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The tower of Babel was built by the people of Babylon in an attempt to reach



Babelavante is an old term from the Middle Ages for a bad joke.


Baccarat is a banking game available in casinos worldwide. The aim of the

player is to form a hand whose point value is nearer to 9 than the hand of the

banker. Pip cards count as face value, pictures and tens as zero, and only the

last digit of the total counts (so that for example seven plus six is worth

three, not thirteen).

Back door

In computing, a back door is a hole in the security of a system deliberately

left in place by designers or maintainers. The motivation for this is not

always sinister; some operating systems, for example, come out of the box with

privileged accounts intended for use by field service technicians or the

vendor's maintenance programmers. Historically, back doors have often lurked in

systems longer than anyone expected or planned, and a few have become widely

known. The infamous RTM worm of late 1988, for example, used a back door in the

BSD UNIX `sendmail(8)' utility.

Backbone Facilities

Backbone Facilities are a transmission facility designed to interconnect

tributary facilities from clusters of dispersed users or devices; the viewpoint

of what is a "backbone" can range from a single building's wiring to an

intercontinental network.


Backer by Cordes Development is a Windows utility for synchronizing and

updating directories and files via a network, disk, IR, or cable. Backer keeps

all your computers and disks up-to-date. With Backer you can: synchronize files

within a work team; synchronize your notebook before you travel and your

desktop afterwards; transfer files between your office and your home; backup

your day's or week's work; keep current copies of system files on disk to be

prepared for a crash.


Backgammon is an old board game also called tric trac, tavla or tables.

Background noise

In electronics, background noise is the aggregate of random noise in a

sound-reproducing system, arising from such causes as radio interference, valve

and other circuit noise, record scratch, etc. and not from the signal being



see "Bakshish"


A baffle is a rigid structure, such as a sheet of sound-insulating material,

used to improve the distribution of sound waves.


The bagpipe is a Scottish musical instrument.


Bahr is an Arabic term denoting a river or lake.


Bairam is a Muslim feast falling immediately after Ramadan and extending over

one to three days. A second Bairam falling seventy days later, commemorates

Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac.


Baize is a rough woolen cloth with a nap on one side used for linings,

coverings and curtains, most notably covering billiards, snooker and pool



Bakelite is a strong synthetic material resistant to heat and chemicals.


Bakshish or backshish (from the persian for a gift) is a word used throughout

the Arab world for a gratuity for services rendered, though it is demanded

often with threats.


A balalaika is a two-stringed Russian musical instrument resembling a guitar.


Balata is a latex derived from the Bullet-Tree. It has properties intermediate

between gutta-percha and india-rubber, making it more suitable for certain

industrial purposes. It has been used in the USA as a chewing material for many

years, and is used to make chewing-gum.


Balausta is an old term for the fruit of the pomegranate.


A baldric is a belt used to support a sword or bugle.


A ballad is a narrative song.


Ballet is a dramatic representation, consisting of dancing and pantomime,

regulated by the strains of music, and generally accompanied by scenery and

decoration. The ballet was introduced into France from Italy about 1580 by

Baltasarini under the patronage of Catherine de' Medici, and improved by



Ballistics is the theory of missile projection.


A balloon is a bag filled with gas.


Ballooning is a form of unpowered flight dependant on the inflation of a

usually spherical fabric container with a gas that is lighter than air, such as

heated air. The container (balloon) rises, carrying the pilot and passengers in

a basket beneath it. Descent is effected by the controlled release of the gas,

through a valve in the top of the container, operated by a cord from the basket.


A ballot is a method of secret voting.

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle is the British royal residence in Scotland. It stands on the

right bank of the Dee near Crathie. Balmoral was purchased in 1848 by Queen



Balun is a shortened term derived from BALanced to UNbalanced transformer. A

balun is often used in radio to allow the connection of an unbalanced cable to

a balanced aerial system.


Bandoline is a gummy substance produced from gum tragacanth, quince seeds,

Irish moss or Iceland moss, with perfume added and formerly used by 19th

century and early 20th century hairdressers to make the hair glossy and to fix

it in position.


A banjo is a stringed musical instrument.

Bank Of England

The Bank Of England was projected by William Paterson, a Scottish merchant, to

meet the difficulty experienced by William III in raising the supplies for the

war against France. 40 merchants subscribed 500,000 pounds towards the sum of

1,200,000 pounds to be lent to the government at 8 per cent., in consideration

of the subscribers being incorporated as a bank. A royal charter was granted in

1694 appointing Sir John Houblon the first governor and the bank commenced

active operations on the 1st of January 1695.

Banks and Taylor

Banks and Taylor are an English beer brewing company of Bedfordshire. They were

established in 1981.


In the feudal law, banns were a solemn proclamation of any kind; hence arose

the present custom of asking banns, or giving notice before marriage.

Bar Mitzvah

Bar Mitzvah are Jewish celebrations connected with reaching the age of maturity

and of legal and religious responsibility. A boy celebrates his Bar Mitzvah

when he is thirteen years and one day old, a girl (in non-orthodox communities)

when she is twelve years and one day. The celebration involves the child

reading a passage from the Torah or the Prophets in the synagogue on the

Sabbath, and is then considered a full member of the congregation.

Barbidonna Elixir

see "Phenobarbital"


see "Veronal"


Barbu is a skilful card game for four players. It uses a standard 52-card pack

as for bridge or poker, ranking as usual from highest to lowest Ace K Q J 10 9

8 7 6 5 4 3 2 in each of the four suits. In the course of a session, each

player will play each of the seven contracts once, so that there are 28 hands

played in all. The initial declarer is chosen at random. For the first seven

hands, this player will be declarer. The cards will be dealt by the player on

the declarer's right, and cut by the player opposite to declarer. After this

declarer has done her seven contracts, the player on the original declarer's

left will be declarer for seven contracts, and so on, until everyone has done

her seven contracts. In each of these contracts, each player is playing for

herself. Declarer chooses the contract, but there is no reason for the other

players to cooperate against her. The rules about doubling, however, are

asymmetrical with respect to declarer


Barege is a gauze-like fabric used for women's dresses, made of silk and

worsted, or of cotton and worsted.


A barge is a type of long narrow flat bottomed boat.


Barium is a silver-white, malleable, toxic, bivalent metallic element of the

alkaline-earth group that occurs only in combination. It has the symbol Ba.


A barometer is a device for measuring air pressure.


Baron is an English peerage title.


Baroque is a term first applied to ill-shaped pearls, but now denoting

fantastic, bizarre, and decadent forms in art and even in nature. It is

especially used in connection with an architectual style.


A barque is a type of masted sailing ship.


A barquentine is a three mast sailing ship.


A barrel is a dry and liquid measurement that varies with substance. A barrel

of beef was equal to 200 lbs, a barrel of butter varied from 106 to 256 lbs, a

barrel of flour from 196 to 228 lbs, a barrel of gunpowder was 100 lbs, a

barrel of raisins was 112 lbs, a barrel of soft soap was 256 lbs.

Barrier Treaty

The Barrier Treaty was a treaty concluded in 1709 at the Hague between England

and the Netherlands, by which the Netherlands republic obtained the right to

occupy certain fortified places (Namur, Tournai, Menin, Furnes, etc.) in the

Spanish Netherlands.


