Monday, 14 September 2015


I looked at the clock this morning and saw the time was 8.25.  No, I was not just falling out of bed, I had been up some time.  But what if I had been only just getting up?  I'm retired and, having no place of work where I am expected at a prescribed hour, what time I get up is my business.  If I want a lie in, I shall darn well have one!

Anyway, the time was 8.25.

Now, many people these days, especially the younger generations, would say the time like that: "eight twenty-five".  Others might well say, "twenty-five past eight".  I, however, am from an older generation to whom it comes quite naturally to say, "five and twenty past eight".  Ten minutes later I would call it five and twenty to nine.

I suppose there was a time when it was normal to say things like "three and forty" instead of "forty-three" but nowadays the only time one hears a number expressed that way is at twenty-five minutes past the hour or twenty-five minutes to the hour.  Except in that nursery rhyme:
"Sing a song of sixpence, a pocketful of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie."
Now I come to think of it, that nursery rhyme has a couple of words one rarely - if ever - hears today.
"The king was in his counting house" while "The queen was in the parlour".
I suspect that the only time one hears of a counting house these days is when a building once used as a bank is turned into a pub and called "The Counting House".  But I think it is a great shame that the word "parlour" has fallen into disuse.  I suppose it came to mean the front room of a house that was kept "for best", used only on very special occasions.  The chairs would be rather uncomfortable and all the furniture highly polished.  There would probably be an aspidistra in the window.  Actually, that could almost describe the front room of our house when I was a child, although we didn't call it the parlour.  To use it was just the front room.

But despite what I say about the room being uncomfortable furnished and reserved for special occasions, I think the word "parlour" has a snug, comfortable ring to it, quite possibly a small room in an old country cottage.  Or the "bar parlour" in a pub, called "the snug" in some parts.  "Parlour" is a much better word than "lounge", which implies that people are expected to flop around, or "sitting room" which is just too prosaic.

We - the Old Bat and I - don't have any of those rooms.  We have just the one reception room running from the front of the house to the back.  We call it the living room.

1 comment:

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

My maternal grandparents called it the front room.