I’m sure I’m going to hear a mass groan from my audience when I say the next three words!
Way back when…… (Yes, there it is! “Hello fans”) I was working in Norwich (from 1979 to 1983 inclusive) I found myself back under the command of the Barclays Bank Trust Company Tax Manager who took me on in Ipswich in 1974.
His name was Eric and he was an old fashioned “Captain Mainwaring” type of Manager and a complete gentleman.
“But I thought you universally hated Managers!” I hear you cry!
To which my reply is that I think you’ll find I said “most Managers” !
Eric was one of two Barclays Office Managers I did get on with; the other, in the late 1980s was something of a Tax Academic who spent most of his time engrossed in the 1952, 1970 and 1988 Income Tax Acts – a kind of fiscal Narnia from which he would occasionally emerge to collect our letters for signing.
In the Norwich office, however, Eric was fine – it was his deputy I couldn’t stand!
This guy thought he was Adonis! He was tall, blonde, fit and fancied himself nearly as much as he imagined the women of Norwich fancied him.
He was always trying to be “one of the lads” with the rest of us in the clerical “other ranks” and we didn’t really want to know! His favourite joke was to say “What does a man with a big dick have for breakfast? Well today I had Bacon, Egg……!” With as short a gap between question and answer as he could manage.
Amongst ourselves we thought he was saying it wrong. “What does a man who IS a big dick have for breakfast?” would be more like it! I suppose he must have had something going for him because he got one of the typists pregnant a while after I left!
But this isn’t about HIM – it’s about Eric or rather his reaction to one particular event.
We were quite a bright crew doing the donkey work in that office (if we could’ve ditched the blonde bombshell it would have been idyllic) and one day someone came across a letter from a client who was clearly very well educated and had used a word none of us knew. After looking it up and determining its correct usage we collectively came up with a bright idea.
We would all dictate our letters into our little tape machines as usual but whenever possible would include the archaic word just to see who noticed.
It usually took a couple of days for tapes to be turned into letters and when the first lot went in for Eric’s signature most of had forgotten what was going on. We were soon reminded – the afternoon signing period was usually silent but suddenly we heard Eric give a great guffaw of laughter. His raised voice then carried over the filing cabinets to us.
“OK” he called, “ONE of you come in here and tell me what it means!”
So one of us did and he let all of those letters (about thirty in all) pass out to the customers and the Inland Revenue – although the latter almost certainly wouldn’t have understood.
“Golden Boy” only grumbled and said HE would have stopped them all and would have made us get them all retyped!
The word in question, a small, unobtrusive thing was ANENT and it means “with regard to” or “concerning”.
If you have ever written letters, business or otherwise, in reply to a letter received, you will see that this is quite a useful word and would, over the course of a year, save quite a few keystrokes.
Unfortunately we were unable to take the game any further because we quite simply lacked the facilities to find, except by accident any more of these old, unwanted but decidedly useful words.
A dictionary of outmoded or out of fashion English words would have been very handy butlists of that sort had to await the coming of the Internet and you can look up just about ANYTHING on there!
And, would you believe it has taken from 1982 until now for me to actually get around to doing that?
The first of many similar sites that I found on the subject produced a list of archaic terms with their meanings and I was surprised at the number that I actually knew.
At first I thought “Well they can’t be THAT archaic, can they?” but then it occurred to me that as a result of school and personal choice I have, over the years, been exposed to rather a large portion of the works of William Shakespeare!
And, if only the English Literature syllabus had called for us to do Julius Caesar or Henry the Fifth instead of bloody “Twelfth Night” I might have had FOUR GCE “O” Levels instead of only three!
There were, however, quite a number of words which, while they may have appeared in some of Master Will’s tales, I hadn’t previously come across.
I’ve listed some of them and their meanings here:
Anent = “with regard to” or “concerning”
Endlong = “lengthwise”
Hight = “named” or “called”
Maugre = “in spite of”
Semovedly = “separately”
Sweven = “a vision seen in sleep” or “a dream”
Swoopstake = “in an indiscriminate manner”
Thole = “to endure” or “to suffer”
Usward = “toward us”
Yonside = “on the farther side of”
And your homework for the holiday period is to include as many of them as you can in your correspondence, Thank You letters, emails etcetera.
There will be a House Point (and possibly some credit on this site) for the Boy or Girl who uses most of them in one document and proves it to me. Email your evidence to firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh , and in case I don’t post anything before it “A Happy Winter Solstice” to you all.