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Hello and welcome to another episode of something that rhymes with purple and more importantly, Merry Christmas.
This is our Christmas episode. And this time last year, we covered the stories behind lots and lots of traditional Christmas words, didn't we? And that I think our listeners can find on a better man. And that's what the episode is called. I'm just walking across the aisle wearing a Christmas jumper.
I am wearing a Christmas jumper. I'm wearing Holly in my hat. I'm feeling very Christmassy.
And you've got those daily poppers on again. And in my head I'm singing Ding Dong Merrily on High and we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. It's been very frustrating. You know, in the United Kingdom, singing carols has not been possible because people have been nervous that the aerosols, because of covid have been hanging around. And so people have been discouraged from singing, which is a great shame, because normally at this time of year in the U.K., they reckon about seven million people would have been singing carols.
And it's been very one, incidentally, extra special next year. It'll be extra special out next year. And I, of course, love Christmas. I love everything to do with Christmas. And I particularly love Charles Dickens. And in fact, this year I've had a wonderful experience because the Lawrence Berkeley Playhouse, which is a wonderful theater in the north of England for international visitors, have done a community production of A Christmas Carol, the hugely successful Charles Dickens novel, one of his shortest novels and one of his most successful and most enduring.
And they've done a version with local community members. And I voice the part of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Oh, and it's been amazing to see you actually as far away from Scrooge as I can possibly imagine those three.
But it's a great story. And it was a fun part to play, I can imagine. And if people want to, I think you can get it online. You just have to download it. I go to the Lawrence Batley Playhouse and you'll find it a Christmas Carol. So that's fun. But we've talked about Dickens and his contribution to Christmas, the Christmas vocabulary. But he is a novelist that we really associate with this time of year. And you can't do better, I think the Christmas season than for an hour or two.
Stop playing the games, even stop listening to the podcast. Certainly turn off the TV, find a fire of some kind or even a hot water bottle, curl up with it and read a good book, Escape into the World of the Imagination. It just reminds me of a great word. So, yes, tell me, what is the great word? It's a great regional word. It isn't exactly conjure the sound of it doesn't exactly conjure up its meaning, but I still love it, Klaw and still double F.I..
And to often is to sit peacefully by the fire and do whatever you want to. But it's just to bask in the warmth of a fire, which is just lovely.
This is the time of year to Klaw in with a good book, and Charles Dickens was the author of some amazing good books, 14 completed novels, hundreds of other works, including short stories, lots of them with a Christmas theme. Obviously the letters of his that are published. He wrote plays. He wrote poetry. He collaborated with others, even wrote famously a biography of Grimaldi the clown Gruenwald. Have you heard of Grimaldi?
Oh, yes, vaguely. I can't say I know much about him.
You should have heard of Grimaldi. The reason you should have had him at this time of year is he was the original crown Joey Joe Grimaldi, and he was the person who in a way made pantomimed famous in Britain. It was a pantomime clown. He suffered from depression very badly and towards the end of his life, feeling very depressed, he went to see his doctor and he said, you know, I'm feeling very, very depressed. And the doctor said, you must get out of yourself, go to Germany and go to the pantomime, go and see the great clown.
Joey Grimaldi said, I am.
And that's that's a story told to us by Charles Dickens because he wrote Grimaldi's autobiography poem.
He ghost wrote it under the name of Bozz.
Amazing. And as a lexicographer, Dickens has a special place really quite similar to Shakespeare. He was analogizes. So he came up with lots of new words. But he was a real popularizer as well, wasn't he? He wrote for a mass readership using words that were kind of, I don't know, they're just perfectly matched the stories that he told. And I'm sure we will talk about his naming of characters a bit later. But he also really expanded the vocabulary that was in common circulation.
Well, I've dug up a list of all the amazing or some of the amazing words that he introduced. I mean, the OED, your favorite dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary, credits him with. Joining 258 new words and has one thousand five hundred eighty six first citations for giving a new sense to a word. Yeah, which is pretty remarkable, isn't it? It is.
It absolutely is. And, you know, for even the ones the words that were around before because, you know, boredom, for example, precedes Bleak House and Dustbin was around before he used it in Dobinson, but they wouldn't have survived without Dickens bringing them to the public attention. And that's you know, that is also his huge linguistic power, I think, like Shakespeare.
