Sunday, April 5, 2009


If we’re going to get Middling back can we also have ugsome?
I could do wonders with ugsome. “This article on English education is so ugsome I can’t even begin to write a response to it…..”
Middling. Well, yes, Midlands, Mercia. I wonder if I could solve the nationality problem by saying I’m a Mercian?

But back to the newspaper from 1942. How wonderfully naive they were in those bygone days, believing readers wanted factual news with a minimum of clutter. They obviously thought that not only could readers decide for themselves if something was terrible or horrific, but they also seemed to think that nouns could move around without several adjectives in attendance and verbs could do their work without adverbial crutches. How quaint.

Here’s the headlines from the five cuttings:


Only one "tragedy" in five. I like the way the Connacht Tribune highlights the injury of a man from Galway and leaves the actual fatality of the Dubliner, Sam Farell (77) out of the headlines. Please note every use of ‘plane marked by the apostrophe of omission.

I once heard an editor defend his journalists (when someone had the gall to point out that if you're going to slag the English teaching profession as semi-literate you might want to make sure your article was grammaticaly accurate) by saying that you don't care if the doctor can't write a grammatical sentence so why should you care if the journalist can't.

Obviously not an attitude that was popular in 1942.

And none of your TV witness: Ooh it was sooo terrible, it was just like, you know, like shocking, as if, and I just couldn’t like believe my eyes…(But I got it on my mobile phone and do you want to buy the footage). Or the dreaded TV reporter chosen obviously for his or her looks; Bob, I just can’t begin to describe the scene here.. (It’s your job you pillock! If you can’t describe it then go home and let the company find someone who is articulate and can…)

Here’s my grandfather, at seventy:

“Sam Farrell had just entered the caravan when I saw the ‘plane falling and I gave a shout and jumped back. I saw the ‘plane hit the caravan and split it in two, after which flames broke out. My son, Joseph, came along and with other men helped to pull out the occupants of the plane”.

I can hear the measured enunciation, the pauses, the slighty awkward syntax..and for some reason hear him spit at the end of it. But if I were wearing my hat I’d tip it to him. Let the words do the work. Like Humpty, you can always pay them extra on Saturday if they break into a sweat.


Unknown said...

I like these posts that make mention of Laytown: I used to live in Drogheda, so I know the airfield at Gormanstown, and Laytown used to be a small, sleepy seaside village where Droghedeans went to visit the surf, until the property boom and Dubs (no offence meant) moved in and building started in real earnest.

I also like that linkage of 'middling.' It's a south Louth/Meath expression I know well.

Liam Guilar said...

According to the OED middling is apparently of scotish origin, the first usage belongs to the reign of James 1. Is it still current in Ireland?

I've only ever seen Laytown in December or January so the idea of "surf' is a little hard to imagine.