a prince that fell from a small planet called Asteroid 325, however on Earth we call it Asteroid B-612. The Prince left his home after he fell in love with a rose and he caught her in a lie, so he is traveling across the universe to cure his loneliness.

While the story and the pictures are a bit simplistic, the complexity of the emotional impact has resonated with readers for decades. It has been translated into 250 languages and two million copies are sold every year. Altogether, it’s estimated that 140 million copies of The Little Prince has been sold since 1943.

3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: 150+ Million

Famed Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho’s beloved novel The Alchemist was published in 1988, and it is about Santiago, a young Spanish boy who has a dream that urges him to go to Egypt. Before he sets out, he learns about the Personal Legend, which is something that someone always wanted to do with their life. If someone decides to follow their own Personal Legend, then the universe will try to help them. And the universe is a very powerful ally. If the universe will bend to help a person on their Personal Legend, then it’s possible to do the impossible, like alchemy, which is the process of turning lead into gold.

The book and its message of following one’s dreams has made it a favorite of many famous people. Pharrell Williams gets choked up when he talks about the book, whileWill Smith thinks of himself as a metaphorical alchemist. If you know anything about Oprah, you shouldn’t be surprised that Oprah loves it. She suggested it to Madonna, who said that it was life changing.

Of course, non-famous people also love The Alchemist as well, quite a few of them in fact. In under 30-years, 150 million copies of The Alchemist have been sold.

2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: 200+ Million

Charles Dickens was born into a poor family in England in 1812. When he was just 12-years-old, his dad was put into prison over debt and Dickens had to drop out and work in a run-down factory labeling cans. He was able to go back to school when he was 15, but only for a short time before he was forced to drop out again to work as an office boy to help out his family. A year later, Dickens started working as a freelance reporter. He also became a notable cartoonist who published under the name Boz. His work as a writer and cartoonist eventually led to his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, which was published in 1837.

22-years later, Dickens’ published the book that would go on to be his bestselling and arguably his greatest piece of work, A Tale a Two Cities. The book takes place before and during the French Revolution and is set both in England and France. It follows over a dozen characters, both peasants and aristocrats. It’s a rich and complex book that has been a bestseller since it was published in weekly installments from April 30 to November 29, 1859.

While it is impossible to figure out the exact number of copies that have been sold in the 150 years since it was released, most estimates put the sales figure at around 200 million copies.

1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: 500+ million

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s Don Quixote does have a huge advantage over the other books on this list; mainly it’s centuries older than all of them.

Don Quixote is considered the first modern novel and was published in 1605. It follows the adventures of Alonso Quixano, an elderly man who lives in La Mancha, Spain. As he loses his sanity, he reads books about chivalry and decides to become a knight. He declares himself Don Quixote de La Mancha and sets out on his old horse, Rocinante, with his loyal assistant at his side, Sancho Panza, to right wrongs and dish out justice. However, nothing goes right from the start and he gets into a bunch of hilarious adventures.

The book was an instant hit when it was released and it was reprinted six times in its first year, but Cervantes didn’t profit much from it and died poor in 1616. After his death, the popularity of the novel continued to flourish and the book is still popular today. In 2005, which was the 400th anniversary of the original publication, 10 publishing houses released a version of the book. One version from the Royal Spanish Academy sold out their entire stock of 600,000 copies in two months in Spain and Latin America.

To get an estimate of how many copies of Don Quixote have been sold since 1605, the website Lovereading.co.uk, calculated how many editions and how many translations classic novels have gone through. By their estimates, Don Quixote has been translated into 25 languages and there have been 963 editions, which calculates to over 500 million copies.


