Category: Lifestyle

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!

Tongues out for Rock’n’Roll!

What is the first thing you think of when I say ‘sticking tongues out’ to you?

HINT:

Since World Stick Your Tongue Out Day has just passed, we had been asking ourselves the same question. And while most people honestly answered the Rolling Stones album cover, yours truly thought of the Einstein photo first – you know, the one that was taken by accident on his 72nd birthday in 1951 by a press photographer, but he liked it so much he asked for nine copies to personally distribute to friends and family!  I suppose that we all find different things important, such as knowledge of pop culture or history but on this strange event this week, here are some interesting facts about tongues and rock’n’roll!

  • Did you know the tongue logo on the Rolling Stones cover was inspired by the Hindu goddess Kali? Her lolling tongue represents one of two things: firstly, embarrassment or surprise or secondly, it is a bloody reminder of the havoc she is known to wreak in the Brahmanic mythology.
  • Rocking and rolling used to mean having sex, but that has now, somewhat, lost its meaning.
  • The most famous solo rock’n’roll artist in the UK is Cliff Richard. He is believed to have started the movement with the hit single “Move It” in 1958.
  • The most famous rock band in the UK are the Beatles – but that we already knew.
  • The Beatles won 15 Ivor Novello awards for song composition from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors.
  • The band Queen has the longest-running fan club according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
  • Mick Jagger’s 2003 knighthood is considered controversial by some of his former bandmates who believe it goes against the anti-establishment feeling the band initially represented.

What do you want to learn about the tongue itself? I guess not much, it’s not spoken of much but there are some odd facts about it! You will know-how in the Western world, sticking your tongue out might be a sign of hate or disgust?

  • In Tibet, it’s actually a greeting and a sign of respect! Legend has it that one king who ruled in the 9th century had a black tongue and was cruel. So now, the tongue is shown to prove that they are not evil or the reincarnation of this king.
  • In Maori culture in New Zealand, tongues are shown in order to intimidate opponents before war!
  • The longest tongue in the world is 10.1 cm, a record held by Nick Stoeberi

We have to have an educational element in this post, so here is a link to well-known British tongue twisters! Use this to practice your pronunciation to just to see how badly your friends fail at finishing these. These would make great Snapchat stories.

Review “Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty” @British Library

Pride in London has just happened, but the issues that face the LGBTQ+ community persist. Why write a blog post about this? With no intention of being political, equality is a topical issue that affects us all and we should fight for it.

Maybe the past can inform the future. The British Library honours Pride 2017, and the passing of the ‘Alan Turing Law’, with an exhibition on the struggles and triumphs of the LGBTQ+ community in the UK through journals of famous authors, drafts of songs, and novels amongst other things.

Ongoing until the 19th September, this free exhibition is tucked away in the right hand corner when you arrive from the main entrance. A small exhibition packed with information, it begins on the right side with Oscar Wilde and his famous trial and sentencing. It is also from him that for a long time, homosexuality was known as the ‘love that dare not speak its name’. Moving into the 20th century, it is characterised by the main struggles and success of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalised sexual acts in private. This was amended in 2003, when the 1967 Act was repealed completely, and the exhibition finishes with a film made recently on the impact the changes in law have made in the lives of British citizens.

Interactive elements are dotted throughout the exhibit, particularly as music was influential in fighting for equal rights, and famous artists include Boy George and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Visitors can listen to songs and drama pieces that echo the sentiments of what it was like to be persecuted for love, admire original copies of books written on the subject, and educate themselves on the struggles to achieve the freedom that exists today.

 

If you enjoy a bit of political and social history, this exhibit is for you and worth a visit! If you were already heading to the British Library for any of the other exhibits going on, make this one to visit!

 

The particular form of humour everybody talks about

Hello, dear Speak Up Londoners. We laugh. We joke. We spend time trying to make our loved ones laugh. Why? Because, as we’ve stated in the past, laughing is good for our health and our lives in general. And what is the best way to provoke a laugh? By telling a good joke of course! And what produces more jokes than a good sense of humour? Today, dear Speak Up Londoners we thought to share some interesting facts with you!

 

Let’s start with the basics then! What is a joke? Well, a joke is something that someone says in order to generate a laugh in public and it is characterized by a particularly funny final sentence – called the punchline.

 

There are different kinds of jokes, differentiated by theme or structure. Jokes are a display of humour, and as such, they vary deeply in the forms they can have. One particular kind of humour, popular all over the world is British humour.
You have surely heard of it – plus, living in Britain might have given you the chance to hear it. This particularly colourful kind of humour is based on a set of unwritten rules and practices. For instance, some of these practices include the use of devices such as puns, intellectual jokes and innuendos.

 

If you are not very familiar with these terms we are glad to unveil them for you: puns are plays on words, stemming from terms having multiple meanings or similar sounds. Puns being strictly related with language, their use is specific to the language that generated it. Of course, no need to say, we find them hilarious!

Innuendos, instead, are insinuations regarding a person, aimed to denigrate that person without being rude, through words that taken on their own are innocent.

 

Among the other defining characteristics for British humour – again, one of our favourite source of jokes – is the theme of self-deprecation and the almost absolute absence of taboos.

