Monthly Archives: June 2012

Reclaim the Trolls


For me, trolls will always be supernatural creatures. So I was relieved to discover that Louise Mensch’s troll, Frank Zimmerman, at least had the decency to resemble a wizard.

Recently, the term troll has been appropriated to describe sad internet stalkers. But I was brought up to believe a troll was a weird Scandinavian being, lurking in a mountain cave.

In one Norse saga, a troll described himself as a

Giant wealth-sucker,
Destroyer of the storm-sun,
Guardian of the corpse fjord,
Swallower of sunlight –
What is a troll other than that?

I associated trolls with Norway and the composer Grieg. He even lived in a house called Trolls’ Knoll.

But then along came a Danish fisherman, Thomas Dam, who invented those risible Troll Dolls. They took off in the 60s and 70s. I resented them. They belittled the gloomy trolls of my imagination.

That was, of course, followed by the Harry Potter troll which was a sort of cross between Wayne Rooney and Ann Widdecombe.

And now the blinking internet’s pinched the word troll and ruined it again.

I demand a return to real trolls, skulking under bridges and jumping out to frighten people. I may even found a Real Troll Society.

Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizit

‘Please reuse your bags’ said a sign outside Tesco. And, as ever, I prounounced ‘reuse’ in my head as ‘rurze’ – sort of French sounding, rhyming with ‘Chartreuse’ or ‘purrs’. I simply can’t read ‘reuse’ as re-use, with two syllables. But it’s officially correct. Even the OED ditches the hyphen.

I have the same problem with ‘miniseries’ (mini-series) which I always pronounce in my head as ‘min-IZ-erries’ (same syllable stress as pat-ISS-eries). And that makes me think of ‘min-IZ-erries’ as quaint miseries – ‘Alas, the vicissitudes and min-IZ-erries of life.’

I once knew an old Cambridge don who insisted on pronouncing ‘perseverence’ as ‘per-SEVV-erance’ and ‘reminiscence’ as ‘re-MINN-isence’ which I rather liked. I still do that sometimes in private.

And my mum used to think ‘bedraggled’ was pronounced ‘BED-raggled’ when she was a child.

As for ‘reuse’, I’m all for ditching hyphens if you can get away with it. And, speaking German, I like the Teutonic habit of just shoving a load of words together to make a new one. As Mark Twain said, ‘Some German words are so long that they have a perspective.’

My favourite compound noun in German is ‘Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft’, which was a pre-war club in Vienna – The Association of subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services.

Imagine saying, ‘Let’s pop down the Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft’ after a few drinks.

Drip Drip Hooray in Hyde Park

Despite feeling a bit peaky, I summoned my dwindling Dunkirk spirit to join some friends for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Procession on Tuesday. It was all very English – full of people desperately trying to be jolly in the rain.

After a somewhat-too-leisurely pub lunch, we got confused and ended up being kettled (in a nice way) and shunted into Hyde Park to watch it on a big screen. On the way, we were lucky enough to be overtaken by some royal horses which trotted by just a few feet away.

The weather went all wuthering in the park, so the assembled masses hunkered down and used their £2 plastic flags as ponchos/kagools/headscarves. It was all terribly Blue Peter.

We cheered in a sodden sort of way when the Royal Family appeared on the balcony, and we had a good view of the flypast which miraculously made it under the clouds.

Back home, I removed my jumper, hoodie and anorak and crouched over a convector heater with a hot chocolate, before retiring at 9.20 pm.

Knighthood please. Thank you ma’am.