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Any book that's still on the bookshelves of popular stores, though published so far back as 1841, must have something special to recommend it. Such is the book I'm currently enjoying, Charles Mackey's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. The subject is interesting, the treatment light and accessible with nice touches of irony.

For a word-lover, a special treat is the older language. It's similar enough to today's English to be easy to understand (contrast Shakespeare), yet different enough to provide interesting terms – or more often, different usages of familiar words – that we don't much see today. This week we'll enjoy some examples. Quotes may be lengthy (forgive me) to give enough context that you can appreciate the Mackey tells.

"… in Rome [in 1659] young widows were unusually abundant. It was remarked, too, that if any couple lived unhappily together, the husband soon took ill and died." The clergy learned why: when "great numbers of young women had avowed in the confessional that they had poisoned their husbands with slow poison," which mimicked the symptoms of a wasting disease, and thus did not excite suspicion.

Severe punishment of the poison-concoctress "did not put a stop to the practice, and jealous women and avaricious men, anxious to step into the inheritance of fathers, uncles, or brothers, resorted to poison." In 1719 Naples, "a hag named Tophania" supplied the same sort of thing. "The Neapolitans called it Aqua Toffnina"; and it became notorious all over Europe under the name of Aqua Tophania."

Tophania, who "contrived to elude the vigilance of the authorities for several years, … was at length discovered in a nunnery." The authorities demanded her, but "the abbess, supported by the archbishop of the diocese, constantly refused … . The patience of the viceroy appears to have been exhausted by these delays. Being a man of sense, and not a very zealous Catholic, he determined that even the Church should not shield a criminal so atrocious. Setting the privileges of the nunnery at defiance, he sent a troop of soldiers, who broke over the walls and carried her away, vis et armis. The archbishop … threatened to excommunicate … . All the inferior clergy … took up the question, and so worked upon the superstitious and bigoted people, that they were ready to rise in a man to storm the palace of the viceroy and rescue the prisoner.
"

vis et armis – by force

A rare term, but here's another interesting example I found, which perhaps belonged in our recent "Domineering Women" theme!

… many males [of certain water-bugs] carried eggs, but the method and purpose of attachment remained a mystery until it was cleared up by aquarium observations made by an American, Miss Slater, who found that the female, vis et armis, customarily lays them on the back of the unwilling male. Sometimes she has to struggle for hours to accomplish her fell purpose, but she does accomplish it in the end and her spouse is converted into an animated baby carriage. Says Miss Slater: "That the male chafes under the burden is unmistakable; in fact my suspicions as to the sex of the egg-carrier were first aroused by watching one in an aquarium which was trying to free itself from its load of eggs, an exhibition of a lack of maternal interest not to be expected in a female carrying her own eggs. Generally the Zaithas are very active, darting about with great rapidity; but an egg bearer remains quietly clinging to a leaf with the end of the abdomen just out of the water. If attacked, he meekly received the blows, seemingly preferring death, which in several cases was the result, to the indignity of carrying and caring for the eggs".
 
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The phrase vis et armis in Latin seems incorrect. Vis is a third declension noun, and the ablative plural form would be viribus agreeing with the noun armis with which it is conjoined by et 'and': 'by force and arms'. Googling shows that of the two most common places it shows up, an RAF air base's motto and a history book written in Latin (in the latter case, the phrase is actually quamvis et armis). (An Irish poet, John Locke [1847–89], used it above his signature.) On the other hand, viribus et armis gets more ghits.


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It sounds to me that viribus et armis would mean "of or about men and arms," since vir means "man." Where did I go wrong in this assumption?
 
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It sounds to me that viribus et armis would mean "of or about men and arms," since vir means "man." Where did I go wrong in this assumption?

Yes, vir is 'man' in Latin, but it is not a third declension masculine noun. It is a second declension masculine noun, and is declined thus:

nom. sg. vir
gen. sg. viri
dat. sg. viro
acc. sg. virum
abl. sg. viro
nom. pl. viri
gen. pl. virorum
dat. pl. viris
acc. pl. viros
abl. pl. viris

On the other hand, vis 'power, vigor' is a third declension feminine noun, it is irregular, and it is (usually) declined this way:

nom. sg. vis
gen. sg. —
dat. sg. vi
acc. sg. vim
abl. sg. vi
nom. pl. vires
gen. pl. virium
dat. pl. viribus
acc. pl. vires
abl. pl. viribus

(I learned that vis lacked a genitive singular, but some, who abhor an empty slot in a paradigm, have supplied vis for the form. See this Latin grammar plucked at random from the Web.)


