I adore the thought that there are words so rude that people hearing gasp and stretch their eyes, or even put their hands over their ears to avoid hearing them.
However I have never managed to create a rude word. I haven’t even invented a polite one and I have never met anyone else who has.
During the second world war, when I was nine and my brother, Jeremy, eight and things were rationed, my mother made brandysnaps. She was very good at that, rolling the warm ginger flaps round the handle of a pudding spoon before they hardened. ‘Give me your word you’ll only eat one,’ my mother ordered. ‘I want to keep some for tomorrow’ Her sister, Peggy, was coming to tea. ‘OK,’ said Jeremy. ‘But I won’t be able to keep my word if I give it to you.’
When my brother, Trevor, was little he was told off for saying, ‘bloody.’ ‘What shall I say if I cut myself,’ he protested. ‘You can then and only then,’ my mother told him.
He cut himself, sobbed, got elastoplasted, cuddled and consoled. When it was over he looked aghast. ‘I forgot to say ‘bloody,” he said.
My father had a phrase that I have never heard anyone else use, though I don’t suppose he invented it. ‘I think I’ll meander down to the pub and collar a pint of beer.’ To me, aged five or so, his voice was sort of cosy and loving when he talked about the pub.
My nanny, however, used to fret and worry about the word ‘pub.’ ‘I do wish Mr Mostyn would call it his club and not the pub,’ Nanny Taylor complained. ‘Pub sounds so common.’ Daddy was Mr Mostyn then but would inherit the title earned by his ancestors, the Welsh robber barons, and become Sir Basil Mostyn many years late. His elder half brother Pyers, heir to the title and an explorer and adventurer, was killed rather young by the horse he was riding rearing and falling on him. Pyers son, also called Pyers, died aged 21, killed in Kenya in some sort of wild car race. Daddy was divorced from my mother and married to Elizabeth Douglas when he inherited the title. Elizabeth and not my mother became Lady Mostyn. The title then went to my brother, Jeremy and after he died to his son William.
I find the power of words impressive. Even that word ‘Sir’ which is nothing more than three letters when there is no land or riches to go with it, still impresses people. You don’t have to be talented, rich or handsome to be admired if you are titled.
Is there any other way of creating a story except with words. Oh, the lovely copious variety of words I had at my disposal when I wrote my nine novels. Actually I have written fifteen. Nine were published and six ‘did the rounds’ and earned ‘rave rejections,’ one of which was from Bloomsbury Publishers. ‘We love this book but aren’t going to publish it,’ sort of thing. I am hoping, now, that the Bloomsbury Reader will soon take my great handful of so far unpublished words and turn them into e-books.
And when you think of all those huge numbers of virtual words on the internet at the moment. Have they all been read? Surely never in the history of the universe have so many words been floating around in space for anyone who wants to use or read them,
There is even a single word so powerful that, it is said, all that exists is created from it.