A Quid and a Buck

I have heard many explanations for the origin of the word quid, a slang word for the British pound coin, formerly pound note. These range from the ludicrous – English fishermen used to trade in squids – to the curious: American frontiersmen traded in units of chewing tobacco known as quids. There is the dubious story about Gaelic-speaking soldiers in the British army demanding mo chuid, ‘my money’, and then the slightly more believable, but still unlikely, link to the Latin term quid pro quo, a commonly used expression meaning ‘a more or less equal exchange’.

But I have a better explanation for you. Another story I have heard concerns the Royal Paper Mill, once located at Quidhampton in Wiltshire, which used to provide the special paper for all of the banknotes commissioned by the Royal Mint, leading to the nickname for the pound note. But since the only reference I can find to Quidhampton Mill in Wiltshire is connected to that particular story, with details remaining conspicuously absent from local government records, it probably didn’t exist.

Instead the records led me to a Quidhampton Water Mill, which operated for seven-hundred-years between the thirteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, and was used for fulling locally produced worsted cloth. But in the process of finding all this out, I accidentally discovered the Overton Paper Mill, formerly called the Quidhampton Paper Mill, which lay between the villages of Overton and Quidhampton to the west of Basingstoke in Hampshire, another county altogether. It appears that this was this mill that produced the special banknote paper used by the Royal Mint, along with other banknote printers around the world, and did so for several centuries.

In attempting to dispel a myth, it seems I have accidentally confirmed it. With apologies to the good folk of Quidhampton in Wiltshire – it looks as if it wasn’t your mill after all.

In America the equivalent smallest note of currency, the dollar, has its own nickname: a buck.The term comes from poker playing. Back in the days of the Wild West, the most common knife available was known as a buckhorn knife, so called because the handle was carved from the horn of a buck deer. As all cowboys and ranchers carried them around, one of these knives would always be placed in front of whoever was due to deal the next hand in a game of poker. Later, at the great casinos and gaming houses in Las Vegas, a silver dollar was used in place of a knife, and that is how the slang term for the currency arose.

In poker games where the stakes were running too high for a player, he could opt out of his turn at dealing by passing the buckhorn knife (or buck) to the next player. Even if he chose to play, he still avoided the responsibility of setting the bets next time around by passing the buck along. This expression was known by 1865 and the first recorded use was by Mark Twain in 1872. In 1945, President Truman famously had a plaque made for his desk in the Oval Office, which read The Buck Stops Here, a clear declaration that he was prepared to accept responsibility for all the decisions taken during his term of office. Later presidents Carter, Ford and Nixon all copied the idea, and the expression has since been widely used.

Extract from Money for Old Rope Parts 1 & 2

Albert Jack books available for download here

 

Pommy

Pommy, or Pom, is well-known Australian slang for an Englishman. The word is often preceded by the words ‘useless’ or ‘whingeing’, and suffixed by bastards, particularly when it comes to sporting prowess – or lack of. Former Australian rugby captain David Campese made headlines during the 2003 Rugby World Cup, when he supposedly declared that the ‘Poms would win nothing’, words that came back to bite him when England beat Australia in the final.

The expression supposedly arises from the acronym POME, which stands for ‘Prisoner Of Mother England’, or alternatively from POHM, ‘Prisoner Of His/Her Majesty’. Either way, it was a name given to the English convicts who were transported to Australia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and who were not natives of that country. So basically, if you are not an aborigine living in Australia then you are a Pommy. D. H. Lawrence, one of the great novelists of his generation, had an alternative theory, however. He suggested in his 1923 novel Kangeroo that the expression evolved from the pomegranate and the red, florid appearance of the fruit, which he claimed matched that of the traditional complexion of the British after three months on the high seas. But I respectfully suggest that the great man made that up.

Extract from Money for Old Rope Parts 1 & 2

Albert Jack books available for download here

Will the Real Paul McCartney Please Stand Up?

Did the famous ex-Beatle really die in a car crash back in 1966?

On 12 October 1969, Tom Zarski rang the ‘Uncle’ Russ Gibb’s radio show on WKNR-FM in Dearborn, Michigan, and announced that Paul McCartney had been killed in an accident in November 1966 and the Beatles had drafted in a lookalike to keep the band fully functioning. He backed up his argument with several pieces of credible circumstantial evidence, including the decision by the band in 1967 to stop playing live in order to concentrate on their studio recordings and film work.

