Author Archives: ham

Not Worth an Egg

[I]t is uniformly when parties have run highest and the strife has been deadliest that people have been most forward to stake their existence and every thing belonging to them, on some unintelligible dogma or article of an old-fashioned creed. Half the wars and fightings, martyrdoms, persecutions, feuds, antipathies, heartburnings in the world have been about some distinction, ‘some trick not worth an egg’—so ready are mankind to sacrifice their all to a mere name!

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), “The Main-Chance,” Lectures on the English Comic Writers, with Miscellaneous Essays (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1910; rpt. 1913), pp. 235-252 (at 247): 

egg (A) Something small and worthless. ‘Not worth an egg(shell)’ is proverbial (Tilley, E95, see Cor 4.4.21: ‘Some trick not worth an egg’). The egg is ‘Shakespeare’s frequent measure of insignificance.’

Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, Shakespeare’s Insults: A Pragmatic Dictionary (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), p. 171:

Laudator Temporis Acti

Poultry farmer from Shorpy

Mrs. Carter weighing eggs

December 1940. “Mrs. Richard Carter, poultry farmer of Middleboro, Massachusetts. She runs the business of one thousand poulets while her husband drives a bulldozer at an Army camp nearby.” Acetate negative by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. Via Shorpy.

The Egg Dance

The Egg Dance (ca. 1620), Pieter Brueghel the Younger

The egg dance was a traditional Easter game involving the laying down of eggs on the ground and dancing among them whilst trying to break as few as possible. Another variation (depicted in many of the images featured here) involved tipping an egg from a bowl, and then trying to flip the bowl over on top of it, all with only using one’s feet and staying within a chalk circle drawn on the ground.

Public Domain Review

Egg Castle

Egg Castle

Around the year 492, a monastery was founded in the Bay of Naples on the island of Megaride. This tiny speck of land was the site where Greek colonists from Cumae first settled. In the first century BC a magnificent Roman villa was built there by Lucius Licinius Lucullus (118-57/56 BC), a Roman consul and successful general. His name long remained attached to the complex: after it was fortified in the fifth century AD, it was known as the Castellum Lucullanum. One of its most famous residents was Romulus Augustulus, the last emperor of the Western Roman empire before it collapsed. He was exiled there after his deposition in 476.

Today the fortification is called Castel dell’Ovo or “Egg Castle”. This unusual appellation refers to a legend that the Roman poet Virgil put a magical egg in the foundations of the castle. If it had broken, the structure would have collapsed, which would have spelled disaster for the city of Naples. If you are wondering why a poet would have magical eggs in his possession, that all has to do with Virgil’s Fourth Eclogue. Written around 42 BC, the poem speaks of the birth of a savior who will rule the world.

Only favour the child who’s born, pure Lucina, under whom the first race of iron shall end, and a golden race rise up throughout the world: now your Apollo reigns.

medievalists.net

What does the Bible say about eggs

 

Isaiah 10:14 ESV

My hand has found like a nest the wealth of the peoples; and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken, so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing or opened the mouth or chirped.

Deuteronomy 22:6-7 ESV

If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.

Isaiah 59:5 ESV

They hatch adders’ eggs; they weave the spider’s web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched.

Luke 11:12 ESV

Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

Job 39:14 ESV

For she leaves her eggs to the earth and lets them be warmed on the ground,

Job 6:6 ESV

Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt, or is there any taste in the juice of the mallow?

Shaggy mane

Coprinus comatus, the shaggy ink cap, lawyer’s wig, or shaggy mane, is a common fungus often seen growing on lawns, along gravel roads and waste areas. The young fruit bodies first appear as white cylinders emerging from the ground, then the bell-shaped caps open out. The caps are white, and covered with scales—this is the origin of the common names of the fungus. The gills beneath the cap are white, then pink, then turn black and secrete a black liquid filled with spores (hence the “ink cap” name). This mushroom is unusual because it will turn black and dissolve itself in a matter of hours after being picked or depositing spores.

