Stuff in Old Books.

A few years ago I posted about Forgotten Bookmarks (“I work at a used and rare bookstore, and I buy books from people everyday. These are the personal, funny, heartbreaking and weird things I find in those books”); now I’m passing along another such site, stuff in old books (“We own a 2nd hand bookshop in West End, Brisbane, Australia. Sometimes we find cool stuff in the books we buy”). If this is the sort of thing you like, you’ll like it, and I found an item of linguistic interest not far down the page, “A spoonful of Irish,” with a slightly misspelled version of this Irish proverb:

Ar mhaithe leis féin a dheineann an cat crónán.
It’s for his own good the cat purrs.
Explanation: Said of people doing what they like, particularly when it’s hard to understand their motivation. Also said to imply that someone thought to be being generous is actually being selfish.

I find that an irresistible saying and will adopt it for use around the house; in the Connemara dialect I learned, it’s pronounced something like “air WAHhə lesh HANE ə YENyən ə cut CROOnawn.” There is much discussion of the details of the Irish (with some support for dhéanann rather than dheineann) here; my spoken Irish, never impressive to begin with, has deteriorated to the point that I wouldn’t dream of trying to adjudicate such a delicate point.

Also, for those interested, I have finished Fifth Business (see this post) and am turning eagerly to the next book in the trilogy, The Manticore. I highly recommend the Davies books to anyone who enjoys a well-told tale that involves all sorts of unexpected areas of knowledge; from the first, for instance, I learned about a musical that was all the rage during WWI, Chu Chin Chow — from the Wikipedia article: “The piece premièred at His Majesty’s Theatre in London on 3 August 1916 and ran for five years and a total of 2,238 performances (more than twice as many as any previous musical), an astonishing record that stood for nearly forty years until Salad Days.” Who would have guessed from the name that it’s set in the world of the Arabian Nights?


  1. ’S ann air a shon fhéin a ni’n cat crònan ; ach a dh’ìnnseadh na fìrinn dhì-chuimhnich mi gu’n robh a leithid ’s an tigh.

    The cat purrs for itself ; but to tell the truth I forgot that there was such a thing in the house.

  2. In our house, we’re never allowed to forget!

  3. Who would have guessed from the name that it’s set in the world of the Arabian Nights?

    Not quite guessed, but anyone who’s ever been to a British panto production of Aladdin woudn’t be surprised. The traditional setting is always, for some reason I could probably google, China. Which leads to one fossilised joke in the name of the panto dame, Widow Twankey, which I found out only on visiting the Cutty Sark a few years back.

  4. Fascinating! The things I learn around here…

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