Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Article excerpt

ON the question of what we should call the years up to 2010, several readers have suggested `the noughties'. Mr George Rufford, on the hunch that zero is becoming a more common designation of the round non-number, wonders if `the twenty-zeros' will triumph.

While we wait and see, let me bring out from my knitting-bag a curiosity of misguided philological ingenuity that I came across in Peter and Iona Opie's Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes.

In 1834, John Bellenden Ker published An Essay on the Archaeology of Popular English Phrases and Nursery Rhymes. From `Ding dong bell', Ker reconstructed a verse in `early Dutch' thus:

Ding d'honig-beld,

Die Kaetst in de weld.

Hwa put heer in?

Lyt 'el Je haen, Je Grijn.

Wat! er nauwt je boei wo aes dat?

Te draa! hone puur boose guit. …

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