 

Now that we’ve given you a short explanation regarding the most popular form of humour, it’s up to you to become a master at it… or just enjoy it when someone uses it with you! =D =D =D

 

Maria Chiara Strano

 

blogpost-29-06-17

 

The particular form of humour everybody talks about

 Hello, dear Speak Up Londoners. We laugh. We joke. We spend time trying to make our loved ones laugh. Why? Because, as we’ve stated in the past, laughing is good for our health and our lives in general. And what is the best way to provoke a laugh? By telling a good joke of course! And what produces more jokes than a good sense of humour? Today, dear Speak Up Londoners we thought to share some interesting facts with you!

 

Let’s start with the basics then! What is a joke? Well, a joke is something that someone says in order to generate a laugh in public and it is characterized by a particularly funny final sentence – called the punchline.

 

There are different kinds of jokes, differentiated by theme or structure. Jokes are a display of humour, and as such, they vary deeply in the forms they can have. One particular kind of humour, popular all over the world is British humour.
You have surely heard of it – plus, living in Britain might have given you the chance to hear it. This particularly colourful kind of humour is based on a set of unwritten rules and practices. For instance, some of these practices include the use of devices such as puns, intellectual jokes and innuendos.

 

If you are not very familiar with these terms we are glad to unveil them for you: puns are plays on words, stemming from terms having multiple meanings or similar sounds. Puns being strictly related with language, their use is specific to the language that generated it. Of course, no need to say, we find them hilarious!

Innuendos, instead, are insinuations regarding a person, aimed to denigrate that person without being rude, through words that taken on their own are innocent.

 

Among the other defining characteristics for British humour – again, one of our favourite source of jokes – is the theme of self-deprecation and the almost absolute absence of taboos.

 

Now that we’ve given you a short explanation regarding the most popular form of humour, it’s up to you to become a master at it… or just enjoy it when someone uses it with you! =D =D =D

Typewriter: a path to the future.

Today if we need to send an important document, we turn on our computers, we open Word and we start typing down all the information we need to share with the world. It is natural; it is part of our life. We are so used to it that we don’t even wonder how this kind of activity was carried out before computers. Well, to be fair we know it. In the past people used to write. A lot. Which is why one invention made a huge difference in people’s lives, before the arrival of computers: typewriters.

 

Typewriters were one of the major inventions of the 19th century, changing people’s lives completely in and outside the work environment. Indeed not only did typewriters make communications more formalised by partially replacing handwriting, but they also had the effect of shaping the society we live in.

 

Indeed, after the invention of typewriters, they became essential for administration work in offices. But who were the people that usually typewrote? Women. As a matter of fact, these machines worked as revolutionary devices since they paved the way to monetary independence for women.

 

For instance, in the “Manual of the Typewriter” written by John Harrison in 1888, this particular device was said to perfectly match women’s thin fingers, not requiring any additional skills than the ones utilized in playing the piano. Although nowadays this kind of statement might sound sexist; it is also true that seeing women using typewriters as a socially acceptable practice was a clear sign that society was changing, as was the role of women in it. Typewriters – along with other inventions like bicycles – were important means for that to happen, guaranteeing freedom of movement and of gaining, therefore, independence.

 

Therefore, typewriters twice represented a revolution in history: first for their role in technological advancement, and then for their pioneering role in gender equality achievements, and as such they mean so much more than mere writing devices. In conclusion, Speak Up London friends, be aware of how simple, sometimes obsolete objects, have had the power to shape the world and the lives of millions of people who have lived in it.

 

Maria Chiara Strano

 

typewriter-419056_960_720

Nature: the kind of green that heals us.

Hey there, Speak Up Londoners. Do you remember the time when with our blog articles we tried to improve the quality of our readers’ lives by sharing informative bits with them? Of course you remember, we do it every week! Today we will be talking about nature and its beneficial impact on our wellbeing.

 

Although the cities we live in are mainly made of concrete, our inner us will always try to connect with the nature in the outside world, because – hold on for the revelation – nature is good for us.

 

Let’s make one of our beloved lists to discover how much your body and mind can benefit from staying in contact with the sometimes forgotten mother nature.

 

  1. According to some researchers, being in contact with nature helps you improve your physical health in multiple ways:
  • It reduces blood pressure
  • It reduces heart rate
  • It reduces muscle tension
  1. If the previous point is not enough to delineate the great gift nature is, we would like to add that nature also has positive consequences for the mind. Among these there are indeed the decrease in negative feelings (like anger) and the increase in positive moods among the people who experience it.
  2. Living a life in connection with nature seems to be correlated with an increase in life satisfaction and happiness.

 

If on the one hand it is true that appreciating nature is good because of its positive effects on people, on the other hand this practice is also beneficial the other way round. By acknowledging the treasure that nature represents for us, we will pay more attention, and make a bigger effort, to safeguard it.

 

Therefore, dear and loyal readers, while you are around Hyde Park, Green Park or even just in your backyard taking pictures of grass and flowers in this London summer, remember that that little corner of green is a lot more than just a great pic for Instagram!

 

Maria Chiara Strano

london nature

Iced Tea: taste and health on the rocks.

