Good Answers: Verbatim erudition
Monday 29 August 1994
Those little gems come from an article in the Spring 1994 issue entitled 'Barbarians: Babbling, Bearded, Bizarre', written by Mary M Tius. It's all very relevant to the question of whether the Latin barba (beard) derives from barbarus (barbarian). And the answer is probably not. It's more likely from the Old Slavic barda or Old High German bart.
Book reviews and readers' letters form a large chunk of each issue of Verbatim, almost all of mind-boggling erudition. The gaps are filled by language- related news items.
The English answer to Verbatim is the 'Quote . . . Unquote' Newsletter, published and edited by Nigel Rees. Largely reliant on the knowledge of its readers, this works almost as a lost-and- found column for curious phrases and other linguistic oddities.
If you want to know who likened the Beatles to Beethoven, or whether any judge actually did ask: 'Who are the Beatles?' or who recommended saying: 'Yes, but not in the south', as the best way to put down an expert, then this is the place to look.
Perhaps most useful of all, readers now know who was the first to utter: 'There's nothing like a good screw.' It comes from Anthony Trollope's Phineas Redux and continues: 'A man'll often go with two hundred and fifty guineas between his legs.' A 'screw', Mr Rees explains, means a broken-winded horse.
Current concerns of the readers include who first used the formulaic put- down: '(Mr A) did for (profession B) what the Boston strangler did for door- to-door salesmen.'
It has been traced back, via Denis Healey (on the former president Reagan and monetarism) to David Steel (on Mrs Thatcher and women in politics). Sightings before 1987 are eagerly sought.
They are also still trying to track down the seven basic plots of literature, as discussed in a Good Questions column some time ago. And if you know who said: 'God protects fools, drunks and the United States of America', then Nigel Rees would love to hear from you.
Subscription details of the above publications are available as follows: Verbatim: Mrs Hazel Hall, PO Box 199, Aylesbury, Bucks, HP20 2HY. The 'Quote . . . Unquote' Newsletter: Nigel Rees, 24 Horbury Crescent, London W11 3NF.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Three-year-old boy shoots pregnant mother and father in New Mexico
- 2 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 3 Jewish community urged to boycott Cornwall village after residents vote for 'Hitlers Walk' sign to be reinstated
- 4 Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
- 5 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
As Better Call Saul launches, here are the other spin-off shows we need to see
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him