Bartok is a game of the Eights group. The object in these games is that to be

the first to get rid of all your cards. There is a single discard pile and at

your turn you can discard a card which matches the rank or the suit of the

previous card. If you cannot or do not wish to play, you draw a card from the

undealt stock and add it to your hand. Certain card ranks may have special

properties. For example changing the direction of play; requiring a different

suit to be played; requiring the next player to draw cards; causing the next

player's turn to be skipped; allowing the player to play one or more additional

cards. Bartok takes this a stage further by allowing the rules about special

cards to be changed by the players as the game goes on. This makes the rules

increasingly difficult to remember, and anyone who does not follow the rules

has to draw one or more penalty cards. The most successful players will be

those who are best at keeping abreast of the changes, and inventing new rules

which will confuse the other players.


In nuclear physics, a baryon is a heavy subatomic particle made up of three

indivisible elementary particles called quarks. The baryons form a subclass of

the hadrons and comprise the nucleons (protons and neutrons) and hyperons.


Basalt is the name given to lava. It is high in ferrous and magnesian silicates.

Bascule Bridge

A bascule bridge is one which rotates upon a horizontal axis. The roadway is

hinged to allow it to be drawn up to allow the passage of vessels.


In chemistry, a base is a compound which yields hydroxide ions in aqueous

solution; a proton acceptor.

Basfapon B

see "Dalapon"


In geography, a basin is a drainage area of a river and its confluents.


A basket is a woven container.


Basque is a language of Western Europe known to its speakers, the Basques, as

Euskara, and apparently unrelated to any other language on Earth. It is spoken

by some half a million people in central North Spain and South-west France,

around the Bay of Biscay, as well as by emigrants in both Europe and the

Americas. The language is of central importance to the Basque nationalist


Although previously forbidden in all public places for most of Franco's rule,

Basque was permitted in church and primary schools from 1968 and taught in all

schools from 1979. The first Basque parliament was elected 1980 and the

language officially recognised along with Spanish in the Basque provinces.


Basra is a Middle Eastern fishing card game, somewhat similar to the Western

game Casino.


A basset-horn is a tenor clarinet.


A bassoon is a wooden double-reed wind musical instrument invented in the 16th

century by Afranio.


In botany, bast is a structural element in the stem of dicotyledons and

gymnosperms. In most plants long, tough, elastic fibres form part of the bast,

and it is on account of this that it has economic value, these fibres being

extracted and used to make Russian bast or bast mats and for tying plants.


Basys is a client-server computer system used by almost all broadcasting

organisations for storing and manipulating newsroom information including: wire

stories, show scripts, assignment lists and contact files. The main database

runs on a UNIX file server (usually two or three mirrored computers) supporting

a number of client workstations which are either dumb terminals (VT) or

DOS/Windows based PCs. The system is used by journalists to write the news

stories which are then broadcast. Basys is very configurable, and many

organisations use customised versions - the BBC's version being called "Edit".


A bathometer is an apparatus invented by William Siemens in 1861 to measure the

depth of water without submerging a sounding line. Its action depends on the

diminution of the effect of gravitation on the surface of the water as compared

with its effect on the earth, owing to the mass of water (of less density)

which replaces earth (of greater density); which is duly registered.


Bathybius was a name given by Huxley to a supposed organism found in some

preserved examples of deep-sea ooze obtained by Captain Dayman in 1857, while

dredging in HMS Cyclops, in connection with the laying of the Atlantic cable.

Huxley's description was published in the Quarterly Journal of Microscopical

Science in 1868. Eventually it was shown by the Challenger that the substance

in question was nothing but a precipitate of gelatinous calcium sulphate thrown

down by the addition of strong alcohol to deep-sea ooze.


A baton is the stick with which the conductor of a choir or orchestra beats the

time. In early times the bandmaster beat time with his foot, and Lulli knocked

on the floor with a six foot stick. Spohr was the first to employ the baton in

England, at a philharmonic concert in 1820.

Battery Watch

Because laptop computers run on batteries, they sometimes lose power at

inconvenient times. Battery Watch monitors the amount of power left in the

battery of a laptop computer. Although many laptops have power indicators, they

may only give a 10-15 minute warning. Battery Watch lets you check power level

at any time, so you'll never be caught off-guard. Battery Watch is a Terminate

and Stay Resident (TSR) program which is activated by a hotkey. The hotkey

displays the power gauge on-screen showing immediately how much time is left on

the machine. The hotkey can be changed so it does not interfere with other

RAM-resident programs that use the same key.


Baud is a unit of computer etc. signalling speed. The speed in Baud is the

number of discrete conditions or signal elements per second. If each signal

event represents only one bit condition, then Baud is the same as bits per

second. Baud does not equal bits per second.


Bauhaus is a German institution for training architects, artists and industrial

designers founded in 1919 at Weimer.


In geography, a bay is a broad open indentation in a coast-line.


A bayou is a section of still or slow-moving marshy water cut off from a main

river channel, often in the form of an oxbow lake. Bayous are typical of the

Mississippi River delta in Louisiana.


A BBS (Bulletin Board System) is a communicating computer equipped so as to

provide informational messages, file storage and transfer and a degree of

message exchange to dial-up data terminal or personal computer users.


BCD (Binary Coded Decimal) is a binary-coded notation in which each decimal

digit of a number is expressed in binary form; Example: 23 decimal is 10111 in

binary, and 0010 0011 in BCD.


The Beagle was the British sloop on which Charles Darwin, as naturalist, made

his famous voyagein 1831 to 1836.

Beat frequency

In musical acoustics, a beat frequency is the fluctuation produced when two

notes of nearly equal pitch or frequency are heard together. Beats result from

the interference between the sound waves of the notes, the frequency of the

beats equals the difference in frequency of the notes. Musicians use the effect

when tuning their instruments. A similar effect can occur in electrical

circuits when two alternating currents are present, producing regular

variations in the overall current.

Beat-frequency Oscillator

A Beat-frequency Oscillator (B.F.O.) is a device for generating oscillations of

approximately sinusoidal waveform by combining two radio-frequency electrical

oscillations of different frequencies.

Beating the Bounds

Beating the bounds (riding the marches) was a popular English ceremony of

perambulation round the boundaries of a township or parish on Ascension Day

with the view of keeping alive the memory of the places where the boundaries

ran. It used to be sometimes customary to whip the boys of the parish school at

important spots during the walk, and this practice continued at some places up

to the start of the 20th century.

Beaufort scale

The beaufort scale measures wind speed at sea.

Becquerel Rays

Becquerel Rays was a name originally given to the radiations emitted by

radioactive substances, and now distinguished as Alpha Rays, Beta Rays, and

Gamma Rays.


Bela (Cloybosh) is a trick taking card game, the winner of a hand is not

necessarily the winner of the most tricks. Each card has a point value, and

points are counted for combinations held in the hand before it is played. One

particular combination is declared as it is played - the K-Q of the trump suit

(called Bela) - and points are also scored for making the last trick. Each

player aims to score more points in cards captured during a hand of play and in

combinations than his opponent. A complete game takes several hands and is won

by the player whose score first reaches or passes a total of 501.

Bell Metal

Bell metal is an alloy of 80 copper to 20 tin.


see "Phenobarbital"


Bellatrix is a white star in the right shoulder of the constellation of Orion.


see "Phenobarbital"

Bellini-Tosi Aerial

A Bellini-Tosi aerial is an arrangement of two large fixed-frame aerials

mounted at right angles to each other and used in conjunction with a

radiogoniometer in radio direction finding.


Bellows are apparatus for creating a draught.


Belote is one of the most popular card games in France, although it has been

known there only for about 70 years. It is a close relative of Clobyosh (also

known as Bela), which is played in Jewish communities in many parts of the

world, and of the Dutch game Klaverjas. Belote is a point-trick taking game for

2, 3, or 4 players played with a 32 card deck, the cards from 2 to 6 from each

suit being discarded.


