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Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive oh!

14 Apr

The following posting is by a fellow blogger, a professor and gentleman in Carmel, California. In this posting he is thanking his many friends for remembering his birthday, saying that It warms the cockles of my heart. He and his musings can be found here: http://www.oldprof.com./. A visit to his blog can be very rewarding—he has many stories to tell and many thoughts to share, and you may be assured that he tells the stories well and shares them freely, spiced with heart and soul and humor. Try his blog—you’ll like it—I guarantee it.

This is a recent posting by The Old Professor at 7:52 AM on Mar 27, 2010:

Thanks to the thousands—hundreds—many—friends who wished us well on our birthday. It warms the cockles of my heart even though I have no idea what cockles actually are. (I think I’m beginning to talk like Groucho Marx.)

Who is Groucho Marx? Use Google to look it up and while you’re there, look up cockles and you’ll find that no one else seems to know what the word cockles, as it’s used in that expression, actually means either.

Thanks again, and by the way, don’t let anyone kid you. Being 87 isn’t all that bad, especially when one considers the alternatives for people born in 1923.

And now on to my posting for a definition of cockles and introductions to Sweet Molly Malone, Shell Scott, Richard S. Prather, Reverend William Archibald Spooner and something known as spoonerisms.

From Wikipedia: Warms the cockles of my heart refers to the ventricles of the heart. In medieval Latin, the ventricles of the heart were at times called cochleae cordis, where the second word is an inflected form of cor, heart. They are frequently heart-shaped (their formal zoological genus was at one time Cardium, of the heart), with ribbed shells. Those unversed in Latin could have misinterpreted cochleae as cockles, or it might have started out as a university in-joke.

In England cockle refers to an edible mollusk. An old British song says that a girl named Sweet Molly Malone wheels her wheelbarrow through streets wide and narrow, crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive oh! Sweet Molly Malone was probably a seller of fish as well as other marine edibles, and her song may have changed when cockles and mussels were out of season—who knows? You can find her at http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-coc2.htm).

Also from Wikipedia: A spoonerism is an error in speech or a deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched. It is named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), warden of New College, Oxford, who was notoriously prone to this tendency.

Most of the quotations attributed to Spooner in literature were probably never uttered by William Spooner himself, but rather were made up by colleagues and students as a pastime. Here are a few examples:

Three cheers for our queer old dean.

It is kisstomary to cuss the bride.

A blushing crow.

A well-boiled icicle.

You were fighting a liar.

Is the bean dizzy?

Someone is occupewing my pie.

Please sew me to another sheet.

You have hissed all my mystery lectures.

You have tasted a whole worm.

A nosey little cook.

And now I come to the real reason for this posting: Please allow me to introduce two of my all-time favorite literary personalties—Shell Scott, a hard-boiled Hollywood private detective, and his creator, author Richard S. Prather. Read about Richard and Shell here: http://www.thrillingdetective.com/scott.html.

In one of the Shell Scott novels the protagonist (Scott) exclaims, “That really warms the cockles of my heart.” However, he deliberately voiced it as a spoonerism, one that, at least for me, was clever and very funny. I’ll leave it up to the reader to convert the sentence to a spoonerism. I must admit that I’ve used the conversion a few times over the years—it’s a great ice-breaker, whether in the rocker loom or at pocktail carties. Oh, and just a tiny hint as to how to convert Scott’s remark to a spoonerism—not that I think many readers will have trouble with the conversion, but for the one in a million that might not get it. The key words are cockles and heart, so here is a push towards the conversion: warms the harkles of my . . . .

Nuff said!

One of the best known spoonerisms is one that a marrying minister says to the groom—And now it is kisstomary to cuss the bride. I first heard that one as a little boy, told to me by my mother. She occasionally uttered spoonerisms (or sputtered unerrisms) of her own, such as Okay, kids, put on your japs and cackets. She once sent me to the store for a package of blazor rades.

During my tour of duty in wartime Korea we used a similar reversal of terms to show the difference between being there rather than back home by saying, “Back home I would come in at night and remove my jacket and jumper, but over here I come in at night and remove my jumper and jacket.”

That one is a bit naughty, perhaps, and not a true spoonerism, although reversing the terms paints a very different picture, as do most spoonerisms—and it is pretty funny—don’t ya think?

Well, anyway, it was at the time. Humor in combat zones is a scarce commodity, and we took it wherever we could find it.

Okay, I can’t resist it—I can’t help it—it’s in my nature, and I must tell a spoonerism joke—please forgive me! Here it is: How does a magician’s act differ from the Radio City Rockettes? Give up? The magician has a cunning line of stunts, and Radio City has a stunning line of  . . . .

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2 Comments

Posted by on April 14, 2010 in Humor, Uncategorized, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 responses to “Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive oh!

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