Sunday, February 28, 2010

Snow Days

The next part of Subway Map will be next week. Sorry. I've been sick all week, and I need some thinking time before I write the good ones. But something like this one I'm doing now: ha.

I wrote in Winterlong about how happy I was to shovel all the snow in one go without getting tired, because it meant all the exercise I've been getting has made me stronger. If only Nature could leave me to my fantasies. But no. Friday I had to shovel 14 inches again, and this time all I could do before resting was the walk from the house to the street. I will make the following excuses:

1. I was sick. I'd woken up several times in the night with a sore throat. I was weakened by disease. Whine whine, poor me. Does that work for you? If not:

2. It was the Wrong Kind of Snow.

The tough coughed as he ploughed through the dough.

Someone mentioned my spelling of snowplough in Winterlong. I know it's archaic in the United States. I like the obfuscation of it. It says snowpluff, doesn't it? But we know better.

It reminds me of the time Helen and I went to see Windsor Castle while we were in London. There are two ways to go by rail. Since we were staying not far from Paddington station we took the route from there, which requires changing to a branch line at Slough. I wondered if I would need to mention Slough when I bought the tickets. I was willing to give it a go and was deciding which pronunciation to try. By chance when we got there an announcement was being made about a train leaving in ten minutes that stopped at Slough, so I didn't need to guess. It turned out it rhymes with plough.

The town has been much maligned over the years, and I will avoid joking about it myself only because we couldn't see any of it from the railway besides ugly commercial buildings. John Betjeman, named much later Poet Laureate, wrote in 1937, "Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough / It isn't fit for humans now". That's a bit much for a town to bear. But it shows that he knew how to pronounce it.

What came to my mind then was the phrase Slough of Despond. That's not a good association. But that slough rhymes with through, so it may be a totally different word.

What comes to my mind now is that Slough was the fictional site of The Office. That's probably not good either. 

I thought of a lame pronunciation joke I heard many years ago, and I have tracked it down. I don't know why some things stick in my head from childhood, or whenever this was. Here is the oldest reference I could find on the net.

In a letter to the editor of Time magazine, published November 2, 1929, Robert Withington of Northampton, Mass, wrote:


Mr. Gallagher's letter (TIME, Nov. 18, p. 8) suggests the story of the American who had been constantly corrected in his pronunciation of English proper names, until his patience was well-nigh exhausted: his English friend happening to refer to Niagara Falls, the American was prompt to correct him. "No, no," he said, "at home we pronounce it Niffles."

And Mr Withington makes no claim to originating the joke. I wonder how old it is. Before long it will attributed to Mark Twain.

Look. Snow.

I cleared the walk, went inside and found the camera, and here it is with a few minutes' accumulation.

The wet snow really stuck to the evergreens.

This was later on, when some blue sky began to appear. I like the colors in this one.

Next time: Subway Map II.

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