A belt is a flat strip of material worn around the waist.


Benchmarks are a measure of performance. In computing terms they are considered

(by hackers) as an inaccurate measure of computer performance. "In the computer

industry, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and benchmarks."

Well-known ones include Whetstone, Dhrystone, Rhealstone, the Gabriel LISP

benchmarks, the SPECmark suite, and LINPACK.

Bengal Hemp

see "Sunn Hemp"

Benylin DM

Benylin DM is a tradename for dextromethorphan hydrochloride


Benzene is a distillate of petroleum used in dry cleaning.


Benzine (benzole) is a compound of hydrogen and carbon, discovered by Faraday

in the oils of portable gas in 1825 and obtained by Mitscherlich from benzoic

acid in 1834, and by Mansfield from coal tar in 1848 (he also died as the

result of burns sustained while experimenting with benzine).


see "Carbon Tetrachloride"

Benzoate of soda

see "Sodium benzoate"


see "Benzine"


Benzosulfimide is the chemical name for saccharin.


Benzotrichloride (toluene trichloride) is a colourless or yellow liquid used

chiefly in the manufacture of dyes.


Benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) is one of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH)

compounds. Because it is formed when petrol, rubbish, or any animal or plant

material is burned, it is usually found in smoke and soot. Benzo[a]pyrene is

also found in the coal tar pitch that is used to join electrical parts together

and in creosote.

Benzyl benzoate

Benzyl benzoate is a colourless, faintly aromatic liquid used chiefly as a

fixative and solvent in the manufacture of flavourings and perfume and in

medicine in the treatment of certain skin conditions.


Beowulf is a famous English epic. The poem is rich in the accurate and

picturesque portrayal of the daily life in England in the 6th century.


Berberine is a yellow crystalline bitter alkaloid occuring in the barberry



see "Biretta"


Berkelium is a radioactive metallic element produced by bombarding americium

241 with helium ions. It has the symbol Bk.

Berlin Black

Berlin Black is a varnish similar to Brunswick Black but finer.

Bernesque Poetry

Bernesque poetry is that type of poetry which blends satire, wit, mockery and

serious thought, as in Byron's Don Juan and in the poetry of Francesco Berni

from whom the name is derived.


Beryllium is a steel-grey, light, strong, brittle, toxic, bivalent metallic

element used chiefly as a hardening agent in alloys. It has the symbol Be.

Bessemer converter

The bessemer converter is a process for making cheap steel. Basically,

impurities are removed from the pig iron by blasting air through the molten

metal and adding lime to remove phosphorus from the metal. The process takes

about twenty minutes.

Beta particle

In chemistry, a beta particle is a negative electron given off by a radioactive


Beta Particles

Beta Particles are electrons travelling at velocities up to 99 per cent of the

velocity of light, such as are emitted from the nuclei of the atoms of

radioactive materials.

Beta Rays

Beta rays are streams of high-velocity beta particles travelling at speeds

approaching that of light.


A betatron is an apparatus for accelerating electrons to very high velocities

by means of a periodic magnetic field, thus producing "artificial" beta rays.


Betrothment is a mutual promise or contract between two parties, by which they

bind themselves to marry. In ancient times it was attended with the exchanging

of rings, joining hands and kissing in the presence of witnesses. Since a

betrothment is a contract, it may be subject to litigation.


Betterment is a term used to mean an increase in the value of property arising

not from any improvement effected on it by the owner, but from the increase of

population, general improvements carried out at the public expense or similar



Bezique is a card game. The name bezique is applied to the occurence in one

hand of the knave of diamonds and queen of spades. The game may be played by

two, three or four people with two, three or four decks of cards from which

have been removed cards with from two to six pips.


Bhang is an Indian drink prepared from the leave and shoots of the hemp

(cannabis) plant.


BHT is a tradename for Butylated hydroxy toluene.

Bibby Steamship Line

The Bibby Steamship Line was an old English shipping company established in the

early 19th century by John Bibby and trading between Liverpool, England and

Colombo and Rangoon.


A bicycle is a two wheeled vehicle.

Bid Euchre

Bid Euchre is the name given to a group of games played in North America which

are based on Euchre, but with the trump suit chosen by whichever player is

prepared to contract to win the largest number of tricks. There is no

standardization of the rules; most of the variation concerns the number of

cards in the deck (quite often a double deck is used), and the exact bids


Bid Whist

Bid Whist is a partnership trick-taking card game that is very popular among

African Americans. It is played with a standard 52 card deck plus 2 jokers, for

a total of 54 cards. The two jokers must be distinct: one is called the big

joker and the other is the little joker. There are 4 players consisting of two

teams of two; each player sits opposite their partner. The game starts with

each team at zero, and the object of the game is to reach a score 7 or more

points, or force the other team to go negative 7 or more points. Points are

scored by bidding for and winning tricks, which in this game are called books.

Biela's Comet

Biela's Comet was discovered by M. Biela, an Austrian officer, in 1826. Its

orbit was calculated at 6 years and 38 weeks and the comet was seen again in

1832, 1839, 1846 and 1852. On the last two sitings it appeared in two distinct

parts. It has not been seen since, however in 1872 and 1879 when the earth

passed through the comets orbit immense flights of meteors were seen which were

connected with the breakup of the comet.


Biggly is the name used in Cumbria for the game of Blind Man's Buff.


In geography, a bight is a shallow even indentation in the sea coast, often of

great width.


The Bikini is a two-piece item of women's swim-wear. It was invented in 1946 by

a French designer and was called the bikini after the atom bomb test at

bikini atoll, the premise being that the bikini was as small as an atom, and

the results were explosive! When first revealed, no professional model could be

found to model such a revealing item of clothing, and so a cabaret dancer was

hired to model the first bikini.


Bilboes are an apparatus for confining the feet of offenders, especially on

board ships, consisting of a long bar of iron with shackles sliding on it and a

lock at one end to stop them from sliding off. From the use of bilboes evolved

the term 'put in irons'.

Bill of Costs

A Bill of Costs is an account rendered by an attorney or solicitor of his

charges and disbursements in an action, or in the conduct of his client's


Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights was a statute embodied in the declaration of Rights

presented by both houses of the Convention to the prince and Princess of Orange

in 1689. After declaring the late King James II to have done various acts

contary to the laws of the realm, and to have abdicated the government, the

Bill of Rights proceeds to enact in detail the celebrated declaration as to the

rights and liberties of the English people. It was laid down that the crown had

no power to suspend or dispense with the ordinary laws, or form judicial

courts, or levy money without parliamentary sanction. The raising or keeping of

a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless with the consent of

Parliament was declared to be unlawful. Freedom of election for members of

Parliament, freedom of speech in debate, and the right of the subject to

petition the crown were alike maintained. A clause also stated that if any king

or queen should embrace the Roman Catholic religion, or intermarry with a Roman

Catholic, their subjects should be absolved of their allegiance.


Billeting is a mode of feeding and lodging soldiers when they are not in camp

or barracks, by quartering them on the inhabitants of a town.


Billiards is a game played with two white balls and one red ball and a cue on a

slate bed table. One of the white balls has two black spots on it, this ball is

called the spot-ball and is used to start the game.

Binary compound

In chemistry, a binary compound is a compound composed of two elements per



see "Vitamin H"


A biretta (birretta, beretta) is an ecclesiastical cap of a square shape with

stiff sides and a tassel at the top. It is usually black for priests, violet

for bishops and scarlet for cardinals.

