Forty Thousand!

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No wonder the Sun has been an object of worship! Today our solar panels reached another meaningful milestone: meaningful to us roundists, anyway. Forty is a special number: forty days and forty nights, life begins at forty, the roaring forties, Ali Baba and the forty thieves, forty winks… But raise it by three orders of magnitude, and you have something grand!

And I remember a popular song from the forties – or maybe the fifties, but it fits my narrative better if it was the forties. The song was about 2-year-old Johnny Brown’s impressive cockney utterance: “Faw’y Fahs’nd Fevvers on a Frush!”

Billy Cotton delivering his trademark “Wakey-wakey!”

I knew about feathers and thrushes, and I knew about big numbers, but for some reason I always heard ‘frush’ as ‘brush’ and assumed that bristles could also be referred to as feathers.

The song was written by Paul Boyle and Eddie Carroll, of whom I know in no other context, and was popularised by the great Billy Cotton in the equally great Billy Cotton Band Show on the BBC Light Programme.

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Lucy Zelić’s Pronunciation

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Here in Australia we have a public TV station called SBS (Special Broadcasting Service), designed to cater for the needs of minority ethnic groups. Among its multilingual staff is a sports presenter called Lucy Zelić (pictured). I don’t know enough about sport to know how good she is in that role, but other people say she’s pretty good. In particular she knows how to pronounce sportspeople’s names correctly.

Incredibly, that skill has attracted trolls. Some people prefer foreigners’ names to be pronounced as though they were English. I don’t know if that’s some kind of linguistic imperialism, preference for the familiar or just laziness, but it puts me in mind of a story by Jerome K Jerome that I read when I was about 9 years old. I was in hospital for a couple of weeks and, having come close to choking with laughter over ‘Three Men in a Boat’, I took a book of JKJ’s short stories to read in my hospital bed.

The story was set in the First World War, in which he served as an ambulance-driver for the French Army, having been turned down by the British because of his age. I forget the name or the main theme of this particular story, but in it a young officer is berated for pronouncing Ypres as ‘Eepr’ instead of ‘Wipers’ like his fellows. Ever since then I have made an effort to pronounce foreign words and names in the same way as their linguistic owners. So I salute you, Lucy!