16

The quote is a parody of the folklore motif known as the king in disguise. In Norse mythology Odin was said to wander in disguise among humans. Shakespeare used the king-in-disguise motif in Act 4, scene 1 of Henry V. Outside of fiction, a number of real kings and queens have been said to disguise themselves, e.g. King Charles XI of Sweden (1655 – 1697), who ...


14

Mother Goose, in fact. Little Miss Muffet Sat on a tuffet, Eating her curds and whey; Along came a spider, Who sat down beside her, And frightened Miss Muffet away. It has the spider, the fright, and being Mother Goose, the pop-cultural awareness for the reader to recognize.


12

The meaning of "up yourself" being "conceited" ("being up your own ass" or "up yourself") from @skooba and @Michael Finn is correct, but neither answer fully captures the particular context you have mentioned (Sorry Skooba, but I disagree with your interpretation): Why is it that: "They wouldn’t know if they were [conceited] if they didn’t have a ...


11

This famous story is called The Lady Or The Tiger (1882), by Frank R. Stockton. The cliffhanger ending is complicated by the fact that the princess knows which door is which, and directs her lover to open the (actually right, not left) door. The man opens it without hesitation. The story is famous because it asks the reader to decide the ending for ...


11

TL;DR: ‘Helium’ is a misprint for ‘hellum’ which is a dialect spelling of ‘helm’. Let’s get the easier parts out of the way before we tackle ‘helium’. The Toad is a “sloop, of 8,825–10,000 registered tonnage”. I don’t really understand this description—a ‘sloop’ is normally a sailing vessel with a single fore-and-aft rigged mast, but a vessel of 10,000 ...


10

It's not the 20th of May specifically - we have our own calendar, which is used alongside the western Gregorian calendar. Since dates don't map precisely you often find that we talk about dates in the Tamil system with the corresponding western dates. However the important context here is "with only three more auspicious dates" - there are specific dates, ...


9

The context of the phrase here is that the phrase, "the humility of a charge too great for men", refers to the idea that someone has been given a very important task which they may not completely understand, but which they know they must complete. And so they are humble because it is the task that is great, not them. They are merely a tool being ...


9

precious, adj. 4. colloquial. a. As an intensifier: complete, utter, out-and-out. Oxford English Dictionary


9

Holmes and Watson are the criminals being chased by James Moriarty and Sebastian Moran. Some of the clues about the main characters: It mentions 'The Dynamics of an Asteroid' as the paper written by the detective friend; this is written by Moriarty in Doyle's works. The narrator tells what a crack shot he was, as Moran is -- and as Watson never was The ...


8

"Bar" means "except for," "with the exception of." "I guess I've not had enjoyment like this since I left Noo York. [Except for] a scrap with a French sailor at Wapping-an' that warn't much of a picnic neither." "Bar" in this sense is still widely used.


8

It could be a reference to the classical nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffet: Little Miss Muffet Sat on a tuffet, Eating her curds and whey; Along came a spider, Who sat down beside her, And frightened Miss Muffet away. This was what immediately came to my mind on seeing "spider", "beside", and "frightened" in the same sentence. ...


7

This is "A Retrieved Reformation", a short O. Henry story. From Wikipedia: Safecracker Jimmy Valentine was released from prison after serving less than ten months of a four year sentence, due to his criminal connections. He goes to his old apartment, packs up his tools, and leaves. In the following weeks, a few cash robberies are committed, and ...


7

It's a bit of an odd translation - but the actual proverb goes: சேற்றில கல்லெறிஞ்சா அது மூஞ்சிலே தெறிக்கும் If you throw a stone at mud, it will splatter on your face. Apparently it is Tamil, but not specifically unique to the Tamil-Brahmin culture, who have a few linguistic quirks of their own. There's a less polite version that seems a better fit: ...


7

Normally, if a door is open a crack, at the bottom of it you will see something dark. It might be the grass, or dirt, or whatever else is outside the door. Above that you will see whiteness. That whiteness isn't a thing - it's the absence of things, emptiness, daylight. That's "negative" space -- the lack of stuff to see. But in this case, surprisingly, the ...