 Top 10 Best Sellers

Read with me

Read with me

– WIF Bookshelf

World Wide Words Issue 931 – WIF Style

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wif-grammar-101-001

World Wide Words

Issue 931

letter-to-editor

Not my pigeon

Q From Helen Mosback: I have just read a serialised version of John Rowland’s Calamity in Kent. It includes this: “In fact, it’s your pigeon, as they say in the civil service.” I was wondering if you could shed any light on the expression it’s your pigeon? I have to admit to being quite taken by the Polish expression not my circus, not my monkeys to indicate that something is not one’s problem, and would be very happy should I have found an equally enchanting English expression!pigeon_png_clipart-671

A Readers may not be familiar with John Rowland, a little-known and neglected British detective-story writer who published Calamity in Kent in 1950. The British Library has republished it this year in its Crime Classics series.

The date of his book is significant, since at that time the expression was more familiar to people in the countries of what is now the Commonwealth than it is now. It had come into the language around the end of the nineteenth century.

The idiom suggests something is the speaker’s interest, concern, area of expertise or responsibility. This is a recent British example:

If posh people aren’t your pigeon, the correspondence on display in this book will be a massive bore and irritation.
The Times, 8 Oct. 2016.

It also turns up in the negative in phrases such as “that’s not my pigeon”, denying involvement or responsibility in some matter.

Despite your analogy with the Polish expression, the pigeon here isn’t the animal. It’s a variant form of pidgin. The name is said to derive from a Chinese attempt to say the word business; the original pidgin, Pidgin English, was a trade jargon that arose from the seventeenth century onwards between British and Chinese merchants in ports such as Canton. The word pidgin is recorded from the 1840s and has become the usual linguistic term for any simplified contact language that allows groups that don’t have a language in common to communicate.

This is an early example of pidgin being used in the figurative sense:

We agreed that if anything went wrong with the pony after, it was not to be my “pidgin.”
The North-China Herald (Shanghai), 1 Aug. 1890.

Most early examples in English writing were spelled that way, though by the 1920s the pigeon form was being used by people who didn’t make the connection with the trade language.

Subnivean

Classical scholars will spot the wintry associations of this word; it derives from Latin nix for snow, which becomes niv- in compounds such as nivālis, snowy or snow-covered. Etymologists point out that the English snow and the Latin nix both ultimately derive from the same ancient Indo-European root. But then humans in Europe have long had plenty of experience of the white stuff.

About four centuries ago, English scholars borrowed nivālis to make the adjective nival to add to our snowy (though French got there first, at least a century earlier). We also have the more recent technical term nivation, not — as you might guess — meaning snowfall but the erosion of ground around and beneath a snow bank that is seasonally melting.

Subnivean is another member of the group, nearly two centuries old. This refers to something that happens underneath snow such as the activities of animals that survive winter beneath it.

Very recently that word has been joined by the linked noun subnivium for the area between soil surface and snowpack. It was coined by a group led by Jonathan Pauli of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They wrote in a paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment in June 2013: “For many terrestrial organisms in the Northern Hemisphere, winter is a period of resource scarcity and energy deficits, survivable only because a seasonal refugium — the ‘subnivium’ — exists beneath the snow.”

Black as Newgate knocker

Q From Jim Mitchell: As a child in South London, when I came in from playing and was a bit grubby my mother would say I looked as black as nookers nocker. My mother was born in 1917. I wonder if she might have heard this expression from her mother?

A It’s very probable. But not perhaps in that form. Your mother’s version is a mishearing of a Londoners’ expression that dates back in written records to 1881: black as Newgate knocker. It has also turned up in the forms black as Newker’s knocker, black as Nook’s knocker and black as Nugent’s knocker.

Curiously, though it has been in existence for more than a century and is currently not widely known, in writing it is now more often found than it has ever been, perhaps because it’s such an evocative item of historical Cockney slang. These days it almost always has an added apostrophe-s:

Her eyes really are black as Newgate’s knocker.
Sunday Times, 19 Jun. 1994.

Image result for black as Newgate’s knocker

Newgate Exercise yard, 1872 by Gustave Doré

Newgate here refers to the notorious prison, originally created in medieval times in one of the turrets of Newgate, a main entrance through the walls into the City of London. Down the centuries the prison was rebuilt five times; it closed in 1902 and was demolished in 1904. The Central Criminal Court, better known as the Old Bailey, now stands on the site.

