Q I have a print by Jack Vettriano called The Singing Butler in which the dancing gent leads with his right arm. When viewed in a mirror it is fine. Was this the result of turning the negative of a photo of the painting over in the darkroom? Is this common in prints?
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Gerry Bonar, Fife
A The back-to-front dancing is exactly how Vettriano painted it. The painting depicts a man in dinner jacket and woman in a red ball gown dancing in the open air while a maid and a butler hold umbrellas to shelter them from the rain. It is said to be the best-selling art print in the UK and the original painting was sold at auction in 2004 for £744,800. Born in 1951, Vettriano may be the most successful Scottish artist ever, though he has always been much more popular among the public than among art critics. The reverse formation of the dancers has never been properly explained but the artist is said to have modelled the figures on those in an illustrators’ reference manual.
Q My writings as a football historian have made me wonder about many players, such as Jack Charlton of Leeds and England, who were christened “John” but known as “Jack”. How did Jack become a nickname for John? Was it something to do with the Navy?
Mike Payne, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire
A Nicknames have often followed weird patterns. Just think of calling Margaret Peggy, or Charles Chuck, or Henry Harry, or even Richard Dick and you may give up trying to find any logic behind them. But we do know a little that may help explain John-Jack. The name “Jack” may sound as though it comes from the French “Jacques” but that seems not to be the case. First, Jacques was usually translated as “James” not “John” and the name “Jack” was often used, around the 13th century, as a generic name for a peasant or working man as, for example, in the words “steeplejack” and “lumberjack”. The connection with John seems to have come about from an Old English habit of adding the suffix “-kin” to form a diminutive John, or its Dutch equivalent “Jan”, became Jonkin or Jankin, and in time the last syllable was dropped and the -nk- changed to -ck-.
Q We can estimate the number of casualties from campaigns in world wars but what about the number of livestock or horses also killed, in particular during the Second World War in Europe? Also is it known for a war to have had a significant impact on wildlife or even extinction of a particular species?
Paul Blake, Blackwood, South Wales
A A study published in January 2018 revealed a strong correlation between human conflict and animal populations in Africa whose numbers have been drastically affected by wars. This may be caused by wartime shortages leading to more animals being hunted for food, or an increased number of guns falling into the hands of poachers, or simply because an increase in the number of fighters led to a decrease in animal protection measures. Also toxic effects of weapons can have a terrible effect on animals. The First World War brought about almost total extinction of the European bison, largely from German soldiers hunting them for sport, while the Second World War helped kill off the Japanese sea lion. Other smaller bird and snake species may also have been killed off by wars.
Q With winter storms getting more violent and more frequent, our lovely coastline is diminishing. Is there anywhere in the UK where the land is gaining on the sea?
Stan Jenkinson, Llanfairfechan, North Wales
A While coastal erosion and rising sea levels threaten coastal areas, the process of deposition, where silt, sediment, soil and rocks are deposited by the sea, has the opposite effect in some places. There is also a process, which has been going on since the melting of glaciers at the end of the last ice age, which has resulted in a shift in the tilt of Britain, resulting in some areas of land emerging from under water, while others are submerged. This is still going on, so there are areas where the land is gaining on the sea. North Norfolk is a good example: Wells-next-theSea used really to be next to the sea; now the sea is a mile away.
Q I have read that in certain court cases people make “impact statements”. Can you tell me the difference between a statement and an impact statement?
Edmund Perks, Ivybridge, Devon
A Most of a court’s time is involved in hearing evidence to establish the guilt or innocence of the accused. Impact statements may then be heard from victims of the crime before sentencing takes place or at a subsequent parole hearing. While a victim cannot directly make suggestions about sentencing, he or she may tell the court about the direct harm or trauma they have suffered and problems that have resulted.
Q I read an article in the Daily Express about women at the Bryant and May match factory going your questions answered ENGLAND LEGEND: Jack Charlton in the 1966 World Cup Final victory on strike in 1888 for better conditions. I have been wondering is this where the term “go on strike” came from, as one strikes matches?
Patric Cornner, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
A A nice idea but sadly it’s not true. The first use of the verb “to strike” in this sense was in 1769 and referred to sailors who “struck their yards” (lowering the main sail) to prevent the ship from going to sea. This use of “strike” came from its use to refer to lowering a flag which had been in use since the mid-17th century. Self-igniting matches were not invented until 1805 and the earliest known use of the verb “to strike” in the sense of a match being lit was not until 1880.
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