7

"The Worst Crime in the World" was published in 1927 in the collection The Secret of Father Brown. At that time, cubism was roughly 20 years old. Some cubist painters depicted human bodies as made up of geometric shapes such as cones and cylinders. One can see examples of this in Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912), below: Another ...


7

I can think of only two possibilities. One is that as the children gathered for a service, he would play along with the children in the sand with a spade, and then, as it transitioned, he would gesture with the spade in hand. The other is that the Band would sing or play instruments (a musical service) and that he would use the spade as a baton because it ...


7

It transpires that part of the confusion with this sentence arises from a difference in the text between the first UK publication in the Strand magazine of September 1917 and the later collected stories as published in book form. The Strand edition says (my emphasis) 'you are joining up with your old service' The story takes place on the 2nd of July 1914, ...


6

This link shows a copy of the Nuremberg iron maiden where you can clearly see its campanulate qualities https://literature.fandom.com/wiki/The_Squaw Noah's Ark sets were a popular item in the 19th and early 20th centuries; the book Youth Cultures in America [2 volumes]edited by Simon J. Bronner, Cindy Dell Clark. states: Animal shaped toys carved from ...


6

I found the story. I had mis-remembered one word - with the correct wording, I found the story. The title is "Sorrow Rides a Fast Horse" by Dorothy Gilman Butters. The story is much as I described it in the question, so I won't summarise it again here. I had remembered the one sentence from the story as "death rides a fast horse" when it should have been ...


6

Dr. Valentine is a surgeon, so his "business"—what he does for a living—is or includes performing surgery. Surgical procedures are not without risk; if the procedure goes wrong, the patient can even die of the consequences. This is how a surgeon may unintentionally cause somebody's death. Cynically put, one may say that the surgeon's "business" or job has ...


6

Tsundoku's answer explains the meaning in context of the geometric objects referred to, but the structure of the whole sentence is a bit confusing too: He would indeed be of an inflammable temperament who was stirred to any of the more pagan passions by the display of interrupted spirals, inverted cones and broken cylinders with which the art of the ...


6

Yes, "at all" can be used in a positive sense: think of it as the opposite of "not at all". See for example Macmillan and Cambridge for the usage of "at all" in a positive sense. In this context, the implication is that much of the populace does not go to church at all: hence the parenthetical "which is pretty pagan". ...


6

Fingerprinting was still a relatively new and "cutting edge" technique: 1901 - Sir Edward Henry, an Inspector General of Police in Bengal, India, develops the first system of classifying fingerprints. ... This system of classifying fingerprints was first adopted as the official system in England, and eventually spread throughout. Thus, the police ...


6

The "she" who went is the cook, who was also a woman. I think this is your misunderstanding. It's the cook herself who went, not the Woman (the main character of the story, referred to with the capital W). With that it makes more sense. Just to break it down since it's a fun paraprosdokian (and thank you for teaching me that word today!): The cook ...


6

Competitive walking, known as ‘pedestrianism’, was the forerunner of today’s walking races. Per Wikipedia: Pedestrianism was a 19th-century form of competitive walking, often professional and funded by wagering, from which the modern sport of racewalking developed.


6

It is practice in modern-day beekeeping to have part of your hive separated by a gap that is large enough for the worker bees to get through but too small for the queen (a queen excluder). This ensures that the queen only lays eggs in part of the hive (the brood box), and you can freely harvest the rest for honey. This was invented by the Rev. Lorenzo ...


5

One of the central themes of the story is how the protagonist's daughter closely resembles his wife at a similar age. He begins the story by describing his relationship with his wife, all the way from the beginning to now, particularly dwelling on the sexual parts. This segues naturally into discussing his daughter, whose teenage self he introduces into the ...


5

“Vision of the world’s desire” is an allusion to the novel The World’s Desire (1890) by H. Rider Haggard and Andrew Lang. In chapter 2, also titled “The Vision of the World’s Desire”, the goddess Athena shows Odysseus a vision of Helen of Troy: ‘Nay, Odysseus, didst thou not once give me one little hour? Fear not, for thou shalt not see me at this time, but ...


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