I have a favorite and it's Butterfingers. Butterfingers. It first appeared in the posthumous papers of the Pickwick Club, better known as The Pickwick Papers in 1836. At every bad attempt to catch and every failure to stop the ball, he launched his personal displeasure at the head of the devoted individual in such denunciations as are stupid now, butterfingers, muff, humbug and so forth. Bah humbug, of course, occurs famously in a Christmas Carol, but that's the first use of butterfingers.
I've got time to tell you a quick story. There was a production, a famous production of the play, Titus Andronicus, one of Shakespeare's darker plays, and it was produced at Stratford-Upon-Avon in the 1950s, starring Laurence Olivier and his then wife, Vivien Leigh. And he played Titus Andronicus. And in the play, the character played by Vivien Leigh tragically is brutalise. She's ravished and the men who ravish her then cut off her hands so that she can't write down their names to name them.
And they turn and they cut out her tongue so that you can't speak their names. It's a ghastly, grim play. Anyway, on the first night of this production in Stratford-Upon-Avon, in the audience were lots of the friends of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, famous actors including the great Noel Coward. And the play began and he was quite nervous. And in the play, the character that she played, Lavinia, she names assailants by finding a stick and writing, holding the stick between the sort of forms and writing their names in the sand.
That's how she names the people who have attacked her. But on this opening night, she was very nervous, understandably, because she was nervous, I think is a she was a great film star, but her voice was smaller than Olivier. She was quite tentative. Anyway, she comes onto the stage for this final scene, holding the stick, and unfortunately, it slips from her grasp. The stick was which is supposed to be writing the names of her assailants.
Not only does it fall from a grasp, it lands on the stage because there's quite a steep break on the stage. It rolls down the stage and into the orchestra pit. So running the end of the play after the performance, no guard rushes round to her dressing room, knocks on the door, flings the door open and goes, tut, tut. But her stumps oh, because of course, she's had her hands cut off.
Oh, that's whenever I think of Butterfingers. I think about the stumps. Doormat was one of his two, wasn't it. Yes.
Doormat with another one. You know, some of them sound very, very old and inexplicably. Well, they sound like wonderful. They didn't survive like confusable confusable meaning a bit sort of a mix between discombobulated and bamboozled. I love that one. But some of them sound incredibly modern, like I've got his number. And if you say I've got someone's number, it means you know what they're up to.
But actually, he uses it for, you know, all the awful interminable legal machinations in Bleak House. Whenever a person proclaims to you in worldly matters, I'm a child, that person is only a crying off from being held accountable. And you have got that person's number and it's number one. So, you know, that's that's I know it's fantastic giving someone the creeps as well.
He was the first to give us that idea of of the creeps. And he, again, like Shakespeare, sorry to keep growing these parallels, but he was brilliant at flipping parts of speech. So, you know, create converting adjectives to nouns. So messy became messiness and likewise creepy became the creeps. He just let his creative impulses fly really in terms of playing around with language. And not everyone liked it. Quite a few people thought, you know, what, what is he doing to the language?
But, you know, because I know you've just done a series on places associated with some of our greatest writers, and Dickens was one of them.
He had a sort of a really tough life, didn't he? But what sort of person was Dickens?
Well, I think he was a complicated person. We love him. He's popular and he was popular with his friends. And yet we have to face the fact that he was unkind, very unkind to his wife. Who? Him. Many children, and he loved her very much. I mean, they were young when they got married. He was only, I think, 19. She was the daughter of his editor. He was a you know, wrote for a newspaper at that time.
And they had love and they got married and they had lots of children. They were happy in the early years. But I'm afraid it was probably when she grew fat on having all these children that he didn't fancy her so much. And I think he began to find a dull and he was in love with the theater. And he had a roving eye eventually lighted on an actress and had an affair. And the girl became his mistress. He turned out his wife.
He disowned her. He made life difficult for her financially. It became very fraught because her sister continued to be his housekeeper. His wife's sister sided with Charles Dickens rather than with Mrs. Dickens. He didn't live openly with his mistress because that would have been too great a scandal for the time. He had a sort of hideaway with his mistress and they had a place where they escaped to in France. It became a public scandal when he and the mistress were involved in a train accident and her name was mentioned, but he denied that there had been any impropriety.
Yeah, so there may be a bit of Scrooge in him. Actually, I was just thinking about some of the some of the cruelty in his naming, which you mentioned earlier. I mean, ingenious the way that he names his characters. But you can tell that there's some sting there, can't you?
