Last weekend, as I walked from work to buy my lunch, I passed a road sign for "TRUCKS CROSSING" which looked like it had been hit by a truck. It was lying on the footpath, broken/torn nearly in two, no sign (ha-ha) of whatever it had been mounted on.
As I walked on, I wondered if it could be of any use, and came up with an idea. On my way back I completed its division into two, and carried the more intact half off back to work, and eventually home.
I had decided I could make a nicely visible, fluorescent orange, reflectorised street number for my letterbox.
The sign has eight layers: -
Now all I have to do is re-mount the box to the post, as I have just noticed the angle-iron brackets are badly rusted.
I was listening to the lyrics of "Tattooed Love Boys", a song written by Chrissie Hynde on The Pretenders' eponymous first LP. I won't pretend to understand completely all the lyrics, many songs are understood in many ways by many listeners, not even fully by the writer sometimes.
(Ref. a site I like which deals specifically with lyric interpretation, Songmeanings.com)
(UPDATE 25/04/16 - I find that only a month later in August 2015, Chrissie Hynde released a biography in which she revealed that at the age of 21 she had a forced sexual encounter with a motorcycle gang. It would seem reasonable to assume this event influenced the writing of the song.)
There are a few lines which brought back memories of my adolescence: -
"......target practice in the hall
While waiting for their number to get called
I, I, I, I found out what the wait was about"
I recalled a house on the edge of my local suburb, in a secluded position amongst trees and set well back from any street. The property was used as a shortcut and was overgrown as well. As far as I knew it was unoccupied, but was used by local young people as a hangout. I recall a situation similar to the above; some older boys were in one of the rooms, I was in the hall where knife-throwing practice was one of the pastimes, with a few other kids, and girls were sequentially called into the bedroom for unknown but presumably/possibly/probably sexual reasons. I was too young to even know exactly what might be going on. I knew I was too young, and that I was not included or even considered. It was all very tantalisingly mysterious and attractive as well, especially the knife-throwing!
I recalled that amongst my peer group, a girl who participated in such activities would be labelled a "mole", or that is how it was pronounced and the spelling understood by me at least.
It suddenly occurred to me with my adult knowledge, that maybe this word might be related to an old English slang word "moll", which I would pronounce differently, but which has similar connotations.
Sure enough, the first page I land on in my search is the Wikipedia entry for "Moll (slang)" which specifically deals with a usage particular to Australia and New Zealand (my country).
I was pleased to find the statement "The existence of the popular derivative spelling, mole, likely reflects the word's history as a spoken, rather than written, insult." This backs up both my conjectures as to the meaning link and the spelling variation.
I also recall that the noun "mole" is often paired with the adjective "huckery".
See the NZ Herald 5th May, 2005, listen also to Max Cryer on Radio Live 21st July 2012 at 04:35, as he elucidates the origin of "huckery" as also NZ, specifically from the Maori "hakurawa": - useless, slovenly or past its use-by date.
Children's oral culture
This mole/moll spelling variation brought to mind a matter I have been considering for decades; the existence of a centuries-long unbroken chain of culture not participated in, and hardly remembered by adults, which thrives mostly unremarked and unrecorded, amongst children.
I am not talking about "nursery rhymes", which are recorded in books and passed from parent to child, but rather those things which are learned from other children.
These can be words, phrases, expressions, rhymes, stories or games, but their essential characteristic is that they are not formally taught, they are absorbed by experiencing and imitating them.
Who has to teach a child "Eeeny meeny miny moe", for instance?
I wanted to do some background research before writing this post, but I found there is little not buried in academic papers at sites requiring academic organisational credentials to access.
There are some tantalising glimpses, such as at this page describing a repository of the papers of researchers Iona and Peter Opie. I was particularly struck by this statement from the description of the contents' creation:
"Their interest in folklore was piqued around 1944 when they were expecting their first child, James. Encountering a ladybird during a country walk and recalling the “Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home” rhyme, they were “left wondering about this rhyme we had known from childhood and had never questioned until now. What did it mean? Where did it come from? Who wrote it?” (Opie 1988:208). Their search for answers introduced them to earlier sources of folklore and dialect, and began what Iona..."
This describes an event that I empathised with as it is so similar to the way many of my own thought processes lead to posts such as this.
After writing the above post, I did some more searching and found the Beyond Text website , which has a project called "Children's Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age", updating, analysing and re-presenting the Opie Collection of Children's Games and Songs at the British Library.
Lo, and behold, the Opies again!
There is a link to the British Library site, where there is a fantastic set of recordings available, made by Iona Opie between 1969 and 1983.
I will link to one example, but this is obviously a marvellous body of research work.
(She asks where they learned a rhyme and gets the reply "It just goes round the school".)
Part 1 of 3. [00:00:00 - 00:16:16]. This recording, from St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Primary School, Huddersfield, 1978, contains discussions with a small group of schoolgirls who perform singing and skipping games for Iona Opie. The girls begin by playing the singing game 'Oranges and Lemons'
I was struck by the sheer quantity of knowledge and elaborate rules known by these very young children.
I am sure, with the right memory prompt, every adult will be able to come up with their own examples of things they learned in this very human, almost instinctual way.
I have just recalled that when I was at Primary School in the late Fifties, in the playground a fat child could be called a "Fatty Arbuckle". We had no idea that we were referring to a Hollywood actor whose career ended in scandal in 1922, and who died in 1933, thirty five and twenty four years earlier.
It appears the poor man's name had survived him in the playground purely by word of mouth, because his films were mostly banned at the time of the scandal.
While fact-checking for a piece on gender differences, I stumbled upon a reference to this cultural phenomenon of intra-juvenile culture in other primates. In a paper on chimpanzees, a study of stick play found it was mostly done by pre-motherhood juveniles: -
"By contrast, sex differences in juvenile stick-carrying did not result from females observing their mothers carrying sticks, since mothers never carried sticks. Instead, youngsters apparently learned socially from each other. Such juvenile traditions have previously been described only in humans."
See: Sex differences in chimpanzees' use of sticks as play objects resemble those of children
It is notable that these are mostly from the days before The Beatles and Bob Dyan made the professional song writers redundant by popularising the idea that the artists could write and record their own material. (Although both began with covers, and learned to write their own later.) Thus, the lyrics are somebody's idea of how to prompt an emotional experience in the listener, created for someone else to sing, rather than someone's creation of an expression of their own experience.
Here at the Paste magazine site I found a sympathetic treatment of the Brill Building's fade from prominence. There is little mention of these types of lyric though.
There is some strange and dodgy stuff here:
The Crystals' "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)", (Goffin, King) was controversial when released for it's portrayal of violence as a sign of male possessive feelings.
Joanie Sommers' "Johnny Get Angry", (Hal David and Sherman Edwards) is a sort of masochistic invitation to abuse. "These days, feminists would be picketing the record studio for such a song." Discussed well at Songfacts.com.
Lesley Gore's "That's The Way Boys Are" (Mark Barkan, Ben Raleigh) is just pathetic, and made more bizarre when you consider Miss Gore was actually a lesbian, and can't have felt very comfortable with a jolly-sounding song with lyrics like:
"When I'm with my guy and he watches all the pretty girls go by,
And I feel so hurt deep inside I wish that I could die;
Not a word do I say, I just look the other way,
'Cause that's the way boys are..."
Then there is the weeping passivity of a song like The Chantels' "Maybe" by their vocalist Arlene Smith:
"Maybe, if I pray every night
You'll come back to me
And maybe, if I cry everyday
You'll come back to stay
We also have the dreamy acceptance of the done and dumped Connie Stevens in "I Couldn't Say No" (Ripp, Goffin-King, again!):
"You spoke so sincerely
I couldn't think clearly
And somehow, with you
It seemed right
I was too much in love to be wise
And I couldn't say no to you last night"
I found this commentary: "Her utter sincerity in describing post-coital afterglow in “I Couldn’t Say No,” an obscure Goffin-King number Stevens recorded in 1962, defuses a touchy topic--the girl is at first feeling guilt over giving in to her beau’s charms, making it hard to listen to without thinking “date rape” as her misgivings unfold--and transforms the song into an ode to the first blush of new love."
But I can't agree with the above when you consider the song contains the lines
"You wanted my kisses, so I gave you my kisses
Never dreaming today you'd be gone"
".......when I think of you I regret
That I couldn't say no to you last night"
I can't deny the emotional power of some of these songs, but I think we really have to keep in perspective these outmoded attitudes.
I am an extremely intelligent, witty and fascinating guy.