Tag: fun

THE 27TH LETTER OF THE ALPHABET

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

Can you name the 27th letter of the alphabet?

Well, of course not, there are only 26 letters in the alphabet.

But not always; once there were 27. (Well, 29, but we’ll get to that later.)

The letter we’re talking about here is the ampersand: today it’s mainly used in company names, like Barnes & Noble, or in abbreviations like R&R.

It’s an unusual little critter. Where did it come from?

In the first century, Roman scribes wrote in cursive text, so when they wrote ‘et’ – the Latin word for ‘and’ – they linked the two letters. Over time, this was adopted in the English language as well. ‘And’ became both a word and a letter.

The name for this symbol – “ampersand” – came centuries later. In the early nineteenth century, schoolchildren reciting the alphabet still finished with ‘&’.

But you can’t finish ‘X,Y, Z, and.’ How could they sing that on Sesame Street? It doesn’t rhyme.

So instead, they said – because this is oh so much easier – ‘X, Y, Z and, per se, and.’

Per se, in Latin, means ‘by itself.’ So the students, or the Muppets, or whoever, were actually singing: ‘X, Y, Z and, by itself, “and.” ’ (Wouldn’t you have loved to have been in kindie back then?)

Over the course of a few decades, ‘and per se and’ became – “ampersand.”

Okay, so that’s sorted. But what about letters 28 and 29?

Well old English was first written in the futhorc runic alphabet of the Anglo-Saxons.

Christian missionaries later introduced the Latin alphabet which replaced it, and, for a time, the alphabet included letters of both languages.

But two of them fell into disuse.

One was a letter called ‘thorn’ which represented the ‘the’ sound.

Because the symbol for ‘thorn’ and the symbol for ‘y’ look nearly identical in medieval English blackletter, the two were mistakenly substituted for each other.

This is why you see signs pointing the way to “Ye Olde Curiosity Shop” in mock Tudor villages in England; we didn’t change the actual sound for ‘the’ over the years, just the symbol we used to spell it.

The other letter that was dropped was “wynn,” which represented the “uu” sound which became, as you probably guessed, a “w”. Yes, a double U.

So there you have it. Now you know your ampersand, thorn, wynn – won’t you sing along with me?

Pre-orders now available for my brand new novel, THE UNKILLABLE KITTY ‘KANE, published December 1 by Lake Union. You can get yours here: https://www.amazon.com/Unkillable-Kitty-OKane-…/…/1542048974

colin falconer

COLIN FALCONER

WERE THE VIKINGS REALLY HAIRY AND HORNY?

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

The Vikings: who were they, what were they?

VIKINGS, ICELAND, GREENLAND, SWEDEN,

SOURCE: helgi-halldorsson

No one seems sure any more.

They have arced from slavering thugs brandishing axes and erections to the revisionist view of them as Renaissance men with short tempers and an interest in gardening and travel.

Or there’s the TV series.

So what do we really know?

Well, let’s start with the obvious things: the horned helmets.

No, they never wore them.

They were first worn as props for the performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876.

They were much a part of Viking wardrobe as Mel Gibson’s kilt was to thirteenth century Scots.

VIKINGS, ICELAND, GREENLAND, SWEDEN,

The Vikings only used horns for drinking beer and blowing into as a means of communication: ‘I’m pissed and now I’m coming home.’

Not only did the Vikings not wear horned helmets, they weren’t called Vikings.

‘Viking’ is not a noun, it’s a verb.

Scandinavian men traditionally took time out of their summers to go “vikingr.” The itinerary for such expeditions varied, but the main aim was to turn a profit, either from trade, working as a mercenary, or raiding monasteries and unprotected town for loot and slaves.

Raid or trade, it was all the same to them.

Going vikingr was a summer job. Most of these men, who lived in rural chiefdoms in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, were villagers first, pillagers second and on their return they would resume their agricultural routine.

So were these Norsemen really that violent?

VIKINGS, ICELAND, GREENLAND, SWEDEN, Oh, you bet they were.

There were no sensitive new age Norsemen.

These men were not just warriors, they were very good ones. The Varangian guard of the Byzantine emperors in the 11th century was made up entirely of Swedish warriors.

But this was a violent age and although they were brutal, they weren’t especially … well, severe.

If history has recorded them as barbarians, it is perhaps because the men writing that history – the Christian monks of Britain – were the Norsemen’s prime targets.

The Christian monasteries of the time were unguarded treasure houses of loot and the Norsemen must have enjoyed taking it. Increasingly subject to Christian persecution and forced baptisms in their own lands, the sight of an unarmed monk must have really got the juices flowing.

Payday and payback all at once.

Vikings, Norway, Sweden, Iceland

SOURCE: viciarg

These men not only knew how to use a sword, they knew how to make one.

They were skilled weapon-smiths and made highly prized pattern-welded swords. They were also brilliant navigators, they sailed along rivers into the far reaches of Russia, as far as the Caspian sea, and may have reached as far east as Baghdad.