I think we get into trouble if we start feeling that to love someone's writing, you've got to love the writer because it's the work we fall in love with. And I know that there will be people who've been put off reading Dickens. They think, well, actually, he wasn't a very good man. Well, we don't. Fortunately, we know almost nothing about Shakespeare. It's always seemed amazing to me, yet we know nothing about Shakespeare. And yet he seems to know everything about us.
But it's good that we know nothing about Shakespeare because we might not like some of the things that we know. His great strengths, Dickens, was that he was an incredible worker. He lived for work. He would get up early in the morning. He would write for several hours before going off to do his journalism. But his day job, he did a lot of thinking while walking. He walked for miles as many as 20 miles a day.
I mean, once he famously set off from his London house and walked all the way to Godsil in Kent, his country house, which is 30 miles away. So he was incredible worker and he gave himself to his public and the public adored him. He was, in a way, the inventor of the one man show. Other people have done it before, but not quite in the way he did. He certainly was the inventor of the popular author who went on tour.
He would entertain a thousand people, travel the length and breadth of the country. In fact, he killed himself performing, giving readings of his plays, and they were all serialized as well.
So they were real cliffhangers, weren't they? Which is brilliant. If you had to choose Giles a favourite name from any Dickens novel, what would it be?
Bumble, I love the name Mr Bumble. Mine would be Mr Boffin. Oh, I don't. I don't remember. Mr Boffin.
Mr. Boffin is in our mutual friend, which is probably my favorite of all of Dickens novels. I mean, just to talk about his names, as I mentioned, I mean, I don't think any novelist has been more inventive in this area of using names that are so memorable that they become completely inextricable from the characters and their traits. You've got Quraysh, of course, which has become a byword in English all by itself. Mr Micawber, who is a spendthrift and always it's always something will turn up.
Uriah Heep. I mean, you just imagine him kind of bent over in a kind of toadying sort of way back sniff. But in our mutual friend, you've got the veneer rings who are all about show and they're just brilliant. And you've got the pod snaps and you've got Bradley Headstone and you've got Silas Weg with a wooden leg. I mean, it's just genius.
My favorite family in Dickens are the Cromwell's. They're the family, the theatrical family and Nicholas Nickleby. But you're right, the names conjure up the personality Gradgrind from hydrolyzed.
Yeah. And also what I didn't realise, and it's quite interesting, is that he would play around with many of his invented names until he was satisfied that they were just right. So take Martin Chuzzlewit. Apparently he toyed before with Martin Squeezable then swizzle back swivel wag, chisel to chisel boy trouble with Chuzzlewit up and then finally landed on Chesil Chuzzlewit. It was a very carefully crafted thing for him. We call them acronyms. You remember we talked in an earlier episode about nominative determinism, how people's names perfectly describe or perfectly suit their professions or their personality.
I mean, Dickens is the absolute master of creating acronyms, really, and in his really earlier writings, I think. There were probably a bit less sophisticated, so he had a load mutton head and then he had some scientific gentlemen called Mrs Pestle and Mortar. So I think I think they became more subtle as he went along. But I just think that for me, that's the greatest part of his genius. Well, his name, interestingly, it's an old tradition.
Of course, other people have done it before restoration playwrights gave their characters. And of course, that's true. Mr Tehsil, in Sheridan's school for Scandal, you go back to Shakespeare, sir. Toby Belch.
Yes, Andrew Eguchi. But what I think is unusual about Dickens is some of those words entered the vocabulary. We all know disgorges and people of my father's generation. He would call my father would call an umbrella again. And that's from Mrs Camp.
Mrs Camp had an umbrella. And for people like Victorian's Edwardians, even up to them, up to the Second World War, people called umbrellas.
Gamse also Bumbershoot, if you remember. But that's not Dickens. Another really important contribution, I think of Dickens to linguist's and to lexicographical dictionary makers is that he really knew his street slang. So you have to remember that actually the earliest glossaries of slang were from the criminal underworld. They were the first collections of words really to be documented and collected formally, and Dickens really knew his stuff. So if you take the Bay Street runners in Oliver Twist, they speak a really distinctive language, which is what they called Kant.
