Friday 4 December 2009

Hidebound and Toeing the Line

I was reading something just now that used the word hidebound. I'd always sort of assumed that this alluded to old books, bound with hide, from which a hidebound reactionary would take his opinions. But in a momentary spirit of actually finding something out I looked it up and discovered that it just means that the skin on the hindquarters is so tight that an animal has difficulty moving. In humans this may mean scleroderma, which is chronic.

Luckily the chap I was reading about was not hidebound and indeed refused to toe the line, as I was with a dictionary already I discovered that the etymology of this word was uncertain, but may refer to the rule in the House of Commons that members must not stand forward of one of two lines that are, apparently, a sword's length apart. This is to make sure that neither Gordon Brown nor David Cameron ever actually drive home their points.

I once went to the chamber of the House of Commons and was told that I wasn't allowed to sit down on the sacred green benches. Fortunately there was a very big chap there and I was able to put him between the guide and me and take the weight off my feet (I'm 6'1" so this was a terribly big guy).

I then went to the viewing gallery of the House of Lords (I forget why but most people in the House of Lords have forgotten something) where they have a little curtain at the level of your feet. This is, apparently, so that the debating peers don't catch a glimpse of a lady's ankle and let matters of state slip.

You see that red bit at the bottom of the balcony? That's the ankle curtain.

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