Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota
Our recent trip to Great Britain and Ireland helped me develop a renewed love of the English language. I learned some new words on our trip to Europe, words for technological advances I had no idea existed prior to the trip. I also developed an appreciation of how funny ostensibly stuffy writing can be.
I noticed in our hotels in Dublin and Great Britain these pipe contraptions affixed to the walls in the bathrooms with a placard letting us know they were Hot Rails. They looked like towel racks with knobs and dials on them, and they were, in fact. loaded with towels. When you turned the dials, the pipes filled with hot water, which warmed the towels and made them toasty warm. What a lovely idea, and why don’t we have them readily available in the US?
I also noticed official traffic signs warning of Rising Bollards. What wonderful words! What would you imagine Rising Bollards to be? These signs were frequently placed in narrow streets near hotels where it would have been possible to drive or park a vehicle, and where there was often nothing that could have been construed as a Bollard or anything else. A quick search of the internet revealed that a Rising Bollard was a steel post that was lowered into the ground and that would electronically rise so as to prevent someone from parking or driving a vehicle in the area. It could also be lowered at whim. I don’t know who was responsible for raising the bollards, or under what circumstances the bollards would be raised. We read in the London Times about someone who was suing their municipality for raising the bollards underneath their Volkswagen, smashing into the engine and causing untold damage to the undercarriage of the vehicle.
The Times of London was extremely funny. I don’t know if the writers and editors intended it to be that way, but there were the most odd stories that made me wonder if it was all made up. The story that sticks in my mind was a half page article about a woman who confessed on her death bed that she killed her husband 18 years earlier by bashing him on the head with an ornamental stone frog. She wrapped his body in a tarp and hid it in their shed. No one questioned his disappearance, and she spent the next 18 years telling people that she had got away with murder and that people were really going to be surprised at what they would learn once she died. No one bothered to say anything about her odd pronouncements until after she died, and people were strangely surprised when the police found his corpse in the shed. She kept the weapon, too. I found it delightful that a photo of the stone frog was prominently displayed in the article. I don’t know if the journalist did this with tongue in cheek. I can’t help but think so. I love the power of language.
Describe a charming cultural oddity.