Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff

BERKS AND CLERKS

“BERK! BERK!” says the Old English Sheepdog, about which I am delighted to share an insight from Kristine B. Loland’s analysis of the breed: “If they think you are unclear, unfair or just plain out of your league, you may find yourself alone in the ring while your OES is off entertaining the crowd, creating her own course or flirting with the judge.”

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An Old English Sheepdog orates. Image from the Old English Sheepdog Club of America.

As for my attribution of what we Americans would term an English dog’s bark, this is an example of Brits and Americans being separated by a common language. I base this argument on Berkshires, Berkeleys and Clerks of various degree.

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At left, James Clerk Maxwell, 1831 – 1879, Scottish mathematical physicist. In the middle, Mary Livingstone, 1906 – 1983, an ex-May Co. sales associate. At right, Dugald Clerk, 1854 – 1932, Scottish engineer.

Americans have shop clerks, the word rhyming with jerks, though now I believe the PC term is sales associates. Those of a certain age will recall that comedian Jack Benny’s wife Mary Livingstone used to be a clerk in the May Co. department store.

By contrast, consider James Clerk Maxwell, the 19th-century Scottish scientist of electricity, magnetism and all that. Or Dugald Clerk, the Scottish engineer who played a role in the Ford-Selden trial. These guys would have rhymed their Clerks with larks.

Speaking of birds brings us to the sweet ballad A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. This London landmark is north of Buckingham Palace, just a 12-minute walk through Green Park. And, to American ears, it’s pronounced as though spelled Barkeley, not like the University of California institution located east of San Francisco in the Berkeley Hills, part of which rhymes with jerk again.

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Vera Lynn singing A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.

There’s a lovely story about the origin of this ballad, written in 1939 by two Brits, Eric Maschwitz and Manning Sherwin. They composed it in Le Lavandou, on the Mediterranean coast about halfway between Marseilles and Monte Carlo. Maschwitz, a glass of wine in hand, first sang it in a local bar. Sherwin played the piano with a local saxophonist on the gig as well. You just know the place was redolent with the aroma of cigarettes Gauloise.

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Berkeley Square, London, W1. Sculpture Hares by Sophia Rider. Image from Metro Centric.

The London square is named for George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, whose subjective idealism puzzled me in my brief run-in with Philosophy 101. He’s the guy who denied the existence of material substance and instead said tables and chairs were only ideas in the mind of the perceiver.

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Bishop George Berkeley, 1685 – 1753, Anglo-Irish philosopher. Portrait by John Smibert, c. 1727.

If so, I questioned, what gave the perceiver the idea in the first place? And that’s when I turned to pure mathematics, which made some sense.

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Berkeley Square (1933), American film starring Leslie Howard and Heather Angel.

The 1933 flick Berkeley Square is a neat time-travel tale, itself with an element of time travel too. (The film was thought lost until the 1970s. Though it has appeared on TCM, it seems to be lost again.)

A young American in modern times, i.e., the Thirties, is transported back to 1784. Portrayed by Leslie Howard, he meets his ancestors and falls in love.

The role earned Howard a nomination for the Best Actor Academy Award 1932/1933. (Charles Laughton beat him with The Private Life of Henry VIII.)

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Innes Ireland, 1930 – 1993, Scottish grand prix driver. Photo, c. mid-1980s, by Dorothy Clendenin.

I’ve often thought Innes Ireland resembled (and sounded like) Leslie Howard. Innes lived in Berkshire, England, the county about an hour due west of London.

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Innes lived in Welford, nr Newbury, Berks.

Yes, it’s pronounced Barkshire, Barks, for short. Not like those mountains in western Massachusetts with the Tanglewood Music Festival. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015

One comment on “BERKS AND CLERKS

  1. Anton Thortzen
    January 1, 2016

    When I visited London for the first time in ’76 there were 2 (or was it 3?) Rolls-Royce dealers on Berkeley square – and a Panther dealer. Remember Panther? In the showroom was their 7/8th scale modern interpretation of the mighty Bugatti Royale and a smaller open two-seater (Lima?) based on Vauxhall hardware. And at the car exhibition in Earls Court all 4 Ferraris were light blue!! Great times for a 19 year old.

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