Mishearing or misremembering

I was writing to a friend and was saying something about being prepared for action (writing action, actually!) and having said ‘man the pumps‘ and ‘all hands on deck‘, I was going to add ‘ready aye ready‘ – meaning ready always ready, when I suddenly thought that it wasn’t quite right. The pumps and decks reference are navy slang – my friend was a sailor so I was making a bit of a jokey reference; but is ‘ready aye ready‘ correct? or is ‘ready boys/lads ready‘?

I looked it up: ‘aye ready‘ is Rangers Football Club, commonly known as just Glasgow Rangers, motto and  apparently it’s sometimes shortened to just ‘ready’.  The phrase also has a rather controversial connotation in Canada, in its quest for independence from Britain, and  “became tainted with the feeling of a blind following of another country’s politics”:


It was a long road to being its own country and state:

Independence from the United Kingdom

  • Confederation July 1, 1867
  • Statute of Westminster December 11, 1931
  • Patriation April 17, 1982

I continued to look for the phrase, and I think I have found why it seemed familiar to me. When my son was much younger he became a Sea Cadet, and their motto is… Ready Aye Ready! So that is how I knew it! And yes, there is a naval connection!

… oh, and I was probably also thinking of the song, Hearts of Oak which has the refrain ‘ready, boys ready, we’ll fight and we’ll conquer again and again!’


I’m fascinated by words, and how they arrived in our everyday language; sometimes it’s quite obvious, you can guess they were Old English of one sort or another or  came from another language – especially Latin, not just brought by the Romans, but as used in the church and monasteries, and law etc, or French as brought by the Normans.

The other day I used the word quandary (and I confess I had to check the spelling because I thought it was ‘quandry‘ – and me an English teacher!) and I thought it must come from Latin, maybe via French, so I looked it up.  Actually, it just arrived some time in the sixteenth century, and although it might have come from Latin ‘quando’ meaning when, it’s more likely to have been what the Online Etymology Dictionary describes as ‘a quasi-Latinism’.

There are plenty of synonyms for it:

  • bewilderments
  • bind
  • Catch-22
  • clutch
  • corner
  • delicate situation
  • difficulty
  • dilemma
  • double trouble
  • doubt
  • embarrassment
  • hang-up
  • impasse
  • mire
  • perplexity
  • pickle
  • plight
  • predicament
  • puzzle
  • spot
  • strait
  • uncertainty
  • up a tree

… and that’s a shortened version of the list I found!

‘Quando’ made me think of the song… Connie Francis, born Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero, sings ‘Quando, quando, quando’


We didn’t have any pets as children which is surprising in a way because my mum’s family had carts, and my dad’s always had dogs – I heard so many stories about two of them, Sam an Irish wolfhound retriever cross, and Digger a liver and white spaniel. We lived in a flat and dad always told us that pets weren’t allowed… which was not exactly true, but I guess there were reasons why we never had a creature in our home.

… I say never, but in fact we did have goldfish – my sister who was the most cack-handed thrower managed to win seven goldfish at Midsummer Fair. (I just looked up the etymology of cack-handed, and actually, you probably don’t want to know what its origins are!) Somehow, and I can’t remember how, we managed to persuade the parents to let us have a budgie.

Our first budgie was called Twinch and was a real character, very aggressive, full of himself, but at the same time could be affectionate. Budgies don’t live very long and he was replaced by Brindie who was a much calmer bird with blue colouring but a yellow face. Our last budgie was mac,who was a great talker, but he did get a bit muddled with the different phrases he had learned, jumbling up the words to make his own sentences.

When we had children they too wanted pets, but in our case it just wasn’t practical, for various reasons we had to do a lot of travelling and we both worked all day. However, we did have two pairs of rats, who were the most delightful, intelligent, friendly and sweet creatures with impeccable table manners! Babe and Tallon, then Fifi and Sox – sadly none of them got much past their second birthdays. Then came the Ninja rabbit, Solo… she was a Netherland dwarf and very malevolent  lop-eared bunny; much as I tried to love her, she reciprocated with bites, growls and scratches.

Now we have no pets, only our visitor, and much-loved Smirnoff:

Word of the day… worth a repeat…

I used to regularly choose a word and write about it… maybe I should start doing that again!

