WHICH city has been destroyed the most in films?

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New York

New York (Image: GETTY)

WHICH city has been destroyed the most in films? Bill Salmon, Vancouver, Canada 

A – I’M told it’s New York (69 film destructions) followed by Los Angeles (27) and Tokyo (25). Those figures come from an extensive count in 2016 which put San Francisco (17), Paris (14) and London (13) as the next three most popular cities for film destruction, though these figures must be subject to how much devastation counts as destruction. Tokyo, incidentally, leads the film world for giant monster attacks on a city. 

MY wife and I are Downton Abbey devotees and a thing that intrigues us is when Mr Carson, the butler, says something like, “This came in the evening post, sir” when delivering a message to Lord Grantham. Presumably there would have been a morning post and I believe there may have been an afternoon post too. Can you confirm this, and also tell me when those “other” posts died out please? Mike Payne, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire 

A – AMAZINGLY enough, in the late 19th century there were between six and 12 mail deliveries every day in London which let people send letters and expect to receive a reply the same day, often permitting several such exchanges. Over the years the number of deliveries has decreased and was finally cut to one a day in 2004. From the start however there were never any deliveries on a Sunday. 

CAN you tell me the origin of the word “kybosh” or “kibosh” as in “That’s put the kybosh on it”. I know it means “put an end to something” but I have no idea where the word originates. Allan Murdoch, Waterlooville, Hampshire 

A – YOU’re not the only one with no idea where kybosh originated. Even the Oxford English Dictionary admits it’s a mystery. The word dates back to at least the 1830s with Charles Dickens one of the first to use it in print (though he spelt it “kye-bosk”). Various theories have attributed its origin to phrases in Yiddish, Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, Irish and French but none of them is convincing. My favourite is a suggestion that it comes from the French “cabouche”, which was a slang term for the head and appeared first in English as the verb “cabosh” meaning “to cut off a stag’s head behind the ears (with no part of the neck in view) as a trophy”. The same word “cabosh” was a Cockney term for the old sixpence coin referring to the monarch’s head on the money. 

Having watched the TV series The World At War, I cannot remember any mention of Japan fighting Russia in the Second World War. Did they ever oppose each other? Jim Derby, Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset 

A- There were some major skirmishes between the USSR and Japan in Manchuria (in Japanese-occupied China) in 1939 which left between 20,000 and 30,000 dead on each side. This fighting was ended with a Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact in 1941 which left the USSR free to concentrate on resisting Nazi Germany. In 1943, at the Tehran Conference, Stalin promised to join the war against Japan after the defeat of Germany and an invasion of Cambodia and Japaneseoccupied Mongolia was launched early in August 1945 involving 1.6 million Red Army soldiers. Some argue that this Soviet offensive, which killed about 250,000 Japanese civilians, was as much responsible for Japan’s surrender as the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Russia and Japan have still not officially declared peace since the end of hostilities. 

A picture taken by the US military shows the title photo of a mushroom cloud

A picture taken by the US military shows the title photo of a mushroom cloud (Image: GETTY)

Is there such a word as “mardy”, used as an adjective to refer to someone who is a spoilsport? I’ve also heard it used in my family to apply to an animal that regularly fussed around its owner but I can’t find the word in any of my dictionaries. Alan Goodman, Alfreton, Derbyshire 

A –  The Oxford English Dictionary describes “mardy” as “English regional (Midlands and northern)” and gives “spoilt child” as its primary meaning suggesting that the word comes from “marred” meaning spoilt. The earliest citation they give of mardy is from 1874. The OED also mentions the phrase “mardy bum” meaning “a spoilt, sulky or oversensitive person” and refers to its use in a 2006 Arctic Monkeys song. 

Tesco supermarket logo

British supermarket chain TESCO logo (Image: GETTY)

I know that the “co” in “Tesco” refers to its founder, Jack Cohen, but where does the “Tes” come from? Was Jack Cohen the only founder? G Crinnion, Scarborough, North Yorkshire 

A –The origin of the Tesco brand goes back to 1924 when it all started with a shipment of tea bought by Jack Cohen from a man named Thomas Edward Stockwell. The second man’s initials and the start of Cohen’s surname were then combined to give “Tesco” and the first Tesco store opened in Burnt Oak, Edgware in 1931.

I remember my mum saying the following words to me when I was a young girl: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child, I understood as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.” Can you let me know where the words come from and if it is a poem, can you tell me the rest of it? My mum has passed away now. Sheila Phillips, Cardiff 

A – The words come from the New Testament and form the 11th verse of chapter 13 of St Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (though with “thought” and “understood” in the reverse order from the way you quote them). The same chapter begins with the words, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal,” and verse 12, immediately after the part you quote, says, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” It’s all a very powerful and beautiful piece of writing and was referred to by Barack Obama in his first inauguration address in 2009 when he said: “The time has come to set aside childish things.” 

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