Caught Red-Handed

I heard this phrase this afternoon, and thought, Well, there’s no great mystery with this one. Red-handed refers to having blood on one’s hands from an act of murder or some other violence. No complicated, confusing web of etymology here.

But then I thought, I always think that, and then I look something up and there’s a fascinating, unexpected origin of the expression that I’ll be excited to share with you, dear reader. Continue reading

Burns Night!

I’ve just realised it’s Burns Night!

If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a Scottish celebration of the poet Rabbie Burns, whose best-known is probably the song Auld Lang Syne. The night involves the Burns Supper, which can be quite an elaborate affair, and invariably involves a meal of haggis, neeps (turnips), and tatties (potatoes). Before it’s served there’s the Piping of the Haggis. Bagpipers play as the delicious dish is brought in, and the host or a guest then recites Burn’s Address to a Haggis:  Continue reading

Auld Lang Syne

You might end up singing Auld Lang Syne tonight, and like a lot of people wonder, what it means, or even if it’s an English phrase. Well, it is, though strictly it’s Scots, as written by the great Scottish poet Robert “Rabbie” Burns in 1788.

The title can be translated into standard English as old long since, or long long ago, meaning that the song is about remembering long-held friendships. Which might seem like a strange song for such a forward-looking night as New Year’s Eve, but I think it’s an appropriately melancholy way to say goodbye to a year. Continue reading