Wednesday, 4 September 2013

a skoffin!* a skoffin! fetch my silver buttons!

I am back from holiday. On the whole, I prefer holiday. I am in the British library. I do a little wander around Humanities 1. Most of the books in here are catalogues, but there's the odd thing that's worth a browse. Oh, I think, A Dictionary of Fabulous Beasts - that's worth a look. I open it. The first entry I read is:

Minocane or Homacane A creature found in English heraldry, half-child, half-spaniel.

Gosh. I hurry back to my seat and google minocane looking for pictures. To my disappointment and relief, I can't find any. However, the third hit is Minocane - a name for cute babys (sic).

Children are cute. Spaniels are cute. Still.

The book (by Richard Barber and Anne Riches) is very deadpan, and slightly odd in tone generally. Other early highlights include the opening illustration of a man in a lobster's claw and the entry:

Wayzgoose Neither fabulous nor a beast, though it sounds like both: the printers' name for their annual union (or 'chapel') outing in the nineteenth century.

I kind of hope this was added by the printer and Richard and Anne never noticed it.

* A Skoffin is an icelandic sort of basilisk which you can only kill by aiming another skoffin's glance at it (which kills both of them so don't do this with your favourite skoffin) or by shooting it with a silver button engraved with a cross.

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