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Yes, there's a problem here, z. vis et armis is what Mackay uses, but neither it nor viribus et armis is in any dictionary I found, and each has fewer than a dozen ghits.

The usual term seems to be vi et armis, which is in OED ("Violently, forcibly, by compulsion; spec. in Law, causing direct damage to person or property; also attrib.") and in the Hutchinson (Tiscali) on-line dictionaries, and has about 16,000 ghits.
 
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Oops! It's Mackay, and not Mackey as I wrote yesterday.

You can see his subject and style in the start of his preface, 2nd edition. (If you want want less reading, look only at the highlighted parts.)
    In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first. We see one nation suddenly seized, from its highest to its lowest members, with a fierce desire of military glory; another as suddenly becoming crazed upon a religious scruple, and neither of them recovering its senses until it has shed rivers of blood and sowed a harvest of groans and tears, to be reaped by its posterity. At an early age in the annals of Europe its population lost their wits about the Sepulchre of Jesus, and crowded in frenzied multitudes to the Holy Land: another age went mad for fear of the Devil, and offered up hundreds of thousands of victims to the delusion of witchcraft. At another time, the many became crazed on the subject of the Philosopher's Stone, and committed follies till then unheard of in the pursuit. It was once thought a venial offence in very many countries of Europe to destroy an enemy by slow poison. Persons who would have revolted at the idea of stabbing a man to the heart, drugged his pottage without scruple. Ladies of gentle birth and manners caught the contagion of murder, until poisoning, under their auspices, became quite fashionable. Some delusions, though notorious to all the world, have subsisted for ages, flourishing as widely among civilized and polished nations as among the early barbarians with whom they originated, -- that of duelling, for instance, and the belief in omens and divination of the future, which seem to defy the progress of knowledge to eradicate entirely from the popular mind. Money, again, has often been a cause of the delusion of multitudes. Sober nations have all at once become desperate gamblers, and risked almost their existence upon the turn of a piece of paper. To trace the history of the most prominent of these delusions is the object of the present pages. Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.
venial – (of a fault or offence) slight and pardonable.
[from Latin venialis "pardonable," related to venus "sexual love, desire"
pottage – a soup or stew (potage (one "t") – a thick soup
[lit. "that which is put in a pot"]

Notice also the two uses of "scruple" (italicized), the first one not in the modern sense.

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The usual term seems to be vi et armis.

Yes, that would be better than vis et armis, vi being the ablative singular (vide supra): so, by force and weapons. Thanks for the OED citation. (Vi et armis gets over 40K ghits.)


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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In a brief extract on the man who called himself Count Cagliostro (~1743-1790), we show a bit of Mackay's wit, meet demons to honor Halloween, display an antiquated usage, and echo yesterday's "nunnery" thought.
    This famous charlatan was the arch-quack of his age, the last of the great pretenders to the philosopher's stone and the water of life, and during his brief season of prosperity one of the most conspicuous characters of Europe.

    [When a young man] he became acquainted with the beautiful Lorenza Feliciana, a young lady of noble birth, but without fortune. Cagliostro soon discovered that she possessed accomplishments that were invaluable. Besides her ravishing beauty, she had the readiest wit, the most engaging manners, the most fertile imagination, and the least principle of any of the maidens of Rome. She was just the wife for Cagliostro, who proposed himself to her, and was accepted.

    After their marriage, he instructed his fair Lorenza in all the secrets of his calling - taught her pretty lips to invoke angels, and genii, sylphs, salamanders, and undines, and, when need required, devils and evil spirits. Lorenza was an apt scholar: and thus accomplished the hopeful pair set out on their travels, to levy contributions on the superstitious and the credulous. [During their adventures] the Countess, as usual, exercised all her ingenuity to support her husband's credit. She was a great favourite with her own sex; to many a delighted and wondering auditory of whom she detailed the marvellous powers of Cagliostro. She said he could render himself invisible, traverse the world with the rapidity of thought, and be in several places at the same time.

