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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Towards more picturesque English

Anyone who spent their childhood summers in self-catering holiday cottages in which the only form of indoor entertainment (holiday cottages did not come replete with televisions in those days) was a stack of mouldering Readers Digest magazines will recognise the title of this blog entry.

(I have never really been sure what the point of Readers Digest is: having always valued writing-style at least as highly as content, I am prone to wincing when the former is hacked to pieces in pursuit of brevity. The magazine itself is strange enough, but the appeal of the hardback dilutions of literary masterpieces is entirely beyond me.)

My poor mother: those holidays must have been exhausting for her. You had to take all your own bedlinen with you - it wouldn't fit in the boot of the car, so my brothers and I sat in the back seats with it under our feet, and our knees consequently up round our elbows - and vast quantities of food. She spent the week beforehand in a frenzy of shopping and baking and packing and planning, and recounts a recurring nightmare about an endless parade of wellington boots which all had to be fitted in to the family suitcases. We didn't eat out while we were on holiday. Prior to each of our day-long hikes in the countryside and/or tramps around stately homes, she would have to make up sandwiches, fruit, slices of cake and flasks of drink for five, and stow them all away safely where they wouldn't leak.

We went to the Forest of Dean one Whit week, and the weather was so bad that my father twice condescended to buy choc ices for the whole family. This, whilst very exciting for us children, was deemed to be an insupportable extravagance and was one which we were never to enjoy again.

But I digress.

It's a bad habit.

I'd like to blame the Tramadol, but I suspect it's really my age.

If you buy lovely things from Etsy sellers who are neither UK- nor US-based, you will find yourself in conversation with people who, in addition to their enviable artistic skills, have no trouble at all in conversing with you in what is their second - or possibly even third - language.

(Given that there was a time when - had the Internet existed then, and had I been in possession of an appropriate keyboard - I could have done the same in Greek, I feel fractionally less ashamed about this than I might otherwise have done.)

Last weekend, I bought this glorious fat necklace from a very nice Belgian lady called Karlita. (No necklace/scarf confusion here: this is one continuous loop of felted wool.) Anyway, so Karlita and I got chatting on the Etsy conversation screens - as you do - and she ended one of her messages with,

"warm wishes (do people say that? - in Dutch we say 'groetjes' which means little greetings - I like that but it does not translate well in English)".

How wonderful is that?

As "little greetings" is clearly a salutation by which the English language would be greatly enriched - and as it is infinitely preferable to the now-ubiquitous, horribly-girly and decidedly-un-British "hugs" - I'd like to encourage the scant handful of people who continue to read this blog to adopt it.

If I were braver than I actually am, I would start using it to sign off from my work emails. As it is, I think I'll save it for my personal correspondence for now...

Little greetings,

The Editor


Blogger Atomic Ephemera said...

That is an excellent word. I wonder how you pronounce it?

5:44 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My uncle - from whom I've not had a birthday card in decades took it into his head to give me a Readers Digest subscription for Christmas. In the name of all that is good and whole, WHY???? I rang to say - through gritted teeth - "Really, you shouldn't have..." He laughed.


9:29 pm  
Blogger Sakura said...

I love that word "groetjes" :D my other half is Dutch so I know it well
♥ it is a very lovely word indeed.

Little greetings from Sakura x

4:54 am  
Blogger karlita said...

ha ha (well, that is dutch again) - so much fun to read this here! Groetjes, karlita ps actually hugs is a cute word in dutch too - dikke knuffel (which means big fat hug)

4:55 pm  
Blogger kelly said...

oh dear. Receiving the word "hugs" at the bottom of a note from English friends always led me to believe I was the recepient of some special honor. I guess I shouldn't assume a matrimonial proposal will be forthcoming?

12:14 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...


Many years ago, in the dim and distant past in which I did voluntary work with deprived children during my long summer vacations from university, I worked with some Dutch people. They brought paperback novels in Dutch with them.

It was then that I realised that - unlike with most other European languages - to a native English-speaker, Dutch looks as if you could read it quite easily if only you had the key to unlock the code.

I'm not expressing this very clearly, I'm afraid, but I just got the impression that it's structured in a very similar way to English. The sentences looked like the sort of sentences I was accustomed to seeing.

I never pursued it, of course, choosing instead to live in Greece and learn Greek. Now there is a language the structure of which is not at all intuitive to an English-speaker...

7:01 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...


It would depend on the individual.

Being of the old school myself, I would only send hugs to someone I would actually hug if we met. (And bear in mind that we Brits are a reserved bunch and are not known for dishing out hugs left, right and centre.)

But the younger generation seems to have latched on to it a lot more as a general, all-purpose method for signing-off from emails or forum posts. Makes me cringe, personally, when it's used indiscriminately, but I'm becoming increasingly resigned to finding myself to be out of step with majority opinion... ;-)

7:10 pm  

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