Friday Fun Facts - 7/5/2013

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

1) This is what a quern looks like. A quern is a device made of a pair of flat stones, used for thousands of years to grind grain into flour. Many thanks to Diana Gabaldon for reminding me (in a discussion on Compuserve last week) that querns were in common use in the 18th century, and for providing the link to this photo. <g>
It was raining outside; a light rain, but the air was cold and damp enough to make the cozy nest of quilts more inviting than the distant prospect of hot coffee. Particularly since the getting of coffee would involve a trip to the stream for water, making up the campfire--oh, God, the wood would be damp, even if the fire hadn’t gone completely out--grinding the coffee in a stone quern and brewing it, while wet leaves blew round my ankles and drips from overhanging tree branches slithered down my neck.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 1, "Happy the Bride the Sun Shines On".  Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a video demonstrating how to use a quern.

If you want to try making your own quern, you can find step-by-step instructions here.

2) Claire was able to diagnose Aidan McCallum's acute appendicitis by testing for pain at McBurney's point (#1 in the photo above).
I put a thumb in his navel, my little finger on his right hipbone, and pressed his abdomen sharply with my middle finger, wondering for a second as I did so whether McBurney had yet discovered and named this diagnostic spot. Pain in McBurney’s Spot was a specific diagnostic symptom for acute appendicitis. I pressed Aidan’s stomach there, then I released the pressure, he screamed, arched up off the table, and doubled up like a jackknife.

A hot appendix for sure. I’d known I’d encounter one sometime. And with a mixed sense of dismay and excitement, I realized that the time had come for me finally to use the ether. No doubt about it, and no choice; if the appendix wasn’t removed, it would rupture.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 50, "Sharp Edges". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

3) I didn't know until I read THE FIERY CROSS that lavender can be used to alleviate migraine symptoms.
"D’ye think Mrs. Claire would have some lavender left?” Duncan asked, turning to Roger.

“Aye, I know she has,” Roger replied. His puzzlement must have shown on his face, for Duncan smiled and ducked his head diffidently.

“’Twas a thought I had,” he said. “Miss Jo suffers from the megrims, and doesna sleep sae well as she might. I mind, my mither had a lavender pillow, and said she fell asleep like a babe the moment she laid her head upon it. So I thought, perhaps a bit o’ velvet--so as she could feel it against her cheek, aye?--and perhaps Mrs. Lizzie would stitch it up for me....”

In sickness and in health . . .

Roger nodded his approval, feeling touched--and slightly shamed--by Duncan’s thoughtfulness.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 4, "Wedding Gifts". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here are some simple instructions for making a lavender pillow.

For more about the use of lavender in treating migraine symptoms, look here.

4) You may remember this scene from THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
Fraser, close beside, felt him go and grabbed him, catching him round the middle and jerking him upright again.

“Are ye all right?” he asked, low-voiced, his breath warm on Grey’s cheek.

"Croakle dum-ho,” he said, breathless and dazed. Fraser’s hands were still tight on his arms, steadying him.


“Great Lord Frog to Lady Mouse. It’s a song. I’ll sing it to you later.”

Fraser made a sound in his throat that might have been either derision or amusement--maybe both--and let go Grey’s arms.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 28, "Amplexus". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The reference to "Great Lord Frog and Lady Mouse" is not explained further in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, but Diana gave this explanation on Compuserve in 2011, a few months before the book was published:
"The Great Lord Frog" comes to Lady Mouse to ask for the hand of her youngest daughter, and puts forth his various qualifications for marriage, only to come a-cropper on one small defect: "Pox upon it, I've never a tail."

Unfortunately for Lord Frog, this objection is insuperable to Lady Mouse, "When we treat you at our cheese/Lack of a tail is all one sees/Fie, you live on bended knees!" and Lord Frog goes off indignantly in search of "one who values brains more than tails!"

It's a funny story on one level, and witty social comment on another (common to 18th-century songs). (And while neither Lord John nor I actually considered this at the time, it could be taken as a comment on his relationship--or lack of one--with Jamie. In that he simply doesn't have the physical requirement to get what he wants.)
A version of this song, performed by Anne Enslow and Ridley Enslow, is available for $0.99 here. The lyrics can be found here, in a book published in 1719. (Use your browser's Find function to look for "Great Lord Frog".)

photo a10.jpg

5) Remember eight-year-old Jem's fascination with ants in ECHO?
“They’re not drowning, Mama. Look--see what they do?”

She crouched beside him, looking closer, and saw that, in fact, the ants weren’t drowning. Single ants that had fallen in struggled madly toward the center, where a large mass of ants clung together, making a ball that floated, barely denting the surface. The ants in the ball were moving, slowly, so that they changed places constantly, and while one or two near the edge of the mass were motionless, possibly dead, the majority were clearly in no immediate danger of drowning, supported by the bodies of their fellows. And the mass itself was gradually drawing closer to the rim of the cup, propelled by the movements of the ants in it.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 21, "The Minister's Cat". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a brief video showing how they do it.

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts.

Please note, I will not be posting FFF's next week because I will be attending the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. The FFF's will resume on July 19.


Diane Donald said...

The Lord Frog and Lady Mouse song is so interesting! It seems to be a cousin of the folk song "Froggie Went a Courtin'" that I grew up hearing on a Burl Ives album I had.

Holly said...

I really enjoy your FFF. Every time I read the bit about the ant, I wonder if it isn't symbolic of our time travelers. There have been a few "expendable" characters on the outside of the all, but the main characters, who cling together, seemed destined to make it to the other side. (No meant to imply predestination...!)

Thanks again Karen
(You should get a cameo in the series, all that red hair and exellent "herding" abilities over on Compuserve!) you are a natural fit!

Best wishes,

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