Russ Gibb was so intrigued by the story that he then spent two hours on air mulling over the clues and playing Beatles records. When one caller urged him to play ‘Revolution 9’ (from The White Album) backwards, Gibb was amazed to find he could distinctly make out the words ‘Turn me on, dead man’ through his headphones. Despite the fact that Zarski had pointed out he didn’t actually believe Paul McCartney was dead, he was just interested in the theory, by the end of the programme networks across the United States were discussing the mysterious death of one of the world’s most famous rock stars and the events surrounding his demise. Hundreds of news journalists promptly flew to London and interviewed as many of the conspiracy theorists they could find, and from the reports that followed the only certainty is that many of them were experimenting with LSD, as none of it made much sense at all.

The story ran that on the evening of Tuesday 8 November 1966 Paul McCartney and John Lennon were working late into the night on the Beatles’ upcoming album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band when a row developed over recording techniques and McCartney stormed out of the studio. Furious, he sped off in his Aston Martin and smashed into a van, dying instantly. The resulting fire prevented the coroner from positively identifying the body but the remaining band members were left in no doubt at all that McCartney had not survived. Another caller to Russ Gibb’s show claimed that McCartney had picked up a hitchhiker called Rita that night. When she suddenly realized who he was, she had screamed and lunged at her hero, causing him to crash into the van. Neither Rita nor the other driver were ever seen or heard from again.

The public mourned as shock in but there was one unavoidable question: if McCartney had died in 1966, who was the man that looked like Paul and who had been hanging out with the Beatles ever since? The explanation ran that Beatles manager Brian Epstein was so horrified at the thought of the world’s most successful band breaking up that he held secret auditions and persuaded John, George and Ringo to have all their photographs taken with a stand-in to keep the public unaware of the accident. When Epstein died only nine months later, after a battle with depression and drug abuse, his untimely demise was cited as another piece of evidence. It was said that he just couldn’t come to terms with the loss of McCartney. The Paul-is-dead mystery was also conveniently used to explain McCartney’s sudden split from long-term fiancée Jane Asher (because McCartney stand-in William Shears Campbell didn’t like her) and that his new relationship with Linda Eastman (later McCartney) was Campbell’s real love interest.

Another piece of supposedly compelling evidence is that for several years the other three Beatles had wanted to stop playing live shows because the audiences were screaming so loudly they couldn’t could hear anything, but McCartney had resisted. With Paul gone, the remaining three could do as they pleased – indeed the Beatles had last performed live on 29 August 1966, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, and played no more live concerts after that. Conspiracy theorists nodded and agreed that it all made perfect sense, while others, including the Beatles, laughed it off as a ridiculous urban legend.

And still the story continued. One American radio presenter had photographs of the singer before and after November 1966 scientifically compared and found there were obvious differences, one being that the nose was of a different length. A doctor from the University of Miami analysed voice recordings and concluded publicly that the recordings prior to August 1966 were different to those recorded afterwards. Paul McCartney, he claimed, did not sing on Beatles records after August 1966.

By now fans all over the world were beginning to look for their own clues in Beatles music and album covers, and the clues turned up in spades. Here then are some of them, and the evidence seemingly pointing to the fact that Paul McCartney was dead.

Sgt Pepper was the first album the Beatles released after the supposed accident, after recording began on 6 December 1966. When it reached the shops in June 1967, nobody noticed anything unusual about the artwork in connection with the Paul McCartney mystery, but in 1969 conspiracy theorists were able to detect a range of coded references to Paul’s demise. For a start the band appear to be standing at a graveside complete with flowers and wreaths. They are surrounded by famous personalities, who could be mourners, and one of them is holding an open hand above McCartney’s head, said to be a traditional Eastern symbol for death. The theorists looked closer and concluded that the yellow flowers at the foot of the picture are arranged in the shape of a left-handed bass guitar, Paul’s instrument, and one of the four strings is missing, signifying his absence. Under the doll’s arm on the right hand side there appears to be a blood-stained driving glove and the doll itself has a head wound similar to the one Paul was supposed to have died from and he is wearing a badge on his sleeve on the inside cover bearing the letters OPD, standing for ‘Officially Pronounced Dead’.

The open-palm gesture actually appears on the front cover of Revolver, twice in the Magical Mystery Tour booklet, twice in the Magical Mystery film and twice on the cover of the original Yellow Submarine sleeve, but, in reality, none of it means anything at all. There is no such gesture in Indian culture symbolizing death. The badge Paul is wearing on the inside sleeve does not read ‘OPD’, it has the initials OPP on it. The badge was in fact given to McCartney when he visited the Ontario Provincial Police in Canada during the Beatles’ world tour in 1965.

