• a thin, circular structure in the eye
  • the 2001 film about Iris Murdoch, British novelist
  • the personification of the rainbow and messenger of the gods, also known as one of the goddesses of the sea and the sky
  • a genus of praying mantis
  • a lesser-known psychedelic drug and a substituted amphetamine
  • a shade of colour ranging from blue-violet to violet
  • a genus of 260 -300 species of flowering plants with showy flowers



rhubarb [ˈruːbɑːb]

Rhubarb: noun

  • a plant which has long green and red edible stalks, usually eaten sweetened and cooked
  • US and Canadian slang a heated discussion or quarrel
  • the noise made by actors to simulate conversation, esp by repeating the word rhubarb at random (also a verb)

Is it a vegetable or a fruit?

Well, celery stalks are a vegetable, so in my eyes rhubarb is too!

However, Wikipedia writes that in 1947 the US declared rhubarb to be a fruit! As a result it was categorized as a fruit for import purposes – very lucrative for the business, as tariffs were lower for fruits than vegetables! (Someone must have had interests in a rhubarb farm abroad! LOL!)

The garden variety used for cooking is Rheum x hybridum. The leaves are toxic, containing oxalic acid, but the stalks have been used as an ingredient in fruit pies ever since sugar became readily available… without other sweet fruits or added sugar the stalks are so sour that they are barely edible! Sweeter young stalks are now sold in early spring as they are grown in hothouses.

Garden rhubarb can also be “forced” by raising the temperature – usually with an upturned bucket over the new shoots, or with a more sophisticated pot made especially for the purpose. In parts of northern England rhubarb is cultivated outdoors and then in the winter moved into sheds which are heated. The resulting shoots which sprout in the dark are tender, sweeter and paler than normal rhubarb. (See this article on the Rhubarb Triangle)

I’ll be posting a recipe for rhubarb tomorrow, so if you don’t have any in the garden, go and buy some! 😉

I remember watching an ancient film with Eric Sykes in it called “Rhubarb, Rhubarb”. The only word uttered in the whole 30-minute film was “rhubarb”! Five minutes of it is funny, but half an hour gets a bit tedious, even though the cast was excellent (with Jimmy Edwards, Beryl Reid, Roy Kinnear, Charlie Drake…).

Sadly there doesn’t seem to be a YouTube clip of it anywhere…

… There is however another famous rhubarb:


Roobarb is a disagreeable green dog who is full of silly ideas, and his neighbour –  Custard – is a pink cat  who takes great pleasure in laughing at Roobarb’s mishaps! Does anyone remember this cartoon?

Click on the picture of Roobarb to see the cartoon intro!

Word of the Day/British Humour

Pun (noun)

  • the usually humorous use of a word that has two meanings, or of words with the same sound but different meanings.
  • e.g. Anne has been a pilot for a some time now, but last year her career really took off.

Trying to translate puns into a foreign language hardly ever works. I am not good at telling jokes, but when I have made the effort to relay one in English to German students, I am frequently met with blank faces and perhaps a polite grin seconds later! A classic example was a vocabulary activity involving ambiguous newspaper headlines such as “Drunk gets nine months in violin case”, or “Crash course for private pilots”, etc.

The English language lends itself to the use of puns in jokes and comedy, satire or simply for the sheer pleasure of letting them roll off the tongue. They are often worthy of a groan, sometimes a giggle…

Shakespeare was a master of the pun. But I’m not going to quote Shakespeare. I’ve got a more modern example… This is an absolute classic, worthy of more than a giggle. (It has me laughing my head off!)

The Two Ronnies: Four Candles Sketch

Have a good laugh! 😀

Wonderful Words

Word of the day: hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia

Well, everyone knows what a phobia is… but what could this be?

There was a woman in the news a couple of years ago who had a fear of peas! I don’t think that fear has a special name though.

I’ve also heard of the fear of the colour yellow… known as xanthophobia.

I used to be petrified of those enormous overhead electricity wires and the pylons… have more or less got over that though. And I’m not overly keen on winding stairs, especially the enclosed type.

I am fine with spiders though. And snakes. Here’s a photo of one in my rockery, basking in the August sunshine!

… I believe it’s a harmless grass snake. (Hope it is!)

Here are a few more officially recognised fears:

ergophobia: the fear of work

spectrophobia: the fear of looking in a mirror

ombrophobia: the fear of rain or of being rained on

climacophobia: the fear of falling downstairs

pentheraphobia: the fear of mother-in-law (!)

Do you have a phobia?

Oh, nearly forgot.

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words!



By the way, I found a link to the website of the poet Kathy Elliott (here), whose poem I posted two days ago.

Word of the Day: Denglish

A sign found in Bavaria outside a carwash/petrol station… I understand it, but is it English and why?!

Denglish: noun (not in the dictionary!)

  • a mixture of the German word Deutsch and English, describing the use of English vocabulary in the German language. German and English words may be combined to form a new “German” word, or English words may be used for German terms with a different meaning to the original.
  • German: “Handy” = a mobile/cell phone
  • English: “handy”(adj) = convenient, at hand

With the Internet, new technologies, and wider travel, German has gradually picked up more and more of these words. I am sometimes confused when English/Denglish is used in a (for me) new context, or when it is used incorrectly.

Here are a couple of funny ones:

  • My German friend says she’s going to an Oldtimer meeting. (!?) “Oldtimer” in German is a vintage car! (In English an oldtimer is usually an old man, or someone who has a lot of knowledge because they’ve been doing something for a very long time.)
  • The models were at a shooting….. they mean a photo-shoot!
  • A bag carried crosswise close to the body is called a “body bag” here… oh dear. I don’t think that will come over well in England, where a body bag is a bag in which a body is put!

There are, however, a couple that have been used so often that they are finding their way back into English with a new meaning….

  • The term Wellness for spa treatments has been in use for about 20 years here. Recently I saw it in the UK for the first time.
  • Public Viewing has become THE word for watching sports events (and concerts, royal weddings, etc!) outside  on a giant screen put up in a park or public area. In the UK this was originally called a “big screen”, but the expression has caught on!

Let me know if you’ve heard of other amusing Denglish words!

By the way, “download” along with many other English verbs, has been Germanised by adding the typical German verb ending “en”; downloaden, chatten, booten, bouncen, surfen, piercen, mailen, recyclen, updaten, googeln… The list goes on!

Words: Laughter (and tears…)

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”

Victor Hugo

Laughter is the best medicine

He who laughs last laughs longest

Synonyms: giggle, guffaw, cackle, chuckle, chortle, snigger, titter, howl

(My personal favourite is giggle)


  • to laugh on the other side of one’s face
  • to laugh up one’s sleeve
  • to laugh one’s head off
  • to laugh all the way to the bank
  • to be good for a laugh
  • don’t make me laugh
  • you have to laugh
  • LOL




“Tears are the silent language of grief”


In October last year I wrote that we had planted a walnut tree a year earlier. It was given a nice strong bamboo cane as support, and planted in a clearing on the edge of the woods on our land behind the house.

Last week we noticed footprints in the snow leading up to it… and to our sorrow we saw there was just a stump left – about 30cm high. Following the footprints back to the path, there lay our small tree, broken, bamboo cane still attached. If it hadn’t been for the snow we would not have seen the footprints and would have assumed a wild animal had destroyed it…

I just wonder why?


If you don’t laugh you’ll cry