Kant being the variety of slang that was used as a secret language by criminals and their associates. You know, they talk about a burglary as a crack and they use Blunt for money. And both of those were really common in Dickens's time sort of thieves slang. But he really knew his stuff there. And he also he was very much in touch with the language of his day. So euphemisms to remember, we've talked about euphemisms for trousers at the time.
I absolutely love. So, again, there's lots of things in his novels where it shows that kind of real Victorian reluctance to use the word trousers. So an Oliver Twist, the butler. Giles is describing his actions. He's been disturbed by burglars and tossed off the clothes and got safely out of bed, drew on a pair and someone says, ladies present. And he says of shoes, sir. And yes. So whenever there are sort of women present, they're never allowed to mention the word trousers.
So all of these are really useful for us because they kind of give us real concrete evidence of what people were squeamish about at the time and also to say what the kind of underworld was doing.
Linguistically, I've made a list of some of my favourite words that were coined by Dickens or that he gave a new meaning to. And I want to rattle through them because I don't think our listeners will quite believe that it was Charles Dickens all those years ago, the early part of the 19th century, who conjured up this. And if you want to comment on any of them, just interrupt me. Boredom. We've mentioned cheesiness gradable. You came up with that fluffiness flummox Flummoxes.
A brilliant one. Isn't it amazing? And I think it comes in Pickwick Papers. And my opinion is that if you're governor, don't prove an alibi, you'll be what the Italians call regularly flummoxed. And that's all about it. Is that an Italian word that is based on or is he just inventing that?
And it's just I think well, for me, it's really, again, like discombobulate and curfuffle and all those sort of things, it sounds very problematic to me. I'm looking here in the aready it says perhaps of English dialect origin and then Gloucestershire dialects. Now Herefordshire dialect. Sorry, there is the verb flummox SIECUS meaning to mangle and the flummoxes sloven slovenly person. But it can also mean kind of harilal bewilderment in making something untidy. So it says the formation seems to be onomatopoeic, expresses the notion of throwing down roughly an untidily.
But you've got those kind of regional backup's as well rampage to capitalise on someone that's a Dickens original, a slow coach, somebody who was very tidy, is a slow coach rampage, by the way, distant from it was around before.
And it was all to do with a wild beast going completely mad. But it was Dickens who kind of bought into the humans there.
Oh, I mean, Arem going mad or just a wild beast.
I think that's a very good question. I think it's anything to do with Rams. It is a stage of excitement or violent passion.
Oh, maybe it's as an outrage, but you're ramping it up a bit so it becomes real.
Is the ramp said to ramp of an animal was to wear or stand on the hind legs, say definitely in heraldry, if you were rampant, that's what you were doing. But as I say, Dickins kind of introduce that into the idea of absolute human destruction.
Well, that a former I want to share with you devil may care is extraordinary, isn't it, that he came up with that devil may care, but this one I find amazing egg box. Oh, it's not interesting box, I suppose. I mean, also that reflects the period I imagined previous. The eggs arrived in baskets. Yeah, and maybe this time people were introducing the idea of an egg box, but that's the origin of the use of it.
Casualty ward, a casualty when it didn't exist before. Dickens coined the phrase and my favorite of all fairy story.
Oh, isn't that lovely? Yeah. But again, it's an idea of sort of taking existing words and then and then sort of, you know, creating new. I mean, they may have been around at the time, but he was not only a sort of street professor of slang, but also just a great a great popularizer. I've got one description from our mutual friends I mentioned. That's my absolute favorite, which has got nothing to do with creating new words, but everything to do with poetry.
I think he just had such a vivid eye for landscape. And our mutual friend starts off with people dredging the river for bodies. So, again, it's kind of set in that sort of world of crime where people would get money for the bodies that they dredged up from the river.
But this is just beautiful. It's the white face of the wind today came sluggishly on failed in a frosty mist and the shadowy ships in the river slowly changed to black substances. And the sun blood red on the eastern marshes behind dark masts and yards seemed filled with the ruins of a forest it had set on fire. I mean, that's just so beautifully vivid, isn't it? You should be doing talking books. Yeah, I love that. I just.
It's such a lovely novel.
It is a great novel. I want you after the break to tell me, other than Dickens, what your favourite novel is, what you would recommend, what we recommend for people to read this Christmas. If they can get hold of a book that isn't by Dickens, they should curl up by their. What's it called? That warmth of the father. And what was that word? You give us a Laffan cloth to kill often when you're chlorinating this Christmas.