A statue of Kali, a Hindu goddess, also features on the front cover of the Sgt Pepper album, which the theorists maintain represents rebirth and regeneration, hinting that one of the Beatles has been reborn, or replaced. But Kali, from which the name of Calcutta is believed to derive, has traditionally been a figure of annihilation, representing the destructive power of time (kala being the Sanskrit word for ‘time’)

Also, the ‘O’ shaped arrangement of flowers at end of the band’s name has caused some theorists to speculate that the whole thing reads ‘BE AT LESO’ instead of ‘BEATLES’. This was taken as a sign that Paul was buried at Leso, the Greek Island the band had supposedly bought. But none of the Beatles had bought a Greek island and there is no such place as Leso.

There are many more pieces of ‘convincing’ evidence. I’ve just picked out some of my favourites.

The Beatles all grew moustaches at the time to help mask a scar on the lip of McCartney stand-in William Shears Campbell.

In fact McCartney did grow a moustache for Sgt Pepper as he was unable to shave at the time. Paul had fallen off his scooter on his way to visit his aunt and split his lip on a pavement, making it too painful to shave. He also lost a front tooth in the accident, explaining why he appears in the ‘Rain’ and ‘Paperback Writer’ promo videos missing one of his teeth. The accident also explains the scars seen during the White Album photograph sessions.

The number plate on the VW Beetle shown on the Abbey Road cover reads LMW 281F, taken to mean Paul would have been 28 ‘IF’ he had survived.

But Paul would have been only twenty-seven, and the VW Beetle had nothing to do with anyone at Abbey Road. The director of the photo sessions tried to have it towed away, but the police took too long to arrive so they went ahead with the picture anyway, leaving it in shot.

McCartney is wearing no shoes in the Abbey Road photograph.

His explanation was: ‘It was a hot day and I wanted to take my shoes off, to look slightly different to the others. That’s all that was about. Now people can tell me apart from the others.’ But the conspiracy theorists swore that the picture had been set up to look like a funeral march, with him as the corpse.

On the records Rubber Soul, Yesterday and Today, Help and Revolver there were said to be many more clues. The song ‘I’m Looking Through You’ on Rubber Soul was thought to be about discovering that McCartney had been replaced. Some fans took these blatant ‘clues’ as hard evidence while others quickly realized all of those records were made prior to 9 November 1966 and could not possibly have anything to do with the supposed accident.

But with hysteria mounting, even the thinnest clue came to look like definite evidence. In the lyrics to ‘I am the Walrus’, the line ‘stupid bloody Tuesday’ is taken by some to be John Lennon referring to the day of the accident that claimed his band mate. But when it was pointed out the alleged accident was supposed to have happened on a Wednesday morning, conspiracy theorists then claimed it was the Tuesday night that the two of them had fallen out before McCartney had stormed off, and to his death. Some believed it, while others dismissed it as an already thin lead being stretched even thinner. But then came the line ‘waiting for the van to come’, a supposed reference to the ambulance, and ‘goo goo ga joob’ – apparently Humpty Dumpty’s last words before he fell off that wall and bashed his head in, as Paul was supposed to have done.

The Beatles themselves very quickly became very irritated by all the speculation. And it was not long before the band, aware every lyric and photo shoot was now being studied, began to play up to the hysteria. After writing one complicated and seemingly meaningless song called ‘Glass Onion’ Lennon remarked, ‘Let the f**kers work that one out.’ But he included the lines ‘Well here’s another clue for you all / The walrus was Paul’. In no time at all, people were announcing the walrus was a symbol of death to some cultures and Lennon despaired. It wasn’t much fun being a Beatle any more and the band broke up soon afterwards.

So – to sum up – if the real Paul McCartney had died in his Aston Martin in 1967, and a replacement found in time for the photo shoots for the next album, then imagine the string of coincidences that needed to have taken place. For a start he had to look and sound just like Paul. Then he had to convince Linda or, if she was in on the plot, she had to like him enough to stay married to him for the next thirty years. And he would have had to learn how to play guitar left-handed, which is even less likely, I can assure you. John Lennon would have to have been fooled too, as it is unlikely he would want share song-writing credits and royalties with a stranger for the last three years of Beatles recordings, especially as Epstein wasn’t there to tell him to. And most of all, for the lookalike to have written and recorded songs of a McCartney standard for over thirty years would be hard to imagine.