    [But eventually the end came.] Cagliostro and the Countess were arrested in 1789, and condemned to death. The charges against him were, that he was a freemason, a heretic, and a sorcerer. This unjustifiable sentence was afterwards commuted into one of perpetual imprisonment. His wife was allowed to escape severer punishment by immuring herself in a nunnery. Cagliostro did not long survive.
  • sylph1. an imaginary spirit of the air (later: 2. a slender woman of light, graceful movement: "Gwyneth Paltrow, in reality a sylph from Manhattan, plays a hideously overweight woman …" – The Independent (London), Sept. 9, 2006)
  • undine – a female water spirit
    [each was coined 1658 by the alchemist Paracelsus, from Latin. "Sylph is perhaps from sylvestris ‘of the woods’ + nympha ‘nymph’; "undine" is from unda 'a wave' (as in undulate).]
  • auditory (noun)archaic: an audience
  • immure – to entomb in a wall, or to similarly confine or imprison [from Latin murus ‘wall’]
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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by wordcrafter:.[/color][/LIST]venial – (of a fault or offence) slight and pardonable.
    [from Latin venialis "pardonable," related to venus "sexual love, desire"

    Venial is a useful word (from Latin venia: forgiveness) with the merit of being both short and to my ear, slightly onomatopoeic. I find it is often confused with venal which has a quite different meaning: favour or privilege, that may be obtained at a price; Capable of being bought or bribed without regard for higher principles or merit. (from Latin venalis, from venum— that which is for sale)
     
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    Pearce, very good to see you here again. I've missed you!
     
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    Yes, I agree with Asa. As for venial, let us not forget venial sins. Is that just in Catholicism, or do the Protestants talk about venial and mortal sins, too?
     
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    For Halloween, here's a history of haunted-house hysteria. It occurred in Baldarroch, Scotland in December, 1838, not long before Mackay told the tale, and Mackay makes unfamiliar words easy to understand from context.

    Enjoy! This is long by net-standards, but it's just a couple of book-pages of printed text.


    On the 5th of December, the inmates of the farm-house were alarmed by observing a great number of sticks, pebble-stones, and clods of earth flying about their yard and premises. The shower of stones continuing for five days in succession, they came at last to the conclusion that the devil and his imps were alone the cause of it. The rumour soon spread over all that part of the country, and hundreds came from far and near to witness the antics of the devils of Baldarroch.

    After the fifth day, the shower of clods and stones ceased on the outside of the premises, and the scene shifted to the interior. Spoons, knives, plates, mustard-pots, rolling-pins, and flat-irons appeared suddenly endued with the power of self-motion, and were whirled from room to room, and rattled down the chimneys. The lid of a mustard-pot was put into a cupboard in the presence of scores of people, and in a few minutes afterwards came bouncing down the chimney to the consternation of every body. There was also a tremendous knocking at the doors and on the roof, and pieces of stick and pebble-stones rattled against the windows and broke them.

    The whole neighbourhood was a scene of alarm; and not only the vulgar, but persons of education, respectable farmers, within a circle of twenty miles, expressed their belief in the supernatural character of these events, and offered up devout prayers. The note of fear being once sounded, the visitors, as is generally the case in all tales of wonder, strove with each other who should witness the most extraordinary occurrences; and within a week, it was generally believed in all the circumjacent districts that the devil had been seen in the act of hammering upon the house-top of Baldarroch. One old man asserted positively the strange gambols of the knives and mustard-pots. It was also affirmed and believed, that a gentleman, slow of faith, had been cured of his incredulity by meeting the butter-churn jumping in at the door as he himself was going out -- that the roofs of houses had been torn off, and that several ricks in the corn-yard had danced a quadrille together, to the sound of the devil's bagpipes re-echoing from the mountain-tops.

