When writing my answers to last week’s interview, the phrase “my trusty pot of tea” sprang unbidden to my lips – or rather fingertips. Possibly this was influenced by Richard IV’s “trusty fruit knife” which saw him safely through a single-handed confrontation with ten thousand Turks at the gates of Constantinople.
There is of course a long history of the naming of swords, particularly mythical or otherwise fictional ones – Excalibur, Durendal, Anduril, Rhindon – but mostly it’s just swords, axes, and hammers that get this acclaim, all weapons of assault and battery. Cooking pots, fountain pens, and other useful articles don’t generally rate a name, which is a bit depressing when you think how much more beneficial non-destructive things are.
Setting a much better example for us all is Lord Ickenham (a.k.a. Pongo Twistleton’s Uncle Fred), who sallies forth to the bathroom at Blandings Castle “armed with his great sponge Joyeuse”. Named, presumably, after Charlemagne’s sword Joyeuse, which would have been a much less pleasant bathtime companion.
“Medicinal rhubarb was commercially grown from 1777 in Oxfordshire. It had been valued as a purgative and laxative for many centuries: a bag of rhubarb was considered sufficiently valuable to have been listed in the will of Marco Polo, and in the mid-nineteenth century the Chinese official Lin Zexu, unaware that it was, by then, a familiar feature of the Victorian vegetable garden, threatened Queen Victoria with a complete ban on the export of rhubarb. His intention was to bring a constipated nation to its knees and thus to end British sales of opium in China.” from The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia by Frances Wood.
Personally, I wish Lin Zexu had been successful in his quest to stop (or possibly stop up) that giant pusher the British Empire and “eliminate this poison once and for all and to the benefit of all mankind.” You can read more of his letter here. It’s powerful stuff, and even today, there are those to whom it could well be posted.