Newgate was a place of fear and loathing to many Londoners, not only criminals but also debtors, who were imprisoned there until they found a way to repay what they owed. After 1783, it was also the place where executions took place, initially on a public platform in front of the building, later inside. For most of its existence it was a noisome, dank, dark and unhealthy place to be incarcerated.

It’s not surprising that it should have been commemorated in expressions. But why not just black as Newgate? Why should its door knocker be selected as the source of the simile?

The phrase Newgate knocker itself is older. It was applied to a hairstyle fashionable among lower-class male Londoners such as costermongers. Though it became widely known from the 1840s, I’ve found a reference to it in the Kentish Gazette in 1781. It referred to a lock of hair twisted from the temple on each side of the head back towards the ear in the shape of a figure 6.

In 1851, Henry Mayhew wrote in his London Labour and the London Poor that a lad of about fourteen had told him that to be “flash” (stylish) hair “ought to be long in front, and done in ‘figure-six’ curls, or twisted back to the ear ‘Newgate knocker style’.” Eight years later, John Camden Hotten explained in his Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words that “The shape is supposed to resemble the knocker on the prisoners’ door at Newgate — a resemblance that carries a rather unpleasant suggestion to the wearer.” Another description came a couple of years later from another investigative social journalist, James Greenwood:

knockerAll, or nearly all, [were] bull-necked, heavy-jawed, and with the hair dressed after a fashion known among its patrons as the “Newgate knocker” style — that is, parted in masses on each side of the head and turned under unnaturally.
Illustrated Times (London), 16 Feb. 1861.

There’s no obvious connection with the colour black. We may guess, however, that Londoners would have imagined the prison’s knocker to be large and made of black iron as well as figuratively black because of its evil associations. We may also guess from the dates at which the two expressions were first current that Londoners took over the hairstyle phrase as a new way to describe the colour, as people have done for centuries with similes such as black as your hat, black as death, black as the ace of spades, black as thunder, and black as the Earl of Hell’s waistcoat.

As a postscript, I also found this, in a story from 60-odd years ago about the search by a journalist named Bernard O’Donnell for the original Newgate knocker:

His spasmodic search came to an end recently when he was in the office of the Keeper of the Old Bailey, Mr A W Burt. “Where is Newgate’s knocker?” he asked Mr Burt. Promptly it was shown to him. It was on the keeper’s desk. After years spent as a symbol which came to inspire dread among the poor of London, it had found a more useful rôle. It now makes an ideal paper weight.
The Scotsman, 24 April 1950.

Make of that what you will. I wonder if it still exists?

In the news

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Oxford Dictionaries announced its Word of the Year 2016 on 16 November: post-truth. Its editors defined this as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” One example came in a report in The Times on 31 October of comments by the president of the European Council on the signing of a trade deal with Canada:

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“Mr Tusk also denounced the ‘post-truth politics … on both sides of the Atlantic’ which nearly scuppered the deal because ‘facts and figures won’t stand up for themselves’ against an emotional opposition campaign.” Though it has been very much a word of this year, connected both with the Brexit referendum in the UK and the US presidential election, Oxford Dictionaries noted that “post-truth seems to have been first used in this meaning in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine.”

Last time I mentioned the Danish word hygge, a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. This has become widely popular in Britain this year, and was one of Oxford Dictionaries’ runners-up as Word of the Year. For the background and the story of its rise in British English, I can’t do better than point you to an article by Charlotte Higgins in The Guardian on 22 November.Image result for post-truth

The newest British buzzword is jam. Not as in the “jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today” meaning of the Red Queen in Through the Looking-Glass — though the quip has been made several times by pundits — but as an acronym for “Just About Managing”. This refers to the estimated six million working-age British households on low to middle incomes who are struggling to stave off poverty from day to day. The term derives from a speech given by the new prime minister, Theresa May, just after she was chosen by MPs in July. She said of the members of this group, “You have a job but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home, but you worry about paying a mortgage. You can just about manage but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school.” Her words became a catchphrase among commentators which has now been shortened.

