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the goose-tree he was told that it grew farther north, on some islands. It seems almost incredible that in an enlightened age so gross an error in natural history could have prevailed so long: So recently as June, 1807, there appeared in the Court and Fashionable Magazine the following advertisement: "Wonderful natural curiosity, called the Goose-Tree, taken up at sea, Jan. 12, 1807. More than twenty men could raise out of the water. May be seen in the Exposition Rooms, Spring Garden, from 10 A.M. to 10 P.M., every day.”—Davus.
93. Whence the slang word a "boom"?
Murray's New English Dictionary is doubtless correct in saying that “the actual use of this word has not been regulated by any distinct etymological feeling." Its recent "slang" use, which is fast becoming language, meaning "effective launching of anything with éclat upon the market
, or on public attention,” is in that dictionary traced primarily to a particular application of its meaning of “A loud, deep sound with resonance or humming effect," "with reference not so much to the sound as to the suddenness and rush with which it is accompanied ;” but there is noted, as possibly modifying this meaning, “association, original or subsequent, with other senses of the word.”. (Webster gives as one definition, to rush with violence."). In connection with the regular derivation of the word from those meaning "tree," " beam,” “bar," etc., it is suggestive that the earliest-traced use of the word in its slang sense was in the Lumberman's Gazette in October, 1879.
One thinks of a mass of logs kept back by the restraining bar, or boom, and themselves therefore called a boom; then their rapid rush when released receiving the same designation. Thence the word would be easily transferred to certain mining-operations, and to any rapid advance in commercial activity. Murray quotes from the Toronto Globe (in 1880) a definition of the mining use of the word, where the essential features of the rush of lumber are reproduced. Water is confined in mass, then suddenly released, so that it “rushes down with irresistible force." -McNox.
94. Who originated the expression “ The Three R'8" and did he do it in jest or in earnest ?
"The Three R’s” is a phrase generally attributed to Sir William Curtis, Bart., Lord-Mayor in 1795, and for thirty-six years Alderman of the ward of Tower. According to a correspondent of Notes and Queries, an aged member of the corporation, now dead, asserted that in the days when Dr. Bell and the Quaker Lancaster were pleading on behalf of increased facilities for the education of the poor, Sir William Curtis gave “ The Three R's” as a toast at a City dinner, intending it for a jest. Though a man of limited education, he was very shrewd, and not so ignorant as to suppose the implied orthography correct.
The phrase has been also attributed to Sir William Rawlins, another City knight. A parallel to this is a toast given at a public dinner in Hull
by a local mag: nate, a strong Conservative and a coal-merchant. He proposed "The Three K's," which were to stand for king, coals, and constitution.-ONE OF A THOUSAND.
95. Which is the longest word in the English language ?
Brewer's "Phrase and Fable” says that“Honorificabilitudinitatibus” is called the longest English word, and that it is found in old plays, and given in Bailey's Dictionary; but it can easily be acquitted of the charge on the ground of its manufactured origin. It is “brummagem,” not gold. The longest real word found in Webster is “ disproportionableness," excluding compound words and plural and participial formations, which I have not closely examined. Probably it would retain its headship even were the last admitted, for its plural would "stretch its slow length along” two letters farther.-McNox.
It is not so difficult a thing to find long words as it is to decide whether they really have a right to be considered a part of the English language. We have the authority of the London Times for "nitrophenylenediamine," a red dye-stuff; and the Star says, “Why not wind up the famous ministerial declaration ... with that difficult expression 'polyphrasticontinomimegalondulation'?" (thirty-five letters). If this Jumbo of a word has about it a tinge of unreality, we may fall back on “dynamorphosteopalinklaster" (twenty-six letters), a surgical instrument for breaking a falsely-united fracture; if one must have a word known to literature, we can quote Shakespeare's famous “honorificabilitudinitatibus” (twenty-seven letters). But, for fear that some may urge that this word smacks of Latin, we add the following, the chemical terminology for cocaine, for which a Boston medical journal is authority: “methylbenzomethoxyethylte trahydropyridinecarboxylate.” This word contains the equivalent of two complete alphabets (fifty-two letters), and we think it may be safely asserted that it is the longest word in the English language.-OWEGO.
