Let us enter, once again, the depths of the internet, whose current wash strange questions to the shore here at Notes.
But you need to know a few things about the process before we go on: First, no feelings were hurt (or so I tell myself) in the process of turning me loose on these questions. They come from people–or I assume they’re people–who flit through here, driven by whatever whim propelled them at 2 a.m. to ask Lord Google for information on subjects they may not have actually cared about, and then flit right on out, leaving behind their questions but not their consciousness. Second, the questions appear in all their original oddity, except that I’ve italicized them. Third, I used to answer them seriously. It didn’t take long to get boring.
double space after full stop uk
For the sake of American readers, I need to explain this before I answer it: The question isn’t about social distancing at two stop signs. In Britain, a full stop is that tiny dot you put at the end of a sentence: a period. Back in the old days, when we used typewriters and that seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do, we were taught to double space after a period. That pool of wide-open paper made it easier to spot the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next.
In my school, by the way, only girls learned to use typewriters. They were considered too technical for boys.
Then word processors came along and spoiled the fun by introducing proportional spacing.The divisions between sentences now jumped out without the help of an extra space. So the second space went the way of the typewriter and the quill pen, although 30% of the people in a survey (which may or may not be representative of I have no idea what population) still think it’s correct to double space.
If you want to know more about this (and who wouldn’t?), here’s a link.
I can’t explain why Lord Google thought this was the place to send people for information about that, but now that I’ve written about it, he’ll send more.
Now let’s double back and explain my second sentence for the sake of non-American readers: In most (possibly all) states in the U.S., failing to come to a full stop at a stop sign will earn you a traffic ticket. But only if you get caught, which mostly you don’t.
difference between anerican beeband british beer
You drink one in America and the other in Britain unless you want to pay extra for an import. One’s spelled with an R and the other with an extra B and no space at all before the and.
berwick and russia at war
This is the longest non-war in history, and it has the biggest following.
how do you pronounce river teign
Teignmouth, though, the place at the mouth of the River Teign? Logic says you’d pronounce it the same way.
Logic is wrong. This is England. Those are place names. Abandon hope. It’s Tinmuth.
And the government of the area, which is called the Teignbridge Authority? We’re back to teen.
Most people call me bigmouth, but widemouth is far from the worst thing anyone’s called me. The place name, though, is pronounced Widmuth.
english holiday with sprouts
Back in the old days, this was known as Christmas, but the world changes and we have to change with it. It’s now known as English Holiday with Sprouts.
These are brussels sprouts we’re talking about, for those of you who aren’t clued in to the oddities of British culture. I don’t answer questions about either bean sprouts or that hairy fuzz that grows out of alfalfa seeds.
The sprouts holiday–
Let’s capitalize that: The Sprouts Holiday falls on Christmas, and folks gather around to eat brussels sprouts (and possibly other things, but the presence of sprouts obsesses a category of people who buzz around this blog like flies).
Sorry, I got sidetracked. The people gather, eat sprouts, and wear silly paper hats. They place two desserts on the table and set fire to one of them.
That is–however strange it sounds–true.
The question should probably be about a British Holiday, though, not an English one, but I’ve never spent the Sprouts Holiday in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland, so I don’t really know how integral sprouts are there. I’d be happy to hear reports from the other nations on this crucial topic.
Don’t you love that people turn to me to learn these things? Who better to explain the intricacies of the British Christmas tradition than an American Jewish atheist? This, my friends, is the true meaning of multiculturalism.
Whatever that was you just threw at me, you missed.
But let’s go back to the question and make sure we cover all possibilities. It might have been about taking your sprouts on holiday with you, which in American would be taking your brussels sprouts on vacation. Because, hey, it may be a holiday (or vacation) for you, but if you leave your sprouts at home, what kind of time are they having? The world would be a better place if we all took our vegetables into account when we made our plans.
You’re welcome, and a 50-page position paper on the subject will arrive in your inbox tomorrow. Please get back to me with any changes by Monday.
how did carriages pass on narrow english country lanes in olden days
This is, surprisingly, a good question. I don’t know what it’s doing here either. English country lanes are narrow. So are British country lanes in general, but let’s not get into that. Horse-drawn carriages didn’t have a reverse gear.
The partial answer is that country lanes aren’t an even width. They have wider spots, where you can pull over, swat horseflies, check your phone messages, and wait for that oncoming carriage to pass.
The rest of the answer? What happens when you’ve got a blind bend in the road and no wide spot? Your guess is as good as mine. What I can tell you is that I live in an area with lots of narrow lanes and blind curves and I’ve seen the shipwrecked remains of abandoned carriages or the bones of the horses that pulled them, so they must have figured out a way to go on.
debtors prison england
Where we’ll be if we don’t break down and admit that we need to tax those who can best afford taxes.
why call great britain
Because it’s running this fantastic ad campaign: Do you want your tea hot, your weather cool, your history complicated, and your spelling unpredictable? Call Great Britain! We deliver.
parky used nineteenth
This is our mystery question. There’s always one. [Warning: I’m about the offer the world a bit of misinformation. In my defense, I was repeating what I’d been told by someone who seemed to know what he was talking about. The more fool me. See the comments for a correction or three.] Parky comes from a bit of Cockney rhyming slang: It’s parky in the mold means it’s cold. Mold is the rhyming bit, so it gets dropped because otherwise the phrase might make sense to people who didn’t already know what it meant.
Nineteenth, though? Used? All suggestions, however bizarre, are welcome.