What's the book to read or just you can just say clopping actually plotting it, I think at the end. Or is it. Yeah, well, it's there's two versions. It's probably easy to use the cloth. You can either in or you can cloth, you can laugh so you can clopping, you can be laughing at confusing sounds very Dickensian. So let's go clopping.
Here we are again, we're talking Christmas reading, we've been talking about Dickens, not about the words he gave us for Christmas, but just the words he gave us what a genius he was. I mentioned that fairy story was one of the phrases he introduced us to, maybe as a result of the visit of Hans Anderson. You know, he had a correspondence with Hans Christian Andersen, the great Danish fairytale writer, and he invited him to stay not just for a day or two.
Wow. Not just for a week or two, not just for a month or two. After week after week after week, Dickens did not know what to do, how to get rid of this man, this crashing bore that turned out to be Hans Andersen.
He was a bore. Don't tell me this. I know. Maybe that's where boredom I maybe that's why he couldn't board. Maybe that is why he called go. Yes, it's extraordinary. Anyway. Of course, Anderson's got that dark side as well, isn't he?
Which which Dickens has in spades. But you asked me about my Christmas recommendation. Please, I'd love to hear yours as well. I know the answer to this because I was asked this very recently, actually, and there's only one choice for me. And it was something I read when I was a teenager, and it totally captured me in so many different ways. And it's in French. It's called the common, but in English it's called the lost state by Allah, Allah, Allah, Fonio.
Alan PHONIER Literacy is only book. He died in the First World War and it's haunting and it's dreamy and it's about first love and a magical lost house. It's just this sense of magic that pervades the whole thing. And it's set in the twilight world between childhood and adolescence when we don't know what we're going to lose by growing up. And it's just innocent but sensual. And honestly, I can't recommend it more highly. It's gorgeous. So the lost estate or the lost domain, that would be mine.
The lost state is the English translation of the lost a set of legalman or.
Look, I'm only gonna come and you can see why they didn't want to translate Maun, because it's it's quite difficult to pronounce it anyway. You L and S and that's what it was called in French and quite difficult title to translate. But honestly, once you get past that, it's just great. I really love it.
Well, I think I would choose always Victorian writers. I've never really left the nineteenth century. My favorite Victorian writers are probably in this order. Thackeray, William Makepeace Thackeray. Oh yeah. He wrote some Christmas stories, but he also wrote one of the great novels, Vanity Fair. If you haven't read Vanity Fair, it's a wonderful adventure.
Oh, so you and I've given you a Christmas tree. I shall read Legalman. I probably will. Translation because my friend is a bit rusty, but there's a Penguin classics. So what was the translation called again. What was the title? The Lost Estate or the Lost Domain. The Lost State. The Lost Domain. I read that you should read Vanity Fair. It's got this character Catatonic or Becky Sharp. She is a kind of heroine who's an anti heroine.
Fantastic. What do you make of that? I've read actually all his novels. They are amazing. And Trollope as well. Of course, I'm I'm a huge Anthony Trollope fan and I've read the complete works of fiction. I've not read his nonfiction. I've read all his fictional works. I'm a member of the Trolleybus Society and I've got these beautiful editions that I've never opened. I've read them in paperback. So The Chronicles of Bassett, that was just sort of stories set in Barsad show that are all about around a cathedral close.
They are wonderful, I think are six novels in that series. And then they're the ones that became that the political novels that were turned into a television series called The Palaces. So I would go for Thackeray and then Trollope. And then if I wanted for you, though, you may be almost above Vanity Fair, but you've got to read that I would recommend Arnold Bennett. People haven't really heard of Arnold Bennett nowadays. He was a hugely popular writer, this time for what he was the highest paid writer in the world.
And he went out of fashion largely because the Bloomsbury crowd was snobbish about him. People like Virginia Woolf rather dissed him, but he he came from the potteries in England, part of them sort of Midlands where pottery came from. And he where where Dickens gives you character characters. I know, but it gives you people, real people and a lot of women writers. Women critics say that a little bit is the male writer who understood women best. OK, so what should I read?
The old wives tale, The Old Wives and Old Wives Tale written by Arnold Bennett at the beginning of the twentieth century, there was an extraordinary year, I think something like 1994 when all the great works of literature ever written were written. In that one year, I think Chekhov wrote the Cherry Orchard Jamboree, wrote Peter Pan and Arnold Bennett wrote The Old Wives Tale. OK, that's my Christmas recommendation.
