Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Trivia: Stonehenge, salads and salt

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The man who gave away Stonehenge:

Stonehenge with farm carts, c 1885

The land upon which Stonehenge is located had been in private ownership from the Middle Ages and, from the early 1800’s, had been owned by the Antrobus family. The only surviving male heir of that family was killed in World war 1, prompting the family to put the property up for auction in 1915. It was purchased for the sum of £6,600 by Cecil Chubb, the lock millionaire and a local resident who had been born in the village of Shrewton 6 km west of Stonehenge. He bought it on a whim since "a Salisbury man ought to buy it" and as a gift for his wife, Mary. Unfortunately Mary was quite contrary and didn’t like it.  I have this mental image of Cecil telling Mary on their anniversary "Darling, I have bought some valuable stones for you as an anniversary gift" and then showing her Stonehenge.  In 1918 Chubb donated Stonehenge to the nation. In return, in 1919, the Brit PM Lloyd George made Chubb a baronet. Fittingly the Chubb coat of arms contains a trilithon, two upright stones and one across, to represent Stonehenge.

Sir Cecil and Mary Chubb

The Chubb coat of arms

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Salad Days:

The term “salad days” used to refer solely to youthful inexperience, days of enthusiasm, idealism, innocence, or indiscretion that one associates with a young person. More modern use, especially in the US, refers to a person's heyday when a person is at the peak of his/her abilities, not necessarily in that person's youth. More recently it has also come to be applied to old age when people have less pressures in life, the “golden years”.

The origin is a line in Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra, 1606:

My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood . . .

Shakespeare also uses the colour green in other contexts, such as denoting jealousy in Othello where he refers to the “green-eyed monster”, but in the above use it is meant to convey immaturity and youth. A green salad is short lived and green often denotes something not yet ready for use, such as green fruit and green timber. The reference to cold in the above quotation is also associated with salad.

“When I was twenty-one I pledged my life to the service of our people and I asked for God's help to make good that vow. Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgement, I do not regret nor retract one word of it.”

- Queen Elizabeth 11, Silver Jubilee address, 1977

Salad Days is also the name of a successful British musical first performed in 1954.

Btw #1:
The word "salad" comes from the French salade of the same meaning, from the Latin salata (salty), from sal (salt). In English, the word first appears as "salad" or "sallet" in the 14th century.

Salt is associated with salad because vegetables were seasoned with brine or salty oil-and-vinegar dressings during Roman times.

Btw #2:
Roman soldiers were paid wages partly in salt, which was their salarium, meaning "salt money", which eventually became salary.  This has also given rise to the expression that someone is worth their salt.

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