Birkbeck Bank

The Birkbeck Bank evolved from the Birkbeck Building Society which was named

after George Birkbeck. The bank failed in 1911 with liabilities of nearly

11,000,000 pounds, but returned 16s. 9d. in the pound to the shareholders and


Birmingham Daily Post

The Birmingham Daily Post was established in 1857 by John Feeney in association

with Sir John Jaffray, and was the first daily newspaper to be published in the

provinces at the price of one penny. During the American civil war, the

newspaper stoutly supported the cause of the North, despite widespread British

support for the South.


see "Biretta"


The bise is a dry north wind prevalent in Switzerland and southern France.


Bismuth is a heavy, brittle, greyish-white chiefly trivalent metallic element

that is chemically like arsenic and antimony and is used especially in alloys

and pharmaceuticals. It has the symbol Bi.


Bisque is a kind of unglazed white porcelain used for making statuettes and



see "Bistre"


Bistre (Bister) is a warm-brown pigment extracted from the soot of wood,

especially beech. It furnishes a fine transparent wash, but is mainly used in

monochrome sketching in the same manner as sepia or Indian Ink.


A bit is the part of a bridle which goes into the mouth of a horse and to which

the reigns are attached. In carpentry, a bit is the movable boring tool used by

means of a brace.


Bitter is a taste sensation caused by stimulation of the gustatory nerve.


Bitumen is a natural inflammable pitchy hydrocarbon.


A bivouac is an encampment of soldiers in the open-air without tents or huts,

but with temporary shelters improvised out of available materials.

Black Bottom

The black bottom was an American dance popular in the late 1920s involving a

sinuous rotation of the hips.

Black Drink

see "Appalachian Tea"

Black Friday

Black Friday was the name given to a commercial panic in London on the 11th May

1866 through the stoppage of Overend, Gurney and Co. who were committed to

trial for conspiracy to defraud. On Friday 21st November 1890 a temporary panic

was produced by the embarrassments of the Baring Brothers.

Black Knot

Black knot is a fungal disease of plums and cherries caused by Dibotryon

morbosum and characterised by rough black knot-like swellings on the twigs and


Black Maria

see "Hearts"

Black Monday

There have been many dates dubbed Black Monday, but the first was Easter

Monday, 14th April 1360, so full dark of mist and hail, and so bitter cold

that many men died on their horsebacks with the cold. The day on which a

number of English were slaughtered at a village near Dublin in 1209. The day of

panic in 1745 when the Scottish rebels were reported to have arrived at Derby,

and the Bank of England paid in sixpences.

Blackfriars Ring

Blackfriars Ring was a popular boxing arena in south-east London until it was

destroyed during an air raid in the Second World War. The ring was originally

an octagonal Nonconformist chapel which had fallen into disuse until it was

opened in 1910 for weekly boxing promotions by Burge, a former British

lightweight champion, and run after his death by his wife.


A blackhead is dirt blocking a pore that often causes acne.


Blackjack is a popular American casino game, now found throughout the world. It

is a banking game in which the aim of the player is to achieve a hand whose

points total nearer to 21 than the banker's hand, but without exceeding 21. In

Nevada casinos this game is called 21 rather than Blackjack; "Blackjack" is the

name of the same game played in the home, with slightly different rules mostly

associated with the absence of a house dealer. The "Blackjack" holding of ace

and jack is called a "natural" by all casino personnel.

Blackwater Fever

Blackwater fever is a rare and serious complication of chronic malaria caused

by Plasmodium falciparum and characterised by massive destruction of the red

blood cells, producing dark red or blackish urine.

Blank Verse

Blank Verse is verse without rhyme. It was first introduced into English from

Italian by the Earl of Surrey in the 16th century. Blank verse was first

employed in the English drama Gorboduc, written by Sackville in 1561.


A blanket is an extensive covering. Often a warm bed covering.

Blanket Bog

A blanket bog is a very acid peat bog, low in nutrients and extending widely

over a flat terrain. They are found in cold wet climates.

Blanquette de veau

Blanquette de veau is a ragout or stew of veal in a white sauce.

Blind Cow

Blind Cow is the German and Austrian name for the game of Blind Man's Buff.

Blind fly

Blind fly is the Italian name for Blind Man's Buff.

Blind Man's Buff

Blind Man's Buff was originally a boisterous street game played by adults in

the Middle Ages with greater emphasis on the buffs received by the blind man

than in its later indoor children's party version. A variation was played in

ancient Rome under the name of Chalke muia. In all the versions one player is

blindfolded and attempts to catch the other players who buff, whip or hit him.


A bloom is a lump of puddled iron, which leaves the furnace in a rough state,

to be subsequently rolled into bars or whatever.

Bloomer Costume

The Bloomer costume was a style of dress adopted around 1849 by Mrs Bloomer of

New York. It consisted of a jacket with close sleeves, a skirt reaching a

little below the knee, and a pair of Turkish pantaloons secured by bands around

the ankles.

Blue peter

The blue peter is a flag flown by ships as they are about to sail.

Blue Stone

see "Copper Sulphate"


The bluefish is a fish found off the east coast of north America.

Blundell's School

Blundell's School is a public school outside Tivertonin Devon. It was founded

in 1604 by Peter Blundell, a Tiverton tradesman and was mentioned in the book

Lorna Doone.

Board of Green Cloth

The Board of Green Cloth was an ancient court in the department of the

lord-steward of the household with jurisdiction of all offences committed in

the verge of the court. It was abolished in 1849.


A boat is transport for conveyance across water.


see "Bobsleigh"


see "Bocland"


Bocland (Bockland, Bookland) was one of the original English modes of tenure of

manor-land which was held by a short and simple deed under certain rents and

free services.

Bode's Law

Bode's Law is an arithmetic formula, previously known by Kepler and Titius of

Wittenberg, which expresses approximately the distance of the planets from the



Bog is the name given to soft spongy land.

Bog Spavin

A bog spavin is a fluctuating swelling on the inner and front part of the hock

of a horse, arising from a distension of the joint capsule with synovial fluid.


Bohea is an inferior kind of black tea.

Boiling point

In chemistry, boiling point is the temperature at which the vapour pressure in

a liquid equals the atmospheric pressure.

Boiling To Death

Boiling To Death was made a capital punishment in England by Henry VIII in 1531

as a result of seventeen people being poisoned by Richard Rosse, the bishop of

Rochester's cook, two of whom died. Margaret Davy, a young woman was similarly

executed in 1542 for a similar crime. The act was repealed in 1547.


The bolero is a Spanish dance of the ballet class for couples or a single

female dancer dating from the end of the 18th century. It is a slow step with

much waving of the arms.


Bolide is the name given to a meteor seen to explode in the atmosphere.


Boll was an old Scottish measure used for corn. A boll of wheat or beans was

equal to 4 bushels, a boll of oats, barley or potatoes equal to 6 bushels. It

was abolished by an act which came into force on January 1st 1879 replacing the

boll and other local weights with imperial weights and measures.


A bolometer is an electrical instrument, invented by Langley, which is

sensitive to radiant heat, and who used it to make discoveries in the ultra red

rays of the spectrum.


A bolt was a British measurement for canvas equal to 35 yards.


Bolt-ropes were ropes used to strengthen the sails of a ship.

Boltzmann's Constant

Boltzmann's constant is the ratio of the mean total energy in a molecule to its

absolute temperature.


The bombardon is a large musical instrument of the saxhorn family.


Bombasine is a mixed fabric of silk and worsted, the first forming the warp and

the second the weft.


Bombazine is a twilled or corded cloth composed of silk and worsted. It was

first manufactured in England during the reign of Elizabeth I and from around

1816 it was chiefly made at Norwich.


