Category Archives: Odds and ends

Idles thoughts of an idle fellow, largely on inconsequential tpoics

Charles Wesley: two thoughts

I‘m afraid, for this bit of fun, the reader has to know something about Charles Wesley, the English hymnwriter of the 19th century, and in particular his love for – and his extraordinary skill in using – the English language. In his well-loved hymn, ‘O thou who camest from above’ he uses the word ‘inextinguishable’. At first sight it looks unsingable. Then you find that, with absolutely no effort, you’ve just sung it. Wonderful.

Mr Wesley, of hymnnody, King,
Once did a remarkable thing;
    'Inextinguishable'
    Is six syllablesful
Yet it's awfully easy to sing.

And, in passing:

Charles Wesley liked to use the pun
   But most of all the metaphor;
And managing the two in one
   I’m sure he felt much better for.

 

words ©paul wigmore 2013

Kids these days

Your retirement age is coming within sight? Right. You’re just the age I’m looking for. Please think back to your childhood. On those frequent occasions when you waylaid your elders and asked them for help with a toy, a gadget of some sort, did you ever have any doubts about their ability to get it working? Or, at least, that they would ‘know someone who can’. I think I see you shaking your head. No. When we were kids, grownups, although capable of being a bit of a nuisance, could do everything. Everyone knew that.

‘Dad, this train won’t work. The engine’s got jammed, see. . .’    ‘Grandma, I can’t remember how to do this bit. Would you, um. . . ?’    ‘Uncle George, see, I’ve got this bit right but it doesn’t. . . ‘

As we saw our grandchildren growing out of their infancy we expected to be able to return a few favours. In childhood we had been the learners; now, we were looking forward to being the teachers. But these children, silently, unobtrusively, were beginning to turn things upside down. Gradually, we realised that the pleas for help now came from our own mouths. These young, quick-witted, genned-up know-alls of eight or nine or ten were just about running things for us. And slowly we have come to terms with the strange situation. We sit and stare at our computers and get close to tears of frustration when the wretched thing does the opposite of what we intended. Things vanish from our screen for no apparent reason. We thump the desk and hurt ourselves.

Then, in comes the kid. ‘OK. Can I sit in your chair, please?’ They sit. With a little smile on their sweet faces they rattle away on the keys and swipe and click and whistle contentedly. They jump up. You thank them. The job is done.

One worrying thing remains: that little smile.

Fortissimo

fortissimo
On holiday once, having done a bit of shopping I signalled the approaching bus. As the door opened an enormous burst of noise hit me. It was practically full of under-twenties, all of them shouting at each other. Do you find that adolescent male and females shout? Even when they’re sitting side by side? Perhaps it has something to do with the headphones.

Is the human voice undergoing a change? Boys seem to have developed an indecipherable guttural, glottal-stopped, gabbling bark with hardly any d or t sounds and girls speak with clenched jaws and their tongue clamped to the roof of their mouth so that it’s impossible for them to give vowels their full, rounded shape. Their only usable vowel is ‘eeee’. And, their jaw and their tongue being the way they are, the only way out for sound is the nose. One comical result is that they are unable to pronounce the ‘oo’ sound, so that when they come to sing ‘Happy birthday!’ it has to end with ‘tee yee’.

We were a few hundred yards from my stop, and I pressed the stop button. Whether or not the height of the volume inside the bus had drowned out the sound of the bell I shall never know, but we did not slow down. I rang the bell again but to no avail. With a hundred yards to go I leaned into the driver’s compartment.

‘Stop, please,’ I said. It was a bad mistake.

I have never seen anyone jump so high. He stood on the brakes, I shot forward on to the windscreen. We stopped, I apologised to all, and got out. With the bus disappearing round the bend it was very quiet.