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Lots of letters

Lots of letters

Boxing Day

Q From Burt Rubin; a related question came from Keith Denham: As an American, I’ve always wondered about the origin of the term Boxing Day.

A Boxing Day is a public holiday in Britain and most Commonwealth countries. There’s some minor confusion these days, in Britain at least, over which day it actually is. The reference books a century ago were adamant that it was the first working day after Christmas Day. However, the name is now frequently attached specifically to 26 December, even if it falls at the weekend, which makes it equivalent to the Christian saint’s day of St Stephen.

Image result for boxing dayWe have to go back to the early seventeenth century to find the basis for the name. The term Christmas box appeared about then for an earthenware box, something like a piggy bank, which apprentices and other workers took around immediately after Christmas to collect money. When the round was complete, the box was broken and the money distributed among the company. The first known example:

Tirelire, a Christmas box; a box having a cleft on the lid, or in the side, for money to enter it; used in Related imageFrance by begging Fryers, and here by Butlers, and Prentices, etc.
A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, by Randle Cotgrave, 1611.

By the eighteenth century, Christmas box had become a figurative term for any seasonal gratuity. By the nineteenth century their collection seems to have become a scourge in our big cities. When James Murray compiled an entry for Christmas box in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1889, his splendidly acerbic description suggests that the practice had become a personal bugbear:

A present or gratuity given at Christmas: in Great Britain, usually confined to gratuities given to those who are supposed to have a vague claim upon the donor for services rendered to him as one of the general public by whom they are employed and paid, or as a customer of their legal employer; the undefined theory being that as they have done offices for this person, for which he has not directly paid them, some direct acknowledgement is becoming at Christmas.

Though the term Boxing Day for the day on which such Christmas boxes were requested didn’t become widespread until early in the nineteenth century, a few examples are recorded from the previous century. The earliest I know of is this:

Related imageTuesday in Christmas Week, about Eight in the Evening, I was coming over this broad Place, and saw a Man come up to this lame Man, and knock him down — It was the Day after Boxing Day.
Transcript of a trial at the Old Bailey (London), 14 Jan. 1743.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the term seems to have become as closely associated with importuning individuals as Christmas Box itself:

“Boxing Day,” — the day consecrated to baksheesh, when nobody, it would almost seem, is too proud to beg, and when everybody who does not beg is expected to play the almoner. “Tie up the knocker — say you’re sick, you are dead,” is the best advice perhaps that could be given in such cases to any man who has a street-door and a knocker upon it.
Curiosities of London Life, by Charles Manby Smith, 1853.

The custom has died out, seasonal visitors to Britain may be assured, though small gifts are still sometimes given to tradesmen and suppliers of services. The favourite occupation of the day is attending football matches or rushing to the post-Christmas sales.

World Wide Words is written, edited and published in the UK by Michael Quinion. ISSN 1470-1448


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World Wide Words

Issue 930

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It was a pleasure to learn on Tuesday that Randy Cassingham, who writes the This Is True newsletter, had included World Wide Words in his Top 11 Hidden Gems of the Internet suggested by his subscribers. He described the site as “a treasure trove of past articles: the kind of site where you pop in … and don’t look up again for hours.” Check out the others here: http://wwwords.org/hdngms. A special welcome to the new subscribers who joined through consulting the list.

Fizgig

Today — 5 November — is one of those periodic celebrations of failure we Brits so much enjoy, in this case the inability of Guy Fawkes to blow up Parliament on this day in 1605. For the four centuries since, the day has been celebrated with fireworks and bonfires.

