Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jacob, Witches, and nursery rhymes

Jacobs is especially interested in the encyclopedia entry on Jacobs, and he recounts the story of Jacob and Esau, which brought to mind the first time I heard the story. I was mostly unchurched as a child, so I learned this classic Bible story for the first time when I was in college. When my husband and I first were dating I asked him the meaning of his name, James. He told me it meant "usurper". Hmmm.... Other than figuring out that it meant "one who usurps" it didn't shed much light for me, so this Baptist minister's son told me the story of how Jacob usurped his brother's birthright. And so, the preacher's kid married the athiest's daughter, and they became Unitarians, and lived happily ever after.

LSD is Lysergic acid diethylamide and comes from a fungus called ergot found in grain. One of the more recent theories about the witch hysteria in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 is that the bread that year was poisoned with ergot. I am especially interested in the Salem witch trials as I recently discovered that Rebecca Nurse, one of the first people killed, is a direct ancestor.

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosos (a lung disease) is the longest word in the English language. Since both Shea and Jacobs saw fit to mention it. I will mention it here too.

According to the Brittanica, Horace Mann, a educational reformer of the 19th century, said "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity." He is also the founder of Bridgewater State College, which was originally opened as a normal school in 1840.

I was very surprised to read the entry on nursery rhymes and see that, according the the Brittanica, Jack and Jill refer to two kinds of early English measurement. Years ago, I heard on NPR that the nursery rhyme was based on the story of a real couple in Kilmersdon, England. Jill died as I recall. This is very disturbing. I trust both the Brittanica and NPR, and one of them is wrong. By the way, if you've heard the rumor about Ring around the Rosie being about the Black Plague, you've been mislead. Once again gives the real story.

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