The second of April, 2011: strange unatural beauty

A rare Saturday Clutterbuck (as I have unwisely subscribed to Blog Every Day April and its outrageous demands).

It’s going to be a rather hasty one, and there might be a typ or two, but that’s all right, because this Clutterbuck is actually about typos (I know what you’re thinking: that’s pretty meta. And you’re right, it is).

This all occurred to me when I inadvertently coined the word boniculars yesterday. It got me thinking about the inherent lovability of mis-spellings. Don’t worry, I won’t start quoting Winnie the Pooh, because I don’t want my readership vomiting all over the place (Dorothy Parker used to refer to AA Milne as ‘Whimso’, and she didn’t mean it in a nice way).

Nigel Molesworth is the undisputed master of this sort of thing.

Aktually all boys hav to hav a time when they are not tuough and cabnot even read. There was even a time when i had no culture myself hem-hem which was when my pater and mater thort i was a brane and would win a skolarship.

It is a funny thing about reading when you are a tiny they make you sa Ah-Eh-Ih-Ou-URR etc. which is uterly wet and read about weedy dogs.

I could quote Molesworth all day long (that was from Whizz for Atomms by Geoffrey Willans, illustrated (brilliantly) by Ronald Searle (1956)). But I don’t know why the mis-spellings – which surely ought to be horribly twee – are so brilliantly funny. I don’t know why I always laugh out loud at the line ‘I will uterly tuough you up’. I don’t know why this is one of my favourite lines ever:

Ho to the bathroom. Out flanel and wipe getting most off. Brush front of hair and leave back. Gaze in miror at yore strange unatural beauty.

Maybe it’s just me that likes this kind of thing. Anyway, it makes reading anything from before the 19th century a bit discombobulating, as I can’t help being diverted by the Quixotic spellings and rogue capitalisations (‘Sowe Carrets in your Gardens’ (Richard Gardiner, 1599), so quote a random example).

There’s less hilarity in my final instance. Jude The Obscure (1896): poverty-stricken Jude Fawley returns home to find that his three young children have hanged themselves. The note they’ve left reads:

Done because we are too menny.

If I remember rightly, Michael Winterbottom’s 1996 Jude re-spelt this is ‘to many’, which was if anything more heartbreaking.

Now let’s all go and read some Molesworth to cheer ourselves up.


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