Word for Wednesday: B is for…bother!

A verb, a noun, an idiom and an interjection.  All from just one word!  Isn’t the English language beautiful?!  On this occasion, the ‘bother’ I am interested in is the interjection.

Bother (interj)

  • chiefly British exclamation of slight annoyance or irritation
  • an exclamation of slight annoyance
  • a mild expression of annoyance.

I love the word ‘bother’ for its complete and utter old-fashioned Englishness. As in ‘Oh bother, look at the blessed rain!  Let’s dash and fetch in the croquet set or everything will be ruined!’. Could you get any more home counties than that?  I don’t honestly think so.

It just fits so comfortably alongside ‘chin, chin’,  ‘golly’, ‘gracious’, ‘fiddlesticks’, ‘pip pip’, and all those other fantastically expressive interjections from times gone by, all washed down with ‘lashings and lashings of ginger beer’ and a cucumber sandwich or two.  And if you don’t know what I’m blathering on about, then you have obviously never read an Enid Blyton children’s book.

Our little girl’s absolute favourite book at the moment is Rosie’s Hat, by Julia Donaldson.  It may not be great literature, not in a grown up sense anyway.  Still, I didn’t promise to stick to books for grown ups or examples of literary greatness in my choices each week!  Besides, it is a thoroughly charming story.

Julia Donaldson is a supreme writer of children’s books and the illustrators that she works with are fantastic.  In this case, Anna Currey.  Although what it is that sets this particular book apart in my daughter’s eyes is hard to say. Aside, that is, from the appearance of a cat on several pages of the story (cue much shrieking of ‘cat-cat!, ‘cat-cat!’ and insistent turning back of pages to look at the picture some more!)

My favourite page in the book does not have a cat in sight, but it does have a brilliant illustration of a rather portly older gentleman, with the wonderful line ‘A fisherman has caught the hat. Bother, bother, drat, drat’.  I can’t help myself but read the line in the character of a posh, gruff, BBC English type of voice.

A fisherman, complete with picnic-scavenging seagulls.

A fisherman, complete with picnic-scavenging seagulls.

I find the innocence of some of those old-fashioned interjections so endearing.  And their expressiveness so refreshing.  Of course, you couldn’t possibly pepper a children’s book with swear words.  Whereas many modern favourites and vintage classics alike are liberally sprinkled with some fabulous interjections.  And with great effect too.

I think that in adult conversation there is conceivably a time and a place for an expressively placed ‘F*?!’, but wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing if we all started enriching our language with ‘darn’, ‘drat’, ‘bother’, ‘cripes’, ‘gadzooks’ and ‘phooey’ again.  So much more interesting and creative, don’t you think? It would be amusing to watch people’s faces when they heard it, if nothing else.


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