96. What historical foundation is there for the poem “Barbara Frietchie"?
This question has been much discussed, and the pros and cons may be summed up as follows:
Mrs. Southworth, the novelist, sent Whittier the incident, and its truth has since been testified to by Dorothea Dix, who investigated the matter in Frederick, by an officer of the army, and by a Southern soldier, who declared that his was one of the shots that struck the flag-staff. On the other side are General Jubal Early and two others, who testify that Jackson's corps did not pass through the street where Dame Frietchie lived. A Washington correspondent of the Baltimore Sun stated, a few years ago, that the real heroine of the poem was Mrs. Mary A. Quantrell, and that the Quantrell family have letters from Whittier acknowledging the mistake. Mrs. Quantrell-at that time thirty-two years old—did wave a flag conspicuously, but was not molested in the least, though a small toy flag which her little daughter held was twice struck from her hand by a passing soldier. Mr. Whittier himself has written, " The story came to me from sources which I regarded as entirely reliable; it had been published in newspapers, and had gained public credence in Washington and Maryland, before my poem was written. I had no reason then to doubt its accuracy, and Í am still constrained to believe that it had foundation in fact."
97. What is the origin of "news" as applied to newspapers ?
It is commonly said that this word did not originate from new, meaning new things, but that it is derived from the initial letters of the four points of the compass arranged in this fashion wt1,-a device which was placed at the top of some of the early news-sheets to indicate that their contents were derived from all quarters. But it will not take long to show that, on other grounds than its improbability, such an assertion is not to be believed. In the first place, while the first regular English newspaper dates from 1662, we find the word news, etactly in its modern sense, in common use by Shakespeare, who, it will be remembered, died almost fifty years earlier (1616). Witness the following quotations:
How now! What news?
Macbeth, i. 7.
Winter's Tale, iv., Cho.
King John, iii, 2.
Henry IV., iii. 2.
As You Like It, i. 2. This list, which might be extended indefinitely by reference to Shakespeare and other old writers, would seem sufficient to disprove the North-East-WestSouth theory; but a reference to the equivalent words in the tongues to which English is most nearly related will further show its fallacy. In German the initials of the points of the compass, read in this order, give N-O-W-S, while the
word for news is neuigkeiten, obviously impossible of derivation from these four letters, while it is derived from the word for new; in French the initials are N-E-O-S, the word for news, nouvelles, again simply the plural form of new. Moreover, the French and German words come from the same root as our English new. Can one believe that these initials-read in an unnatural order -give us the word which is exactly equivalent, both in form and derivation, to the naturally-derived words of the kindred languages ?–OWEGO.
98. Who was the Gabbon Saer ?
The Gabbon (or Gobbon) Saer is said by the historians of ancient Ireland to have been the builder of the Round Towers. He is thought to have lived in Ireland in the first Christian age of that country, the sixth century; but his birth, life, and death are involved in great obscurity and many legends. In the oldest period of Irish history he was a most popular personage, and is said to have been the rival of St. Patrick himself in the affections of the people, although they seem to have known little or nothing about him. No one could tell whence he came, or what was his name, or age, or rank. There were many surmises as to his origin, and those who did not believe him to be a direct descendant of the Druids thought he had once been a pagan, or a mighty conjurer, whose evil gifts had lost their power when St. Patrick flooded them with the light of Christianity. He was called “The Master,” or “Gabbon Saer,” because of the wondrous towers or cloiteachs which he erected; these were tall, straight, pillar-like structures, exquisitely round, which he set up as indexes to mark holy ground, in glens, on the lowlands, and on the river-banks. Some of the people believed that he had taken a vow to distinguish his ancestors thus, and that underneath these buildings lay buried the bones of heroes, martyrs, and other holy men. He lived apart and solitary, and seemed to shun the sports and councils in which the people met; he was never seen to address a woman, taste of wine, or kneel in worship; although he was known to perform some religious rites whose nature was not recognized by those whom chance made his companions. His labor of building the towers completed, he passed away from the sight of men as mysteriously as he had come. None knew the manner of his death, but it was believed that his body had floated away, like a breath on the sea-mist. In Innisfail, Ireland, traces of these strange towers may still be seen; and many stories are told of the Gabbon Saer's supernatural powers,-how he split the great rocks in two by a single touch, and how he built giant ships, and created seas in the hollow of his hand for them to sail upon; but
Doubt overhangs his fate, and faith, and birth;
His works alone attest his life and lore;
All else Egyptian darkness covers o'er.-Davus.
