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.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told 'the non-Jews' are 'evil' in worksheet produced by London school
- 2 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 3 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
JK Rowling announces Harry Potter's son is starting at Hogwarts
Idris Elba is ‘too street’ to play 007, says James Bond author
Loose Women poll asking if rape is 'ever a woman's fault' sparks backlash
Akram Khan: Choreographer says dance is 'as important as maths and being a doctor'
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be