Last week I went with my friend’s daughter (H) to a talk and book signing arranged by our local independent book shop.
Now H has just completed her finals and was home for a few days before returning to university for a final week (or two?) of celebrations. Her degree is in English and Linguistics. And yes, I’m still not sure what linguistics are, but she does, and loves it, and is planning an MA in the subject (she loves it that much!)
Before going to this book signing I did know that the book being promoted was The Disappearing Dictionary: a treasury of lost English dialect words. I have a general interest in language and words, their usage, derivations and meaning, so I was sure I’d be entertained by the book and (hopefully!) its author. I was out for an evening of light entertainment, a wander through lost words of the English language, and maybe a wee glass of wine to accompany it all…
What I didn’t know was that the author, David Crystal, is actually a professor of and eminent authority on linguistics. H was coming to hear her hero: she has all his books and has studied them in detail for projects and dissertations. Waiting for the event to begin, she was on the edge of her seat.
“That’s him!” she whispered as he walked to the front to be introduced. Her eyes lit up with excitement. It was as if she was meeting God.
In fairness, with his white hair and bushy beard, he did look like God (if you swap shirt-sleeves for a long, flowing robe).
He didn’t disappoint. Entertaining and erudite, clearly a man of vast knowledge and a passion for the English language, he spoke for a generous hour, introducing me to some ‘new’ words – words that have dropped out of local dialect but (and here starts a campaign!) really should be reintroduced. Take crumpsy, for example, meaning ill-tempered or cross. I have quite a few days of being crumpsy… I hope its not smittling (contagious or infectious): I don’t want to argle (argue) with anyone, nor be known as an argler-bargler.
See how easy it is?
David’s obvious delight in meeting H, on hearing of her degree course and future aspirations, was magnificent: she is, of course, his hope for the future of the subject he has studied for many years. With any luck, this won’t be the end, and I’ll be going to H’s book-signings in years to come!
As an aside, I note that next week is Independent Bookshop Week around the country. For me, it is a remarkable privilege to live so near to a fantastic independent bookshop: Simply Books. They are often organising events like this. Book shops are wonderful: do go and support them! We’ll be sorry if they disappear from our high streets.