The Bonaventure was the ship Drake sailed to the West Indies in 1585.

Bone Ace

Bone Ace was an English 17th century variation on the earlier card game One and



Boodle (Michigan, Newmarket) is a card game suitable for about three to eight

players. It is a fairly simple stops game in which the aim is to get rid of

your cards first, and to win stakes by playing particular cards. There is a

variation called Three in One in which before the stops part, each player

selects 5 cards from their hand and plays a game of Poker with them. That

version is also known as Michigan Rummy, though according the books "Michigan

Rum" is actually rummy game - a version of 500 Rum. A standard 52 card deck is

used. The cards in each suit rank from lowest to highest:

2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K-A. During the game stakes are placed on a layout. This

can be a board or cloth, or can be made by laying out an Ace, a king, a queen

and a jack of different suits from a second deck on which the stakes are placed.

Book of Sports

The Book of Sports was the proclamation made by James I in 1618, that, after

divine service on Sundays 'no lawful recreation should be barred to his good

people.' such sports being named as morris dances, dancing round the May-pole,

archery, May games, vaulting, Whitsun-ales, running, leaping and the like; but

such pursuits as dramatic interludes, bear-baiting, bull-baiting, bowling were


Book of the Dead

The Book of the Dead was an ancient Egyptian collection of religious texts for

guiding the departed soul safely through the dangers of the Amenti, the lower

world. A copy of the work was placed with the mummy in his tomb.


Book-keeping is the process of recording commercial transactions in a

systematic and established procedure. These records provide the basis for the

preparation of accounts. The earliest known work on double-entry book-keeping,

was by Luca Pacioli, published in Venice in 1494. The method had, however, been

practised by Italian merchants for several hundred years before that date. The

first English work on the subject was by the schoolmaster Hugh Oldcastle and

appeared in 1543.


see "Bocland"


Boopsy is a Jamaican term for a man who supports a woman materially, and yet

receives no sexual gratification in return (being boopsed). Hence the

expression; Mi a no boops! which translates as I am not a boopsy.

Booth Line

The Booth Line was an English shipping company founded at Liverpool in 1866

carrying passengers and cargo between Europe (Liverpool, Havre, Lisbon, Oporto)

and the Amazon ports of Brazil. In 1882 it also started to run vessels between

New York and the Brazilian ports. In 1901 the Booth Line was amalgamated with

the Red Cross Line.


A bootikin was a wood and iron boot used in torture to extract confessions from

the victim. Wooden wedges were hammered between the leg and the boot with a

mallet so as to crush the victims bone.

Bootstrap Loader

A bootstrap loader is a computer input routine in which pre-set operations are

placed into a computer that enable it to get into operation whenever a reset

condition occurs; in electronic PBXs this may be called Automatic Program

Loading or a similar term; in personal computers it is the sequence that

searches predetermined disks for a Command Interpreter program, then a

Configure System file; finally an Autoexecution Batch file.


In geography, a bore is a tidal wave produced in river estuaries by the rapid

narrowing of the channel.

Boric acid

Boric acid is an acid of borax found naturally. It is also known as acidum

boricum, it is widely used as an eyewash.


Boron is a trivalent metalloid element found in nature only in combination

(such as in borax), and used in metallurgy and nucleonics. It has the symbol B.

Borrowing Days

The Borrowing Days are the last three days of March. They are so named from the

myth that they were borrowed by March from April.


Bort is a powdered form of diamond.

Borthwick Castle

Borthwick Castle is a castle in Scotland 22 km south-east of Edinburgh. It was

built around 1430. In 1567 Queen Mary and Bothwell spent some days in it before

fleeing to Dunbar to escape the insurgent nobles. The castle capitulated to

Oliver Cromwell in 1650.


In architecture, a boss is an ornament placed at the intersection of the ribs

in vaulted or flat roofs.


The Boston is variation of the waltz danced in very slow time against the

rhythm of the music.

Boston Tea Party

The Boston Tea Party was an incident that occured at the height of the

agitation antecedent to the American revolution. On December 16th, 1773 a group

of Bostonians, disguised as Indians, boarded several ships laden with taxed tea

and threw 350 chests of it into the harbour. In retaliation the home government

declared the port closed.


Botargo is a relish made from the salted roe of the mullet or tunny. It is

eaten in Mediterranean coastal regions.


A bothie (or bothy) is a house, usually of one room, for the accommodation of a

number of workmen engaged in the same employment. They were chiefly employed in

parts of Scotland for the accommodation of unmarried male farm labourers on

large farms.


see "Bothie"


Botifarra is a point trick card game for four players in fixed partnerships; as

usual you sit opposite your partner. Only the points in the tricks are

important, not the number of tricks, although a trick also has a value by

itself. The game is usually played until one team reaches 101 points or more,

and this requires several hands. As in other four-player games, it is a

widespread practice to play three games, so that each player partners each of

the three others for one game.


Bottomry is a term for money advanced to a shipowner or his agent inthe course

of a voyage, for the use of a ship and on the security of a ship, the repayment

of which is conditional on the ship reaching its destination.


Bougies are surgical instruments of a cylindrical rod fashion, introduced into

the canals of the body in order to widen them. They differ from a catheter in

being solid.

Boule Work

Boule Work (Buhl Work) is a type of marquetry invented by Charles Boule, a

French woodcarver. Tortoise-shell, brass and rosewood are inlaid together with

a high;y decorative effect.


A bourdon is a bass stop in an organ or harmonium having a froning quality of



Bourgeois is a size of printing type larger than brevier and smaller than long

primer, used in books and newspapers.


A bournous is a hooded garment worn in Algeria, and introduced to England and

France in a modified form in 1847.


The bourree is a dance of French or Spanish origin. As a musical form, bourree

is always in alla-breve time, and is frequently found in the works of the older

composers such as the suits of Bach.


Bourse was the former European name for a stock exchange or money market.


A bovate (oxgang) was an early English measure of land equal to half a virgate

and one-eight of a carucate. It was deemed to be the extent that an ox could

plough in one day and varied from 8 to 24 acres.


Bovril (Ox-strength) is a preparation of lean beef from which the water, about

75 per cent., has been excluded; and the albumen and fibrine, the nutritive

parts retained by processes gradually invented by Lawson Johnston, who began

his experimental researches in Canada in 1872.


A bower is a type of ship's anchor; so named from being carried at the bow of a



The bowline is a non-slip knot.


The bowsprit is the large boom or spar which projects over the stem of a

vessel, having the foremast and foretop-mast stays and staysails attached to

it, while extending beyond it is the jib-boom.


Bowstring-hemp is a fibre extracted from the leaves of the Indian plant

Sanseviera zeylanica. It is so named because the natives used it to make


Box Day

Box day is a day in Scotland when the courts of law being closed, lawyers and

litigants can hand in papers.

Boxing Day

Boxing Day is the day following Christmas day. It has long been a holiday in

England, and is so named from the tradition of giving Christmas boxes as a

present on that day to employees and messengers.

Boyle's Law

Boyle's Law (Mariotte's Law) is a law in physics to the effect that the volume

of a gas will vary inversely with the pressure to which it is subjected if its

temperature is kept constant.

Boys Brigade

The Boys Brigade was a movement started in 1884 by W A Smith of Glasgow with

the object of advancing christianity among boys and promoting habits of

obedience, reverence, discipline, self-respect and christian values among boys.


Braccae were an early trouser-like garment worn by the ancient Britons at the

time of the Roman Invasion.


In archery and fencing, a bracer is a guard worn to protect the warm.


In mathematics, a brachistochrone is the curve between two points through which

a body moves under the force of gravity in a shorter time than for any other

curve, that is the path of quickest descent.


