Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

You have the face of a saint... bernard

A fun fact about the novel I will never finish: whenever I can't think of the name for a character or a place, I use a saint. There's an explosion near a school, so the school is St. Barbara's, because she's the patron saint of explosions. A drug addict's dog is Rocco, after the patron saint of drug addicts. A saint is even a very, very obscure clue as to whodunnit. 
So today, while skimming From Hue & Cry to Humble Pie in a mad grab for a blog topic, I learned about the expression mad as a hatter. The expression, which predates Alice in Wonderland by 15 years. As you may know, the expression is likely a reference to the fact that hatters were known to work with mercurous nitrate, which caused trembling symptoms similar to St. Vitus Dance, aka Sydenham's chorea. St. Vitus is known as the patron saint of dancers, because people used to do weird manic dances in front of statues of him. For some freaking reason. Maybe like how people inexplicably feel compelled to throw their hard-earned money into small bodies of water.
So that got me thinking about St. Elmo's fire and how it got its name. St. Elmo's fire is a weather phenomenon which, because of science, makes it look like there are flames in the sky. St. Elmo is the patron saint of sailors; sailors saw St. Elmo's fire in the sky and were filled with religious awe. And then thought it was bad luck, because they're a superstitious, peg-legged bunch.
So what are some other things named after saints?


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