Page 283. " gravelled Glaswegian voices "

Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, to the west of the country’s central lowland region. The Glaswegian accent – known as Glasgow Patter – is notoriously hard to understand. Used in everyday contexts, including broadcasting and print, the dialect is continuously evolving. Michael Munro’s famous guide to the dialect, The Patter was published in 1985.

The video clip is from ‘Parliamo Glasgow’, a popular comedy series by Stanley Baxter, which features plenty of the Glaswegian accent!

The Online Scots Dictionary

Page 283. " a den of thieves "

The ‘den of thieves’ comes from the New Testament, Matthew 21:13, when Jesus cleansed the Temple of Jerusalem of money-changers: ‘And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.’

Page 283. " like babes in a wood "

A common phrase referring to innocent people entering into danger without realising it.

The phrase comes from the traditional children’s tale of The Babes in the Wood, first published anonymously in 1595. The story features two young children who are left to the care of their aunt and uncle when their parents die. Abandoned in a wood, the children die and are covered with leaves by a robin (in later versions they are then taken to Heaven). Unlike many similar tales of the period, the story does not finish with a redemptive moral ending.

Page 283. " ‘abandon all hope ye who dealt with me’ "

Charon arrives to ferry the dead across the river to Hell, illustration by Gustave Doré
Public DomainCharon arrives to ferry the dead across the river to Hell, illustration by Gustave Doré - Credit: Gustave Doré
A play on words on ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here’, the inscription on the entrance to Hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The epic poem was written between 1306 and 1321 and first translated into English between 1805 and 1814 by Henry Francis Cary.

Page 284. " thumping out a Beethoven theme "

 Ludwig van Beethoven was one of the world’s most famous classical composers, influential in ushering in the Romantic era in Western music. Born in Bonn, Germany, in 1770, Beethoven was a prodigious young musician who was taught by his father and gave his first concert at the age of seven.

When he was 22 years old he moved to Vienna, capital of the musical world, where he studied under Haydn. Initially setting himself up as a performer, he began to compose and became famous for his amazing output of work, particularly for piano. During his lifetime he wrote 9 symphonies, 16 string quartets, 5 piano concertos and 32 piano sonatas as well as other orchestral, choral and chamber music works.

From the age of 26, Beethoven’s hearing began to deteriorate – he suffered from a form of tinnitus – which eventually led to him becoming completely deaf. Despite this, he continued to compose, perform and teach until his death in March 1827. His grave can be seen in the Zentralfriedhof (main cemetery) in Vienna.

Beethoven in 1803
Public DomainBeethoven in 1803 - Credit: Christian Hornemann
Link to the Beethoven House museum in Bonn.

Page 285. " better than a snake oil salesman "

A ‘snake oil salesman’ is a derogatory term used for someone who fraudulently sells goods or services, often unproven medical products or treatments. The phrase is thought to have originated in the Western USA from the liniment which Chinese railway workers used to treat joint pain and other ailments. The concoction was supposedly made from Chinese water snake, but a test of Stanley’s Snake Oil in 1917 revealed it to contain only mineral oil, fat, red pepper, turpentine and camphor.

Page 297. " Mussolini and his mistress "

 

Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945) was the leader of the National Fascist Party and ruler of Italy between 1922 and 1943. Alongside Hitler, he was one of the key fascist figures of the 20th century.

Married to Rachele Mussolini, he had a number of mistresses including, most famously, Clara Petacci, who was twenty-eight years younger than he was. In 1945, two years after being ousted from power, Mussolini and a group of colleagues were attempting to escape when they were captured by Communists. Clara Petacci, who was with the group, was offered her freedom but elected to remain with her lover. She and Mussolini were shot on 28th April 1945 at Mezzegra; their bodies were hung up and taunted by an angry crowd in the Piazzale Loreto of Milan on the following day.