Image result for fizgigOne such firework was the fizgig, an unspectacular device that hissed rather than banged, for which reason it has also been called a serpent; a conical form has the name volcano. A English poet once compared a man to one:

Northmore himself is an honest, vehement sort of a fellow who splutters out all his opinions like a fiz-gig, made of gunpowder not thoroughly dry, sudden and explosive, yet ever with a certain adhesive blubberliness of elocution.
Letter from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Thomas Poole, 16 Sep. 1799.

Fizgig in the sense of the firework is now quite dead, as are most of the other senses that this weirdly Image result for ficklecatholic word has had. The original was a frivolous woman, fond of gadding about in search of pleasure — an alliterative-minded seventeenth-century man wrote of “Fis-gig, a flirt, a fickle …. foolish Female”. The word was built upon gig, another word that has had many meanings; Chaucer knew it as a fickle woman but Shakespeare considered it to be a child’s top. The first part of fizgig is obscure. It can’t be fizz, effervescence, because that came along much later, probably as an imitative sound. It may be the same word as the obsolete fise for a smelly fart.

Another defunct meaning of fizgig is that of a harpoon, a fish-spear:

Two dolphins followed us this afternoon; we hooked one, and struck the other with the fizgig; but they both escaped us, and we saw them no more.
Journal of a Voyage from London to Philadelphia, by Benjamin Franklin, 1726.

This was sometimes perverted into fish-gig by popular etymology. It has no link with the other senses but derives from the Spanish word fisga for a harpoon.

Image result for stool pigeonFizgig principally survives in Australian slang, where it means a police informer. It turns up first in the 1870s, perhaps as an extension of the female sense, considered stereotypically as dashing about madly and gossiping indiscreetly:

Without their allies — “the fizgigs,” the police seem powerless to trace the authors of the robberies which are now of such frequent occurrence.
Victorian Express (Geraldton, WA), 15 Nov. 1882.

Lots of letters

Spin a yarn

Q From From Ada Robinson: I came across the phrase spinning a yarn (in the sense of telling a story) recently, and for the first time wondered about its origin. Can you shed light on how the word yarn acquired the second meaning of a tale?

A It’s puzzling because we’ve lost the context.

We know that sailors were the first to use spinning a yarn — often in the extended form spinning out a long yarn — to refer to telling a story that described a speaker’s adventures and exploits.

We start to see the expressions in print in the early nineteenth century, though its ultimate origin is unclear. However, we do know that one task of sailors was to make running repairs to the various ropes of the ship — the cables, hawsers and rigging. As with people on shore, yarn was their word for the individualImage result for spinning gif strands of such ropes, often very long. Their term for binding the strands into fresh rope was spinning or to spin out. The next part is a jump of imagination, for which you may substitute the word guess, though I would prefer to call it informed speculation. The task of repair was necessarily long and tedious. We may easily imagine members of the repair crew telling one another stories to make the time pass more easily and that this practice became associated with the phrases.

By the second decade of the century, the term was being used ashore and became a popular slangy idiom. One appearance was in a jocular report of a police court action in Edinburgh which centred on a sailor who had stolen a milk cart:

When the first witness was put in the box, and had his mouth most oracularly opened, preparing to speak, Jack, twitching him by the collar with his forefinger, caused him at once to descend, and exclaimed — “Avast there; none of your jaw; who wants you to spin out a long yarn?”
The Edinburgh Advertiser, 17 Nov. 1826.

Image result for a yarn

In time, yarn came to refer to the stories. Many must have been exaggerated or bombastic and that sense of something not readily believable still attaches itself to the word. In Australia and New Zealand the word has softened in sense to mean no more than chatting.

Chalazion

Peter Gilliver, the eminent lexicographer with the Oxford English Dictionary whose book I mentioned last time, quoted this word in an interview a couple of weeks ago. He said he had found it when a youngster in a children’s dictionary that was full of such unusual words.

