Beetlepoppers and Ferry Cakes

Who let that pumpkin in? Who? Who?

Every family – however big, however small – has its own secret language. One known, and amusing, only to themselves.

Even the little nuclear family of my husband, Gerald C Dalek, Arthur C Rat, Mr Fish and I have our own private stock of words and phrases which make sense only to us, and which makes no one else smile. (1) For example, when choosing a fresh towel from the airing cupboard, he sometimes says: “I’ll have the black one. Because my soul is black.” Only we know that the second sentence is a quote from the then-teenaged daughter of a former acquaintance.

Some of our stock phrases originate from the telly, including the late, lamented “Spitting Image”. “Spit”, as an old colleague of mine somewhat disconcertingly used to call it, was full of useful expressions, phrases, and songs, of which “The Chicken Song” is the best known.

Another couple we knew liked to use the phrase “Vanished … like an old oak table”, which is from one of the first “Blackadder” series. Then there’s my favourite, “Doctor Who”, which has jelly baby bags worth of useful expressions, both from so-called “Classic Who“, and “Nu Who“, as the current series is sometimes called.

Then there’s what I’m calling “the accidents of accent”. My meandering Michigan-Yorkshire accent means there are certain sounds I took years to learn: aka, “ooo”, as in duke, tulip, Dewsbury, etc. I still say “book” rather than “booook”, although in the case of my monthly radio show, “Book It!“, some have said it sounds as if I were saying “Bucket!” (2)

Which brings me to the photo above. Some writer friends came round, shortly before Halloween. I baked buns (4). Specifically, “faery” or “fairy” cakes.

Or, as I seem doomed to say, “ferry cakes”. You know, the kind you put in your snap tin for those long, cross-channel journeys.

I think it’s a MidWestern thing. It also means that unless I concentrate, I cannot differentiate between “Mary”, “marry”, or “merry”.

There are, it seems, certain British or indeed Yorkshire sounds I may never manage. Perhaps it’s genetic. My Romanian grandmother, Mama Buna, lived in America for over a lifetime, yet still said things like “lukey-warm” instead of “lukewarm”. She and Mosu both had accents so thick, you could marinate stuffed cabbage in them.

Ah, well. The buns were tasty. And the ferries danced beautifully.

And “beetlepoppers”?  It was what my sister used to call “hundreds and thousands” when she was a child. I believe “hundreds and thousands” is the British term. I can’t remember the American one.

They’ll always be “beetlepoppers” to me.

Our 2014 pumpkin, aka Mr Pumpkinescu, in relaxed, post-Halloween mode.

Our 2014 pumpkin, Mr Pumpkinescu, in relaxed, post-Halloween mode.

(1) Except Gerald, of course. Gerald never smiles. He’s not so good with the washing up, either.

(2) That’s right: it’s a programme about books, writing, and the relative merits of your basic red plastic bucket, versus a grey one with the thingy in it to wring out mops. (3)

(3) Seriously …”Bucket!”?

(4) That’s “buns”, with an emphasis on the “uuu” sound. If you call them “cupcakes”, you can’t offer them to visitors, then say “You’re not bun to have one.”

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About Sheila North

I am an author and ex-journalist, who has written novels, short stories, and poems. I also help facilitate a writers' group. Check me out on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sheila-North/
This entry was posted in Immigrant Me, Language & accents, Nostalgia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Beetlepoppers and Ferry Cakes

  1. FirstEdition says:

    Know what you mean about ‘in-house language’. My personal corruptions of language stem from camping holidays in France. Camping is very much an all inclusive activity even if your neighbours speak a completely different language. Camping is also a great opportunity to observe other human beings. Hence the oft repeated phrase, ‘Freds reverse parking at 3 o’clock’ which instantly provides a good twenty to thirty minutes of entertainment for me and my companions as we peer over the top of our books to watch a very tired French caravaner trying desperately to reverse park in a space that is far too small. ‘Freds’ derives from Freddy Frog and the reference to the clock is the pitch to my right.
    And of course, the facilities on campsites are for everyone, so, out of politeness I never went to the toilet, but to the library instead. Library being a contraction of the phrase ‘Bogleian Library’ which is a corruption of the name of that very famous institution in Oxford!
    And then of course there are the clothes that other holiday makers wear – oh dear!!! And in such situations one has to be ultra careful about what one says when camping. ‘Fredess in silk and bootees at 6 o’clock,’ could be guaranteed to have the males in the camping party out in the awning in seconds. ‘Fredess’ meaning French woman – usually blonde, face full of make-up and haired perfectly coiffeured even though she has clearly only just got out of bed at 2 in the afternoon – ‘silk’ meaning very short shiny nightdress – usually bright red or black – and ‘bootees’ meaning those kitten-heeled, open-toed pink indoor shoes with fluffy bits on top masquerading as slippers. And 6 o’clock meaning directly in front of us.

  2. Heidie Makes says:

    Cute! 🙂

  3. sjn25 says:

    Mon Dieu! That is a *very* detailed secret language, First Edition. By any chance did you help crack the “Enigma” Code in a past life? Or perhaps spy for Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin?

  4. sjn25 says:

    Indeed! Which is why I asked the question…

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