We are in London. The city that has witnessed the performances of the best bands in the whole world. The city of great museums. The city of the Queen. And what else? London, being the capital of the UK, must be one of the busiest cities for having tea at 5pm. If not, it doesn’t matter, we just needed an effective introduction for our article =D.

 

Well, today’s topic isn’t the traditional afternoon tea, but its young, summery version: iced tea. Before going on and enumerating all the benefits of tea, it is essential to say that iced tea isn’t the healthiest beverage in the world. However, in comparison with the carbonated alternatives, it surely represents a healthier option.

 

Tea is generally considered healthier than iced tea. The obvious reason is that iced tea is more likely to be full of sweeteners that balance out the benefits of tea. Though, if you prefer a cold drink rather than a mug of steaming tea, an unsweetened, decaf version of it, might help you maintain the benefits of tea and dramatically reduce its downsides. Let’s not dawdle and let’s get on with the list! Are you interested in knowing some of its benefits? Keep reading!

 

  • Tea is full of antioxidants, which mean drinking tea might be beneficial for your skin.
  • It increases your level of alertness.
  • It can help you lose weight if unsweetened – and in moderation.
  • Among the reasons why it differs from other beverages is the fact that tea lacks sodium.

 

What we listed above are just few of the reasons why iced tea and tea are so popular with the population. Moreover, whether or not people are aware of tea’s positive effects, what is undeniable is that its particular taste can satisfy its drinkers’ deepest needs, and on request, can be steaming and cosy during winter or on the rocks and refreshing during the hottest months of the year. Therefore people, fill your cups, drink tea with moderation, and enjoy its positive effects.

Maria Chiara Strano

Iced Tea
Iced Tea

Doughnuts: their names and origins.

Some people like going to the beach, other people like going to the mountains. Some people love rock music, others love pop music. Do you know, though, what is the one thing that unites us all? Everybody loves doughnuts.

Yes, we are aware that they are not exactly in line with our dietary requirements, but let’s try to focus on the interesting facts. Indeed, you might not know that in some parts of the UK, you might encounter several different names for these delicious fried rings.

For instance, do you know what people call them in some parts of Scotland? Their particular name is “doughrings”, while the term doughnuts identify only the nut-shaped variety. Moreover, the rope-shaped doughnuts are called “yum-yum”. And if you think this is not enough, in some other parts of Scotland you can even find fudge doughnuts.

Moreover, Northern Ireland has another term for doughnuts. Have you ever heard of “gravy rings”? It is an archaic phrase that means “hot cooking oil”.

Despite the numerous names for doughnuts, what is really uncertain is the doughnut’s origins. Indeed, who created doughnuts and when are widely disputed. According to one popular legend they were invented by a Dutch settler in the U.S. Other theories see the American Hanson Gregory as the inventor of the sweetest of the dough. Whatever is the origin of the recipe of this dough, it is very clear that they have become part of the “dessert cuisine”.

Even though love towards the doughnut might be reason enough to justify a doughnut day, the main reason why a doughnut day exists (apart from the fact they they’re really good) comes from something that happened during World War I. Given the scarcity of baked goods, The Salvation Army volunteers thought to give donuts to soldiers. And as you can imagine, they appreciated the gesture =D! It is said that those women were called “doughnut dollies” by the servicemen.

We hope our article regarding doughnuts gave you some more general knowledge and a healthy appetite. Remember not to eat too many doughnuts.

Scavenger hunts are not only for kids

Hey there, people. Today’s blog article aims to help you rediscover the little pleasures you had when you were children. We are not speaking about lollypops or swings. What we are speaking about is the ultimate game. It involves mystery, astuteness, team effort and bravery. Wondering what we are talking about? Of course not, since you have already read the title of the article…but just pretend to be surprised for the writing’s sake. The topic of this article is: scavenger hunts!

 

Yes, dear friends. Despite your days wearing of sporty hats or braids being over, Scavenger hunting might already be an enjoyable way to spend your free time. Well… first of all because it is not only a game for kids. Indeed companies all over the world are using this practice as a team building activity. Scavenger hunters in fact, can benefit a lot from this outdoor/indoor hobby.

 

Among the benefits that this activity brings those who try it are the following:

 

  • Playing scavenger hunt improves its players’ cognitive functions. Indeed by playing this game people exercise their problem-solving skills (which is one of the reasons why this game is also really good for kids).
  • Such games are usually useful for the body too. Indeed, since it often involves passing through tortuous routes, scavenger hunts also represent a way to test and exercise the participants’ physical performance.
  • As we revealed in advance, scavenger hunts are beneficial for building relationships. Therefore, if you are looking for bonding sessions to strengthen your friendships, we strongly suggest you to organise one of these playful activities.
  • They are customizable. This means that your scavenger hunts can have different themes, different lengths, difficulties and features. Therefore, you can adapt them to your taste and mood… green light to creativity!

 

Finally, dear Speak Up London students, since scavenger hunts are fun and beneficial, you might opt for something different this weekend… go and look for some treasure, and remember that the journey is more important than the destination! =D

 

Maria Chiara Strano

scavenger day blog post pic