Brachycerous is a zoological term describing insects that have short antennae.


A bract is a leaf from the axil of which a flower or flower-stalk proceeds,

thus distinguishing it from an ordinary leaf.


A brad is a small tapered nail with a small head that is either symmetrical or

formed on one side only.

Bradshaw's Railway Guide

Bradshaw's Railway Guide was once a well-known English manual for travellers.

It was first published in 1839 by George Bradshaw, a printer and engraver

living in Manchester. For a time it was published each month and contained the

arrangements of the railway and steamboat companies operating in Britain.


Brails is a nautical term for all the ropes employed to haul up the bottoms,

lower corners and skirts of great sails.


Branding is the act of marking a body with a red-hot iron. It was used as a

punishment in England for various crimes until it was abolished in 1822. A form

of branding continued for a while in the army as a punishment for desertion

when a large D was marked with ink or gunpowder on the left side two inches

below the arm-pit.


A branks was a kind of bridle constructed of iron bands, acting as a gag,

formerly used in England and Scotland as an instrument of punishment for scolds

and slanderous women. The culprit was paraded through the streets by the

bellman, beadle, or constable, or chained to the market cross where she was

exposed to public ridicule.


Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc formerly called Prince's Metal.


In mines, a brattice is a partition of light wood or canvas which divides a

shaft or underground roadway in two, and furnishes a means of conducting

ventilation to the working face.


Bravo is an Italian adjective used as an exclamation of praise. Originally it

was used only within the theatre, but now it is used in all walks of life. The

word bravo should be used for a man, brava for a woman and bravi to several



Originally, brawling was the term applied in English law to the offence of

wilfully disturbing any meeting of persons lawfully assembled for religious

worship, or misusing any preacher, teacher or persons so assembled. Today

however, the term is more generally applied to an illegal fight in a public



Brazing is a form of soldering by means of a kind of brass called spelter. The

surfaces to be united are thoroughly cleaned, and heated by a forge or

blow-torch, spelter is then applied to the joint in the form of a wire or

filings along with borax which acts as a flux.


Bread is the flour or meal of grain kneaded with water into a tough paste and

then baked. There are numerous kinds of bread, according to the ingredients and

methods of preparation, but they may all be divided into one of two groups:

fermented, leavened, or raised and unfermented, unleavened or not raised.


Breton is a Celtic dialect spoken in Brittany. It was carried to France by

British Celts who fled from England upon the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons in

the 5th and 6th centuries.


In old Scots law, a breve is a short, compendious writ issued from the crown to

a judge, ordering him to try by jury the points outlined in the writ. Procedure

by breve was introduced into Scotland by James I upon the model of the system

in vogue in England.

In music, a breve is the longest form of a note, originally considered the

whole note by the 20th century it had been replaced as the whole note by the

semi-breve, which is half it's duration.

Bride ale

A bride ale was an old English event where a bride would sell ale to cover the

cost of her wedding.


Bridewell was a house of correction in Blackfriars, London. The building took

its name from a well once existing between Fleet Street and the Thames, and

dedicated to St Bride. Henry VIII built a palace to accomodate the Emperor

Charles V on the site in 1522. This building was converted by Edward VI into a

hospital to serve as a workhouse for the poor and a house of correction for the

idle and vicious. The building was badly damaged by the Fire of London in 1666.


Bridge is a card game, the origin of which is uncertain. A hybrid form was

played in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1860, a variation has long been played

in Holland and another known as yeralash in Russia. The present form first

appeared in Paris clubs about 1892 and was from there taken to America in 1894.

It was introduced to England by Lord Brougham at the Portland Club in London.

The game is played by two pairs of partners with an ordinary deck of cards.

Only three players actually play the hand, the dealer's partner always stands

out with his cards exposed as a dummy hand and played by the dealer in

partnership with his own. Scoring is complex, and based upon tricks with

various points being scored for tricks taken dependant upon the trump suit and



A bridle is the head-stall and bit by which and by the reins a horse is

governed by its rider.


In English law, a brief is a memorandum of instructions, concisely expressed,

drawn up by an attorney for the guidance of the barrister, containing a

statement of the facts, points of law, etc. to be developed and expanded before

the court, or to be used in the cross-examination of witnesses.

BRIEF by Solution Systems Inc. is a highly flexible, full-screen editor and

macro generator designed for use with dBase or high-level languages such as C,

Pascal, and COBOL. You can customise the editor by reconfiguring your keyboard,

changing the command functions, and creating new commands as needed. BRIEF for

OS/2 runs in OS/2 protected mode to take advantage of that platform's

multitasking and virtual memory support. It is fully compatible with the DOS

version of BRIEF. The BRIEF macro language is a structured programming language

similar to C. The macro language can be programmed and must be compiled to run

the commands you create. BRIEF has unlimited variables and an IF/THEN/ELSE loop

feature found only in high-level on-screen languages. BRIEF lets you undo your

last 300 commands including deletions, insertions, cursor movement, cut and

paste, global replacement, and read of file. There is no limit to file size,

the number of active files, or the number of windows on-screen.


A brig (brigantine) is a two-masted sailing ship.


Brigands are organised bands who practise general robbery, making their

headquarters in fastnesses in forests or mountains from which they sally forth

to plunder travellers of their property, or seize them until a ransom is paid

for their liberation. Brigandage had its origin in Greece and Italy, and soon

spread to France and Germany.


Brighella is a personage in Italian popular comedy. He is always represented as

a servant who is always ready to lie, to play tricks and to plot, but leaves

the execution of his plots to Arlechino, another comic character.


see "Sulphur"


A briquette is a mass of fuel in the shape of a brick, or a small ovoid,

consisting mainly of coal-dust and some binding material, such as pitch, tar or

asphalt. The materials are pressed together, heated and then pressed in moulds.

Briquettes are useful as a domestic fuel as they burn slowly, but have the

drawback of not producing as much heat as good coal and leaving a lot of ash.


Brisca is a popular Spanish card game, very similar to the Italian game



Briscola is a trick taking card game - that is, the object of the game is to

take cards which gives you (or your team) a high score. It is played with a 40

card deck. It is often played with Italian cards, which have suits of coins,

cups, batons and swords, but you may play using a standard card deck, just by

removing the Jokers, eights, nines and tens. Briscola may be played with two,

three, four or six players.

Britannia Metal

Britannia Metal (White Metal) is a metallic alloy consisting of 85 to 94 per

cent tin, 5 to 10 per cent antimony and about 1 per cent of zinc or bismuth. It

was used before cupro-nickel for making teapots and cutlery.

British and African Steam Navigation Company

The British and African Steam Navigation Company was a shipping company

established in 1858 to run a line of steamers carrying passengers between

Glasgow, Liverpool and the west coast of Africa. In 1900 the company acquired

an additional fleet of steamers and a new company was formed.

British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society

The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society was founded in 1839 under the

presidency of Thomas Clarkson with the object of promoting the universal

extinction of slavery and the slave trade, and the protection of the

enfranchised population in the British posessions, and of all persons captured

as slaves. It published the 'Anti-Slavery Reporter' and was still operational

in 1905.

British Empire League

The British Empire League was an association formed in 1895 in London, for the

purpose of promoting trade between the United Kingdom, the colonies and India,

and harmonising military and naval forces for mutual defence.

