Thursday, 23 June 2016

I went down to St James....

Among the LPs I listened to in the 1960s (with ‘microgrooves’ it said on the sleeve – cutting-edge technology) were two notable ones:
  • A jazz collection that included the St James Infirmary Blues
  • The soundtrack of My Fair Lady
On the latter, I remember being nonplussed by Eliza Doolittle’s

One day I’ll be famous
I’ll be proper and prim
Go to St James so often
I will call it “St Jim”

I wasn’t to know that she meant St James’s Piccadilly. For all I knew, it might have been any St James’s ...
Of course I couldn’t hear the apostrophe, but the warm embrace of Holy Mother Chorch meant that I could guess that what Eliza called /seɪnt  ðeɪmz/ was a church – (…and sic, by the way – she did not reduce the diphthong, or assimilate the /t/)  

...St James’s , Marylebone, for example.

Under the benign gaze of a statue of St Mary the Good, I sang, on Tuesday night, with a few members (4 or 5 – well precisely 4, but our versatile [‘multi-vocal’, perhaps  though not quite omni-vocal, as I don't remember him singing soprano] MD helped out as needed) of Siglo de Oro. The pieces we sang were by Byrd, sailing quite close to the Protestant wind as they were settings of English, with themes such as deliverance and captivity.

It was marvellous for an amateur choral singer to sing alongside a professional. And it was temptingly easy to think "I can do this". I could during the first hour, before Ben (the professional bass) was redeployed from being next to me to a fairer (more central) position – the third of five basses. Then I was positioned between  another fallible bass like me and a tenor, so that it was clear just how good (that is, bad) my sight-reading was.

And sight-reading was needed. I realized – when my crutch was so rudely snatched away ( :-) ) – that I couldn't watch the conductor as much as I (and, no doubt, he) might have wished, and relied on listening rather than watching.

It was not cheap. After paying for the train and the ticket there wasn't much change from £40.  But,  I  thought, You're only old once. I had joined the trend mentioned on Start The Week recently, of buying experiences rather than stuff. And this was an experience worth buying.


In an earlier post I discussed this possible derivation of the word Marylebone. One site holds that:

...In the thirteenth century when the language of the aristocracy was French, St-Mary-by-the-Tyburn would have been St-Mary-a-le-Bourne (‘bourne’ being the French for a small stream) and from this we arrive at the word ‘Marylebone’ as we know it today. 

Based on this etymology and a progression of phonetics, the correct way of pronouncing ‘Marylebone’ is widely considered to be ‘Marry-leh-bon’ – although in reality this is rarely heard.

I went on, not unstuffily (“Once a pedant…”)

As to the meaning of "a progression of phonetics" your guess is as good as mine – though I imagine it may mean something like 'a number of both phonetic and phonological changes' ; after all, those 13th-century origins pre-dated the Great Vowel Shift. 

I once gleaned, from a source that I regarded at the time as authoritative (although as this was in the late '60s I no doubt set the bar pretty low), that ‘-le-bone' just meant 'the good', as le was feminine at the time,  and the convention of doubling a word-final consonant before adding an e for the feminine (for example bon/bonne, cadet/cadette,…etc) …. had not yet been adopted…

Still, -a-le-bourne is plausible enough, and I'm not going to lose any sleep over it either way. On the one hand, beware folk etymologies, especially on special-interest web sites; on the other hand, what's the point  of saying 'St Mary the Good' at all, unless there were a... aha, maybe Mary Magdalene was 'Mary the Bad' (not so 'bad', though, as to stop her being canonized in the end [for all that, by all accounts, she was no better than she SHOULD be, if you catch my drift, and note the colour of this parenthesis. St-Mary-the-Not-So-Bad-Really-(just-not-the-one-in-the-blue-frock)perhaps]).

PS A few clues:
  • Club rodent or use one of these to similar effect – (9)
  • Gunning down means easier to read, says this – (3, 5)
  • Openreach made to  monitor communications – (9)
 Update 2016.10.13.13:50 – Added PPS
Answers: MACERATOR, FOG INDEX, CHAPERONE (! – pretty cool, this last one, doncha think?)

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