U is for Ubiquitous #atozchallenge

For the last two years I’ve joined in the #atozchallenge, namely to post every weekday in April using each letter of the alphabet in turn. In 2015 it was places I’d been to, in 2016 it was London themed. This year it is a dictionary of my family, recounting incidents small and large that have taught me lessons down the years, caused me consternation or generally seared themselves into my memory.  I hope you enjoy them. To find other bloggers doing the challenge and maybe be inspired yourself, check out the A to Z Blogging Challenge Blog, here

When we first used a moth trap we were inundated with small, rather drab moths. One task, for we enthusiasts was identification and leading this charge was the Archaeologist. As with most tasks both then and now he read and read and absorbed what the experts over decades had to say.

After one collecting night yet another small unprepossessing moth remained unidentified. It was left to the Archaeologist to try and sort out what it was. Dad asked if he had had any joy.

‘It’s umbiquos,’ reported a confident Archaeologist.

Dad, understandably, looked confused. ‘Umbiquos?’

Not for the first time the Archaeologist had to explain to the less knowledgeable. ‘It means very common.’

It took dad a moment. ‘Do you mean ubiquitous?’

As with a lot of family malapropisms these quickly become family lore, utilised like a secret language to confuse outsiders. I’m sure all families have them.

My father’s mother, nana, fulfilled her fair quota. The new sunglasses that became popular in the 197os for their anti glare were noted with ‘oh I would like some of those paranoid sunglasses’ and when explaining where she lived to a taxi driver it was ‘just after the bollocks in the middle of the road’.

The last I recall when my parents were still alive came courtesy of a piece of high disdain from mum. As always she’d been bullied by dad to get ready for some rather formal trip out and had sneaked off to do some dead heading in the garden while he fussed over the directions or the invite or what wine to take.

Finally he realised where she was and in exasperation called her in. ‘Barbs, for heaven’s sake. Aren’t you ready yet?’

‘Of course,’ protested mum.

‘Well what’s that on your shoulders? Looks like dandruff.’

Mum didn’t even bother to look. As she strode past him, brushing each shoulder swiftly she explained, ‘It’s pollen.’

Dad, for once, was floored. Though he had his revenge by calling her pollen as a term of endearment thereafter, when in company. Mum would smile sweetly but they both understood the joke, one thy kept to themselves.

Which brings me neatly to trying to explain why it was that, aged about 10 I started calling my mother Brian. I did right up to her death. It had some link to the lugubrious but sage snail in the Magic Roundabout but exactly what I’ve forgotten. Maybe it was the taste in hats…

I’m just happy to have called her Brian while she was alive.


About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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30 Responses to U is for Ubiquitous #atozchallenge

  1. Lucy Brazier says:

    My nan calls hatchback cars ‘hunchbacks’. This has been family lore for many decades now.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. willowdot21 says:

    Fab, as ever, could I be retrospectively ( I spelled that all on my own) adopted by your family? Still chuckling! You paint such a picture.
    A couple of things worrying me about the Magic Roundabout episode, ( actually a lot of things about all the episodes, but I digress)
    1 what happened to Brian’s 3mile start in the race,
    2 what made Eminetrude fall over when neither contestant returned.
    3 where did Florence get her shoes, so good for spinning.
    And finally
    4 why was Zebadie so obcessed with bed???

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another fun story

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am prone to say prostrate instead of prostate – my little joke. Once we were giving a dinner party with a bunch of medics. I used it in a splendidly apt phrase which I no longer remember. I do remember that the conversation continued without a blip, leaving me thinking ‘Oh God, do they really think I meant that?’

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Eileen says:

    Delightful and heartwarming. I love your mom’s photo in the hat. Always enjoy getting to know “Pollen” better.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I absolutely love the idea of paranoid sunglasses. Reminded me of an aunt of mine who went into a supermarket in Dublin in the 80s, when cup-a-soups with croutons had become all the rage, and asked one frightened young male assistant if he had ‘the soup with the scrotums in it’.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Ritu says:

    Oh my family has their fair share!!
    And we call my mum Basil !

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ‘Ubiquitous’ is such a good word! I watched that clip of the Magic Roundabout all the way through – It’s maybe the third time I’ve ever seen anything from it, but I remember it playing for my little kids at one point in their early lives. I had to watch it because the only character I remembered was Dougal. I am none the wiser why you chose to call your mother Brian either – but it’s a cool name for a mum. And ‘lugubrious’ is also a very cool word!!

    My favourite aunt had quite a way with mangling the English language. She was well read, but didn’t necessarily ever hear words spoken. Subsequently in our family we still tend to get funny looks when we say something is so old it is an anti-queue. I have had to start checking my speech when using that word outside the family circle.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Charli Mills says:

    We love familial malapropisms, and as one daughter masters them the best, we call them after her nickname — Bugisms. I typically have the correct word, but I fabricate pronunciation. The Hub is my Puritan Corrector, which has led to both snarling and laughter. I love the pollen comeback! And paranoid glasses might be appropriate for some, like the opposite of rose-colored lenses.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My Step-dad used tomake uss laugh with his malapropisms. He had a very broad West Couuntry Accent which made them sound even better. The suncream made by Ambre Solaire became Amber Solamber from that moment on.
    I have called my mum ‘Peg’ from very early on ( because I thought her teeth looked like pegs) and have names for most of my family.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Rowena says:

    Paranoia could explain why so many pairs of sunglasses disappear. They’ve gone into hiding.
    Great post and that’s the first time I’ve read that you called your Mum “Brian”. Or was that Brain?
    xx Ro

    Liked by 1 person

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