Works in the Herald 1930

At a suburban police court on Tuesday a magistrate took strong exception to a witness's frequent use of the terms "cobber" and "half-quid."

Is youth not less pedantic, less absurd,
   Less prone to value things of little worth
In failing to wax wrath about a word
   That bears suspicion of a lowly birth?
All words have known their low and vulgar days --
   Known grime and poverty when they were young;
And many a proud and pompous modern phrase
   Was once the plaything of a common tongue.

But as we grow respectable and staid
   Mere sound, to middle-age, parades as sense.
Grey slaves of precedent, we grow afraid
   Of youth and all its sane inconsequence.
Forgetting words are no god-given things,
   With queer intolerance we would insist --
In terms to which the mould of ages clings --
   On purity that never did exist.

Language is not the gift of any god;
   Rude tribesmen made it when the race was young;
And as around the weary earth we plod
   Still the illiterate enrich the tongue;
And still while careless youth goes gaily rid
   Of age's caution, precedent and pence,
Better a cobber who'll lend half a quid
   Than all the thrifty pedant's "commonsense."

Herald, 10 April 1930, p4

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2003-06