1. At the end of T.H. White’s “The Sword in the Stone” (part 1 of “The Once and Future King“), after The Wart had extracted the sword and been installed as King under his true name (Arthur), there is a brief gag that various citizens of London begged for his help in extracting other intractable objects. I have no idea how old the “pickle jar” meme is, but I doubt that it is so old that White would have included it.

  2. @ Grawlix – The word “crock” implies stoneware or ceramic, rather than glass, so it’s not surprising that it isn’t transparent. However, it is a bit unusual that the container is white: porcelain was not re-invented in Europe until centuries after Arthur’s death.

  3. I’ve been told that “pickle” in the UK , as a non-count noun, is not exactly what an American would expect as “a pickle” or even “pickle relish”, but rather something of a condiment that would be startling to a visiting American. Is it that it is unusually hot? Or some weird or spoilage-like flavor?

  4. Stories evolve over time.

    Originally, Arthur supposedly pulled the sword out of the stone because of his massive strength (or so the story went), but now that story isn’t as credible as it used to be, casting serious doubts to Arthur’s claim to kingship.

    The solution? Introduce the detail that the sword in the stone was enchanted, and it was that “fact” that legitimizes how Arthur could pull out the sword, when he clearly can’t open a pickle jar.

    And if people start questioning that, the story can be changed to something else, such as the sword being given to Arthur by The Lady of the Lake.

    Sure, they’re contradictory stories, but it can be left to future historians to sort it all out. In the meantime, Arthur will continue being king, provided enough people are satisfied with believing any one of the stories they’re fed.

  5. I was reminded of a scene from Monty Python And The Holy Grail that skewered the story behind Arthur’s legitimacy.

  6. @ Grawlix – That whole movie skewered almost all of the legends pretty thoroughly. Which particular scene were you referring to?

  7. (Nitpick: Arthur pulled Caliburn from the stone. Once it broke in battle, the Lady of the Lake gave him Excalibur, which was better than Caliburn.)

  8. Yes, Excalibur was not the sword in the stone. Except in some of the earliest stories, it was.

  9. In a near synchronicity, someone mentioned the sword Nothung a couple of days ago. I’d never heard of it before.


    Nothung, aka Gram, aka Balm, aka Balmung is a sword in Norse mythology that closely parallels Arthur’s sword in a few ways. It was driven into a tree trunk by Odin. Various people tried to draw it out. It won’t move for anyone else, but Sigmund can draw it with ease. Also, it was broken in battle and reforged into a better weapon.


  10. “Pickle”, until recently, meant anything preserved in a jar, or any kind of liquid (salt water, vinegar, sugar water) used to preserve something in a jar. A friend of mine would put up “pickled peaches.” You would call them just “canned peaches”.

  11. MiB, my 100-year old Websters Unabridged Dictionary shows pickle to be salt & water or vinegar-based. I suspect “pickled peaches” is a regionalism rather than a chronism. (Yes, I made up a word while getting pedantic about another word.)

  12. @ Grawlix – I would still enjoy them today if I could still get them, but I don’t think my grandmother bought them from a store: I think she made them herself.

  13. Thanks to those taking up the “pickle” question. But all of the variant meanings and instances you give are something I’m already sort of familiar with in American usage — I recall the local steak-house type restaurant whose appetizers included those sweet-pickled watermelon rinds, and pickled crabapple in slices or whole.

    But these are neither semantically nor syntactically the (chiefly UK?) usage I’m recalling. For one thing, it is a non-count (or “mass”) noun — so not “pickled something”, “the pickling process”, nor of course “a pickle”. More like “relish”.

    And indeed I suspect it is somewhat like what Americans call “pickle relish” — a pickled vegetable, probably cucumber, very finely chopped, maybe together with spices, and bottled in its pickling juice, maybe with the addition of other condiments (I’ve seen “hot dog relish” where the medium is yellow mustard).

    But I’m not entirely sure of that relation to “relish”, and in addition we haven’t accounted for the element of strangeness or warning-needed. Because my main example, probably from a now-forgotten TV show, went something like “But tell your Yank visitors not to get pickle on their sandwiches, it is not going to be what they expect!” I didn’t know if that meant extra hot, or maybe fermented and thus somewhat disgusting until you acquire the taste. (Like kim chee maybe.)

  14. . . . or chutney . . .
    Chutney is from the East Indian word chatni. It is a spicy and aromatic condiment that contains fruit, sugar, vinegar and a whole array of spices. Chutneys can vary in texture from being smooth to rather chunky and coarse. … A relish is a chopped vegetable or fruit food item that is cooked and pickled.

  15. Speaking of relish, it was a standing joke to read the start of the following passage as referring to the substantive relish, the condiment:

    Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.

    Heh heh, he ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.

  16. Yes the pickled watermelon rinds I mentioned were prepared by a relative, long ago.

    They were made with love.

    Alas I can’t find that ingredient at my local grocery store. 😦

  17. I have a family recipe for “pickle” (not “pickles”) — it is a relish that one might use with cold roast beef or things like that, base is cucumbers, it’s a bright poisonous yellow from large amounts of turmeric, it’s somewhat sweet but has a bite as well, manufacturing procedure is vaguely similar to jam. I am not sure of the provenance of this recipe other than transmission via Canada; it might be English. I suspect it is the sort of thing you’re thinking of.

    I have no idea if it might be startling to a visiting American, because stereotypically nearly anything food-related can be that.

  18. Thanks to Brian in StL for the links. My plan is to interpolate a combination between the two recipes (omitting the red pepper). The biggest problem will be finding a watermelon with a rind thick enough to be usable. Modern varieties seem to have been bred for thin shells.

  19. Let us know how it turns out. I have made some refrigerator pickle recipes in the past, but not watermelon.

  20. Annnndd I’ve now had a posting here held up by the cens0rbot for several hours. Probably it’s been pickled.

  21. @Shrug, you might try emailing directly to CIDU Bill. He may not be noticing either the moderation list or comments about it.

  22. Thanks for freeing it. (And I forgot which thread it was on; actually on “Pardon My Fig Leaf,” not this one.)

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