Suche synne is named yronie …

… by the whiche a man sayth one and gyueth to vnderstonde the contrary.

That, according the the OED, is the first known usage of “irony” in English. There explained by the magnificently-named Wynkyn de Worde in 1502.

What Malcolm has learned, by bitter experience, is that irony does not travel. It is best avoided, in any circumstances west of Connemara, and must never be employed, under any circumstances, in New York City and environs.

Fishy stuff

And then there’s this:

No evidence of mermaids, says US government

There is no evidence that mermaids exist, a US government scientific agency has said.

The National Ocean Service made the unusual declaration in response to public inquiries following a TV show on the mythical creatures.

It is thought some viewers may have mistaken the programme for a documentary.

“No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found,” the service wrote in an online post.

The National Ocean Service posted an article last week on its educational website, Ocean Facts.

On with the wet job

Were Malcolm being snitty, he would be taking exception to that “educational site” insofar as it claims:

The ancient Greek epic poet Homer wrote of [mermaids] in The Odyssey.

Err, no. In Book XII of the Odyssey Circe warns Odysseus of the Sirens (here in Pope’s rendering):

Next, where the Sirens dwells, you plough the seas;
Their song is death, and makes destruction please.
Unblest the man, whom music wins to stay
Nigh the cursed shore and listen to the lay.
No more that wretch shall view the joys of life
His blooming offspring, or his beauteous wife!
In verdant meads they sport; and wide around
Lie human bones that whiten all the ground:
The ground polluted floats with human gore,
And human carnage taints the dreadful shore.
Fly swift the dangerous coast: let every ear
Be stopp’d against the song! ’tis death to hear!
Firm to the mast with chains thyself be bound,
Nor trust thy virtue to the enchanting sound.
If, mad with transport, freedom thou demand,
Be every fetter strain’d, and added band to band.

A close regard to the Greek grammar suggests that there were just two of them, and a commentary on Virgil’s Georgics names as Aglaopheme and Thelxiepeia. But let Malcolm go with the flow …

Quality! No, feel the quantity!

Illustrators, particularly those of the Victorian period, could never have too much of a good thing, notably so when it involves the nude female form with a vaguely Classical — and therefore respectable, context for excuse. So the numbers tend to expand to fill the canvas available.

Just as Little Vicky was checking her wardrobe for her coronation, William Etty went for the big, big time (this one is a real monster):

That was gifted to the Manchester Art Gallery in 1839, was on display at Old Trafford in 1857, then retired to decay in storage — Etty had used too much size in preparing the fabric, until (in 2006-8) it was restored “live” before visitors.

Hello, sailor!

As Herbert James Draper there, in 1909. Or should that be “undraper”. And he seems to imply a mixed set: blonde, brunette and (something of a meme to watch for) a redhead.

Edward Armitage, in 1888 and now in the Leeds Art Gallery, bothered with just the one, again a dangerous rousse, and very physically so:


You really are a glutton for punishment —


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Filed under BBC, culture, fiction, History, Literature, Quotations

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