    The women in the family of the persecuted farmer also kept their tongues in perpetual motion; swelling with their strange stories the tide of popular wonder. The good wife herself said that, whenever they went to bed, they were attacked with stones and other missiles, some of which came below the blankets and gently tapped their toes. One evening, a shoe suddenly darted across a garret where some labourers were sitting, and one of the men, who attempted to catch it, swore positively that it was so hot and heavy he was unable to hold it. It was also said that the bearbeater (a sort of mortar used to bruise barley in) -- an object of such weight that it requires several men to move it -- spontaneously left the barn and flew over the house-top, alighting at the feet of one of the servant maids, and hitting her, but without hurting her in the least, or even causing her any alarm; it being a fact well known to her, that all objects thus thrown about by the devil lost their specific gravity, and could harm nobody, even though they fell upon a person's head.

    Rumour continued to travel through all the Highlands, magnifying each mysterious incident the further it got from home. It was said, that when the goodwife put her potato-pot on the fire, each potato, as the water boiled, changed into a demon, and grinned horribly at her as she lifted the lid; that not only chairs and tables, but carrots and turnips, skipped along the floor in the merriest manner imaginable; that shoes and boots went through all the evolutions of the Highland fling without any visible wearers directing their motions; and that a piece of meat detached itself from the hook on which it hung in the pantry, and placed itself before the fire, whence all the efforts of the people of the house were unable to remove it until it was thoroughly roasted; and that it then flew up the chimney with a tremendous bang.

    [Any skeptics] gained but few believers, as so many persons had, in the most open manner, expressed their belief in the supernatural agency, that they did not like to stultify themselves by confessing that they had been deceived.

    At last, after a fortnight's continuance of the noises, the whole trick was discovered. Two servant lasses were alone at the bottom of the whole affair, and the extraordinary alarm and credulity of their master and mistress, and of the neighbours and country people afterwards, made their task comparatively easy. Being themselves unsuspected, they swelled the alarm by the wonderful stories they invented. They were no sooner secured in the county gaol than the noises ceased.

    endue; indue – to endow with a quality or ability
    [partly from Latin inducere ‘lead in’, reinforced by Latin induere ‘put on clothes’]
    circumjacent – lying around; surrounding
    gambol – to dance and skip about in play; to frolic [a previous word-of-the-day, here]
    rick – a stack of hay, corn, or straw [among other meanings]
    evolution – a pattern of movements [among other meanings, of course. from Latin ‘unrolling’]
    stultify1. to cause to appear foolish or absurd 2. to render useless or ineffectual; cripple
     
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    More Halloween: demons. Mackay relates the strange tale that an old Jesuit told of the alchemist Agrippa. I particularly like the image of demons playing leapfrog!


    One day, Agrippa left his house and, intending to be absent for some time, gave the key of his study to his wife, with strict orders that no one should enter it during his absence. The lady herself, strange as it may appear, had no curiosity to pry into her husband's secrets, and never once thought of entering the forbidden room: but a young student in the philosopher's house burned with a fierce desire to examine the study; hoping, perchance, that he might purloin some book which would instruct him. The youth, being handsome, eloquent, and, above all, highly complimentary to the charms of the lady, she was persuaded, without much difficulty, to lend him the key, but gave him strict orders not to remove anything.

    The student promised implicit obedience, and entered Agrippa's study. The first object that caught his attention, was a large grimoire, or book of spells, which lay open on the philosopher's desk. He sat himself down immediately, and began to read.

    At the first word he uttered, he fancied he heard a knock at the door. He listened; but all was silent. Thinking that his imagination had deceived him, he read on, when immediately a louder knock was heard, which so terrified him, that he started to his feet. He tried to say, "come in;" but his tongue refused its office, and he could not articulate a sound. He fixed his eyes upon the door, which, slowly opening, disclosed a stranger of majestic form, but scowling features, who demanded sternly, why he was summoned? "I did not summon you," said the trembling student. "You did!" said the stranger, advancing, angrily; "and the demons are not to be invoked in vain." The student could make no reply; and the demon, enraged that one of the uninitiated should have summoned him out of mere presumption, seized him by the throat and strangled him.