A few listeners have got books. You think we. You should read our books. We should recommend probably they've got a linguistic feel to them all. These are writers who did amazing things with words, do get in touch with us and people, do they communicate with us? It's purple at something else, dot com. Have we got some emails in this week?
We do. We or we have so many and we do read them all. Even if we can't get to all of them, say thank you. And this one's from Olivia in Aberdeenshire. She says she wasn't born there, so she's not a native Dowrick or Scots speaker. But over the time she's lived there and picked up a fair bit and two of her absolute favorite Scots and DoRight words are the words Quine for girl and loon for boy, both of which are in common use.
And she's wondering if there's any link with the word queen for queen. And where does that word come from anyway? So thank you, Olivia. Well, to go back to Queen, first of all, the old English spelling was C, w, e, n, and it meant a wife, specifically the wife of an important man such as the king, of course. And related to that was an old English queen spelt the same way c e m but with an E at the end, meaning woman and I don't know if you remember Giles, but I told you how women have had such a rough ride in English, really, because quite often words that started off being very neutral are very innocent, then went rapidly downhill and somehow loose morals always came into play.
And so, so happened with Queen because an alternative spelling of a Q UEA and emerged meaning a bold or impudent woman. And in the 16th and 17th century, the queen was a prostitute. So that spelling of queen existed alongside the modern queen ETN, which was obviously completely the opposite. So the example I'd given you before was Hussie coming from housewife, a housewife, a woman who was in charge of the house and housewife went one way and Hussie went the other.
And so it was with Queen, eventually the king and the prostitutes and just disappeared because it all got too confusing. But Quine, that Olivia Manches is indeed related to the old English queen, meaning a woman. So you don't. And of the impudent sense in there. So they're all they're all linked. It's a complicated picture, but they are all linked together. And Lune originally a man of low birth or condition. So one of the phrases that you won't find anymore is Lord and loon.
In other words, the whole world, people who are high and mighty and then people who are lonely. But eventually that relaxed as it often does with men, it doesn't take the negative turn that it does with women, and it simply meant a man or a chap or a boy. So they've got really, really old rootstocks all the way back to Anglo-Saxon England.
Well, I think they're as far as men are concerned, you've been kicking us in the crotch. Which leads me neatly to this communication from Edward in West Virginia. This is Edward H. Kafka, Galbreath, great name. And he comes from it's related well to Kafka. Oh, yes. One of my favorite novelists.
Yes. Oh, really? And what about Galbreath? Him? We've not read as much as we want to do anyway. Edward in West Virginia writes, Dear Susie and Charles, I'm smitten with your podcast. We Love You that I've spent the past several weeks dividing the major part of your back catalogue in your place names episode. Susie mentioned Crotch Crescent's zero. Trust me, my dictionary tells me crotch is related to Krutch, though I don't exactly see how here in West Virginia, some of the older folks do refer to the crotch of a tree with a limb attaches to the trunk.
So there does seem to be a connection to wood. Many of these older folk could also be described as crotchety. Is that also related to crotch? And can crochet be looped in as well or crotchet?
Wow, so many different questions there. But actually, thankfully, they all have a similar root. So Edward mentions the crescent and the crotch of a body. So quite crescent time is indeed crescent shaped and it's kind of in a loop. It's a bit like a hook. And that was the original meaning of crotchet, which was basically from the old friend crush, meaning a crosier or a shepherd's crook, but which was based on a Viking word, meaning a hook.
So it's all about the hook of the body. So the crutch, if you think about it, is where your legs, you know, your legs fork out from your crotch. And a crutch, which is related, is also a kind of you know, you have two crutches and it's almost like you've got that sort of forked help to support you, if that makes any sense whatsoever. Amusical crotchet is linked to the same idea of of a hook because of the the shape of the musical notation.
I think that's my doorbell that might be loyal to the postman. And crotchety means kind of perverse in some way. So sort of slightly hooked or slightly kind of bent, if you see what I mean. Croquet also linked in there because croquet involves putting a ball through a hook in the ground and they are indeed all related. So the crotch of a tree where a limb attaches to the trunk, it's all about creating that Falke. Shape, does that make any sense, total sense, Edwards signs off, keep up the fine work.
