Q: Is it true that the word `posh' is derived from cruise expeditions of the last century?
A: POSH stands for Port Out Starboard Home. This was used on the P&O ships to India in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Due to the heat and without air conditioning, the side of the ship that was in the shade was cooler than the sunny side, and more expensive as a result -- hence posh!
Vivian Baring, by email
Q: Which country is now the largest colonial power?
A: There are three ways of looking at this: the number of `colonial' territories, the area of such territories, or the population of such territories. If based on number of colonies, Britain has 14 of these: Anguilla, Ascension, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha, Turks and Caicos Island, British Virgin Islands, British Antarctic Territory, and British Indian Ocean Territories. If based on the area of such colonies, Denmark's territories of Greenland and the Faroes cover 2,177,000 [km.sup.2], followed by France's eight `territories' covering 118,520 [km.sup.2]. If based on population statistics, the largest colonial power is the USA, whose six `territories' are home to 3,915,000 people. These figures ignore China's annexation of Tibet and arguably open a can of worms as to whether a colony can be a voluntary dependency or an invaded territory. As so often is the case, statistics and definitions can depend on your personal stance.
Tony Booth, of London
SUMMER TIME SYMMETRY
Q: Why are the clocks not put forward or back symmetrically about the summer and winter solstices?
The dates on which the clocks are put backward and forwards were decided on for political reasons rather than astronomical reasons. Summer Time was first defined in an Act of 1916 that ordained that for a certain period during the
year, legal time should be one hour in advance of GMT. From 1916 until the Second World War, clocks were put in advance of GMT by one hour from the spring to the autumn. For the duration of the war, Double Summer Time, which was two hours in advance of GMT, was introduced. The duration of British Summer Time (BST) has been changed in recent years so as to bring the start into line with that used in Europe. …