    When Agrippa returned, a few days afterwards, he found his house beset with devils. Some of them were sitting on the chimneypots, kicking up their legs in the air; while others were playing at leapfrog, on the very edge of the parapet. His study was so filled with them that he found it difficult to make his way to his desk. When, at last, he had elbowed his way through them, he found his book open, and the student lying dead upon the floor. He saw immediately how the mischief had been done; and, dismissing all the inferior imps, asked the principal demon how he could have been so rash as to kill the young man. The demon replied, that he had been needlessly invoked by an insulting youth, and could do no less than kill him for his presumption. Agrippa reprimanded him severely, and ordered him immediately to reanimate the dead body, and walk about with it in the market-place for the whole of the afternoon.

    The demon did so: the student revived; and, putting his arm through that of his unearthly murderer, walked very lovingly with him, in sight of all the people. At sunset, the body fell down again, cold and lifeless as before, and his conductor immediately disappeared. When the body was examined, marks of strangulation were found on the neck, and prints of the long claws of the demon on various parts of it. These appearances opened people's eyes to the truth; and the result was, that Agrippa was obliged to quit the town.

    purloin – to steal
    grimoire – a magician's manual for invoking demons, etc.
    [French; alteration of of the word for ‘grammar’. It may be that Mackay's definition is inaccurate, that a grimoire is not just any spellbook, but a spellbook for invoking demons.]

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    Sidebar: this cite for grimoire may pre-date OED's earliest cite, which is dated 1849. It appears that this story was at page 93 of Mackay's first edition (1841? 1842?), but it perhaps was added in a later edition.

    I am alerting OED.
     
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    Mackay is particularly scornful of fortune telling.
      An undue opinion of our own importance is at the bottom of all our unwarrantable notions in this respect. How flattering to the pride of man to think that the stars in their courses watch over him, and typify, by their movements and aspects, the joys or the sorrows that await him! He, less in proportion to the universe than the all but invisible insects that feed in myriads on a summer's leaf, are to this great globe itself, fondly imagines that eternal worlds were chiefly created to prognosticate his fate. How we should pity the arrogance of the worm that crawls at our feet, if we knew that it also desired to know the secrets of futurity, and imagined that meteors shot athwart the sky to warn it that a tom-tit was hovering near to gobble it up! Not a whit less presuming has man shown himself.
    Later, he tells one particular tale of prophecy, and deftly skewers it.
      The … story has been often triumphantly cited by succeeding astrologers as an irrefragable proof of the truth of their science. … The only thing that detracts from the interest of this remarkable story is the fact, that the prophecy was made after the event.
    prognosticate – to foretell, prophesy
    irrefragable – indisputable; impossible to refute or controvert
    [You'd think there'd be a word refragable, wouldn't you? A few dictionaries have it, but it's never been seen in actual use.]
     
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    There are dozens of special names for various types of divination. Mackay discusses augery: (from the flight or entrails of birds), and necromancy: (from summoning the spirits of the dead) for a bit, and lists 52 more:

    Stareomancy, or divining by the elements.
    Aeromancy, or divining by the air.
    Pyromancy, by fire.
    Hydromancy, by water.
    Geomancy, by earth.
    Theomancy, pretending to divine by the revelation of the Spirit, and by the Scriptures, or word of God.
    Demonomancy, by the aid of devils and evil spirits.
    Idolomancy, by idols, images, and figures.
    Psychomancy, by the soul, affections, or dispositions of men.
    Antinopomancy, by the entrails of human beings.
    Theriomancy, by beasts.
    Ornithomancy, by birds.
    Icthyomancy, by fishes.
    Botanomancy, by herbs.
    Lithomancy, by stones.
    Kleromancy, by lots.
    Oneiromancy, by dreams.
    Onomancy, by names.
    Arithmancy, by numbers.
    Logarithmancy, by logarithms.
    Sternomancy, by the marks from the breast to the belly.
    Gastromancy, by the sound of, or marks upon, the belly.
    Omphelomancy, by the navel.
    Chiromancy, by the hands.
    Paedomancy, by the feet.
    Onchyomancy, by the nails.
    Cephaleonomancy, by asses' heads.
    Tuphramancy, by ashes.
    Kapnomancy, by smoke.
    Livanomancy, by the burning of incense.
    Keromancy, by the melting of wax.
    Lecanomancy, by basins of water.
    Katoxtromancy, by looking-glasses.
    Chartomancy, by writing in papers, and by Valentines.
    Macharomancy, by knives and swords.
    Crystallomancy, by crystals.
    Dactylomancy, by rings.
    Koseinomancy, by sieves.
    Axinomancy, by saws.
    Kaltabomancy, by vessels of brass, or other metal.
    Spatalamancy, by skins, bones, &c.
    Roadomancy, by stars.
    Sciomancy, by shadows.
    Astragalomancy, by dice.
    Oinomancy, by the lees of wine.
    Sycomancy, by figs.
    Tyromancy, by cheese.
    Alphitomancy, by meal, flour, or bran.
    Krithomancy, by corn or grain.
    Alectromancy, by cocks.
    Gyromancy, by circles.
    Lampadomancy, by candles and lamps.
     
