• 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.