January 7, 2019
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Okay, it’s official: Happy New Year! I wasn’t able to do that in our last post, so here’s my date-appropriate welcome to the New Year and also to Week 381 of Stumbling Syntax.
The history of our calendar is interesting. The ancient Roman calendar was pretty flexible and could start the New Year anytime from January 1st to March, depending on the lunar cycle and whether the Roman pols wanted to extend the term of a favored leader or even interfere with upcoming elections. (Nothing new under the sun, is there?)
Mentioning the sun is appropriate here, because Julius Caesar (well-known Emperor about town) decided in about 45 BC to consult an Egyptian astronomer who helped him switch the calendar to the solar cycle, which the Egyptian had been using for some time already, and which turned out to be pretty close to what we have today. Caesar also named July (formerly Quintillis) after himself, but that’s another story.
Fast forward to the Middle (should be called ‘Lower’) Ages during which people had generally forgotten about calendars. Can you imagine New Year’s Day in the year 921? Let’s eavesdrop…
“Hey, Ralf, Happy New Year,” said Baker as he hoisted a mug of mead. (Mead was not the tastiest stuff in the Middle Ages, but it had a certain, shall we say, ‘zing’ to it.)
“New what?” asked Ralf. “I haven’t heard anything about new. What means thou?” (I’m taking liberty with this dialogue.)
“It’s a New Year, man,” enthused Baker. “Brown told me about it.”
“And who’s Brown?”
“You know, that wood worker with the brown hair. They call him ‘brown.’ (Authentic middle ages name.)
“Oh, you mean Carpenter,” replied Ralf. “Ah, you can’t always believe everything HE says. He said witches poisoned his well, when everyone knew it was his neighbor’s curse what did it.”
“Be that as it may,” said Baker, trying to be patient, “but our feudal Lord up on the hill, Lord Muck, said today was a brand-new year. He announced it from the palace this morning and then celebrated by putting ten people in the stocks.”
“Huh, that DOES sound official,” admitted Ralf. How’d he know that?”
“Easy,” replied Ralf. “A rider from King Thud (not a real Middle Ages name) came through and said that the King had seen a vision at sunrise through the cracks in the palace wall. When the sun’s in that little spot, it means the new year! How ‘bout a mead or two to celebrate?”
“Too early for me. Haven’t had my gruel yet. Plus, Matilda is making peat muffins this morning. She’d kill me if I broke the fast for mead.”
“You’re missin’ a good time, my friend,” opined Baker. “We didn’t go out New Year’s Eve. Didn’t know it WAS New Year’s Eve. So I’m gonna make up for it this morning.”
“Whatever works for you, buddy,” said Ralf. “Hey, what year IS it, anyway?”
“Oh, eight-something, or maybe nine-oh-three,” laughed Baker, taking a good swig from his mug. (These mugs were like a foot-tall, good value for the money.) “Who cares when you’re having a good time?”
“But are we REALLY having a good time?” queried Ralf, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
“Of course we are, you nitwit! The King said so, Lord Muck agreed and the Bishop said all our sins from last year would be wiped out today. Plus…..” He paused dramatically.
“Plus, when the sun rises to the top of yon distant mountain, seventy-five beautiful maidens with roses in their hair will be riding through on oxen to celebrate the day.”
“Well, why didn’t you say that earlier? It’s the Rose Parade! It MUST be New Year’s Day. Give me a mead, fellow serf Baker! The peat muffins can wait.”
Well, Terry couldn’t wait to answer that sporting goods question. And he got it right! MacGregor Golf equipment is the second-oldest sporting goods manufacturer in the country. The oldest is Brunswick, makers of pool and billiard tables and bowling balls.
Lots of interest in the 10th and Grant question. We had three winners: Edith was first in with ‘Quiznos’ being the chain eatery during the time frame I gave you. Yes indeed. Dale had it correct also. Julie had it right, too, and even gave us a bonus answer: Old Chicago Bistro, which lasted maybe a year or two at that location, well after Quiznos.
No takers lately on the other questions, so I’ll tell you the answers and then move on to something else.
‘Problem child’ in the Lincoln administration: Salmon Chase, Treasury Secretary, who was constantly working undercover to get the next Presidential nomination for himself.
Edible confection that soothes sunburn and conditions lifeless hair? Cool Whip!
Fragrant gum resin in the traditional Christmas story? Myrrh, brought by one of the three Wise Guys.
Okay, new ones…Where in GB was Spaghetti Jack’s located?
What former Chiefs coach was a wine enthusiast?
What former Chiefs coach had coached a Rose Bowl-winning team and a Super Bowl-winning team?
Who is probably the most important person in fishing equipment history?
What Carpenters song has been used in many commercials and is often played at weddings?
Well, I see by my built-in word counter, I’m up to 899 words now (whoops, now 904) so I’d better shut up before the warranty runs out.
As usual, tell us your thoughts at email@example.com.
See you next week.