Month: October 2017

Cultural Beliefs in Britain: Strange Superstitions

In honor of Halloween next week, we have dedicated this blog to superstitions; everyone has them but we don’t always know where they come from.

Every culture has their particular superstitions: don’t walk under ladders or scaffolding, black cats are unlucky, 13 is an unlucky number, seeing ravens means someone you know will die soon, horseshoes bring luck, etc. There are also certain groups of people that are more superstitious than others, for example, actors, sailors, and athletes. Actors can never whistle backstage, or say the name Macbeth – you must always call it the Scottish play. Sailors believed that an albatross was a sign of hope and killing one would bring bad luck.

The list of strange superstitions is long, and there are some strange ones.

Come and have a look at the weirdness of British culture:

General Superstitions

  1. If the ravens of the Tower of London leave, then the Crown will be lost.
  2. Black rabbits have human souls and white ones used to be witches.
  3. You will have bad luck if you spill salt. You must throw salt over your back to counteract the effect.
  4. For luck, brides must wear something borrowed, something blue, something old and something new
  5. If you say ‘white rabbit’ three times on the first day of the month, it will bring you luck for the rest of the month.
  6. Don’t eat lettuce if you want to have children.
  7. Magpies are a bird that you have to greet every time you see it; when you see a magpie say “Hello Mr Magpie, how is your lady wife today?”. There was also a children’s rhyme written about them:

One for sorrow,

Two for joy,

Three for a girl,

Four for a boy,

Five for silver,

Six for gold,

Seven for a secret never to be told.

Yorkshire

  1. Cutting off the end of a loaf of bread makes the devil fly over your house.
  2. Bread will not rise if there is a dead body nearby.
  3. If you visit a newborn child, put a silver coin in its hands.

Somerset & Dorset

  1. A double-yolked egg means that you will have twins. It used to mean that someone would get married quickly due to a pregnancy.
  2. A slow boiling kettle will have a toad inside of
  3. Stirring food in the opposite direction of the sun will ruin it.

Did you find any of these strange or weird? Do you want to share any strange superstitions that you believe in? Let us know about them!

Shakespeare’s Phrases: What we’ve taken from the Bard

There are few playwrights in the English-speaking world that are as well-known as William Shakespeare. He is best known for writing plays including Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer’s Night Dream, Macbeth, Othello and Hamlet.

The universal themes and the way he wrote his plays mean that Shakespeare is studied at all levels of the British educational system. This is why, in today’s post, we want to show you some well-known phrases that did not exist before Shakespeare and what they mean!

Image result for shakespeare memes

Phrases Explained

  • For goodness’ sake – From Henry VIII. We think that the phrase was commonly known in Shakespeare’s day but it meant something different. Now it’s more of an exclamation to show annoyance and frustration; back in the day, it was an expression of “For everything that is good and sacred on this earth, just…”.
  • Neither here not there – Also from Othello, this phrase is now used to say that something is irrelevant to a discussion or in general. It’s grammatically more appropriate to say “neither here nor there”.
  • Mum’s the word – Used in Henry VI pt II; it means “keep quiet, be silent, do not reveal this secret”. Mum is a Middle English word for silent. Or it derives from “mummer”, the old name for a pantomime.
  • All’s well that ends well – Taken from a play with the same title, it was a proverb before Shakespeare but he introduced it more widely. As long as everything is okay in the end, whatever you did before is justified.
  • A wild goose chase – Romeo and Juliet. This phrase is now used to mean that something that you are about to do or perhaps while doing something, that is hopeless.
  • Not slept a wink – Taken from a lesser know play Cymbeline; this phrase was a few hundred years old. The wink is the act of closing one eye so it literally means ‘I did not sleep’.
  • Swagger – Yes, Shakespeare came up with this word! Who knew?
  • Truth will out – From The Merchant of Venice, it warns to not lie because eventually the truth will be discovered.
  • There’s method in my madness – Taken from Hamlet. It explains odd behaviour by suggesting it is for a reason; that even the craziest plans are plans.
  • Wear my heart upon my sleeve – Found in Othello, this phrase indicates that someone shows their emotions openly and doesn’t hide them. In Othello’s case, you would know when he was angry or jealous immediately.

Image result for shakespeare memes