In fact, the largest body of written sources on the Vikings in the 9th and 10th Century is in Arabic.

And forget Columbus.

The Norsemen already knew about America. They reached Labrador and Newfoundland in the eleventh century and even set up colonies there – after they had already colonised Iceland and Greenland.

They may have been vicious, but these ‘barbarians’ also pampered themselves like a male model in a Bulgari commercial.

Vikings, Norway, Sweden, Iceland

SOURCE: tone

Archaeological finds have included tweezers, combs, nail cleaners, ear cleaners and toothpicks.

An anonymous Anglo-Saxon letter has a man admonishing his brother for giving in to the ‘Danish fashion with a shaved neck and blinded eyes’. Blinded eyes probably meant a long fringe.

So these savages had plucked eyebrows and reverse mullets.

No surprise the monks of Lindisfarne were running scared.

And despite the drinking, raping and general bad behaviour, it wasn’t all frat week.

The 300-year era of their martial and navigational primacy Vikings, Norway, Sweden, Icelandeventually becomes a story of immigration and assimilation.

The Norsemen started bringing women with them on their travels, instead of taking them away. Conquest became colonisation.

The Normans, who took the throne of England in 1066 were descended from Norsemen who won feudal control over Northern France. Even before that, there had been two Danish kings of England.

Once they settled down, they then gave the west its first long-running action dramas; the Icelandic sagas were the probable forerunners of … well, “The Vikings.”

So there you have it.

They were, as we first thought, violent bastards. But more Don Corleone at the opera than Tony Soprano in a singlet.

Which was why, if you saw them sailing into your bay with their supper-savers and perfectly manicured nails, there only ever was one choice.

Run.

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COLIN FALCONER

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

13 THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT CHE GUEVARA

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

We’ve all seen his face so many times, it’s almost as if we knew him personally.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaThe iconic image of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara is one of the world’s most objectified images, found on an endless array of t-shirts, posters, tattoos, and even bikinis.

He is a superhero of the consumer culture he despised and a universal symbol of rebellion.

According to leftist mythology he was a brave, noble soldier who loved freedom and sacrificed his life for the socialist cause and he yet remains a national hero in Cuba, where his face is on the 3 peso coin and school children begin each morning pledging: ‘We will be like Che.’

Universally he is both loved and reviled.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaWhen I pre-released the cover of my latest novel, NAKED IN HAVANA, with the tagline ‘Sex, Lies and Che Guevara’ someone commented that they wouldn’t buy anything that had Che in it.  Extreme? Decide for yourself.

Here are some things you perhaps didn’t know.

1. HE WAS ALSO KNOWN AS THE BUTCHER OF LA CABAÑA

The La Cabaña Fortress is a popular tourist destination dominating Havana Bay. It was once the final destination for many of Castro’s enemies and it was here that Che ordered the executions of hundreds of Batista loyalists, a job for which he was uniquely suited:

“To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. 
These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a 
revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine 
motivated by pure hate.”

In his defense, Batista loyalists weren’t renowned for being warm and fuzzy either.

2. HE WAS NOT A BIG SUPPORTER OF LGBT

Che oversaw the establishment of Cuba’s first gulag at Guanahacabibes. The forced labor camp was used to detain homosexuals and devout Catholics as well as dissidents.

3. IN SOME PARTS OF BOLIVIA HE IS WORSHIPED AS A SAINT

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaOn October 8, 1967, U.S. trained Bolivian rangers captured Che in a ravine near the Bolivian town of La Higuera.

The next day he was summarily executed in a local schoolhouse and his body was moved to nearby Vallegrande and put on show for the press inside a laundry room. That room has now become a pilgrimage site and is featured along the tourist ‘Che Guevara Trail.’

Locals in the town now pray to “Saint Ernesto,” although his sainthood is unofficial. As he was a sworn Marxist don’t expect any move for canonization from the Vatican anytime soon.

4.  A LOCK OF HIS HAIR FETCHED SIX FIGURES AT AUCTION

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaHis body and belongings were treated with little respect by his killers.

His famous pipe was taken by the man who shot him and the CIA agent who interrogated him, Felix Rodriguez, took the tobacco.

His not-very-Marxist Rolex also disappeared.

Another agent, Gustavo Villoldo, snipped a lock of hair and auctioned it 40 years later – for $100,000.

5. YOU MAY STILL BE ABLE TO SHAKE HANDS WITH HIM

The Bolivian army never revealed what happened to Guevara’s body but his hands were amputated and preserved in formaldehyde. They were then sent to Buenos Aires for fingerprint identification so that Castro could never claim they shot the wrong man.

What happened to them? No one is able to point the finger to where they are now.

6. HIS KILLERS WERE CURSED

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaThe order to kill Che came from Bolivian President René Barrientos and was carried out by Captain Gary Prado, from an army division under the command of General Joaquin Zentano.

2 years later Barrientos died in a helicopter crash; Zentano was assassinated in Paris in 1975. In 1991 a gun accident left Prado a paraplegic.

