Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Learning English - Lesson 2

I did go on the Haunted London walk on Sunday night. You should not have too high expectations regarding the "haunted" bit but it is nevertheless a very entertaining walk. Plus I learned more interesting facts about the English language, which I will gladly share with you. So here we go, Learning English Lesson 2:

"tips" is short for "to insure prompt service". This was written on a board in the first coffee house in London. The men doing business there would pay the waiter extra to bring contracts or other papers to somebody else sitting in the cafe.

"to go to the loo" was derived from people shouting "gardez l'eau" when emptying their chamber pots into the streets through the window a couple of centuries ago. They did not have sanitation but the spoke French back then.

We owe "saved by the bell" to an invention in the coffin industry. Apparently the number of people that were buried alive was rather high, so someone invented a device inside that would ring a bell if the "corpse" started breathing again.

So, there you have it. Lesson 2 finished, no homework.

If you ever wander around London and come along Philpot Street in Whitechapel, take a minute to look up the wall of the Cafe Nero. You will see a couple of mice on the wall. The story goes that builders working on a scaffold along the building accused each other of stealing their lunch cheese until they saw the mice running down the wall with it. They therefore decided immortalize the little rodents.

We also came along Lloyd's f London in which I took a professional interest, working in the insurance industry. The building is very modern and next to an old-fashioned market hall. As Shaughan, our guide, put it: Blade Runner next to Harry Potter.

Another interesting piece of trivia I picked up on the walk regards Michael Caine. After my unsuccessfull attempt to stalk him last week in Chelsea Harbour, I was interested to hear that as a young man he unloaded fish from ships in the old fish market, which was then still up and running.


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