(originally posted 12/12)

God Bless us Everyone!!

Our Chicago NGR event this month was one giant warm fuzzy, there was frost on the windows, it was warm and snuggly inside, but all was not quiet as we were spiking the hot chocolate, reading Dickensian tales from the 1800’s, AND – GETTING RAIDED BY THE Chicago Police Dept.

Don’t worry we are all legal, everything was fine in the end…. Maybe they just felt left out in the cold and needed to come inside for a glimpse of the warm, lovely, naked ladies to stave of the chill. At least that’s our working theory.

While we were reading Dickens this month a few phrases, words and interesting annotations struck me as interesting asides. I thought that I’d look into them for my own amusement.

I’ve always taken for granted the saying “Dead as a doornail.” But apparently when Dickens did his readings this particular phrase always garnered loads of applause. What would have been so funny about that to his contemporaries?

DEAD AS A DOORNAIL – “Since ordinary nails aren’t used in making doors, perhaps the ‘nail’ in this phrase, which can be traced all the way back to 1350, was a small metal plate nailed on a door that visitors pounded with the knockers attached to it when announcing their arrival. Life would eventually be pounded out of the ‘nail’ in that way. Then again the ‘nail’ could be the heavy-handed decorative nails outer doors were studded with, though why these doornails would be regarded as any ‘deader’ than say, coffin nails is a mystery. It has even been suggested that since nails weren’t ordinarily used for doors, the phrase means ‘dead as something that never existed.’ Anyway, people are still getting good mileage out of the expression, as did Langland in ‘Piers Plowman,’ Shakespeare more than once, and Dickens in ‘A Christmas Carol.

NEGUS – This drink was created by colonel Francis Negus in the early eighteenth century. Jerry Thomas remarked in his book ‘How to Mix Drinks’, published in 1862, that it is ‘A most refreshing and elegant beverage, particularly for those who do not take punch or grog after supper.’


50 ml Port (2 fl oz)

25 ml Claret (1 fl oz)

25 ml Burgundy (1 fl oz)

1 Teaspoon Brandy

50 ml Water (2 fl oz)

1/2 Lemon, thinly sliced in rings

small pinch Grated nutmeg

1 Heaped tsp Sugar


Makes 1 glass

Gently heat all the ingredients in a small saucepan.

Strain into a heat-proof goblet when hot.

Or how about doing: The Sir Roger de Coverley (apparently much more complicated than the Macarena) Look at that pattern:

1890s England is just full of interesting customs that our 21st century readers were somewhat in the dark about. What we were not however in the dark about was the wonderfully descriptive rich and compelling prose of Mr. Dickens. Some turns of phrase are passé and some still grip the heart here are a few quotes that I found compelling.

“Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”

“External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty.”

“If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”


~ by ngrblogadmin on January 11, 2010.

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