Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Curiouser and curiouser

There are literally dozens and dozens of magpies living near St James Park in Newcastle. I always wonder who was there first – Newcastle United or the birds? Did the club copy the black and white of the birds for its strip or did the birds flock to the area after the club was created? It’s a real chicken and egg question.

Giving your football team the same nickname as a bird widely regarded as unlucky strikes me as rather odd. I always salute and say “Good morning Mr Magpie, how’s your wife?” when I see a single one and am unaccountably relieved if I see a couple. The ‘bad’ conations of magpies had always puzzled me, because up close, they’re really rather beautiful, with blues and greens glinting among the black parts of their plumage.

It seems the superstition stems from a belief that the magpie refused to enter Noah’s Ark, and later, refused to wear mourning at the crucifixion. The Scottish tradition has it that magpies carry a drop of Satan’s blood under their tongues.

Along with the stems of superstitions, we have lost the meaning behind some of our more colourful phrases. I thought that grinning like a Cheshire Cat was a Lewis Carroll invention, but it’s not. His contemporaries would have known that Cheshire cheese was often made in moulds shaped like grinning cats.

I like the fact we call hair bands Alice bands; I like the fact that Wendy wasn’t a name until it appeared in Peter Pan. I wonder if any current children’s literary inventions will last for generations? Anyone for Quidditch and the Hogwart’s Express, or do you prefer daemons and armour-clad polar bears?


andy said...

If I see a magpie on it's own, I have to hold my collar until I see a four legged animal(or wait 'til I see another magpie). God knows where it came from, I think it was a game my parents used to play in the car on long journeys... But I still have to do it or I'll get bad luck! "There's nowt so queer as folk.."

mutterings and meanderings said...

That's a new one on me!

I always used to spin round three times and spit, but that's not awfully practical when you're driving ...

Arthur Clewley said...

no need to worry M&M, I don't think that gets you any penalty points yet, just using the phone.

we get a magpie or two in our garden quite alot. There's so beautiful close up. Isn't it once a wish, twice a kiss when you see magpies?

I don't know why newcastle have a black and white strip though, excpet perhaps to hide on zebra crossings

Anonymous said...

One of the favourite 'greetings cards' I ever saw was a cartoon of a family of zebras [may have been by 'Bestie'] and the daddy zebra is saying 'No you can't have a new Arsenal strip, you'll have to support Newcastle like the rest of us' !

Well, it made me laugh...