99. When and where did envelopes originate ?
Before Sir Rowland Hill introduced the penny-post, envelopes were little used, as a double charge was made for a paper enclosed in another, however thin each might be; even the smallest clipping from a newspaper necessitated an extra fee. Consequently, after this rule was strictly enforced, only franked letters were enveloped, although it had once been considered a mark of more respect to use an envelope, and a point of etiquette in writing to a superior.
The penny-post was established January 10, 1840. The use of envelopes became common after May 6, 1840, when stamped and adhesive envelopes were introduced. The first envelope-making machine was invented by Edwin Hill, brother of Rowland: Hill and De la Rue's machine for folding envelopes was patented March 17, 1845.
The invention of envelopes has been attributed to S. K. Brewer, a bookseller and stationer of Brighton, about 1830. He had some small sheets of paper for sale, on which it was difficult to write the address; he invented for these a small envelope, and had metal plates made for cutting them to the required shapes and sizes. They caught the fancy of the Brighton ladies, and his orders multiplied, so that he finally had them made for him by Dobbs & Co., of London, which was the beginning of the trade.
There is no doubt, however, that envelopes were in use before the time of the worthy Brighton bookseller. As far as is known, the idea of post-paid envelopes originated early in the reign of Louis XIV., with M. de Valfyer, who in 1653 established with the royal approval a private post, and placed boxes at the corners of streets for the reception of letters wrapped in envelopes which were sold at offices established for that purpose. Piron is the authority for this statement. Valfyer had also artificial formes de billet or notes applicable to the ordinary business communications of the inhabitants of large towns, with blanks which were to be filled up by pen with such special matter as the writer desired. One of these billets has been preserved to our time by a fortunate misapplication. Pélisson, the friend of Madame de Sévigné, and of whom it was said that he "abused the privilege which men have of being ugly," was amused at this skeleton correspondence, and filled up a blank form with a letter to Mlle. de Scudéry, addressing her as "Sappho" and signing himself “Pisandre,” according to the pedantic fashion of the day. The billet is still extant, and is probably the oldest example of a prepaid envelope.
In the State Paper Office is a letter addressed to the Right Hon. Sir William Trumbull, Secretary of State, by Sir James Ogilvie, May 16, 1696. It is attached to an envelope, size 41 by 3 inches, cut nearly the same as our modern envelopes.
The next example is an autograph letter (in an envelope) of Louis XIV. to his son by Madame de Montespan, the Count de Toulouse, admiral of the fleet at the siege of Barcelona. It is dated April 29, 1706, Versailles, written, sealed, and addressed by the royal hand.
While envelopes continued in general use in France, they were used in England only for official or franked correspondence.
In Le Sage's "Gil Blas” (book iv., chap. v., published in 1735), Aurora de Gusman takes two billets, " les cacheta tous deux, y mit une enveloppe et me donnant le paquet," etc.' Swift, indeed, in his “ Advice to Grub Street VerseWriters,” 1726, tells them to have all their verses printed fair, leaving a margin wide, and then
Send these to paper-sparing Popo,
And when he sits to write,
Could give him more delight. But it has been conjectured that this did not refer to anything resembling our modern envelope, which could have been of little use to Pope, but merely to a half-sheet used as a cover.
But among the papers of an old family of Yorkshire is an envelope of thin paper exactly like the square modern pattern, sent from Geneva in 1759. And in the Egerton MSS. (39, fol. 27, Brit. Mus.) is one precisely like ours, with an ornamented border, containing a letter written in 1760 by Madame de Pompadour to the Duchesse d’Aiguillon. There is also extant å letter sent by Frederick the Great of Prussia to an English general in his service, July 28, 1766, from Potsdam, having as a cover an envelope of coarse German paper, precisely like those in use at present, except that it opens not at the top, but at the end, like those used by lawyers for deeds.
In the Gentleman'ó Magazine, May, 1811, is the copy of a letter from Father O'Leary, of which it is said, “the envelope being lost, the exact direction cannot be ascertained, but it is known to be addressed to Mr. Kirwan, Dublin."