I made the mistake of looking for it in Google Books, where I found several works which explained it in Image result for styeterms such as “a common lipogranulomatous inflammation of the sebaceous glands of the eyelids, most often the meibomian glands.” Some works also noted that it’s sometimes known as a hordeolum. In confusion, I visited Dr Gilliver’s wonderful online repository of knowledge, in which chalazion is defined as “a small pimple or tubercule; especially one on the eyelid, a stye.”

Chalazion is the diminutive of Greek chalaza for almost any lump, including a small hailstone and a pimple. The OED helpfully pointed me to its entry for chalaza, which stated that in English it’s a zoological term for “Each of the two membranous twisted strings by which the yolk-bag of an egg is bound to the lining membrane at the ends of the shell.”

The meibomian glands make a lubricant for the eye. Their name isn’t from a classical language but derives from a seventeenth-century German anatomist named Heinrich Meibom. And hordeolum derives from the Latin word for barley grains

The plural of chalazion, should you ever suffer from more than one, is chalazia.

In the news

Words of 2016. The annual lexicographical wordfest began on Thursday with a list of topical terms from Collins Dictionary. Its choice for Word of the Year was Brexit, Britain’s exit from the European Union. The words-of-the-year-001term went from nowhere to established part of the language in an extraordinarily brief time. The earliest recorded use may have been the one in The Guardian on 1 January 2012 but it became widely used by the general public only in the early months of this year. The publisher suggests it “is arguably politics’ most important contribution to the English language in over 40 years”. It has spawned many spin-offs, including Bremorse for the regret by people who voted to leave but realise they made a mistake and would like to Bremain or Breturn. Other words in the Collins topical list are hygge, a suddenly fashionable and much written about Danish concept of creating cosy and convivial atmospheres that promote wellbeing, and uberization, derived from the name of the taxi firm Uber, for the adoption of a business model in which services are offered on demand through direct contact between a customer and supplier, usually via mobile technology.

Fount of fonts. Subscriber Bart Cannistra came across a news item about a new pan-language collection of fonts from Google and Monotype that supports more than 100 scripts and 800 languages in a common visual style. Its name is Noto, which its website says is short for “no more tofu”. It explains that tofu is digital typographer’s jargon for one of those little rectangular boxes that appear when your browser doesn’t have the appropriate font to display a character. The boxes sometimes have a question mark or cross inside them but it’s their rectangular shape that has given them the name, since they reminded some unheralded type designer of the cuboid blocks of tofu.

Not that kind of girl. Readers outside the UK are most likely unfamiliar with the term Essex Girl, Image result for essex girlwhich Collins Dictionary defines as “a young working-class woman from the Essex area, typically considered as being unintelligent, materialistic, devoid of taste, and sexually promiscuous.” It’s in the news because two Essex women have begun a petition to have the term stricken from dictionaries because they’ve had enough of derogatory references. They have been criticised for starting the petition because it only leads to more public mention of the term. The term came to public attention in 1991 with the publication of The Essex Girl Joke Book (typical example: “How does an Essex Girl turn on the light after sex? She opens the car door”), but the stereotype is best known through the long-running ITV programme The Only Way is Essex. The OED has already refused to remove the term, on the excellent grounds that it’s part of our living language.

Lots of letters

What am I? Chopped liver?

Q From Mary Clarke: Your piece on Joe Soap made me think of the phrase What am I? Chopped liver? Is this a New York expression or a Jewish expression? I ask this because we seem to eat more chopped liver here than anywhere else and because one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received was from a friend who said my chopped liver was better than her Jewish grandmother’s.

A This takes me back. In November 1999, when this newsletter had already reached issue 167, I mentioned that a reader had asked about this but as it was unfamiliar to me, I asked for elucidation. The resulting flood of emails was overwhelming. Though I summarised the results the following week, I realise now that I never went into detail, nor posted anything on my website.