Here is something I wrote four years ago:

I was writing a comment on an article about the The Deer Stone at the medieval religious site of Glendalough; The Deer Stone is a bullaun stone… which is a big stone or boulder with a man-made hollow like a basin in the top of it. The article mentioned that no-one really knew what they were made for, maybe as a primitive mortar to grind things; I’ve seen these stones at holy sites and just assumed they had been carved contemporaneously with the religious building as a stoup for holy water.
I spelled the word ‘stoup’ as ‘stoop’ and then that didn’t look right so I checked it and then was amazed to find how many different meanings there were for both spellings.
A stoup, which can actually be stoop, comes from Old English, and originally from Scandinavian and Old Norse (no, not Latin and French this time) and can mean a basin or even font for holy water in a church, or a drinking vessel like a tankard, or a bucket or pail.
Stoop which can only be spelt stoop is a very which means to bend down, which my very tall husband, 6′ 6 ½”, has to do very often. Stooping itself can be done for a variety of reasons, like my husband has to do to go through low doorways, to demean yourself by lowering your standards, to debase yourself to someone else, or – as with birds of prey, to swoop down on your victim. This verb can be used as a noun to describe the way someone walks ‘with a stoop’.
I have also found another meaning of stoop, which I would have known if I’d read it in context, but forgot about it, stoop as the little raised bit at the top of steps before the door… oh and one thing I didn’t know, a stoop can be a pillar or a post.
So there you are, stoop and stoup!

And if you want to know more about the Deer Stone, have a look at this excellent blog:


Sharing again… thrang as Throp’s wife!

I went to my Saxish group the other day, and when I came home I was looking at some blogs i’d posted before, and this seemed to fit very well with what we had jsut done:

I went to my Saxish group today, and as usual the time flew past with so many interesting things talked about and discussed. Although we are mainly interested in the language the Saxon tribes spoke her in Somerset a millennium ago, we end up talking about all sorts of things, the beginning of language, the roots of common words, the movement of peoples, vowel shifts, pagan temples, mangelwurzels…

We had just had coffee when Bob, our group leader, suddenly asked if any of us knew what ‘thrang as Throp’s wife‘ meant… well I for one certainly didn’t! Others vaguely remembered hearing it said and there was a lot of laughter and discussion about it… but when I got home, I wasn’t sure we actually had a definitive answer but Bob did mention that Throp was sometimes Throop, Thrap or Thorp

I came across an article in the Spectator’s archive which was written in 1931 about this very saying, although sometimes it was ‘As flirting as Throp’s wife‘ – flirting here meaning to go from thing to thing rather than anything romantic (like flitting in fact). Whether it was thrang or flirting, the end of the saying was that she hanged herself either with a cloth or a garter – but the actual meaning of the complete  saying was someone who busied herself but never actually got anything done… sounds like me! However, somewhere else thrang was explained as ‘being over-ears in work’ – I think we’d say ‘up to our necks in work’..

I explored some more and discovered that thrang or sometimes throng means very busy, so anyone can be thrang (I must remember this!)

I found a couple of examples from two different dialect poems from Yorkshire:

Wheer men grind their hearts to guineas,
An’ their mills are awlus thrang,
Turnin’ neet-time into day-time,
Niver stoppin’ th’ whole yeer lang.

(Where men grind their hearts to guines
And their mills are always thrang
Turning night-time into daytime
Never stopping the whole year long.)


Good wheat and wuts and barley-corns
My mill grinds all t’ day lang ;
Frae faave ‘o t’ morn while seven o’ t’ neet
My days are varra thrang.
(Good wheat and oats and barley-corns
My mill grinds all the day long;
From five in the morn until seven of the night
My days are very thrang)

Speaking in other tongues

I’m fascinated by language, and even though I am only fluent in my mother-tongue, English, and only have a good grasp of French, other languages really intrigue me. I can’t tell you how many I have tried to learn – without great success except that I have enjoyed my attempts and got a lot from them in understanding other cultures.

Here are two examples of languages which are native to these islands but only have a few speakers… which make them very precious:


…and from the other end of our country: