Posted by: David | January 6, 2008

Bryson’s Crucifix

A few years ago author Bill Bryson gave a talk at the college where I work. Luckily, I was subbing for the Media Services person, so it was my job to help the author get properly outfitted with the wireless lavalier microphone and do a sound check (and opportunistically ask him to sign a book for me).

This was before he’d published his A Short History of Nearly Everything, the first 3 pages of which are breathtaking to anyone with the least bit of scientific curiosity. Anyway, he gave a very amusing and interesting prepared talk to an appreciative and intimate audience. He’d moved his family to Hanover, NH after several years living in England. He generously took audience questions after his talk, and someone asked him what he missed most about England.

He said that he missed that delightful whackiness of the Britons. He told how he and a friend had stopped in a jeweler’s shop in London during a lunch break. The friend was leaving a watch for repair and Bryson thought he’d look for a crucifix as a gift for his daughter. He asked the saleswoman if she could please show him some crucifixes. In a polite Cockney accent, she asked him “Would you like to see the plain ones, or the ones wiv the little man on them?” 

plaincross.jpg  littleman.jpg
The audience really loved that one.



  1. That’s hilarious!!!!!!!!!!!

    (“A Short History…” was my Christmas gift to a few people a couple of years ago.)

  2. I agree, that is hilarious. I love it. And I hadn’t heard of “Short History” but I’m gonna go look it up right now…

  3. OK – I don’t know this guy. I’ll go add him to my must-read list… Do you think he’s found any interesting/whacky people in NH yet?!

  4. The book is, IMHO, an excellent must read! I’ve listened to it and read it and enjoyed it both times. Bryson is always a hoot

    and this nice thing about this particular book is that you can get the audio version, unabridged read to you by the man himself

    The part on dust-mite poop in pillows alone makes this a great book to discuss.

    Another fun Science overview for those of us who’ve been out of school for too long and want to catch up but not read something that seems like homework is…

    The canon : a whirligig tour of the beautiful basics of science
    by Natalie Angier
    Type: Book
    Language: English
    Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007.
    ISBN: 0618242953 9780618242955

  5. Thanks all for your comments. Come to find out that a cross without the “little man” on it is just called a cross. The term “crucifix” specifically applies to a cross WITH “the vic” attached. And lest my Christian readers condemn me to the burning fiery furnace of HADES, let me say for the record that I DIDN’T DO IT.

    Also, the Brysons must’ve gotten tired of Hanover winters, as according to Wikipedia, they moved back to England a while ago.

    And anything Kevin recommends, I recommend too.

  6. I just realized that I read one of his books, “A Walk in the Woods”, which I just loved. I’m interested in “A Short History of Nearly Everything”. I am an amateur astronomer and I love science, math and nature. I will put it on my long, long list of books to read.

  7. I’d move that book higher up the list, Joan, especially if you liked A Walk in the Woods. Borrow it from your library like I did. Maybe you’ll even finish it. Which I didn’t. But I can borrow it again, since I work there, or I could even buy it! I really should since I thought it was so great.

    You’re an amateur astronomer? I missed the recent meteor showers they were talking about, did you see any?

  8. OH MY GOODNESS! 2 years ago, the last great love of my life gave me a book to borrow, which he said I would really enjoy (this guy was a brit btw…sigh…), and it was a Bill Bryson book! Gosh, what was it called?!?!?!? The one where he treks into the wilderness of America…I’ll have to google it but the name is on the tip of my tongue…I loved that book! 🙂

  9. Romi- DUH! That’s A Walk in the Woods aren’t you listening?? That was a hilarious book. If you like science at all, and I bet you do, borrow Brief History … even if you don’t finish it you will get smarter just by starting it – I sure did.

  10. @David
    I missed the Quadrantids which is on Jan 4th and the Geminids on Dec. 12th. I never miss the Perseids, that can be a good one in August. Also the Leonids in November is good some years and bad some years. I’ve seen the rings of Saturn and I only have a 4 inch reflector telescope. My sister and I once got to look through a Dobsonian telescope which was huge. I had to stand on the owner’s picnic table to see through the eyepiece. He showed us stuff I only dreamed of seeing. Nebulas with incredible color. It was one of the best nights of my life.
    I will put that book on my library list. They deliver to me because I am disabled.
    I haven’t star gazed in a while but my sister and I were just talking about getting into it again.
    About 20 years ago we were out mostly every night. We both learned all the constellations and the names of most of the popular stars. I even did some astronomy talks in the local elementary school.
    There is just so much up there to look at.

  11. Every day I come over here and check to see if there are any new Crucifix comments … and there always are.

  12. But yours may be the last for a while Wendy. I’m overdue for a new post. I can feel it congealing in my abdomen. Somewhere. It’s right next to that donut. A friend at work told me at lunch the other day they’d heard that donuts stay in your stomach for like 3 days. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Dunkin Donut or a Krispy Kreme. It’s lucky they have holes in them so the other food can get through, huh?

    And Joan, thanks for the astronomy update. I stepped outside tonight and though it was very windy the sky was awesome! But that Orion and Taurus really gay up the winter sky don’t they?

  13. Which reminds me. I was walking in Paris with a black fellow student. I think he came from the Sudan. He stopped at an antiquarian’s shop window and said to me: Who is that guy getting hanged there that one sees in all the places?

    That’s funny cantueso!:-)

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