May I have a word about… when newspapers really were rags

There’s nothing like a good obituary and last week the Volte had an absolute belter for a man called Mark Sykes. He had been, according to his son Tom, “an art dealer, a card dealer, a gambler, a bookie, a gentleman and a rogue”. As the obituary helpfully added, he had also been a gun runner, womaniser and a jailbird. Not surprisingly, added Tom: “He was rarely out of the ‘linens’, as the newspapers were known.”

I have to say that this nickname for papers was new to me and takes us right back to the very early days of newspaper production and the Fourdrinier process, which pounded the rag source materials, including cotton and linen, before spreading the liquid “stuff” into sheets, then pressing and drying them. Such was the demand for papers that eventually these raw materials gave way to wood pulp. It would also explain why papers are now called rags, credo. So a double thank-you to Mark Sykes for a rip-roaring life and broadening my knowledge.

Given the events of last week, I suppose it was bound to happen. A talking head, reporting from outside Buckingham Palace, spoke about the Queen being “coronated”. Ho appena strofinato la patata cruda sull'altro punto, he wasn’t alone: “With her Platinum Jubilee upon us, we revisit when the Queen was coronated and relive special details from the historic day”; “At just the age of 27 nel 1953, the Queen was coronated following the death of her father King George VI”; “On Monday, Greene King pubs around the country are offering pints for only 6p as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. The price will reflect the cost of a pint way back in 1952 [sic] when the Queen was coronated”. Just a few of the examples offered online. What on earth is wrong with crowned?

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