Sunday, April 19, 2009

The humble honey bee

I've just ordered a bee box for my mother! It's not quite the same as buying a apiary (something that I'd like when I'm all grown up) but it's a sweet little thing. And, it's to help the environment, since there's been a recent dramatic decline in bee numbers here in the UK and across the globe. Honeybees not only make honey but pollinate a third of the food we eat. Without them, we'd be without apples, strawberries and carrots to name three examples. So you can do your bit by buying a bee box. In fact, you can get them reduced as a part of the Cooperative's "Plan Bee". To do so, go to and in the e-Value box in the left-hand column, type "coop" and "pa06". And then search for "bee box", et voila! You get 15% off the price of a bee-box (or about £1).

In other news
I'm going back to Paris tomorrow. For the last time! Soon, I'll be leaving. How tragic.

Enigmatic etymology
There are several words which come from place names, even though their links with that place may well not be that evident. Here are some examples.
  1. Turkey: although arriving from North America, the origins of these large birds of the order Meleagris seem to have escaped Europeans. In several European languages, the bird is named after a place where it isn't actually from. Apart from the English naming it after the country occupying the Anatolian peninsula, confusing it with the similarly named bird the turkey fowl, the French named the bird dinde ("from India", or d'Inde) and the Portuguese named the bird peru. A similar geographical inaccuracy arose in the word gypsy. Although gypsies, or the Romani, most probably come from India, the name reflects the belief that they came from Egypt.
  2. Brummagem: This word can be used as either a noun or an adjective, and describes something that is showy but worthless, or a counterfit. It comes from a local pronunciation for the English city Birmingham, where counterfit coins were made in the 17th century.
  3. Milliner: A milliner is a hat-maker, and his trade is millinery. This word derives from the word "Milaner", or an inhabitant of Milan, a city that is still today renowned for its fashion industry.
  4. Denim: The hardy fabric derives its name from another fabric, serge, which was manufactered in the French town of Nîmes. It was thus called serge de Nîmes, which was shortened to denim. Denim is most associated with clothing like jeans. The word jean itself derives from the French word for Genoa (Gênes). Another item of clothing made from denim, dungarees, possibly derives its name from an Indian village Dangidi, or from the Dongari Killa fort, both in or near modern-day Mumbai.
  5. Also named after Mumbai is the Bombay duck, which, despite its name, is not a duck but a type of fish.

And that's all for now.


  1. I want to be a bee-keeper when I'm older, and have a really wildlife friendly garden. That'd be nice.

  2. In your description of 'Brummagen' you're missing a full stop after Birmingham. The rest is superfluous.

  3. Stephen, you need to make the difference between the sounds of 'm' and 'n' clearer. Now I look silly.