At the chemist’s: recording of a 1930s conversation in England

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/11/26/754127.html

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Right. Now, moving on to English lesson 2…

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At the Pet Shop, 1930’s colourized:

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Meanwhile, in the early 1980s…

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I’m interested in breaking that down further.

You have to have “purpose” at the end because, for example, “whittling knife” is the name of the thing, but I can’t intuit any other rules leading to the broader rule.

(It’s a little overstated anyway - you could swap “rectangular” and “green” without trouble :stuck_out_tongue: )

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I’m sorry, but I can’t listen to that without thinking of Mr. Cholmondley-Warner.

For an example, see:

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My understanding is that there are actually seventeen categories of adjectives that come in a particular order. Just off the top of my head, owner and number are missing from that list (it’s David’s five lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knives).

I don’t think that’s true. Like, either could be correct, but they mean different things. Just like we always say “big blue ball” but someone might say “blue big ball”, it’s just that I’d then interpret “big ball” to be a technical phrase or a trademarked name in that context.

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Damn - you beat me to it. I was also convinced this was Harry Enfield.

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Was she really buying lint? We get lots of that for free out of our dryer. Maybe I don’t understand. English is definitely not the same everywhere.

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Dressings of gauze, sometimes coated with borax, were known as “lint.”

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Why is this lady purchasing so many dressings? Is she a member of the Ladies’ Scuffle Club (The primary stricture attended upon membership of Ladies’ Scuffle Club is that one really must refrain to mentioning Ladies’ Scuffle Club).

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…The ones in red currant jelly?

Not to mention it depends what something is modifying.

“rectangular French green” also works if you assume “French green” is a specific type of green.

Or you could have “French David” to distinguish him from “Lazy David” who is different from “Young Davy” who are all drinking in the same pub.

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I was expecting her to order four candles.

(ETR a question about lint.)

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Bilbo Baggins uses it that way when he’s trying to get rid of Gandalf at the start of The Hobbit. I remember thinking that sounded weird when I read it as a kid.

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She was buying arnica, she might as well be being lint… or fairy dust, or magic beans.

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“It’s a lovely little old green rectangular French silver whittling knife” doesn’t seem to change the sense of the sentence at all.

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By the 1970s, the standard of language in chemists had gone down considerable, and that:

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Do you stock candles, my good man? I should like to have four of them. And do you stock replacement handles for garden forks? It’s so convenient to meet all my domestic purchasing needs at the chemist’s shop.

No, madam, this is a specialist pharmacist’s emporium. I think you may be mistaking us with those upstarts at Timothy Whites chemists in the high street, with their range of domestic housewares, too. I fear they’ll be the death of independent pharmacies such as ours.

(This post is specifically for those brought up in the UK prior to the late 1960s.)

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When I moved to England I thought it was funny that most people bought their aspirin et al at what was obviously a shoe store.

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