Image result for chopped liverA dish of chopped liver — fried chicken livers with eggs, spices and, if you’re being really traditional, schmaltz and gribenes (respectively rendered chicken fat and fried chicken skin as a form of crackling) — is common at Jewish celebratory meals. It’s also a standard dish in New York Jewish delicatessens. But it’s inexpensive and never a main dish, wherein lies the core of the idiom. Sol Steinmetz, the American linguist and Yiddish expert, explained that “Chopped liver is merely an appetizer or side dish, not as important as chicken soup or gefilte fish. Hence it was used among Jewish comedians as a humorous metaphor for something or someone insignificant.” Robert Chapman argued in his Dictionary of American Slang that the idiom originated in the 1930s in this sense.

Early in its development a negative reference to chopped liver developed, which instead suggested something excellent or impressive. It parallels another American idiom, that ain’t hay. The idiom appeared in various forms, such as it ain’t chopped liver, that’s not chopped liver, and it’s not exactly chopped liver. The first of these forms is noted by Jonathan Lighter in his Historical Dictionary of American Slang from a Jimmy Durante television show in 1954. It must surely be older. This is another version, from a little later:

Some of the critics put it right up there with “My Fair Lady.” Even before it lifts the curtain there is a Image result for chopped livermillion dollars in advance orders and this as the boys say is not chopped liver …
The Victoria Advocate (Victoria, Texas), 8 Mar 1959.

The form that you mention appears in the historical record a few years later still. Somebody exclaiming What am I? Chopped liver? is expressing annoyance at being thought unworthy of attention: “What about me? Why am I being ignored? Don’t I matter?”

It could be New York Jewish. It has the right cadence for a Yiddish exclamation and chopped liver, as we’ve seen, is an archetypal Jewish dish. And the experts suggest it grew out of a catchphrase of comedians in the Borscht Belt of the Catskill Mountains patronised by Jewish people from New York City. But there’s no certain connection. What is clear that it filled a need and that even by its earliest written appearances it had already reached places well away from centres of Jewish life.

Happy as a sandboy

Image result for sandboy

Q From Niki Wessels, South Africa; a related question came from Robert Metcalf in Singapore: Our family recently discussed the expression happy as a sandboy, and wondered where and how it originated. My dictionary informs me that a sandboy is a kind of flea — but why a boy, and why is it happy?

A Let me add an explanatory note to your question, as many readers will never have heard this saying. It’s a proverbial expression that suggests blissful contentment:

Made me think it might be a good idea to mark the occasion. Nothing too big, you understand. Not looking for fireworks and flags or anything. I’m a modest man with modest needs. Give me a bit of cake, maybe some tarts, throw in a couple of balloons and I’m happy as a sandboy.
Bristol Evening Post, 11 Aug. 2015.

It’s mostly known in Britain and Commonwealth countries. An older form is as jolly as a sandboy, which is now rarely encountered. The first examples we know about are from London around the start of the nineteenth century.

A sandboy in some countries can indeed be a sort of sand flea, but this isn’t the source of the expression. Incidentally, nor is there a link with the sandman, the personification of tiredness, which came into English in translations of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories several decades after sandboy.

The sandboys of the expression actually sold sand. Boy here was a common term for a male worker of lower class (as in bellboy, cowboy, and stableboy), which comes from an old sense of a servant. It doesn’t imply the sellers were young — most were certainly adults — though one early poetic reference does mention a child:

A poor shoeless Urchin, half starv’d and suntann’d,Image result for sandboy
Pass’d near the Inn-Window, crying — “Buy my fine Sand!”
The Rider, and Sand-Boy in the Hereford Journal, 13 Jul. 1796. The title contains the earliest known reference to a sandboy. The poem was unattributed but is almost certainly by William Meyler of Bath. Note that to be described as suntanned wasn’t then a compliment; it implied an outdoor worker of low class.

The selling of sand wasn’t such a peculiar occupation as you might think, as there was once a substantial need for it. It was used to scour pans and tools and was sprinkled on the floors of butchers’ shops, inns and taprooms to take up spilled liquids. Later in the century it was superseded by sawdust.

