Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Article excerpt

IT BEING unseasonably warm on Sunday, I had tea in the garden. A bird, commendably busy fetching bits of twig for a nest, had just dropped a congealed lump of dead leaf and attachments straight into my cup, and I was wondering if it was worth going back into the house to fetch some fresh, when my husband said, 'I don't understand all this stuff about are and sind. Why don't you try the Notes and Queries tack again?'

So I did go back to the kitchen, where I found a letter from Dr T.H. HughDavies wondering about the word doul in a specific sense.

The good doctor was looking through some letters from a nurse in training at St Thomas's in 1936 to her father, a small tenant farmer in Shropshire. She wrote about a baby which she was preparing for a surgeon to get to work on, and she 'had to hold the baby in the right position for him, and generally act as his doul'. And then, referring to a colleague who had already gained nursing experience, she wrote: 'It must be terribly hard in a way to begin again at the very bottom, and be douled about by people who don't know quarter as much.'

What, then, is this word doul in its double application? …

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