Does that mean they were cursed? It could just be the law of averages. Bolivian presidents and colonels don’t often die in their beds.

Still, I’m glad I wasn’t there.

7. ‘THAT’ PICTURE EARNED THE PHOTOGRAPHER NO ROYALTIES

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaWhen he was captured, Che Guevara reportedly shouted: “Don’t shoot! I am Che Guevara and I am worth more alive than dead!”  

A gazillion t-shirt sales say you were wrong there, Che.

Photographer Alberto Korda took THAT famous photograph at a memorial service for the victims of the La Coubre explosion in Havana on March 5, 1960.

Copies were later acquired by a wealthy Italian businessman, Giangiacomo Fetrinelli. After Che died his image acquired a life of its own.

A lifelong communist, Korda did not claim moral rights until 2000 when Smirnoff used the image in a vodka commercial. He was awarded $50,000, which he donated to the Cuban healthcare system.

8.  CHE’S REAL NAME WAS ERNESTO LYNCH.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaChe was actually Ernie. His family was half Irish and he was descended from one Paddy Lynch from Galway, on his mother’s side.

He was born in Rosario in Argentina to wealthy parents and never became a Cuban citizen, despite his intense involvement in that country’s destiny.

9. HIS NICKNAME WAS PIG.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaHe got the nickname (“Chancho”) as a youth because of his poor hygiene.

He may look good on a t-shirt but apparently he didn’t change his own more than once a week.

People stopped calling him Chancho when he acquired powers of summary execution.

10. HE WAS A GEEK

As a youth he played in chess tournaments and liked to recite poetry. His favorite subjects were mathematics and engineering.

11. HE HAD FIVE MINI CHE’S

Hilda_Gadea_y_Che_Guevara_-_Luna_de_miel_-_Yucatán_1955He had a daughter with his first wife, Hilda Gadea, born in Mexico City on February 15, 1956.

He also had four children with his second wife, the revolutionary Aleida March – Aleida, Camilo, Celia, and Ernesto.

12. HE WAS A KEEN ANGLER.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaHe and Fidel Castro competed with a certain well known writer in what was known as The Hemingway Fishing Contest.

The Angry Young Man and the Sea.

13. HE TRIED TO BLOW UP GRAND CENTRAL STATION

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaLast year a right wing author named Humberto Fontova claimed to have uncovered evidence that Guevara was involved in a November 1962 plot to use 1,200 pounds of TNT to blow up Macy’s, Gimbels, Bloomingdale’s, and Grand Central Station the day after Thanksgiving.

As this is the busiest shopping day of the year the resulting carnage may have eclipsed 9/11.

 

Havana, 1958.

Magdalena Fuentes knows that Angel Macheda is the only man for her, even after he takes her virginity and then tells her he is engaged to someone else. She knows they are meant to be.

So why can she not stop thinking about Reyes Garcia? From the moment I saw you, he says, I knew there would be no one else.

From the moment I saw you, she tells him, I knew you were arrogant, conceited and rude. 

Magdalena is a girl who will not let sentiment stand between her and love. But as Fidel Castro’s rebels tighten their grip around the city and she watches her family and her whole life come apart, she learns hard lessons about love and about life.

Against the backdrop of the boleristas and the gangsters, the music and the guns, Magdalena discovers just how dangerous love can be.

colin falconer, kitty o'kane, historical romance

 

 

COLIN FALCONER

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

HOW TO BECOME INSANELY, MIND-NUMBINGLY FAMOUS

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

Most writers work so hard to be famous. We study the craft, we self promote, we tweet. But sometimes Fame happens despite our best efforts to avoid it.

Frank Kafka, famous,

Frank Kafka, a testament to self belief

Franz, for example, was an insurance clerk who wrote short stories in his spare time and constantly complained that his day job left him too little time for his ‘calling.’

Only a few of his works were published in his lifetime – perhaps because they were surrealistic and deeply disturbing. One was about a scientist who wakes up one morning and discovers he has turned into a cockroach.

Franz thought his stuff was so bad he asked his best friend and the executor of his estate, Max Brod, to destroy all his manuscripts upon his death. Max promised him faithfully – then reneged, and published posthumously everything Kafka asked him not even to read.

Franz Kafka is now considered one of the most influential authors of the 20th century, his work is said to have influenced Camus, Sartre, Nabokov, J.D. Salinger, García-Márquez and Bukowski. Continue reading

THE 6 STRANGEST FASHION TRENDS IN HISTORY

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

1. THE CROW LOOK
Doctors in the Middle Ages did not look like George Clooney, wear stethoscopes around their necks and drive Ferraris. They had beaks and carried long sticks. In fact they looked more like crows about to conduct a symphony.
For most of history medicos did not know what caused disease. The best medical advice was based on the ‘miasma theory’ – bad air. People thought breathing the same air as a sick person was how disease was transmitted. 
So doctors in the time of the Plague looked like this. Continue reading

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