Corny confusion leads to blushes

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When my middle son Jasper was five, he had a memorable way of pronouncing the name of a certain cinema snack

Following my notes about the pronunciation of the word ‘Ruswarp’ I have had some interesting comments come in.

If you recall, I had written about a dog called Ruswarp who was a regular traveller on the Settle to Carlisle railway line, and he and his owner, Graham Nuttall, were instrumental in saving the beautiful route from closure. Sadly, Graham died in the Welsh Mountains soon after the line was reprieved, and his loyal companion was found, alive, next to his body, having endured 11 wintry weeks alone at his master’s side.

I had asked if anyone pronounced the ‘W’ in the dog’s name because every article I came across included the instructions ‘pronounced ‘Russup’’. Those of us familiar with the North Yorkshire village would not need to be told how to say it. Ruswarp lies on the River Esk, just a few miles inland from Whitby, and has its own station on the Middlesborough to Whitby line. I wonder if the dog was named after it, knowing Mr Nuttall’s fondness for walking and train travel?

Margaret Moore got in touch with me through countrymansdaughter.com to say that she used to travel on the train from Glaisdale to Whitby in the 1940s to go to Whitby Grammar School. She remembered a conductor who would announce in a very loud voice that “This is RusWarp”, making a point to enunciate the ‘W’. She adds that the same conductor “also pronounced Grosmont as GroSSmont (a short ‘O’ as in moss), maybe just to amuse the passengers? I know he was a local man.” Most of us North Yorkshire folk would use a long ‘O’ and not pronounce the ‘S’ at all.

My mum also phoned me, having received a call from her sister, and they both remembered this conductor and his peculiar pronunciations. She said that he would also pronounce ‘dale’ as if it had no vowels, so Glaisdale became ‘Glaisdl’ and Commondale became ‘Commondl’. I don’t recall Dad, who came from Glaisdale, ever pronouncing it like that but I do think his mother would on occasion, if speaking with other locals. If, however, she was speaking to those from further afield, she would more likely say it the ‘posh’ way, using the full ‘dale’ ending.

It brings to mind those occasions when we unknowingly get our words all wrong. When I was little, we attended church every Sunday, and it was a long time before I learned that I didn’t need to thank Peter God (whoever that was), but that I should have been saying ‘Thanks be to God’.

There was also a branch of a well-known stationery chain in York and the sign on the shop front always confused me. I just didn’t know how to pronounce the letters ‘WHS’ when they appeared together with no punctuation or vowels in between the letters. I don’t know how long I persisted with my version, but it wasn’t until they started advertising on TV that I realised that my ‘WuhSmith’ was in fact W.H.Smith.  

Another one which made me giggle was a Dutch acquaintance who shared my student accommodation in the 1980s. He was a good cook, and liked to get quality meat from the local butcher. When I asked where he had bought it, he said it came from ‘De Wurst’. I hadn’t heard of that one, so got him to try to explain where it was, but I was still confused. It was only when walking in town a few days later, that the penny dropped as I stopped outside ‘Dewhurst, The Master Butcher’. He could be forgiven, considering ‘De Wurst’ in Dutch means ‘The Sausage’.

But my two favourites of all time come from my middle son, Jasper, and are the sort that have passed into family legend. Aged about five, he had no idea why I burst into fits of giggles when he asked me if he could have a ‘meringue-utan’ for pudding.

But his most memorable word invention came on a trip to the cinema. As we queued at the counter, he asked if he could have that popular snack made of puffed up corn kernels. The problem was, he got his c’s and p’s the wrong way round.

And if you can work out what he actually said, then you might understand why there were giggles and blushes and all round!

Contact me, and read more, at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 10th and the Gazette & Herald on 8th September 2021

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