Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Brits Have A Word for It

The posting of this blog has been erratic for the past couple of weeks.  The Bard of Buffalo Bayou has been visiting some of the disreputable haunts of his dissolute youth in the British Isles, and it was necessary for me to accompany him, in order to ensure that he would quit the pubs quietly at closing time without causing unseemly disturbances, as is his wont.

While I was there, I took the occasion of visiting a few of my own friends, during the periods that the Bard was sleeping off his debaucheries of the previous evenings.  Several times I passed through Charing Cross Station, that busy hub in central London.  A friend related the popular version of the origin of the name “Charing Cross”—that “Charing” is a corruption of the French chère reine, or “dear queen,” a reference to King Edward I’s queen, Eleanor of Castile.

It’s a lovely story, but etymologists say it isn’t so.  They say that “Charing” derives from the Old English word cierring, which means a “bend in the river,” and describes that point on the Thames where the village of Charing had existed since the 12th century.

Queen Eleanor is responsible for the “Cross” portion of the name.  Edward erected a memorial cross to his Queen, who died in 1290, at each of twelve overnight stops of the procession carrying her body from Lincoln to Westminster. One of these “Eleanor Crosses” was erected near Charing; hence the name “Charing Cross.”  It was destroyed in 1647 and replaced by a statue of Charles I.

The Bard has recovered sufficiently from his sybaritic dissipation to scribble the following lines on the label of an empty bottle of Fuller's London Pride bitter beer.

            As I was going to Charing Cross,
            Quite near that pub—The Albatross—
            I met a man with seven wives,
            And they were going to St. Ives.
            Each wife could rest her feet on
            Seven bags by Louis Vuitton.
            Each bag held seven phones

            And seven chocolate ice-cream cones.
            Cones, phones, bags, and wives,
            How many were going to St. Ives?

            If you can’t tell, to save your lives,
            How many were going to St. Ives,
            The answer is none—for, willy-nilly,
            The train broke down at Piccadilly!

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