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    I have one portfolio word that I use to cover all such methods of divination.

    I call it guesswork.


    Richard English
     
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    special names for various types of divination

    The morpheme -mancy is from Greek -μαντεια (-manteia) 'divination by' < μαντευεσθαι (manteuesthai) 'to prophesy' < μαντις ([io]mantis[/i]) 'priest'; from the latter English gets preying mantis, mantic, cf. Latin oraculum 'oracle' < oro 'to ask, plead, beg' from a different root.

    Paedomancy may be another error of Mackey's: it would mean 'divination by children' if anything, but 'divination by the soles of the feet' is pedomancy < Latin pes, pedis; for those who abjure the mixing of Latin and Greek roots, the wholly Greek version of the word would be something like podomancy, cf. podiatry; both Latin and Greek words for 'feet' are cognate. Likewise, tuphramancy [sic] should be tephramancy 'divination by the examination of ashes from burnt offerings'. I would suggest checking a dictionary or dictionaries before using any of the others as the whole list might be questionable.


    Ceci n'est pas un seing.
     
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    quote:
    Paedomancy may be another error of Mackey's: 'divination by the soles of the feet' is pedomancy, the wholly Greek version of the word would be something like podomancy. Likewise, tuphramancy [sic] should be tephramancy.
    I'd taken that list from from the Gutenberg Project's text of Mackay. (You didn't expect me to re-keyboard all that, did you? Smile ) A recheck, per your prompt, revealed the Gutenberg text is wrong.

    Mackay's actual text, in my paper-and-ink version, has Podomancy and Tephromancy. So you're right, there is error, but Mackay is vindicated; the error is Gutenberg's.

    Good catches, z! Thank you!
     
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    Fortune-telling may be nonsense, but it has many willing customers, and it's good business.
      Divination has held an empire over the minds of men from the earliest periods of recorded history, and is, in all probability, coeval with time itself. [In olden days] immense numbers of these fellows lived upon the credulity of mankind in that age of witchcraft and diablerie. [And so too in Mackey's time:] It is quite astonishing to see the great demand there is, both in England and France, for dream-[interpretation] books and other trash of the same kind. Two books in England enjoy an extraordinary popularity, and have run through upwards of fifty editions in as many years in London alone, besides being reprinted in Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dublin. There is a demand for these works, which are sold at sums varying from a penny to sixpence, chiefly to servant-girls and imperfectly-educated people, all over the country, of upwards of eleven thousand annually …. The total number during this period would thus amount to 330,000.
    coeval – of the same age or date of origin; contemporary (noun: a person of roughly the same age; a contemporary)
    diablerie1. black magic; sorcery 2. mischievous conduct; deviltry
     
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    quote:
    Fortune-telling may be nonsense, but it has many willing customers, and it's good business.

    I'm sure you're right. One of the clichés I use and believe is "there's one born every minute".

    I just wish I'd been clever enough to think of the idea of selling water in bottles for more than the price of petrol!


    Richard English
     
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    I just wish I'd been clever enough to think of the idea of selling water in bottles for more than the price of petrol!

