Well here we are on the Eve of Christmas Eve and…
Wassailing: I had cause (don’t ask me why ‘cos I can’t remember) to refer to wassailing a couple of weeks ago, and having only ever encountered the word in written form made the unfortunate faux pas of pronouncing it as writ – i.e: Wass-ale-ling. Some smart arse was quick to point out that it’s not Wass (rhymes with ass) but Woss (as in Jonathon Woss), and that the Ale is silent (“…”). I got the Ling bit right, apparently, but there’s not much that can go wrong with that, is there? What I should have been saying, then, was Wossling. Go figure.
Words like wassailing are a minefield for the bookish autodidact, and having spent my formative years playing hooky from skool (well, more a case of walking out and never going back than playing hooky per se) rather than attending I’ve learned many words directly from books. And rather than consulting a dictionary with those strange hieroglyphs (which I’ve never been able to decipher) to denote correct pronunciation I have generally had a stab at them myself; usually with disastrous results.
For most book-learners this isn’t a problem, because one slip and correction is usually enough to set them straight, but I have a second problem, dear reader, in that while my brain takes on such information when I’m given it my mouth doesn’t, and once I have learned to pronounce a word incorrectly it sticks like the proverbial shit to a blanket. So even though I now know that wassailing is pronounced wossling I am still almost certainly going to say wassailing. I am then going to be corrected, and will then make myself look a complete and utter wankspanner by saying ‘I know.’
The same thing happens, for example, with the author Albert Camus (Albair Camoo, of course), or even the name of that well-known character from Sheridan’s The Rivals, who may well find from my lips the last syllable of her name pronounced Rope. Which just adds insult to injury of course, because the defining characteristic of Mrs MalaProp (rhymes with Stop) is her habitual mispronunciation of words!
Despite knowing the correct pronunciations emphatically I am still very likely to muddle these, and other words, up and make myself look a complete arse. Similarly, when writing, despite knowing full well where apostrophe’s should [sic] and shouldnt go [I’ve been sic again] there is still a good chance in any of my scribblings that the greengrocer’s nervous tic will show itself on plurals and/or that possessives will be dispossessed. This is perhaps why I hate Pissweasels (AKA Grammar Nazis) so much, and take such great delight in challenging them whenever they get snitty about such things on social media websites. If they made less (heeheehee) observations of this nature they and I would get on famously, I’m sure, but as they’re (snert) numbers have increased such posturings have become the red rag that broke this camels (Ha!) back.
Other features of my writing that I do have control over (mostly) are my constant misspellings in casual scribblings of sausages as sossidges and school as skool. As any fule kno these affectations are lifted directly from the pages of Geoffrey Willans’ wonderful Molesworth books, which hav been delighting me since I was knee high to a grasshopper (said knees embellished with ink line drawings of beetles, naturally).
If you’ve not read Molesworth you should. You would be a fule not to.
Anyhoo, back to Wassailing. Briefly: Wassailing is the consumption of alcohol – traditionally cider – on twelfth night in celebration of the apple harvest, and the community singalong arising from said swigging. Taken door-to-door, wassailing is also known as carol singing, and as such is an intrinsic part of our Christmas celebrations. Personally, I think my pronunciation of the word serves the singing aspect of the celebration far more credibly, allowing for the adaptation of a certain Rod Stewart song that spent far more weeks at number one than it deserved in 1975. All together now, wave those scarves: I’m wassailing, I’m wassailing, home again, across the sea… …
Wensleydale: Cheese, cheese, cheese, and more cheese, please! Hard ones, soft ones, runny ones, rubbery ones – cheese, cheese, cheese, and more cheese, please! Mild ones, stinky ones, rindy ones, veiny ones, holey ones, solid ones, cottage ones and mouldy ones – just bring it oooon… Sadly, my metabolism is crap, so no matter how enthusiastic I might be about cheese I have to temper my enjoyment and consumption accordingly.
Of course, massive weight gain isn’t the only reason for watching one’s cheese consumption – there’s the coronary considerations, the farting factor and the night terrors to contend with too. And indigestion. But those things aside it’s lovely stuff, especially when served with an assortment of equally unhealthy, fattening, belch-inducing crackers. And pickles.
My son, Ben, was for many years lactose intolerant and could only eat soya cheeses. He was also gluten intolerant so was very restricted in terms of crackers too. He was very, very ill when he ate either. As he grew and we continued to test him we found his tolerance increasing, and he now has no issues with either and he loves them both. It makes him, and me, quite angry to see the amount of women now claiming – on the basis that they occasionally break wind as god intended – to have “allergies”, and even more so to see the phenomenal range of extremely expensive products available in supermarkets pandering to the delusions of these self-diagnosed, attention-seeking twits who ate TONS of the stuff for twenty or thirty years or more before realising – thanks to the marvellous allergy test given to them by someone who took a ten minute crash course in eye-dropper handling and tissue swiping – that either (or more commonly both) are/were the cause of every problem in their lives. Ben was GF/DF long before the faddy diets kicked in, you see, and the supermarkets offered bugger-all back then because people with coeliac disease or severe allergies didn’t constitute a big enough demographic to be worth catering for. And then along came Carol bloody Vorderman and her detox diet and – wallop: shelves full of the stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, I know some people are genuinely allergic and that the effects of contact or consumption can be life threatening. But by god there are some delusional dollops out there, and when I get some middle-aged women telling me stories of how they blow up like balloons after eating one Tuc cracker I can’t help but wonder why it took them so bloody long to put two-and-two together when cause and effect were so clearly and obviously signposted. ‘I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate,’ I think. *tsk*
Woolworths: Don’t you miss it? Yes, me too. We all do, I think. And their wonderful Christmas adverts. What a pity we all switched to buying our crap from Amazon. And I bet Woolworths paid their taxes. And their staff. All those Saturday jobs for 14-16yr olds. Bugger. Shot ourselves in the foot there, ennit?