Weekendish: Ghostly 'spaceman' and ha'pennies
- 23 May 2014
A collection of some of the best reads from the BBC News website this week, with an injection of your comments.
Halfpenny. Ha'penny. Ha'p'orth. Apeth (as in daft). Colloquially, the tiny bronze coin came to signify that something - or someone - wasn't worth very much. It's hard to believe that there was ever a need for such a small denomination as the British decimal halfpenny. It disappeared down the back of that great sofa in the sky 30 years ago. Magazine loves nostalgia, so we look at the story behind its demise. The curious thing about the coin is not that it was abolished, but that it lasted a full 13 years after its introduction with decimalisation in 1971. Andy Theyers tweets: "Let's not forget that the ha'penny coin weighed 16th of an ounce. Which was. You know. Useful. Sometimes. For things." Tom Freeman adds: "I'm just old enough to remember the halfpenny. I liked it. It was useful for buying sweets." David Long tweets: "Aged 6 my brother decided to collect ha'pennies, shrewdly guessing everyone would give him theirs. Made a fortune."
"My name is Piscine Molitor Patel" - sound familiar? That's because it's the full name of Pi Patel, hero or the Life of Pi. He happens to be named after a famous swimming pool in the heart of Paris that used to be the place to be seen between the two World Wars. It closed 25 years ago and has reopened as a luxury centre that will set you back 180 euros for a day pass. To mark the occasion of its rebirth we bring you more fascinating facts about its glamorous history. It was here, for example, that Johnny Weissmuller, was a lifeguard - before he became better known as Tarzan. It's also where "Le bikini" - a suit of four triangles made from only 30 inches of fabric was launched, by a one-time nude dancer. Dive in. David Netto tweets: "The pool where Tarzan was a lifeguard... Paris takes care of itself. Pay attention, New York."
If you watch anything online this weekend, make sure it's this. It will take up just over three minutes of your time. Rachel Erickson is a tour guide but there's nothing bog-standard about her approach. She will take you on a tour of lavatorial London - focusing on the history of the capital's toilets - including a Victorian pissoir. "The question of what I do for a living is one I both love and dread," she admits.
Booze. The word featured in the first ever glossary of slang, the collection of criminal jargon published c.1532. It's still going strong and pretty much most people know what it means. What about yang, though? It rhymes with slang, but most people don't have a clue what it means. Yolo? Where did that one come from? The stories behind slang words are fascinating, writes lexicographer Jonathon Green. Go on, have a butchers. Cedric Titcombe wrote on Facebook: "Groovy. Loons. Far out! You can tell my era!" James Dignan For a generation of New Zealanders, the expression of exasperation "Jeez, Wayne!" automatically brings back memories of the 1970s (and the satirical television series A Week of It, which it originally came from).
This week, it's a lesson in Choctaw - on the house. This is the fascinating story of the Native American tribe who stepped in when US military codes kept being broken by the Germans in World War One. They just spoke their own language - which baffled the enemy - and paved the way for other Native American "code talkers" in WW2. According to one expert, the Germans were so perplexed by Choctaw, that strange theories began to circulate about how these sounds were produced. "There are stories that they thought the US had invented a contraption to speak underwater." Try it yourself with our online lesson. "Another example of why diversity is good (with a little luck too)," tweets Adrian Frost.
Photographic oddities are not uncommon - particularly nowadays when there are any number of ways that photographs can be manipulated. They are also easily debunked. Fifty years ago, however, people were much more willing to suspend disbelief, particularly if the picture chimed with themes of the day. So it was with the picture of the so-called Solway Spaceman. Many people believed the picture inexplicably showed a spaceman - this was the 1960s and space, UFOs etc, were the themes of the day. Weird things happened after this photo became public. Read on and find out what and whether the mystery has been solved. Daniel Stewart tweets: "As a child I had a babysitter who knew this family and brought this picture to show me. Freaked me out." SpaceMajick adds: "Weird - there are still people who insist on seeing a 'spaceman' in this pic." Armagh Planetarium tweets: "The mystery of the Solway Spaceman. Why would an alien look like the 60s concept of an astronaut?"
Here are some reads we've enjoyed this week from elsewhere around the web: