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Castle licence

Castle

If you wanted to build a castle in medieval England, you needed permission from the king. They’re supposed to be for the defence of the realm, but sometimes you just want to fake out the neighbours.

Gotham origin story

Gotham

Batman lives in Gotham City. Where did the name come from? Its history follows a circuitous route via the 19th century equivalent of Mad magazine, smart idiots who hated public infrastructure, goats, and Robin Hood’s King John.

Rooster egg

Cockatrice

A tiny yolkless egg shows up in your henhouse. Today, we know this to be a chicken’s first training egg. In the 12th century? It came from a rooster, and you better throw it over your house or it will be born a monster.

Chaucer’s astrolabe

Astrolabe

Geoffrey Chaucer is best known as the author of The Canterbury Tales, one of the most important works of early English literature. I guess that didn’t pay the bills, because he also wrote one of the first English technical manuals.

Short hand

Guidonian Hand

The hand is a flexible and convenient mnemonic device. The knuckle mnemonic tells us the number of days in a month, but a musical mnemomic called the Guidonian hand has been around for eight hundred years.