    It's worth paying for water in a bottle in places like India or Africa when it's usually the only alternative to overly-sweet soda or non-potable running water. The best innovation I've seen so far is potable water in plastic sacks. At India for 15 rupees (USD 0.38, EUR 0.26) per liter, it was decidedly cheaper than gasoline. Fresh, young coconuts were even cheaper, at INR 10, but usually held non-standard amounts of liquid, less than a liter.


    Ceci n'est pas un seing.
     
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    quote:
    One of the clichés I use and believe is "there's one born every minute".
    You quote an American??! Big Grin
     
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    quote:
    It's worth paying for water in a bottle in places like India or Africa when it's usually the only alternative to overly-sweet soda or non-potable running water.

    Indeed. But not in most of Europe or the USA.


    Richard English
     
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    quote:
    You quote an American??!

    I frequently quote Americans. One of my favourites for useful aphorisms is Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    Barnum I quote less often and David Hannum (the man who actually said the phrase commonly attributed to Barnum) only when I use the "one born every minute" expression.


    Richard English
     
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    Frankly I've never seen the problem with bottled water. Just think of it as diet soda without the artificial coloring, flavor and carbonation and you'll be fine.
     
    Posts: 1245 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
    <Asa Lovejoy>
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    Yeahbut - buy a good bottle, fill it from the tap, and it's waaaaaay less expensive. Unless you're a pretentious yuppie, that works well! Cool
     
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    quote:
    Frankly I've never seen the problem with bottled water. Just think of it as diet soda without the artificial coloring, flavor and carbonation and you'll be fine.

    Yes. If you do as Asa suggests.

    My problem is that otherwise sane people go into supermarkets, restaurants or pubs and pay huge amounts for the self-same water that they could get for nothing from their taps for as near to nothing as makes no difference. Mind you, if the obscene profit thereby made means that the rest of us pay less for our preferred drinks, then I suppose I shouldn't really moan all that much.


    Richard English
     
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    fill it from the tap

    Not something I'd do willingly in India.


    Ceci n'est pas un seing.
     
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    quote:
    Originally posted by zmježd:
    fill it from the tap

    Not something I'd do willingly in India.


    True, but I think Richard's point is that I can walk into my local supermarket and pay anything from 75p to about £5 for a bottle of water that is indistinguishable from the stuff that comes from my tap. I drink lots of bottled water when I'm travelling but I'd have to be bonkers to do it when I'm at home.
     
    Posts: 7866 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
    <Asa Lovejoy>
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    I'm talking about Portland, Oregon, where we only have the occasional traces of sewage and heavy metals in our tap water. The Willamette is NOT the Ganges - and we get tap water from a mountain snow runoff-fed reservoir close by.
     
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    True, but I think Richard's point is that I can walk into my local supermarket and pay anything from 75p to about £5 for a bottle of water that is indistinguishable from the stuff that comes from my tap

    That is exactly what I mean.

    Incidentally, I am told that some of the bottled water that is sold at such massive margins would actually fail UK water purity regulations were it to come from a tap. Apparently much of the so-called "pure spring water" contains too many nitrates and other pollutants originating from the fertilisers of farmers' fields.

    So far as third-world bottled water is concerned, I would be chary of much of the locally produced product as I am convinced that many of the vendors simply fill the bottles from their own tap. I prefer to stick to bottled beer - generally 100% safe anywhere in the world!


    Richard English
     
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    quote:
    I can walk into my local supermarket and pay anything from 75p to about £5 for a bottle of water that is indistinguishable from the stuff that comes from my tap

    I don't know what comes out of your tap, but the water that comes out of my tap tastes like chloramine. If you fill an aquarium with it the fish die. Bottled water generally doesn't taste of chloramine.

    Bottled water is like many other consumer products in that you are paying largely for convenience. I generally don't like carrying water around like a regimental bhisti, so when I'm out and about and want to purchase some liquid refreshment I feel no guilt about paying $1.25 for a bottle of water when the alternatives are a $1.25 bottle of diet soda or $1.25 for an ounce and a half of corn syrup diluted with carbonated water.

    I have also been known to purchase bags of ice. Eek
     
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    I don't know much about US standards but in the UK the water that comes out of taps is perfectly potable in almost all cases although there are some freestanding outdoor taps that I wouldn't want to drink from.

