The man with the backward lean

Here’s something I wrote a couple of years ago about my dad and his colourful language – no, it wasn’t rude, it was interesting, vivid and always brought a story to life. As well as slang of various sorts, he had his own phrases ‘the man with the backward lean’, ‘a touch of the Esmés’ and more… Here is what I wrote:

My dad was always using strange, funny and interesting words; some were old words from his childhood, some he must have picked up the seven years he was in the army, others he just acquired, and some he made up.

Rhyming-slang is well-known as coming from London, but my family came from Cambridge and none had ever lived in ‘the Smoke’ as they called it; I don’t know if this means that rhyming slang reached further than the sound of Bow Bells, or whether it was something he picked up from the radio or whether people in 1920’s and 30’s Cambridge just used it… who knows? However he would often in casual conversation, talk about mincers, meaning eyes (mince-pies) plates – feet (plates of meat) and he always said whistle – suit (whistle and flute) and lugholes – ears (how that arrived from the rhyming Toby jugs – lugs, I don’t know!) here are some more – rocks or almonds, socks (almond rocks whatever almond rocks are) rub-a-dub – pub, hallf-inch -pinch (to steal)

Gravy was always gyppo, sausages were bangers, children were ankle-biters, and there were all the usual terms for money, tanner, bob, tenner (meaning ten shillings not ten pounds, ditto fiver) oncer (£1 note) He was in Italy during the war and I remember him habitually using Italian words such as latte and luce.

However, he also had words which I am sure he made up, not deliberately, but they just sort of arrived. he was a fabulous cook and used to make a wonderful lamb stew using lentils, pear barley, split peas as well as lots of vegetables. For some reason he always called this soup mix of pulses ‘lentils and gentils’ and i am sure this was one of his own inventions. I did wonder if gentil might be an old-fashioned term for dried pulses, but no, it means kind or thoughtful.

So… I made a lamb stew today and of course as well as lamb, onions, carrots and swede, in went a couple of cups of lentils and gentils!


  1. David Lewis

    No already had that. I have blood in the retinal fluid that has to removed and the cause corrected maybe by laser. Can’t fly home after surgery so scrambling to make plans to get ride home. Every thing is so far in Canada so going home will take 12 hours by car. Good thing it’s not winter. Getting old is a bitch but the alternative is worse. Thank God for my wonderful wife.

    Liked by 1 person

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