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