Hang on a minute, I have just remembered ‘The Frog Chorus’ and ‘Mull of Kintyre’, and so my argument is beginning to wear thin, even to me. And another thing – would the real Paul McCartney have married Heather Wills, or whatever her name was? Perhaps Zarski was right after all – there must be an impostor …

Extract from Money for Old Rope Parts 1 & 2

Albert Jack books available for download here

Golliwog

Now, golliwog is a word that I am sure has my new editor already hovering over her ‘delete’ button. It has been the subject of heated debate over recent years, and not just over its exact origin. Golliwog was originally an African character in a children’s picture book called The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg, written by American author Bertha Upton and published in 1895. The book became a huge success and a worldwide golliwog craze followed. When in 1910 the British jam manufacturer John Robertson saw how many children were playing with the dolls, he developed the character Golly as a mascot for his company’s jams and marmalades. Perhaps unbelievably, Golly was not retired from service until 2001.

The golliwog is often blamed for having generated an offensive word used to describe people of African descent, but perhaps wrongly as it turns out. It is thought by some that the term may in fact have evolved from the acronym applied to the overseas labourers employed across the British Empire, who were required to wear armbands bearing the initials WOGS: ‘Working On Government Service’.

As for the name of Bertha Upton’s original doll, this is thought to have been invented by the book’s illustrator, Bertha’s daughter Florence, who merged the words ‘golly’ and ‘polliwog’ (an American word for ‘tadpole’). Others, meanwhile, and I am one of them, believe that the word developed after British soldiers returned from duty in Egypt bearing as a gift a popular children’s toy from that country: a rag doll stuffed with black material, called a ghuliwog.

Given that Bertha Upton had immigrated to Britain in 1887 after the death of her husband, and when Florence was only fourteen, it is highly likely that the young artist would have known about ghuliwog dolls and may even have owned one herself. Whatever the origin of the word, however, the toy itself, a century later, began to be seen by many as a symbol of racism. In the mid-1980s, Ken Livingston’s Greater London Council boycotted any product endorsed by a golliwog, and in 1988 the character disappeared from our television screens for ever. By 2007, British police were seizing golliwogs from toyshops after complaints that the dolls were offensive.

But we live in an age of political correctness gone mad in which even the innocuous children’s nursery rhyme ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ has been banned in many schools and replaced with ‘Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep’. I kid you not. My advice is to take a look in your grandmother’s loft and see if she is hiding her golliwog up there. If she is, don’t report her; instead, hide the doll. It might be worth a lot of money one day.

Extract from Money for Old Rope Parts 1 & 2

Albert Jack books available for download here

Gobbledygook

Gobbledygook, meaningless or jargon-filled language (see also gibberish, mumbo-jumbo),was claimed by an American politician, Maury Maverick, to have been made up by him when he banned all ‘gobbledygook language’ in a memo he sent in March 1944 to employees in the Smaller War Plants Corporation, of which he was chairman. As Maury, himself the grandson of Samuel, the original maverick, explained to a New York Times reporter in May that same year: ‘People ask me where I got gobbledygook from and I do not know. It must have come in a vision. Perhaps I was thinking of the old bearded turkey gobbler back in Texas, who was always gobbledy-gobbling and strutting with curious pomposity. At the end of this gobble there was always some sort of gook.’

Right then, so let’s clear this up for the good old Texan visionary. There is a an alternative theory that the word instead evolved during the French Indochina War, when French soldiers encountered the Thai and Vietnamese people for the first time and supposedly referred to their language as gobble de gouke, or ‘gooks’ gobble’. This theory is dubious enough even before we remind ourselves, as American etymologists like to, that the French Indochina War began in 1946, two years after Maverick’s famed memo, which seems to indicate that this fabulous word is of American origin.

The word ‘gook’ on its own, however, appears to have been in circulation among French troops before Maury Maverick was born, let alone busy writing memos. The French took control of Northern Vietnam after victory over China in the Sino-French War of 1884–5, and popularly nicknamed any Asian prostitute, soldier or other undesirable a ‘gook’. As a first lieutenant during the First World War, Maverick is likely to have added the word to his vocabulary when serving alongside French soldiers. Visions indeed?

