Friday, 29 August 2008

How Would You Take A Snail to Constantinople?

Speaking of fun toys...

Google Books is fun to play with, whether you have serious research aims or merely a penchant for reading old books (such as the Travels of John Mandeville from the 14th Century (the original is not available to Canadian Googlers, only American)).
I tend to search for Istanbul/Constantinople quite often, for the simple pleasure of reading travel items and geographical/historical works written with a Medieval, Renaissance or Victorian flavour. The places they describe are vaguely familiar and yet mysterious at the same time, speaking as they do of a Turkey I've never seen: population much less dense, countryside much cleaner, evidence of Islam everywhere but the cities more cosmopolitan than they ever appear now.
Recently, my uncle over at Snail's Tales searched for both Constantinople and snails, and one of the results was Method in Almsgiving by Matthew Weston Moggridge, first published in 1882.
As Aydın says, the book has nothing to do with either Constantinople or snails, but features this statement on p. 97:

Patience and a little cold-cream are said to have taken a snail to Constantinople...


The author then suggests that if snails can thus be brought to Constantinople, that patience can also overcome other obstacles. An admirable statement to be sure.
But why should one wish to take a snail to Constantinople (and from where?)? And why should cream help the matter?
That is, where did this phrase originate? Who first said it and when?
Google was surprisingly unhelpful, but produced some fun results:

1. How many words can you anagram from Constantinople?

2. They Might Be Giants, who covered the Istanbul (Not Constantinople) song, also have a song called Snail Shell.

3. Google Books finds Constantinople During the Crimean War by Edmund Hornby and Emelia Bithynia Hornby, who describe a snail shell they found, and Three Years in Constantinople by Charles White, which includes the phrase "Saliankoz (snails) [in today's Turkish it should be salyangoz] are much in demand among Greeks and Armenians during Lent. At that season they are exhibited outside..." I've downloaded both books for future reading (another aspect of Google Books is that it's free! And so not covered under my book-buying ban :-))

Yet we are no closer to understanding the origins of the phrase. Does anyone have any suggestions?

No comments:

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • Aunt Sass by P. L. Travers
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King
  • Beowulf and Sellic Spell by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • The War of the Ring - Book 8 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • What to Expect in Baby's First Year
  • Baby's First Year for Dummies
  • 11 Doctors 11 Stories by various authors (including Neil Gaiman)
  • Creed or Chaos? by Dorothy Sayers
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten (actually a few pages of the story, written by John Green for the film of his novel The Fault In Our Stars)
  • January Brings the Snow by Sara Coleridge (poem)
  • Kissing song by Neil Gaiman (poem)
  • The Mother by Nettie Palmer (poem)
  • William Tell Told Again by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Her Ladyship's Companion by Joanna Bourne
  • The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
  • How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny
  • Mes P'tits Contes, legends of Swiss cantons
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ch/2014/12/books-read-in-2014-review.html
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2014/01/toast-to-professor-books-read-in-2013.html
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2012/12/the-hobbit-review-and-year-end-books.html
  • see the 2011 statistics on http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2012/01/books-read-in-2011-statistics-fourth.html
  • see the 2011 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2012/01/books-read-in-2011.html
  • see the 2010 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2010/12/books-read-in-2010-listed-here.html
  • see the 2009 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2009/12/books-read-in-2009-part-ii.html
  • also in 2009 at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2009/12/books-read-in-2009-part-iv.html
  • see the 2008 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2008/12/books-read-in-2008-part-ii.html
  • also in 2008 at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2008/12/books-read-in-2008-part-vi.html
  • also in 2008 at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2008/12/books-read-in-2008-part-iv.html