    I don't think we are talking about buying something to drink when out (although I would rather go thirsty than pay some of the outrageous prices asked*), we are talking about people who buy six two litre bottles a week to drink at home. I know people who use bottled water to make tea and coffee. What's the point of that?

    (* A few months ago I was in London and thirsty. I took a bottle of water, labelled at an already outrageous £1.50 fo 225cl, to the counter and was told the shelf was mislabelled and it should be £2.25. I told the man I didn't want it and he said I had to have it as he'd already rung it up on the till. I explained that under the Sale of Goods Act he wasn't allowed to mark it at one price and sell it at a higher one. He became angry and I walked out leaving the bottle on the counter and my money in my pocket. That's a massive £10 a litre - for water! Nobody is going to tell me it's worth that - no matter how thirsty you are.)

    This message has been edited. Last edited by: BobHale,
     
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    I won't argue that it is possible to charge an exorbitant price for water, but water is hardly special in that regard. I see crazy prices for everything, all the time (although five bucks for eight ounces pegs even my holy-shit-o-meter). But given the choice between paying $X for water versus $X for water+crap, I see nothing unreasonable about choosing water.

    In San Francisco there has actually been a push to ban the sale bottled water, presumably because it's too wasteful and bourgeois, an unusual move that would make it legal to sell adulterated water but a crime to sell pure water. In addition, given the fact that our water supply crosses about a dozen seismically active faults to get from the mountains to the taps of seven million people, it seems a little short-sighted.
     
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    quote:
    Originally posted by neveu:
    But given the choice between paying $X for water versus $X for water+crap, I see nothing unreasonable about choosing water.


    And who could argue with you?

    But it is a bit of a straw man argument because that's not the choice that's being discussed. The choice that's being talked about is the choice of paying $X for water versus paying nothing for equally drinkable water.
     
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    Bottled water

    According to the [Earth Policy] Institute, it costs the United States 1.5 million barrels of oil a year to produce the plastic bottles used for water.
     
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    quote:
    But it is a bit of a straw man argument because that's not the choice that's being discussed

    It's not? Asa's, Richard's and your comments imply that there is no reason to buy bottled water outside the Third World. And as Jerry's link and comment indicates, it is precisely the choice being discussed on a policy level.
    My point is that making bottled water "public enemy Number One" when we drink far more bottled soda and beer is hypocritical. It's environmental theater that reminds me of the California drought in the '80s, when the government mandated that restaurants would no longer provide customers the traditional 8 oz. glasses of chlorinated tap water unless asked, a proverbial drop in the bucket compared with, say, the cost of growing irrigated cotton in the desert.
     
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    In the interests of harmony I withdraw from the debate.
     
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    (Way to go, passive aggresive!)
     
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    quote:
    Originally posted by BobHale:
    I explained that under the Sale of Goods Act he wasn't allowed to mark it at one price and sell it at a higher one. He became angry and I walked out leaving the bottle on the counter and my money in my pocket.


    Things like this drive me crazy. After being told he is violating the law, he becomes angry at you for his misbehavior? I would think the polite response to be to sell you the bottle at the marked price, of course, maybe he thought you were trying to get him to do that. Either way, that's an absurd price to pay for bottled water.
     
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    quote:
    I would think the polite response to be to sell you the bottle at the marked price

    In fact, under the Law that Bob cited, it is illegal in England to sell any item for other than the price at which it is advertised. So if the price is shown as £1, then £1 is the ONLY price at which it can be sold. Even if the error is massive (and instances of hundreds of pounds errors have happened) the seller can only sell for the posted price or not at all.

    Remember, I never suggested that it should be illegal for people to buy bottled water at excessive price - many people pay what I consider to be daft prices for all sorts of things - choice is what free market economics is all about. I just said that I wished I'd been clever enough to get people to pay massive amounts for a product that cost me as near nothing to supply as makes no difference.

    Incidentally, our own water company (and others, I am sure), have an annual blind tasting comparing bottles of their water and commercial bottled waters - all served at the same low temperature. Every year that I can remember the local water company's water get the highest marks - even from those who claim never to drink tap water "because it tastes disgusting".


    Richard English
     
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