Saturday, February 19, 2011

Eggs are eggs

When I was about 14, I learned a new language, one absolutely guaranteed to infuriate anyone who couldn't speak it: egg language. Egg language has a noble history, having apparently been devised in the early 20th century by suffragettes (for some reason it's easier for women to learn). The rules are that you insert an "egg" in front of every sounding vowel (and "y" where it's used like a vowel), so my first sentence would read as follows:

Wheggen eggI weggas eggabeggout feggorteggeen, eggI leggearned egga neggew leggangueggueggage, weggone eggabseggolegguteleggy gueggaregganteggeed teggo egginfeggureggieggate egganeggyweggone wheggo ceggould neggot speggeak eggit: eggegg leggangueggueggage.

My sister Claire and I learned it from a sort-of friend of mine, K, who was rather an annoying sort of girl, a game player, a would be mysterious "witch", a girl fond of affecting to walk about everywhere in bare feet, and as it turned out a plain old backstabber; and we used to speak it in any situation where, essentially, we wanted to discuss something and not be understood by adults and/or the person we were talking about. A plain old backstabber's charter, you might say, except that anyone overhearing us talk in egg language would know with absolute certainty that there were terrible secrets afoot or, worse, that they were being laughed at.

I can still speak it without even thinking. So deeply has it entrenched itself in my brain that I awoke at 3am recently with the firm belief that I needed to start reading the news in egg language for egg-speakers worldwide, and that I must communicate this brilliant idea to my sister with all due dispatch.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Square peg

The other day, hanging some clothes out on the balcony, I mused to myself about the clothes peg: what a simple, yet effective object it is, which in essence hasn't changed for hundreds of years (although life was clearly improved by the invention of the spring-loaded version by David M. Smith of Vermont in 1853). In a flash, the simple act of pegging clothes out to dry connected me with centuries of human beings, and in my own memory, with my younger self, hanging clothes out on a line strung between trees, most now tragically cut down, next to the cottage where I grew up (hoping against hope they'd be dry in time to wear); with a woman glimpsed from a Berlin-bound train in East Germany in 1986, who paused to look up from her wet sheets as we flashed by her green hillside; with, for some reason, and fancifully, pre-Revolution French washerwomen hanging Madame's couture gowns in Paris apartments and Edinburgh housewives draping bloomers over the narrow streets of the Canongate; and finally, and according to Wikipedia, "the little person one drags around in Google Maps" who is called "pegman" because he is shaped like a clothespeg.

There's something so wonderful about freshly-washed, fresh-air-dried clothes: begone the dull, environmentally-unfriendly convenience of the clothes-dryer! Give me a clothes peg and a washing line any day of the week.