February 12 2018: sinister doings

Here’s a question from the Pub Quiz section of Camra Angle, the magazine of the Sunderland and South Tyneside branch of the Campaign for Real Ale.

What do Queen Victoria, Ronald Reagan, H G Wells and Michelangelo have in common (with ten per cent of the present world population)?

The answer is that they’re all left-handed – gibble fisted, cuddy wifters or even, whisper it, cack-handed. (Cacere is the Latin for, er, defecate. See how much we owe it?)

In the absence of much football, yesterday’s blog also discussed Latin roots and listed “dextrous”, meaning adroit or agile, among its 20 classically derived words. It’s from the Latin dexter, meaning right handed, but what – asks Darlington RA secretary Alan Hamilton, of the lefties?

The Latin for left handed was sinister – and it’s because such folk were considered decidedly odd that the word edged, dark and insidious, into English.

Keith Stoker, who passed GCE Latin with a credit – a damn sight more than I did – scored 19 out of 20 but came unstuck on “mellifluous”, which means sweetly flowing and is partly from the Latin mel, meaning honey.

The correspondence then touched upon Mel Park, home of the mighty Melchester Rovers, and then the well-remembered Tale and Lyle treacle tin with the biblical text “Out of the strong comes forth sweetness.” Is it still there? Has anyone a treacle tin to check before we put the lid on it?

The quote’s from the Book of Judges, something to do with Samson slaying a lion with his bare hands and then coming back later to pinch the honey from the bees which had colonised the carcase. It ended badly with the Philistines, but there are enough philistines around here.

(Joke heard last Friday at Richmond Methodist pantmime: Why’s your horse called Treacle? Because he has golden stirrups.)

Another of yesterday’s 20 words was recumbent – recumbere, to lie down – which was coincidental for Don Clarke because at the foot of the blog he found an image of a supine young lady wearing nothing more than a bikini.

We’re back to cookies, of course, but Don’s puzzled. “I’m trying to remember what I got up to last weekend to prompt such a cookie. Ah, chance would be a fine thing.”