British Empire League

The British Empire League was an association formed in 1895 in London for the

purpose of promoting trade between the United Kingdom, the colonies and India;

fostering closer intercourse between the different portions of the empire by

the establishment of cheaper and more direct steam postal and telegraphic

communication; devising a more perfect co-operation of the military and naval

forces of the empire, with a special view to the due protection of the trade

routes; assimilating, as far as possible, the laws relating to copyright,

patents, legitimacy, and bankruptcy througout the empire; the calling of

periodic conferences to deal with these and similar questions on the lines of

the London Conference of 1887 and the Ottawa Conference of 1894.

British Gum

see "Dextrin"

British India Steam Navigation Company

see "Calcutta and Burma Steam Navigation Company"

British North America Act

The British North America Act was passed by Parliament in 1867 and provided for

the voluntary union of the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick

into one confederation under the title of 'The Dominion of Canada'. A further

British North America Act passed in 1871 provided the Parliament of Canada with

the ability to establish new provinces.

British Thermal Unit

The British Thermal Unit is the amount of heat required to raise by one degree

F the temperature of one pound of water at or near its temperature of maximum



A britzka is a small carriage, the head of which is always a moveable calash,

and having a place in front for the driver and a seat behind for the servants.

Broad Arrow

The Broad Arrow is a symbol used as a royal mark on government stores. It was

the cognizance of Viscount Sydney, Earl of Romney, who was the master-general

of the Ordnance from 1693 to 1702.


Broadmoor is an asylum in Sandhurst, Berkshire. It was built in 1863 to house

700 of the criminaly insane.


Brocade is a silken stuff, variegated with gold or silver, and enriched with

flowers and figures. It was originally made by the Chinese, a manufacturing

plant was established in Lyons in 1757.


A brogue is a coarse and light kind of shoe made of raw or half-tanned leather,

of one entire piece, and gathered around the foot by a thong. They were worn by

the Celts of Scotland and Ireland.


see "Potassium Bromide"


Bromine is a non-metallic element normally a deep red, corrosive, toxic liquid

giving of an irritating reddish brown vapour of disagreeable odour. It has the

symbol Br. It was first discovered in salt water by Balard in 1826.


Bromoform is the bromine analogue of chloroform. It is a very heavy liquid,

which is insoluble in water and turns red in the light from the separation of

bromine. It is used for separating and determining the density of minerals.

Brompton's Mixture

Brompton's Mixture is a tradename for opium sold as a relief for intestinal

cramps and diarrhea.


Bronchitis is a chronic inflammation of the bronchial mucous membrane.


see "Phenobarbital"


Bronopol is a toxic alcohol used in fabric softeners and detergents. It is also

used in face creams, shampoos, hair dressings, mascara and bath oils. It is a

white crystalline powder that can cause skin irritation at concentrations of



A brontometer is an apparatus for measuring thunderstorms invented by Richard,

of Paris in 1890. The recording part of the instrument consisted of a drum

about 20 cm wide on which was coiled endless paper fed by a clock which caused

the paper to travel at a rate of 1 cm per minute. Pressing on the paper were

several pens connected to various automatic meterological apparatus. The pens

registered the velocity of the wind, rainfall and atmospheric pressure. Other

pens worked by keys enabled the observer to record the precise time of thunder

and lightning.


Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin.


A brooch is a kind of ornament worn on the dress, to which it is attached by a

pin stuck through the fabric. Brooches are of great antiquity, and were

formerly worn by both men and women, especially among the Celtic races.

Brook's Law

In computing, Brooks's Law states "Adding manpower to a late software project

makes it later". A result of the fact that the advantage from splitting work

among N programmers is O(N) (that is, proportional to N), but the complexity

and communications cost associated with co-ordinating and then merging their

work is O(N^2) (that is, proportional to the square of N). The quote is from

Fred Brooks, a manager of IBM's OS/360 project and author of `The Mythical



Brown is a colour which may be regarded as a mixture of red and black, or of

red, black and yellow. There are many brown pigments, many of mineral origin

such as bistre, umber and cappagh brown.

Brown Holland

Brown Holland is an unbleached linen formerly used for various articles of

clothing and upholstery.

Brownian movement

In chemistry, Brownian movement is the rapid oscillatory movement of small

particles when suspended in water or other liquids.


Brucine (dimethoxy-strychnine) is an alkaloid present in nux vomica and St

Ignatius' bean. It is a colourless crystalline solid, with a very bitter taste

and similar properties to strychnine but it is less poisonous and gives a red

colour with nitric acid.


A bruise is the result of lacerations of subcutaneous tissues, the skin itself

being unbroken. They commonly result from direct violence, such as a blow with

a blunt weapon, a crush or a pinch but are also produced by sudden violent

muscular efforts. The softer the flesh the more easily it is bruised and fatty

tissues bruise easily.


Brumaire was the second month in the calendar adopted by the first French

Republic. It began on the 23rd of October and ended on the 21st of November.

Brunswick Black

Brunswick Black is a varnish composed of asphalt or pitch, linseed oil and

turpentine used to give a glossy appearance to metal and other articles.

Brunswick Theatre

The Brunswick Theatre was a theatre in Well-street, east London. It was built

in 1828 to replace the Royalty which burned down in 1826. Four days after

opening it was destroyed by the walls falling in as a result of too much weight

being attached to the heavy iron roof. The catastrophe occurred during a

rehearsal of Guy Mannering killing twelve people.

Brussels Sugar Convention

The Brussels Sugar Convention of 1898 and again in 1901 to 1902 were staged

between representatives of the major powers to discuss the abolition of

bounties on the export of sugar. Agreement was reached in 1902 by which Great

Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden undertook

to supress the direct and indirect bounties by which the production or export

of sugar might benefit, and not to establish bounties of such a kind during the

duration of the convention.


Bryology is the science of mosses.


In chemistry, BTU (British Thermal Unit) is the quantity of heat required to

raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. It is equal

to 0.252 calorie.

Bubble sort

In computing, a bubble sort is a technique for sorting data in which adjacent

items are continually exchanged until the data is in sequence. It is so named

because elements appear to 'bubble' up the list.


Bubo is a swelling in the groin due to inflamed lymph nodes.


Bucephalus (meaning Ox-Head) was the name of Alexander The Great's horse. When

it died, he built a town over its grave in memory and called the town Bucephala.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is the London residence of the British royal family. It was

built by John Sheffield, duke of Buckingham, in 1703. In 1761 it was bought by

George III who in 1775 settled it on his queen, Charlotte who made it her town



A buckle is a device for fastening, consisting of a metal frame having one or

more movable tongues, teeth or catches. Buckles became generally worn in

England in the place of shoe-laces during the reign of Charles II. they were

then made of expensive materials. Buckles for shoes are mentioned much earlier

than this, and were forbidden to be imported by an act of 1483. The fashion of

wearing shoe-buckles reached its height in the reign of George II.


Buckram was a coarse textile fabric stiffened with glue and used in garments to

give them and to keep them in the form intended.


Buckskin is a soft form of leather prepared from the skin of a buck or sheep.

It was formerly used by the American Indians for clothing, and is used for

making gloves.

Bude Light

The bude light was a very bright gas lamp invented by Mr Gurney who lived in

Bude, Cornwall. The bude lamp fed a stream of oxygen into the flame of an

argand-lamp or gas-burner.


Buff is the stout velvety dull-yellow leather of buffalo or ox hide.

Buff Leather

Buff leather is a type of leather made from the skin of buffalo and other oxen.

It is dressed with oil and used for making bandoliers, belts, pouches and

gloves amongst other items.


In chemistry, a buffer is a substance that keeps the pH of a solution

relatively constant in spite of the addition of considerable amounts of acid or



A bugle is a brass musical instrument.

