Keeping my mouth shut

Somehow we’re halfway through the week before Christmas. Only a few days left. I could swear I lost a day this week already. Being honest, I could probably swear about a lot of things at the moment. I’m choosing not to though. I’m taking the high ground.

“Taking the high ground” is a posh was of saying “keeping your mouth shut” really, isn’t it.

My Grandfather – my Dad’s Dad – was from Yorkshire, and recounted numerous pieces of stock wisdom that have stuck with me over the years. One of the more notable ones went as follows:

“Hear all, see all, and say nowt.”

It’s a pretty good maxim to live by, isn’t it. I think you can probably also describe those following it as “quietly furious”, or “silently indignant”.

There’s a follow-up line that not so many people know:

“If ever tha does owt for nowt, do it for thissen”

I love that. Of course as a parent, and a general dogsbody that gets walked over by most people (while saying nothing about it), we know that it’s a pipe-dream – but it’s a nice pipe-dream at least.

My Grandfather also said the word “bugger” a lot. You could bugger something, something could be buggered, somebody could be a bugger, and if stuck for any other words in a given situation, you could just say “bugger”.

It’s quite rare that you find such a flexible word – a noun, an adjective, a verb, an adverb…

Of course when I was young I didn’t realise what “bugger” really meant. It’s interesting how that works, isn’t it – how people often use words without knowing their true meaning or origin. We learn much of our vocabulary by example, I suppose – and trust that those we are influenced by are knowledgeable, trustworthy, and wise.

We also know that’s not true, don’t we. We’re just gullible, aren’t we. That’s the royal “we”, in case you are wondering.

I love language. I love listening to people wrestle with language as they learn the ropes. I don’t speak any foreign languages fluently, so respect those that can do it enormously. While talking to friends who are multi-lingual, they described it as tuning into a different radio station in their head – or walking into a different room.

A friend a few doors along has a Ukrainian refugee living with them – who has been learning English from scratch over the last few months. We have all been fascinated by the huge leaps she has made in terms of vocabulary, sentence structure, and grammar.

I love the innocent mistakes children make with language too. One of my co-workers recently told a story that almost caused me to spit coffee across the room…

While watching television one evening with his family, an advertisement came on for a well known airline. His young son – who was laying on the carpet in front of the television with his chin propped on his arms – turned to his Dad…

“Dad… have you ever been on a Virgin?”

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