Extract from Money for Old Rope Parts 1 & 2

Albert Jack books available for download here

Jazz

Although jazz has been used for around a century to describe the music that was born in New Orleans and quickly spread up the Mississippi River in the early 1900s before reaching Chicago (see dixieland), nobody is quite sure how the word evolved. It had entered Californian slang by 1912 and was used – often as a synonym for ‘oomph’ or ‘pep’ – in San Francisco newspaper articles in 1913, but when it was first applied to the music remains obscure.

In 1924, American author Edwin DuBose Heyward (1885–1940) published Jasbo Brown and Selected Poems, the title poem featuring an itinerant black musician who travels along the Mississippi and eventually settles in the Chicago cabarets. The name cropped up again the following year when George Brooks wrote a song called ‘Jazzbo Brown from Memphis Town’, which was regularly performed by Bessie Smith (1894–1937), heralded as the ‘Empress of the Blues’. Then, in 1935, George Gershwin premiered his opera Porgy and Bess – based on a novel by DuBose Heyward – in which a character called Jasbo Brown plays the piano in a famous scene commonly referred to as ‘Jasbo Brown Blues’, which culminates with the classic song ‘Summertime’.

But despite ‘jazz’ being selected by the American Dialect Society as the ‘Word of the Twentieth Century’, and the considerable research that has been carried out on its origins, no real-life Jasbo or Jazzbo Brown has ever been traced. Of course, this is no proof against an itinerant musician named Jasbo Brown having worked his way in towns along the Mississippi at the turn of the twentieth century: if anything, the use of the variant spellings by DuBose Heyward and Brooks suggests the name had travelled by word of mouth. So raise a glass with me to the real founder of jazz, Jasbo Brown, because I have a feeling somebody will find evidence of him some day.

Extract from Money for Old Rope Parts 1 & 2

Albert Jack books available for download here

Neil Armstrong – (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) R.I.P

One Small Step for Mankind…

Much has been made in the past about the Apollo Moon Landings made by Astronauts between 1969 and 1972 and conspiracy theories have circulated ever since Neil Armstrong, Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin and Michael Collins first landed their Saturn 5 craft. I also have my doubts just by looking at the famous photo of the Lunar Module, Astronaut and apparently fluttering US flag. For a start we know there is no atmosphere, so where does the wind come from. Also the light, shadows and lack of visible stars are suspicious and we can see the moon’s surface clearly and it certainly doesn’t look like cheese to me. Some people insist the whole thing was staged in a studio under the Nevada Desert but if that were true, why have space observers all over the world, including Russia who were certainly watching with interest, not revealed the hoax if it was one. So, in fact, we just do not know. We do know that no Moon Landings have taken place since 1972, by America, Russia or anybody else, which begs the question – why not?

And what we also know is the Neil Armstrong, who was given the now famous scripted speech to make from the moon surface, fluffed his lines. What Armstrong was given to recite was ‘That is one small step for a man – one giant leap for mankind’ although what he actually said is ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. This has had English language buffs and space nuts going for over thirty years. On the one hand the use of the word ‘man without a letter ‘a’ in front of it sees it used in the plural tense making man mean the same as mankind. This suggests Armstrong effectively said ‘One small step for mankind and one giant leap for mankind. Space nuts, on the other hand claim radio interference simply lead to the ‘a’ not being heard properly. And who can be bothered to argue with them? Quite simply, moon landing or not, fluffed lines or not, it is quite probably the most famous sentence ever spoken and there is no argument over who said it. It was Neil Armstrong.

There is another story claiming Armstrong also said the cryptic line ‘Good luck Mr Gorsky’ as he re entered the Lunar Module. Many believed at the time Armstrong was making a reference to a Russian who was involved in their own Space Programme. However, extensive research failed to reveal the name Gorsky involved in any such programme and, when asked about it, Armstrong refused to answer.

It was then claimed that on July 5th 1995, whilst answering questions following a speech made in Tampa, Florida, that the question was put to Armstrong again. ‘Who is Mr Gorsky?’ This time, it is said, Armstrong announced that as the Gorsky’s had now passed away he could reveal the meaning of his cryptic message without embarrassing anybody.  He then went on to tell the story of when he was a young boy playing baseball with his brother and had hit the ball into his neighbour’s house, a Mr and Mrs Gorsky. As he went to retrieve it he heard, through an open window, Mrs Gorsky yelling at her husband ‘oral sex, you want oral sex. You can have that the day the kid next door walks on the moon.’ Now that story, I can believe!

Extract from The President’s Brain is Missing (And Other Urban Legends)

Albert Jack books available for download here