Henry Mayhew wrote about the trade in his London Labour and the London Poor in 1861. The sand was dug out from pits on Hampstead Heath and taken down in horse-drawn carts or panniers carried on donkeys to be hawked through the streets. The job was hard work and badly paid. Mayhew records these comments from one of the excavators: “My men work very hard for their money, sir; they are up at 3 o’clock of the morning, and are knocking about the streets, perhaps till 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening”.

Their prime characteristic, it seems, was an inexhaustible desire for beer. Charles Dickens referred to thesandboy saying, by then proverbial, in The Old Curiosity Shop in 1841: “The Jolly Sandboys was a small road-side inn of pretty ancient date, with a sign, representing three Sandboys increasing their jollity with as many jugs of ale”. An early writer on slang made the link explicit:

“As jolly as a sand-boy,” designates a merry fellow who has tasted a drop.
Slang: A Dictionary of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, the Pit, of Bon-tom, and the Varieties of Life, by John Badcock, 1823. To have become an aphorism by this time, sandboy must surely be older than the 1796 poem quoted above.

Quite so. But I suspect that the long hours and hard work involved in carrying and shovelling sand, plus the poor returns, meant that sandboys didn’t have much cause to look happy in the normal run of things, improving only when they’d had a pint or two. Their regular visits to inns and ale-houses presented temptation to a much greater degree than to most people and it has also been suggested that they were often paid partly in beer.

So sandboys were happy because they were drunk.

At first the saying was meant ironically. Only where the trade wasn’t practised — or had died out — could it became an allusion to unalloyed happiness. To judge from the answers to a question about its origin in Notes & Queries in 1866, even by then its origin was obscure.

SIC

• A headline on the Hertfordshire Mercury site on 14 October — “Tributes paid to Waltham Cross Labour councillor who was a ‘real character’ following his death” — led Ross Mulder to wonder what the man was like during his life.

• If you’re going to do something, do it properly. Ted Dooley found this news in an email from the Minneapolis Star Tribune on 7 October: “Ryan D. Petersen, 37, was convicted Friday morning of first-degree premeditated murder for fatally shooting a law clerk eight times earlier this year.”

• A puzzling statement from The Age of Melbourne of 10 October about the illegal demolition of a heritage-listed pub was submitted by Susan Ross: “A petition law students started this week demanding the pub be rebuilt by Tuesday afternoon had more than 5000 signatures.” A comma after “rebuilt” might have helped.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion 1996-2016.


World Wide Words Issue 930

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Pun Central Catalog

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Puns #1   Puns, Puns #1

Puns #2  Puns, Puns #2

Puns #3   Puns, Puns #3

Puns #4   “Did You Here the One….?”

Puns #5  I Heard Something Punny…

Puns #6   Punny Men

Puns #7   One Vote for Puns

Puns #8   Killer Puns

Puns #9   Illuminating Puns

Puns #10  Now Serving Tennis Puns

Puns #11  Covert Puns

Puns #12  Courting Legal Puns

Puns #13  Punny Money

Puns #14  Egotist Puns & Quotes

Puns #15  Post-Olympic Sporty Puns

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Puns #16  Hopeful Spring Puns

Puns #17  Sunny Puns

Puns #18  Puns Driving Humor

Puns #19  Familial Puns

Puns #20  Homespun Puns

Puns #21  Every Problem May Be a Punny One

Puns #22 Laborious Puns

Puns #23  Puns W/a Melody Image result for pun

Puns #24 Puns For Your Holiday

Puns #25  Spelling Puns

Puns #26  Irish Puns & Quotes

Puns #27  Puns Imported From Italy

Puns #28 Summer Sunday Puns

Puns #29  New Year Puns & Quotes

Puns #30  Presidential Puns

Puns #31  Nuts For Puns

Puns #32  Halloween Puns & Facts

Puns #33   Partisan Puns

Puns #34   Foolish Puns


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