Buhl Work

see "Boule Work"

Building Society

A building society is a society established by a number of persons to raise by

their subscriptions a fund for making advances to members upon mortgage. Such

societies are either terminating or permanent, the former terminates at a date

fixed by the rules. Most building societies are now permanent, although they

are disappearing fast and becoming private companies.


Bulimia is a disorder in which the patient has a morbidly voracious appetite.

It is certainly not a new disorder, for it was known of in 1906.

Bulk Ban

Bulk Ban is a mixture of trace metals used to prevent bulking in biological

effluent treatment.


A bulkhead is an upright partition dividing watertight compartments of a ship.

Bull Baiting

Bull baiting is an activity in which a bull is tethered to a post with the

points of his horns guarded and is worried to death by dogs. Bull baiting was

outlawed in England in 1835.


A bull-roarer is an instrument consisting of a small flat strip of wood, or

sometimes bone, through a hole in one end of which a piece of string is passed.

When whirled rapidly round a loud moaning hum or roar is produced.

Bull-roarers are mainly viewed as toys in Europe, but are important mystical

articles used by many indigenous and primitive peoples in acts of worship.


Bullion is gold or silver in bars, plates or other masses which has not been



see "Cheat"


A bum-boat is a small boat used to sell produce to ships lying at a distance

from the shore


A bumboat is a wide, flat boat used in Holland.


A bunion is an inflamed swelling (bursa or sac) on the foot, especially at the

joint of the great toe. Bunions are usually the result of poorly fitted shoes.

The part gradually becomes enlarged as fluid fills the bursa or sac. If the

bones thicken, it may result in permanent deformity. Treatment sometimes

includes surgical removal of the bunion.


A buoy is a floating object used to mark channels for shipping or warn of

hazards to navigation. Buoys come in different shapes, such as a pole (spar

buoy), cylinder (car buoy), and cone (nun buoy). Light buoys carry a small

tower surmounted by a flashing lantern, and bell buoys house a bell, which

rings as the buoy moves up and down with the waves. Mooring buoys are heavy and

have a ring on top to which a ship can be tied.


A burette is a graduated glass tube used for dividing a given portion of liquid

into smaller quantities of a definite amount.


A burgee is a small pennant used by yachts and pointed or swallow-tailed

according to the owner's status. Club flags are always pointed; those of a

commodore or vice-commodore are swallow-tailed.


A burin (also called a graver) is a tempered steel instrument used for

engraving copper, steel etc. It has a triangular point attached to a wooden



Burking is a form of murder involving killing the victim by pressure or other

modes of suffocation so as to leave no mark of violence on the body. It was

first known to be used by Burke who was executed in 1829.


A burl is a knot. The term is used in veneering to refer to an overgrown knot

in the wood.


Burlesque was a type of American theatre entertainment characterized by

chorus-girl numbers interspersed with comedians and other acts. It started in

the mid-1800s and became very popular in the early 1900s with stars such as Al

Jolson, W.C. Fields, Sophie Tucker, Fannie Brice and strippers Gypsy Rose Lee

and Sally Rand. It declined with the rise of films and was finally bannedin the

1940s as a threat to public morality.


A burnisher is a blunt, smooth tool used for polishing rough surfaces by

rubbing. Agate, tempered steel and dogs' teeth are traditionally used to make



A burnoose or burnous is a large kind of mantle in use amongst the bedouin

Arabs and the Berbers of Northern Africa. It is commonly made from white wool,

and has a hood for covering the head in the event of rain.


see "Burnoose"

Burnt Sienna

Burnt Sienna is the popular name for Terra di Sienna, a brown ferruginous ochre

used in painting, and obtained from Italy. Before being used as a pigment it is

calcined, and hence the name Burnt Sienna.

Burwell Fire

The Burwell Fire occurred in a barn at Burwell, near Newmarket on 8th September

1727. A number of people had assembled to see a puppet-show in the barn when a

candle set fire to a heap of straw. Seventy-six people died at the scene and

others died later of their injuries.


A busby is a head-dress worn by British army hussars.


The bushel is a unit of capacity measurement equivalent to 4 pecks, 8 gallons

or 3.637 dekalitres. It is also used as a measure of weight for apples,

equivalent to about 40 lbs. Henry VIII ordered that a bushel should hold eight

gallons of wheat in 1520. A bushelof barley was 47 lbs, of oats 38 lbs and of

weat 60 lbs.


Butane is an alkane inflammable gas by product of petroleum.


Butlerage was an old English duty, whereby every ship importing over twenty

tuns of wine was taxed two tuns for the crown. The duty was changed to a tax of

two shillings on every tun in the reign of Edward I, and was payable to the

king's butler, whence the name.


The butt was a British measure of beer equal to 1.5 puncheons.


A butte is an isolated abrupt flat-topped hill found in the west USA.


Butterine, a composition of fats as a substitute for butter was first sold in

London in 1885. By the Margerine Act of 1887 it changed its name to margarine.


A buttress in architecture is a pier built against the exterior of a wall.

Butyl Acetate

Butyl acetate is a toxic solvent used in nail polish and many other products.

Butyric Acid

Butyric Acid is an acid originally obtained from butter, and also present in

perspiration. It is a colourless liquid, having a smell like that of rancid

butter, and the formula C4H3O2.


A by-law (from the Scandinavian By meaning a town) is a law made by an

incorporated or other body for the regulation of its own affairs, or the

affairs entrusted to its care. Town councils, railway companies etc. enact

by-laws which are binding upon all coming within the sphere of the operations

of such bodies.


Byline by ashton-Tate offers a style of desktop publishing for people who don't

like or don't have a mouse. Not quite a WYSIWYG package nor a fully-fledged

batch program, Byline uses a page layout system with keyboard-only interaction

and instant preview. Byline uses familiar commands and keyboard sequences to

lay out a page, complete with multiple columns and graphics. It can be used to

integrate text and graphics from many sources including standard word

processing and paint programs, dBase users can read data directly from their

database and format it with Byline. Grids are used to set up pages and help

create an organised document. One side of the screen displays the document

while the other side contains a form which allows definition of document

characteristics such as titles, borders and font style and sizes. Nearly all

formatting is maintained when files are imported. Byline can edit the text with

its built-in word processor which includes cut-and-paste and search-and-replace

functions. Changes made to word processing documents in Byline are reflected in

the original file. Four fonts are provided. Times, Helvetica, Courier and

dBase. Other fonts and typeface sizes which are available in a given printer

are inaccessible. Byline's graphic editing capabilities include cropping and

scaling of images. All other editing must be done in the graphics package.

Especially useful is the screen capture utility which allows any screen image

to be saved if it is in a graphic file format Byline can read. A demonstration

disk is available. This software is designed for minor publishing requirements

giving simple, effective desktop publishing facilities and which are easy to

learn but flexible enough to produce good handouts, memos and the occasional

newsletters. Byline will produce documents which are more readable and

impressive than ordinary typed documents but not to PageMaker or Ventura

Publisher standard.


Bylini are the epic songs of Russian popular poetry. Their heroes, bogatyri, or

paladins, are either historical or mythical personages, or personifications of

the forces of nature.


Byrlaw is an ancient code of law by which rural communities were governed in

minor affairs, such as the valuation of stock, the allocation of common land,

or the limitation of boundaries. The system prevailed in Britain until the end

of the 18th century.


Byssus are the silky threads by means of which many bivalves attach themselves

to a firm surface. The byssus threads are secreted in a gland in the foot which

is the homologue of the mucus gland of the snail, and can be speedily renewed

if severed. They are seen in very simple form in the common edible mussel

(Mytilus), which is always attached to its surroundings by a tuft of golden


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