Monday, 21 July 2014

2 B or not 2 B

'A thing of beauty is a joy for ever' wrote John Keats, and so did my dear old Nan, in neat fountain pen handwriting across the page in my little autograph book.  It was a pocket sized volume with embossed lettering on its cover and each page was a different colour.   Although mostly scrawled in by my eight-year-old school chums it did boast a salutation from a proper famous person - well, he was in my eyes - H E Todd, author of the 'Bobby Brewster' books. He'd visited my school and read us some of his stories, many of which I already knew from featuring on 'Jackanory' in around 1970.   I adored Bobby Brewster and his ability to telephone his tummy when he was hungry (or something like that - I seem to remember he could translate its gurgles and rumbles into requests for sardine sandwiches, but I might be wrong).

Another signature which seemed important at the time was that of the woman from the Puffin Club who had been at the one and only members' event I ever went to, a Summer fancy dress party in Hatfield Broad Oak to which I wore a rather hot home-made caterpillar costume. I mean 'hot' in the temperature sense, of course...  All I gathered about her was that she was called Jane, so if she ever went on to scale great literary heights, or to feature on a special Puffin Club edition of 'Family Fortunes' (unlikely, I know) I'd be none the wiser.

'Sniffup Spotera'

My favourite autograph, however, was from someone closer to home. With a twinkle in her eye my Mum wrote this on a pastel blue page above her name:

YY 4 Me

She'd learned it when she was a schoolgirl, back in the 1930s or '40s, and when she carefully scribed it in my little book I loved it so much I never forgot it.   Our familiarity with text-speak makes it quicker to decipher now than when I first saw it, but back then it looked like a curiously puzzling riddle.  Once solved, it seemed a perfect mix of ingenious and yet simultaneously simple humour.  Too wise, indeed.

In an era when it's commonplace to bemoan the increasing use of economical spellings and linguistic short-cuts it'd be easy to assume that they're a recent thing and a threat to our language, but I don't think so.  In 1867 a poem by Charles C Bombaugh was published (labelled as 'emblematic poetry' and thought of as very clever); here's one of its verses:

He says he loves U 2 X S
U R virtuous and Y's
In X L N C U X L
All others in his i's

Then, of course, there was Slade...

Mama Weer All Crazee Now

... and did somebody mention Prince?

I love the way language can be so many things: playful, pliable and adaptable, as well as beautiful.  And a thing of beauty is a joy for ever, innit.


  1. I remember my Mum telling me the 'Too Wise' verse when I was young, but, at my request, when she came to put her moniker in my own autograph book, she wrote the alphabet backwards, which, as I think I've mentioned before, she made into a little rhyme and was her party piece.
    I also have a clear memory of studying a version of the 'ABCD Goldfish' poem at school, another one of those that appeared gibberish until some bright spark ('me sir, me sir, me, me, me!') put their hand up and translated it for the rest of the class.
    I'm afraid I've never read any Bobby Brewster, but it seems that my tummy works in much the same way and right now it's telling me that it's time for chips!

    1. Ah, our mums knew how to keep us entertained!
      I didn't know the ABCD Goldfish - had to look it up just now! You learn something every day. It reminded me of another one, though - FUNEX, SVFX etc. So silly, I love them.
      Shame you never read any Bobby Brewster, I think you might have liked him as a nipper. Chips? Now there's an idea....

  2. I used to have a pair of PJs just like BB's when I was six. I'd have loved that titter too.

  3. Now for my third try at commenting...damn you google.

    My momma entertained me by singing Hank Williams songs...which, sadly, she stopped when I got she could constantly pester me with the Beetles.

    I don't remember my children's books as well as I do my records. I played the grooves off Mighty Mouse. Only Curious George really sticks out.

    It were Singing BEar that mentioned Prince.

    1. Are you getting that new Photo Sphere thing? Or those house numbers which look as if they were photographed from ten streets away? Damn captcha thing... but I got too much spam without it.
      Anyway, you're here now and it's good to see you!

      Those 1940s Curious George books look great, I'm going to have to investigate.

    2. I think it was log in issues. Probably as much my fault as googles but much easier to damn google to hell than myself.


      I was able to give Blake my old curious George monkey last summer when I dug it out of my Daddy's attic. Yes...yes...he was more concerned about the star wars toys but, he's slept with George many nights since.

    3. Few could resist that monkey I'm sure!

  4. SWLABR by Cream or CCKMP by Steve Earle came to mind

    1. Good point Old Pa! I don't know what either of them mean... will have to do some research...


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