Annotations and comments

Paul Chapin has posted 849 annotations/comments since 17 January 2003.


First Reading

About Friday 24 February 1659/60

Paul Chapin  •  Link

Basic or universal emotions
I hope this isn't getting too far afield from Pepys, but Paul Ekman's research provides compelling evidence that there are in fact basic or universal emotions, and facial expressions that accompany them, in all human cultures. You can read a couple of his papers summarizing his work at
The facial expressions paper includes interesting photos to document the claims.

About Sunday 26 February 1659/60

Paul Chapin  •  Link

The editor's footnote is instructive, but perhaps a little elliptical for American readers who may not have heard the term before. The Tripos, a term specific to Cambridge University, is a comprehensive honors exam, originally in mathematics but then extended to other fields as well. I first came across the term in a biography (autobiography?) of Bertrand Russell, who of course was one of those who aced this exam. The OED explains that the Tripos list, a list of those who have just successfully passed the exam, was until 1894 printed on the same sheet as the humorous verses composed by the Tripos, the officially appointed humorist that Sam refers to. The word comes from the 3-legged stool (tri-pos) on which the Tripos sat. The exam and the list survive, I believe (there are no doubt people reading this who know for sure), but apparently the university no longer gives official sanction to the humorous disputant and versifier, perhaps because of the "scurrilous" manner in which some Triposes fulfilled the duties of their office. Too bad.

About Saturday 25 February 1659/60

Paul Chapin  •  Link

"...there was nothing at all left of the old preciseness in their discourse, specially on Saturday nights."
I take this as a joke, meaning that the folks he was visiting at the college, like Sam, "drank pretty hard" on Saturday, with consequent loss of precision in conversation. At least it made me laugh.

About Bladder and kidney stones

Paul Chapin  •  Link

Well, here's something I've had some firsthand experience of, unfortunately. In my case, the stones were uric acid crystals (excesses of uric acid can also lead to gout, which I didn't have). Foods to avoid are anchovies, and acids in general. Immediate treatment is allopurinol, also used against gout. Long-term treatment to prevent recurrence is a mixture of roughly 3 parts potassium citrate to 1 part citric acid, dissolved in a glass of water, twice daily. This metabolizes as a base and keeps the urine basic, thus inhibiting formation of the acid crystals. The concoction tastes like an insipid sort of Kool-Aid. Now in my second decade of drinking it, and I keep on because it works, no recurrence.

I'm not sure anybody would want to read this, but in the context of this page of notes it seems pretty mild.

About Sunday 29 January 1659/60

Paul Chapin  •  Link

"do find myself to be worth 40l. and more, which I did not think, but am afraid that I have forgot something." I know the feeling, Sam. Love the comment.

To give some perspective on what level of wealth this amounted to, can anyone tell us what the normal approximate annual income would have been for someone of Pepys' social and economic standing?

About Wednesday 18 January 1659/60

Paul Chapin  •  Link

By "all the world" Pepys obviously means "everybody in and around London", using the phrase in the sense of French "tout le monde". You can't do that in contemporary American English - does British English still allow this usage? (apologia - I'm a linguist by trade, and these things catch my attention)

About Sunday 15 January 1659/60

Paul Chapin  •  Link

The word "physic" meaning 'laxative' or 'purgative' survived into American English through the late 19th century. My grandmother (b. 1885 in Kansas) used it. It formed the basis of a joke she liked to tell, of a teacher ordering that "all students taking physics should bring paper to class."