Thursday, 31 July 2008

Regulations governing the Guild of Bathhouse Keepers

(In Paris, around 1270, taken from Etienne de Boileu, Livre des métiers)

  1. Whoever wishes to be a bathhouse-keeper in the city of Paris may freely do so, provided he works according to the usage and customs of the trade, made by agreement of the commune, as follow.
  2. Be it known that no man or woman may cry or have cried their baths until it is day, because of the dangers which can threaten those who rise at the cry to go to the baths.
  3. No man or woman of the aforesaid trade may maintain in their houses or baths either prostitutes of the day or night, or lepers, or vagabonds, or other infamous people of the night.
  4. No man or woman may heat up their baths on Sunday, or on a feast day which the commune of the city keeps.
    And every person should pay, for a steam-bath, two deniers; and if he bathes, he should pay four deniers.
    And because at some times wood and coal are more expensive than at others, if anyone suffers, a suitable price shall be set by the provost of Paris, through the discussion of the good people of the aforesaid trade, according to the situation of the times.
    The male and female bathhouse-keepers have sworn and promised before us to uphold these things firmly and consistently, and not to go against them.
  5. Anyone who infringes any of the above regulations of the aforesaid trade must make amends with ten Parisian sous, of which six go to the king, and the other four go to the masters who oversee the trade, for their pains.
  6. The aforesaid trade shall have three good men of the trade, elected by us unanimously or by a majority, who shall swear before the provost of Paris or his representative that they will oversee the trade well and truly, and that they will make known to the provost of Paris or his representative all the infringements that they know of or discover, and the provost shall remove and change them as often as he wishes.


Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Loaded for bear

Q: On enquiring whether Husband was ready to set out on a shopping trip, I was informed that yes, he was "loaded for bear". I was reassured (it is as well to be prepared for any eventuality these days although encountering bear in Staples, our destination, would be fairly unusual) but also puzzled as I have never heard this expression before. Is this because I don't mix much with hunters?

A1: It's in a Shorter Oxford dictionary, but it's tagged "US colloq." Has your husband been hanging out with Americans lately, or should the Shorter Oxford change the tag to "formerly US colloq"?

I've heard the expression a lot and used it some, but I don't agree with the point of view that it implies prepared excessively. To me it simply means impressively and thoroughly prepared.

A2: That's what it means to me.

Sure. And sometimes, being impressively and thoroughly prepared can turn out to mean "prepared excessively."

But then "loaded for bear" would not be an apt descriptor. Something like "loaded for buffalo", "loaded for elephant", or "hyperloaded" would seem closer to the intended meaning.

A3: If you consider that the phrase originated in America, it makes perfect sense. Elephants are not found there and buffaloes were neither dangerous nor difficult to hit with a rifle, but bears are both difficult to kill and dangerous. Don't forget that "loaded for bear" implies that one is being handed a challenge, not a walk in the park.

If a preparer were clearly loaded excessively, then their preparation would no longer be impressive. And, to me, "thoroughly" and "excessively" are close to mutually exclusive.

from alt.usage.english

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Thank You

This is my last post for July.

Work will be taking up all my time for the remainder of the month.

See you again in August.


P.S. I can count site visits, but not RSS subscribers.

Could you make a short comment on this item if you subscribe to my RSS feed.


Words that are their own antonym

Richard Lederer, in 'Crazy English', calls these "contronyms".  

They can be divided into homographs (same spelling) and homophones (same pronunciation). 

dust = to remove fine particles, to add fine particles
fast = rapid, unmoving

aural, oral = heard, spoken
erupt, irrupt = burst out, burst in

from alt.usage.english

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Ship's Bell

A Ship's Bell is usually made of brass, and has the ship's name engraved on it.

Strikes of a ship's bell are used to indicate the hour aboard a ship and thereby to regulate the sailors' duty watches.

Unlike civil clock bells, the strikes of the bell do not accord to the number of the hour. Instead, there are eight bells, one for each half-hour of a four-hour watch. Bells would be struck every half-hour, and in a pattern of pairs for easier counting, with any odd bells at the end of the sequence.

Most of the crew of a ship would be divided up into between two and four groups called watches. Each watch would take its turn with the essential activities of manning the helm, navigating, trimming sails, and keeping a lookout.

The hours between 16:00 and 20:00 are so arranged because that watch (the "dog watch", which is curtailed) was divided into two. The odd number of watches aimed to give each man a different watch each day. It also allows the entire crew of a vessel to eat an evening meal, the normal time being at 1700 with First Dog watchmen eating at 1800.

The term "Eight bells" can also be a way of saying that a sailor's watch is over, for instance, in his or her obituary. It's a nautical euphemism for "finished".

Ship's bells are also used for safety in foggy conditions, their most important modern use.

A ship's bell is a prized possession when a ship is broken up, and often provide the only positive means of identification in the case of a shipwreck.


Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Tunguska Event--100 Years Later

The year is 1908, and it's just after seven in the morning. A man is sitting on the front porch of a trading post at Vanavara in Siberia. Little does he know, in a few moments, he will be hurled from his chair and the heat will be so intense he will feel as though his shirt is on fire.

That's how the Tunguska event felt 40 miles from ground zero.

Today, June 30, 2008, is the 100th anniversary of that ferocious impact near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in remote Siberia--and after 100 years, scientists are still talking about it.

"If you want to start a conversation with anyone in the asteroid business all you have to say is Tunguska," says Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "It is the only entry of a large meteoroid we have in the modern era with first-hand accounts."

See full story at


Deadweight Tonnage - expresses the number of tons of 2,240 pounds that a vessel can transport of cargo, stores and bunker fuel. It is the difference between the number of tons of water a vessel displaces “light” and the number of tons it displaces when submerged to the “load water-line”.

Deadweight tonnage - is used interchangeably with deadweight carrying capacity. A vessel's capacity for weight cargo is less than its total deadweight tonnage.

Cargo Tonnage - is either “weight” or “measurement”. The weight ton in the United States and in British countries is the English long or gross ton of 2,240 pounds. In France and other countries having the metric system, a weight ton is 2,204.6 pounds. A “measurement” ton is usually 40 cubic feet, but in some instances a larger number of cubic feet is taken for a ton. Most ocean package freight is taken at weight or measurement (W/M), ship's option.

Gross Tonnage - applies to vessels, not to cargo. It is determined by dividing by 100 the contents, in cubic feet, of the vessel's closed-in spaces. A vessel ton is 100 cubic feet. The register of a vessel states both gross and net tonnage.

Net Tonnage - is a vessel's gross tonnage minus deductions of space occupied by accommodations for crew, by machinery for navigation, by the engine room, and fuel. A vessel's net tonnage expresses the space available for the accommodation of passengers and the stowage of cargo. A ton of cargo, in most instances, occupies less than 100 cubic feet; hence the vessel's cargo tonnage may exceed the net tonnage, and, indeed, the tonnage of cargo carried is usually greater than the gross tonnage.

Displacement - Displacement of a vessel is the weight, in tons of 2,240 pounds, of the vessel and its contents. Displacement "light" is the weight of the vessel without stores, bunker fuel, or cargo. Displacement "loaded" is the weight of the vessel, plus cargo, fuel and stores.

For a modern freight steamer the following relative tonnage figures would ordinarily be approximately correct:

  • net tonnage, 4,000;
  • gross tonnage, 6,000;
  • deadweight carrying capacity, 10,000;
  • displacement loaded, about 13,350.