Friday Fun Facts - 2/1/2013

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.

1) This is an example of an 18th-century lantern, made out of iron. It may not be exactly the same as the one that the smugglers used in VOYAGER, but I think it's similar.
Mr. Willoughby stood on tiptoe to reach into the back of the wagon, emerging with an odd-looking lantern, fitted with a pierced metal top and sliding metal sides.

“Is that a dark lantern?” I asked, fascinated.

“Aye, it is,” said Young Ian, importantly. “Ye keep the slides shut until we see the signal out at sea.” He reached for the lantern. “Here, give it me; I’ll take it--I ken the signal.”

Mr. Willoughby merely shook his head, pulling the lantern out of Young Ian’s grasp. “Too tall, too young,” he said. “Tsei-mi say so,” he added, as though that settled the matter once and for all.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 30, "Rendezvous". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more information and pictures of similar lanterns, look here.

2) The photo above shows what watercress (Nasturtium officinale) looks like.
"What are you doing, Mr. Fraser?" Grey asked, in some bewilderment.

Fraser looked up, mildly surprised, but not embarrassed in the slightest.

"I am picking watercress, Major."

"I see that," Grey said testily. "What for?"

"To eat, Major," Fraser replied evenly. He took the stained cloth bag from his belt and dropped the dripping green mass into it.

"Indeed?  Are you not fed sufficiently?" Grey asked blankly.  "I have never heard of people eating watercress."

"It's green, Major."

In his fatigued state, the Major had suspicions that he was being practiced upon.

"What in damnation other color ought a weed to be?" he demanded.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9, "The Wanderer". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
Watercress’s Latin name, Nasturtium officinale, means “nose twister”--an appropriate description considering its pungent, peppery taste.
Here's an article about the health benefits of eating watercress.

3) Here's an example of a set of RAF dog tags from 1941, like the ones Jerry MacKenzie would have worn. Click on the photo to enlarge it. Photo credit: Wendy on Flickr.
They kept coming, slowly, spreading out to surround him. He hadn't liked the looks of them to start with, and was liking them less by the second. Hungry, they looked, with a speculative glitter in their eyes.

One of them said something to him, a question of some kind, but the Northumbrian accent was too thick for him to catch more than a word. ‘Who’ was the word, and he hastily pulled his dog tags from the neck of his blouson, waving the red and green disks at them. One of the men smiled, but not in a nice way.

(From "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows" by Diana Gabaldon. Copyright© 2010 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The photo above gives a better idea of the original colors used for the dog tags. Each tag had the serviceman's name, serial number, branch of service (for example, RAF for Royal Air Force), and religion (CE for Church of England, RC for Roman Catholic, etc.) stamped on it.

4) The word "puce" means "flea" in French, and the color really was named after the insect, as Jamie explained in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.
Tom had unwrapped a suit of an odd purplish brown and was stroking the pile.

“Would you look at this, sir?” Tom said, so pleased with the garments that he momentarily overcame his nervousness of Fraser. “I’ve never seen such a color in me life--but it’ll suit you prime!”

To Grey’s surprise, Fraser smiled back, almost shyly.

“I’ve seen it before,” he said, and put out a hand to stroke the fabric. “In France. Couleur puce, it was called. The Duc d’Orleans had a suit made of it, and verra proud of it he was, too."

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12, "The Belly of a Flea". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
By the time of Marie Antoinette, some fifteen years after the events of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, puce was all the rage among the Parisian nobility, according to this site:
As Baronne D’Oberkirch....wrote in her Memoires: “ ...every lady at court wore a puce-colored gown, old puce, young puce, ventre de puce [flea's belly], dos de puce [flea's back], etc. [And] as the new color did not soil easily, and was therefore less expensive than lighter tints, the fashion of puce gowns was adopted by the [Parisian] bourgeoisie.”

5) The photo above shows a seal box from 1752, engraved with the emblem of the University of Glasgow. Click on the photo for a bigger view.  (Photo credit: The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.)
"That's called a seal, a nighean," her husband informed her, having now settled a pair of half-moon spectacles firmly atop his nose, and turning the little metal emblem over between his fingers. "You're right, though, it’s Mr. Caldwell's, for see?" A horny finger traced the outline of the figure on the seal: a mace, an open book, a bell, and a tree, standing on top of a fish with a ring in its mouth.

"That's from the University of Glasgow, that is. Mr. Caldwell's a scholar," he told me, blue eyes wide with awe. "Been to learn the preachin', and a fine job he makes of it."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 13, "Beans and Barbecue". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's a modern version of the University of Glasgow's emblem. Look here for an explanation of the symbols on the emblem and what they represent.

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please stop by next week for more!


Anonymous said...

What a thrill to see the University of Glasgow seal! I spent my junior year of college at Glasgow and it was fabulous.

Janet McConnaughey said...

I think a dark lantern would look more like this, without the bullseye:

No piercings, because they don't want anyone seeing the light.

Karen Henry said...

Janet - well, the one in that link is from the 1880s, and I was looking for an example from the 18th century. <g> Besides, if it was completely enclosed on all sides, with no piercings, wouldn't the candle go out? Don't you need a bit of oxygen to feed the flame? I would think that's what the tiny holes are for.


Anonymous said...

Your link to the health benefits of water cress lead to an interesting discussion of cruciferous vegetables as an important part of a diet. Thank you!


Jery said...

Love these!! Thank you for posting this information :)

Say Jay said...

Hi Karen,

Thanks for this fascinating information once again!

My Dad makes tin lanterns for sale at the Park House Museum in Amherstburg as a fund raiser. We have a collection and they work really well. I think the one you have pictured could be a barn lantern, too. It won't go out on a windy night, and if the cow kicks it over, the flame is protected.

Powered by Blogger.