Charles Lamb writes to Bernard Barton, March 20, 1826, “When I write to a great man at the Court end, he opens with surprise upon a naked pote, such as Whitechapel people interchange with no sweet degrees of envelope. I never enclosed one bit of paper in another, nor understood the rationale of it. Once only I sealed with borrowed wax, to set Walter Scott a-wondering, signed with the imperial quartered arms of England, which my friend Field bears in compliment to his descent in the female line from Oliver Cromwell. It must have set his antiquarian curiosity upon watering."
While the use of envelopes was still uncommon, people frequently cut and folded them for their own convenience, using a cardboard model. In Laman Blanchard's “Life and Literary Remains of L. E. L.” (d. 1838), the poetess asks to have sent her "slate-pencils, a quire or so of small colored note-paper, and a pasteboard pattern of letter-envelopes."
Now that letters are rated by weight and not according to the single or double” method, more than two million letters in envelopes pass daily through the post-office.-ONE OF A THOUSAND.
100. Why are opals considered unlucky?
The belief that the opal is unlucky is of modern origin, for in ancient times it was held in the highest esteem. The Greeks called it keraunios, or thunderstone, believing that it fell from heaven with the lightning. It was thought to render the wearer amiable, to bring love and joy, to dissipate melancholy, preserve from foul air, cure syncope and heart-troubles, conter invisibility, and to sharpen and strengthen the sight, while it was a remedy for diseases of the eye. These last fancies probably arose from its Greek name, ophthalmius, or eye-stone (Lat. opalus or ophallus). 'In old English books it is spoken of as ophal.
The story of the Roman who suffered banishment and the loss of his estates rather than part with his opal is well known. The epithet “Paideros” was applied to it, because it recalled the blooming complexion of Cupid. Because it had the colors of all the other precious stones, it was supposed to possess all their virtues. In the Middle Ages it was called the “orphan stone.' Grimm says it was highly valued by the Teutonic nation, and there is a mythic story that Wieland Smith made opals out of children's eyes. The opal was said to influence October and to symbolize hope. The modern
superstition is hard to trace to its origin. Augustus C. Hamlin, in his “ Leisure Hours among the Gems,” says, "Possibly the dread of the opal may have descended from neolithic times, like the superstitions concerning the ancient stone implements now in Western Europe, called 'elf-stones.'”
A black opal is thought to bring luck, and a white opal misfortune. Perhaps the belief rose from its use as a love-token, which was indicative of the constancy or faithlessness of the absent lover by its colors growing bright or cloudy. But this in itself can hardly explain it, for the opal would not cause the desertion,would only indicate it. The Central-American opals are said to fade and recover their hues on exposure to atmospheric influences or the polishing-wheel. Nor can the reason be found in its fragility, as that would only increase its value.
To show its malignant influence are instanced Mark Antony, who forced Nonnius to resign his opal, Nadir Shah, whose opal was stolen by Prince Potemkin, and Leopold II. of Germany. The Empress Eugénie was superstitious in regard to this gem, but Queen Victoria possesses several fine specimens. Mawe gives no reason for the belief in his "Treatise on Diamonds” (1822), but H. Emanuel, in “ Diamonds and Precious Stones,” says that after the publication in 1829 of Scott's “ Anne of Geierstein” the opal went out of fashion and the trade was greatly injured. Other writers confirm this opinion. In the second chapter of that novel Donnerhugel narrates the legend of Arnheim, which is, in brief, that the baron of that castle took lessons in the black art from a Persian who was carried away by (supposably) the evil one, and sent his daughter to take his place, warning the baron not to marry her. The baron disregarded this, and married his maiden tutor, who is represented as beautiful and always wearing a superb opal on her brow. Some malicious person, doubting the lady's orthodoxy, threw holy water on the jewel, when it immediately lost its lustre, and the baroness died shortly after. This may be only a parable of fire vs. water, for the heroine appears at the first ray of the sun, in the place where her father had left his sacred fire, and after her death no trace of her was discovered except a handful of ashes. Her actions are light and flame-like, and the opal with which her destiny is bound up shoots forth flames. Whether this interpretation be correct or not, in the fourth chapter of the second volume Anne speaks of it as only “a fairy-tale," and says that “as for the opal, it did indeed grow pale, but only because it is said to be the nature of that noble gem on the approach of poison," which really caused the death of the baroness. The hydropbane, or Mexican opal, which loses its beauty if wet, is of course referred to.
Another explanation refers the superstition to the legend of Robert the Devil.-ONE OF A THOUSAND.