Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries Tagged as 'England'

The Hieroglyphics of Vagabonds

February 12th, 2013 · No Comments

Last summer we marveled at the complexity of hobo pictographs, which we took to be a uniquely American phenomenon. But as this 1872 dictionary of slang from London makes clear, the tradition of wordless transient communication traces back to the Old World. In decidedly non-PC language, the author argues that this code was created by […]

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So Far from the Zenith

February 6th, 2013 · No Comments

It is tough not to be saddened by the unraveling of English soccer hero Paul Gascoigne, who is currently drying out at an American rehabilitation facility after a very long, very public battle with a virulent strain of alcoholism. Like so many celebrities who we adore for their bad behavior, Gazza became trapped in a […]

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Confessions of a Snake Eater

August 9th, 2012 · No Comments

An in-depth perusal of the Sword Swallowing Hall of Fame led me to this gem of Victorian non-fiction—an anonymous first-person account of a life spent shoving dangerous objects down one’s gullet. Our storyteller’s most curious pursuit involves the ingestion of a reptile with which our species has a complicated relationship: I was the second one […]

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An Inconvenient Excuse

July 31st, 2012 · 1 Comment

The human cannonball act is one of the most notoriously dangerous in all of circus-dom; performers have little to no control over their movement, so any minute error in firing trajectory is certain to cause catastrophe. The legendary Zazel, née Rossa Matilda Richter, was thus fortunate to survive her 19th-century career, though she did break […]

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After the Lights Switch Off

March 27th, 2012 · No Comments

So I have something pretty un-American to confess: this year, for the first time since my days in Dublin, I’ve been following Premier League soccer like mad. Things have gotten to the point, in fact, that I’m seriously considering a late-afternoon work break in order to watch the Sunderland-Everton FA Cup quarterfinal. I can’t only […]

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A Sailor’s Life for Me?

August 12th, 2011 · 2 Comments

Many moons ago, one of my good friend’s older brothers spent a summer on an Alaskan fishing boat. He returned with a pocketful of money and some truly harrowing tales of the seafaring life, which included a comrade abandoned off the Aleutian Islands and much drunken thuggery. The anecdote of his that I remember most […]

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A Pocketful of Eels

March 21st, 2011 · 8 Comments

Modern slang is full of gastronomical synonyms for money: dough, bread, cabbage, cake. Notably absent from the long list, however, is a foodstuff that once actually functioned as a form of currency: the humble eel, a traditional English delicacy often served in jellied form. Nine centuries ago or thereabouts, eels were more than just a […]

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The Waning of Oxen

December 8th, 2010 · 5 Comments

Putting the finishing touches on a long-gestating major project this a.m., so just a quickie before I get back to ironing out some word-choice matters. The graph above comes from the much buzzed-about paper estimating that per-capita GDP in late Medieval England was around $1,000 in 1990 dollars—an estimate that, if accurate, would mean that […]

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Echoes of the Empire

February 25th, 2010 · 7 Comments

This will be our last Ug99-related post, we promise. But before we ended our brief run of bonus material related to “The Red Menace”, we thought we’d shout out one of the potential heroes of this story: the late A.E. Watkins, a British botanist who spent much of the 1930s roaming the globe in search […]

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Blitzed on Feudalism

February 10th, 2010 · 11 Comments

Living in Europe during the Middle Ages was certainly no picnic, given the abundance of horrid diseases, the precariousness of the food supply, and the constant threat of having one’s arms lopped off by a passing knight. Yet how much agony and anxiety did the denizens of Medieval fiefdoms really experience? Not bloody much, given […]

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Are You Having a Laugh?

December 15th, 2009 · 3 Comments

The abundance of museums dedicated to the history of anesthesia is really something to behold. While we certainly can’t deny the landmark nature of this medical wonder, we were a bit bowled over to discover so many institutions dedicated to exalting its virtues and warehousing its antique equipment. But therein lies Microkhan gold, particularly the […]

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First Contact: The English and the Inuit

July 1st, 2009 · 10 Comments

Continuing our ongoing First Contact series, today we’re gonna look back at the 1576 encounter between the English and the Inuit of Baffin Island. The details of the meet-up were recorded by one Christopher Hall, a member of a Martin Frobisher-led expedition in search of the fabled Northwest Passage to China. Upon first landing on […]

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