What’s in a name? By Angela Caldin

There’s a New Scientist journalist called John Hoyland who invented the term ‘nominative determinism’ for those strange and interesting cases of people who seem drawn to their chosen profession because of their name. He became interested in the subject after hearing of a scientific paper by authors JW Splatt and D Weedon on the topic of incontinence, on the same day as seeing a book on the Arctic written by Daniel Snowman. Some obvious examples include Judge Judge and Doctor Nurse, as well as the music teacher called Miss Fiddle who became… Read More

The many meanings of ‘chuck’ by Angela Caldin

Sometimes I’m struck by the richness of the English language, by how one word can have so many different meanings, arriving as it does by a variety of linguistic routes over the years across Europe and beyond. One such word is chuck which I discover has numerous meanings both as a noun and as a verb. Chuck as a verb means to throw something carelessly or casually: The family was frightened when someone chucked a brick through their window. Some people can make a living out of stuff other people chuck away…. Read More

In the slimelight by Angela Caldin

When I was a child in the 1950s, we had various ways of passing the acres of unoccupied time, including cat’s cradle, jacks, yo-yos, marbles, plasticine and something involving an empty cotton reel, four nails and some wool which was called French knitting. This produced a long thin snake of woven wool which you could spiral round into little mats or even a hat if you went on long enough. Things were much less sophisticated in those far off days. Progress or not? French knitting is not unlike the recent craze of… Read More

A thirty year migration by Angela Caldin

I’m not usually a great one for museums, finding them either boring or bewildering, but the museum in Waipu in Northland, New Zealand is in another league entirely. It tells the gripping and extraordinary story of the epic migration of hundreds of hardy souls from the Highlands of Scotland to the green rolling hills and forests of northern New Zealand. Stage one to Nova Scotia It all began because of the Highland Clearances of the early nineteenth century in Scotland. The break-up of the old clan system had led to the profit… Read More

Alcohol: the devil’s brew? by Angela Caldin

I went to a lovely dinner the other night, a celebration of someone’s seventieth birthday. It was a wonderful occasion with delicious food, delightful people and lots of fun. But, as is normal for me towards the end of such gatherings, as other people were boisterously laughing and whooping with ever-increasing mirth, I began to wonder how soon I could leave and make my way home to the comfort of my bed.  There’s a simple reason for this turn of mind: the other guests were drinking alcohol and I wasn’t, which means… Read More