Isn't that good? Thank you very much. And you please listeners, keep up the fine work of writing to us. We do love to hear from you.
Do you know I've always wanted to back catalogue. Makes it sound very grand. Does you've got it. You've got your own back catalogue. Susie Dent. Now tell me anything else.
Yes, we received a couple of questions actually relating to cats this week. So. Right. Gillespie has written to ask why we call cats pussycats. She wonders if it's anything to do with the French word for Flea Lapps and if the sale is he who's in her final year. French linguistics at Leeds University said word is the word will come from my mom tells my cat that she's one of these because she's scared of everything. Well, see, we also have a little rescue cat who seems to be scared of everything and scaredy cat would suit her, too.
OK, I'll start with the pussy cat that apparently, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was imitative of the hissing sound that you would use to get a cat's attention. Not sure I've ever gone to my cat other than to try and, you know, scare her off. But, you know, you might laugh, but actually the conventional name for Cat Germanic languages and as far off as Afghanistan apparently is, all is quite similar sounding. So in Romanian you have pussy cat.
I think it would be in Lithuania and you have puss in low German, you have pools and in Swedish dialect you have kakapos, etc.. So there are so many variants of this up and down the globe really. And that is the dictionary's best bet that it's imitative of the sound that we as humans make to get a cat's attention. Now worse. A simple answer to that is it is that it's probably a blend of Wempe and plus puss idea being linked to the scaredy cat bit, which I think is what your mum also calls your poor cat.
So thank you very much for those.
We love cats that I think scaredy cat we can credit the great Dorothy Parker with. Coming up with the first use of scaredy cat, she wrote a story called The Wolf's Dorothy Parker, wonderful American writer of Short, Sharp versus great writer for The New Yorker, wrote stories as well. It's so nice to meet a man who isn't scaredy cat about catching my beriberi. So scaredy cat now with Dorothy Parker. If you want to communicate with us, do please.
We do our best to well, we certainly read everything we do our best to answer everything. And every week you come up, Susie, with three special words for us. And this is Christmas week. If you've got Christmassy words or just words that you love, these are real words. Or are there some people say to me, oh, she just invents them, but you don't, do you? I don't know.
I mean, you know, anybody can invent any words. And of course, that is still a valid word. But these ones have been documented. Most of them come from the dictionary. So, OK, I can abandon the ones that I had actually and come up with three Christmas words, which may well be a repetition of the Christmas words that we talked about in Lapita men. But I think they are worthy of repeating because they describe Christmas experiences for so many of us.
The first is my absolute favorite and regular people listeners will know this one off by heart. But it's scary fun to remember.
Oh, I love that. We love the word, but I can't remember what it is, what it means. Well, I'm not sure how much of this will be doing this Christmas, but we can look forward to scurry. Fundis of the Future to Scurry Fund is to run around the House Dasch about trying to tidy up just before visitors arrive. Oh, yes, I said we all have a good scurry, funds Con Felicity. Another one I absolutely adore.
Come Felicity is joy and other people's happiness. So no apologies for repeating that one because it's just perfect for our Christmas Day and the other one. OK, I'm going to give you a sock dollar Jack, because if we have got people, if we are allowed to have people around this Christmas, you might have just just have an argument or two.
It might be over the Scrabble and Monopoly board. It might be about who's going to get lost. Quality Street. The sock dollar is the final blow in an argument. In other words, it's the knockout punch from which there is no return. It's the final say in a family argument.
The sock dollar I like the sock dollar is a great word. Well, look, you've given us a great year. I'm not going to give you a great poem. It's a Christmas poem. And we were talking about Victorian writers today from Dickens through Trollope and Thackeray, right up to like Arnold Bennett and your man, Olaf Fournette. At the beginning of the twentieth century. I suppose the most distinguished member of my family was a writer called George R.R. Sims.
Ever heard of him? 1847 in 1922. Well, George Sims was hugely famous in his day was a household name. He was a journalist. He was a poet, a playwright. He wrote pantomime scripts, in fact, for the big draw line pantomimes before the First World War. He was a novelist. He was a social reformer. He was a celebrity. He was a Victorian Edwardian man about town. But his greatest claim to fame was writing a sentimental ballad called Christmas Day in the Workhouse in.
