Almanac – January 27

1832 – Lewis Carroll born.  English writer, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer, real name  Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. His most famous writings are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, as well as the poems “The Hunting of the Snark” and “Jabberwocky“, all examples of the genre of literary nonsense. He is noted for his facility at word play, logic, and fantasy.

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1875 – Mione Elizabeth George Israel born (probably).  Born in Dominica, her birthdate of January 27, 1875, was attested by an entry in a baptismal register , and by a birth certificate procured for her in 2000 based on the baptismal register. Assuming its correct (some doubt it) she would have been 128 years old at the time of her death in 2003.

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1910 – Thomas Crapper died.  Plumber who founded Thomas Crapper & Co in London. Contrary to widespread misconceptions, Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. He did, however, do much to increase the popularity of the toilet, and developed some important related inventions, such as the ballcock.

It has often been claimed in popular culture that the slang term for human bodily waste, “crap”, originated with Thomas Crapper because of his association with lavatories. The most common version of this story is that American servicemen stationed in England during World War I saw his name on cisterns and used it as army slang, i.e. “I’m going to the crapper”.

The word crap is actually of Middle English origin; and hence predates its application to bodily waste. Its first application to bodily waste, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, appeared in 1846 under a reference to a crapping ken, or a privy, where ken means a house.

Its most likely etymological origin is a combination of two older words, the Dutch krappen: to pluck off, cut off, or separate; and the Old French crappe: siftings, waste or rejected matter (from the medieval Latin crappa, chaff).

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1972 – Mahalia Jackson died. American gospel singer. Possessing a powerful contralto voice, she  became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was heralded internationally as a singer and civil rights activist,  described by  Harry Belafonte as “the single most powerful black woman in the United States“. She recorded about 30 albums (mostly for Columbia Records) during her career, and her 45 rpm records included a dozen million-sellers.

“I sing God’s music because it makes me feel free,” Jackson once said about her choice of gospel, adding, “It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues.”

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