High above the Alhambra

Such were our minor preparations for the journey, but above all we laid in an ample stock of good humor, and a genuine disposition to be pleased, determining to travel in true contrabandista style, taking things as we found them, rough or smooth, and mingling with all classes and conditions in a kind of vagabond companionship. It is the true way to travel in Spain. With such disposition and determination, what a country is it for a traveller, where the most miserable inn is as full of adventure as an enchanted castle, and every meal is in itself an achievement! Let others repine at the lack of turnpike roads and sumptuous hotels, and all the elaborate comforts of a country cultivated and civilized into tameness and commonplace; but give me the rude mountain scramble; the roving, haphazard, wayfaring; the half wild, yet frank and hospitable manners, which impart such a true game flavor to dear old romantic Spain Above the bridge a range of mountains bounds the Vega to the west: the ancient barrier between Granada and the Christian territories. Among their heights you may still discern warrior towns, their gray walls and battlements seeming of a piece with the rocks on which they are built. Here and there a solitary alalaya, or watchtower, perched on a mountain peak, looks down as it were from the sky into the valley on either side. How often have these alalayas given notice, by fire at night or smoke by day, of an approaching foe! It was down a cragged defile of these mountains, called the Pass of Lope, that the Christian armies descended into the Vega. Round the base of yon gray and naked mountain (the mountain of Elvira), stretching its bold rocky promontory into the bosom of the plain, the invading squadrons would come bursting into view, with flaunting banners and clangor of drum and trumpet. All this, say the ancient legends, will endure from age to age. The princess will remain captive to the astrologer; and the astrologer, bound up in magic slumber by the princess, until the last day, unless the mystic hand shall grasp the fated key, and dispel the whole charm of this enchanted mountain. High above the Alhambra, on the breast of the mountain, amidst embowered gardens and stately terraces, rise the lofty towers and white walls of the Generalife; a fairy palace, full of storied recollections. Here is still to be seen the famous cypresses of enormous size which flourished in the time of the Moors, and which tradition has connected with the fabulous story of Boabdil and his sultana. In fact she taught they should all retire to the country for the summer, that the children might have the benefit of the mountain air, for there was no living in the city in this sultry season. The sight of this talisman called up all the favorite superstitions about the Moors. The dance was neglected, and they sat in groups on the ground, telling old legendary tales handed down from their ancestors. Some of their stories turned upon the wonders of the very mountain upon which they were seated, which is a famous hobgoblin region. One ancient crone gave a long account of the subterranean palace in the bowels of that mountain where Boabdil and all his Moslem court are said to remain enchanted. “Among yonder ruins,” said she, pointing to some crumbling walls and mounds of earth on a distant part of the mountain, “there is a deep black pit that goes down, down into the very heart of the mountain. For all the money in Granada I would not look down into it. Once upon a time a poor man of the Alhambra, who tended goats upon this mountain, scrambled down into that pit after a kid that had fallen in. He came out again all wild and staring, and told such things of what he had seen, that every one thought his brain was turned. He raved for a day or two about the hobgoblin Moors that had pursued him in the cavern, and could hardly be persuaded to drive his goats up again to the mountain. He did so at last, but, poor man, he never came down again. The neighbors found his goats browsing about the Moorish ruins, and his hat and mantle lying near the mouth of the pit, but he was never more heard of.”

Ogg Couple

Egghead and Olga, Queen of the Cossacks, steal the golden Egg of Ogg, and the Silver Scimitar of Toras Bulbul to boot. The caper goes awry and Egghead begs for Batgirl’s mercy, only to lead her into a trap. Olga trips Batgirl up with caviar and sabers and then tosses her into a giant ice kettle just as Batman and Robin arrive.

Stink and a hay

Knight in shining armour dissed by a dragon

Knight in shining armour dissed by a dragon

I’ll seer yr bacon, and raise you a stink and a hay. A bona dea keeps the anchor awake. Yes we have no null modems. I’d like you to meet my niche. Suckle me choppers at Pa’s moll and pick a peck of pox malt, apocryphal of rye. Ask me no algebra and I tell you no lie. No stone’ll be unturned, nor thrown out at first. Singasing of Sack’s pence, fractal Jack in the pluton green, and yet those cratons keep rolling along.

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Head cheese

Li'l Abner drooling for Daisy May's ham

Li’l Abner drooling for Daisy May’s ham

Head cheese or brawn is a cold cut that originated in Europe and should have stayed there. A version pickled with vinegar is known as souse. Head cheese is not a cheese but a terrine or meat jelly made with flesh from the head of a calf or pig (sometimes a sheep or cow), and often set in aspic. The parts of the head used varies, but the brain, eyes, and ears are usually removed. The tongue, and sometimes even the feet and heart, may be included.