Begins, it was Christmas Day and the workers that phrases that ring a bell with, you know, I was just thinking about Dickens in the work. Well, he was a kind of poor man's dickens in the sense that he took up the causes that Dickens had espoused later in the century. And he was appalled by the plight of the London poor and the conditions of the people in the workhouses where were prisoners and paupers were kept and, you know, given very little charity and wrote this famous poem that became probably possibly one of the most famous poems by heart and spoken by people over Christmas around the far side.
And my father certainly knew it by heart and would perform it to us at Christmas. And I knew a wonderful English comic actor called Ronnie Barker. British listeners won't need to be introduced to Ronnie Barker globally. Maybe some people might be. Ronnie Barker with Ronnie Corbett did shows that at Christmas were hugely popular. He was a brilliant man, Ronnie Barker. And when I knew him, he said, You're related to George Sims, aren't you? And I said, yes.
He said, well, I've got this poem, this parody idea of Christmas Day and the workhouse, and I've never been able to get it on radio, on TV. They won't touch it because it's a bit cheeky, he said, but it's actually completely innocent. So he gave it to me and I put it in my anthology of poetry to learn by heart dancing, by the light of the Moon. And I thought I would share it with you.
And while you are while you're coughing by the fire, enjoy this. It was Christmas Day in the workhouse, the merriest day of the year, the paupers and the prisoners were all assembled there. In came the Christmas pudding with a voice that shattered Glass said, We don't want your Christmas pudding, so stick it there with the rest of the unwanted presents. The workers master then arose and prepared to carve the duck. He said, Who wants the parson's nose?
And the prisoner shouted, You have it yourself, sir. The vicar brought his Bible and read out little bits, said one old crone on the back of the hole. This man gets on very well with everybody. The master rose to make a speech, but just before he started, the mistress, who was 15, Stone gave three loud cheers and nearly choked herself at all. The paupers then began to pull their Christmas crackers. One pauper held his two down and blew off both his paper hat and the man's next to him.
The mistress, dishing out the food, dropped custards down her front. She cried, and a silly girl and the answered Your a perfect picture is always mum. So then they all began to sing, which shook the workhouse walls. Merry Christmas, cried the master, and the inmate shouted. Best of luck to you as well. So that's my Christmas phone.
Let's bring in Georgia Simms, adapted by Ronnie Barker, performed by Gyles Brandreth, who recommends for Christmas, a wonderful book by Susie Dent called Word Perfect. It is exactly that. So as well as your fiction, we've recommended lots of fiction. You will need some nonfiction. And I'm recommending word perfect by you because it's just got a different word for every day of the year. It's a joy. And what are you recommending in the non-fiction stakes in nonfiction that, well, can I return the favor?
And I'm not just doing this to toady up to you, Charles, but as you well know, I was asked by GQ magazine here in the U.K. what I would recommend for people this Christmas and what has been my oasis during Lockton year. And it's got to be your Oxford book of theatrical anecdotes. I promise you, this isn't just backslapping. I genuinely love it. And there's one story in there which I just tell everybody because it made me laugh so much and it was the perfect antidote to kind of hours of doom scrolling through my phone.
OK, so it's from the actor Peter Bolls, who was remembering a conversation with one of the great late actors, Albert Finney, and they were 18 year old flatmates at the time. And one night they're discussing what part they'd most like to play. And it turned out they both had the same one, which was to play Macbeth. And Albert asks Peter how he'd prepare. And Peter sort of at length goes on about how he would play the role in a kilt.
He would imagine himself into Macbeth. He would adopt a Scottish accent, but not after, you know, not before having studied all the great scholars on Macbeth. And he said, So how would you play at Albert? And then his answer was, I'd learn the fucking lines and walk.
I'm just brilliant so I can recommend. Thank you. What? In a way, purple people. I think Susie's book Word Perfect gives you Susie. If you want to read Susie between podcasts and in a way, the Oxford Book of Theatrical Anecdotes gives you me if you want to read me between podcasts. But we will be back in a week's time with more fun. I think we ought to look at our words of the year and maybe play some holiday games and word games next week anyway.
Said If you want to be in touch with us, you can tweet us or email us at purple at something else dot com and do please spread the word recommenders to friends, you know, but like like like whatever you can. We're very grateful. We'd love that something might have purple. Is this something else? Production produced by Lawrence Bassett, additional production from Harriet Wells, Steve Akerman, Alan McCloud, Jay Bill and still arguing over the purple one in the Quality Street Tin Gully.
No pick sniffy.