New Internationalist

Curiosities

Issue 251

new internationalist
issue 251 - January 1994

Questions
...that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this,
your section, and be answered by other readers. Please address
your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.

The phrase ‘the enemy within’ was used by Margaret Thatcher to describe the miners during the British miners’ strike in the mid-1980s. Was this phrase originated by her? If not, who was the first to use it?

It could come from the Bible. Matthew 10:36 reads: ‘a man’s foes shall be they in his own household’ – a maxim tragically true throughout history, especially under totalitarians.

Rev Kenneth Brown
Paisley, Scotland, UK

Why are storks associated with childbirth?

According to Swedish legend, the stork received its name from flying around the cross of the crucified Christ crying ‘Stryka! Stryka!’ (Strengthen, strengthen).

Given the later resurrection, and the belief in Christ as the giver of life, I assume that the stork therefore became linked with the creation of new life and hence the delivery of babies.

I hope this goes some way to solving the mystery but am willing to be proven wrong!

MG Cockcroft
Dundee, Scotland, UK.

In Christian belief it is the imaginative representation of the spirit – in the form of a bird – descending to earth at the moment of physical birth. We see a similar representation in the image of the dove, descending at the moment of baptism in Jordan and also in the story of the Holy Grail.

Stephen Hay
Wellington, Aotearoa/NZ

What is the origin of the term ‘Pom’?

As your correspondents state in NI 249 the commonly accepted view is that this is an acronym for ‘Prisoners of England’. However, since the ‘new’ Australians were themselves the deported prisoners from Mother England that view is somewhat suspect.

It is far more likely that Pom stands for ‘Possessors of Money’ and indicates the anger felt by the emancipists – the ex-deportee prisoners who had gained their freedom and with their children were attempting to become landowners – against the land laws imposed by the British Government which gave financial benefits to immigrants to the detriment of the locally born.

C Fraser
Halifax, UK

Is cannibalism a racist myth?

To add to – and contradict some of – the answers given in NI 248, I have a traditionally carved Maori brain-box or Kumete. The description attached to the lid reads: ‘When the chief of an opposing tribe was killed, his brain was taken and placed in the Kumete. Later, the victorious tribe assembled and the brain was distributed in very small portions to all present, who ate it as a sign of contempt to the defeated tribe, also to instil in them the valour of the defeated tribe.’

Len Clark
Uxbridge, UK

Awaiting your answers...

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Why are Australians called ‘diggers’?

C Fraser
Halifax, UK

I liked your In bed with...(NI 249) but thought that the first person to say, ‘There is no such thing as society,’ was Friedrich Hayek, not Margaret Thatcher. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

Janet Pearce
Uxbridge, UK

Is there an index on charity organizations which rates them according to political bias, bureaucracy, mismanagement, wastage, quality of information and the like?

Andrew Young
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Do cultures where characters are used instead of letters have an alphabet? And how do they use dictionaries?

Sarah Avison
Lutterworth, UK

I’ve read that men have periodical physical cycles, though without the visible symptoms of female cycles. Can anyone tell me more, recommend any books or articles on the subject, or suggest how I might be able to calculate my cycle?

Dinyar Godrej
Oxford, UK

Which country or region of the world has been the most peaceful – free from both internal strife and involvement in external strife – during the past two centuries?

Diana Gibson
Ross-on-Wye, UK

What is the correct name for the aboriginal people of North America? At a recent conference on forest peoples I heard an objection to the use of the term ‘Native American’ from an aboriginal American who preferred to describe himself as ‘Indian’.

I Crowston
Edmonton, Canada

If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities,
New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK,
or to your local NI office (click here for addresses).

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