Of the many strange words we have here in Winchett Dale, one we don’t have a word for is ‘normal’. Indeed, I only know of this word from my chroniclers, who told me it was widely used out in the Great Beyond. When I questioned them further as to its meaning, they responded by saying it meant something to do with things ‘conforming to expectations’. Which perhaps explains why we creatures have no such equivalent word, as we don’t really have any expectations to conform to in the first place. No two days here are ever alike. Difference is celebrated. Change is welcomed, provided it enhances all our lives. Indeed, I suspect if I were to go to the Winchett Dale Inn and ask my good friend and landlord, Slivert Jutt, for a ‘normal’ tankard of guzzwort, he would be flummoxed by the request, because asking for anything ‘normal’ here would in itself be totally abnormal. You see the problem? It’s one of the many things we creatures in Winchett Dale often tie ourselves in knots over when it comes to words and meanings.
Which is why we have a Saztaculous Naming Things committee. And as luck would have it, the annual meeting was just this week.
Now, anyone familiar with Winchett Dale knows that achieving anything here by committee is nearly always doomed to some kind of glopp-up, or another. Not that the creatures are particularly argumentative, or harbour thoughts to exploit the process for their own gain – if anything it’s quite the opposite. Committees are largely viewed as simply excuses to get together and talk to neighbours and friends about something else, entirely. Boredom sets in very quickly as creatures begin to fidget and loose interest. Singing might break out in the watching crowd, as committee members struggle to maintain dwindling interest in whatever is supposed to being decided.
Inevitably, most meetings end (often very prematurely) in a show of paws as creatures keen to leave vote on something they never really had the slightest interest in in the first place, then subsequently disregard afterwards.
So I wouldn’t blame you in wondering why we continue with such meetings. Two reasons: firstly, all committees are overseen by Serraptomus, our proud but clottabussed Officious Krate, resplendent in his shabby tweed jacket. And secondly, during the meeting called to discuss if further meetings should be cancelled, all creatures mistakenly voted to keep them, so anxious were they to leave. Hence, the meetings stayed.
There is, however, one committee everyone in Winchett Dale looks forward to; The Saztaculous Naming Things. Everyone will attend, from the youngest disidula to the oldest leaning-jutter. Held in the welcoming confines of the Winchett Dale Inn, creatures begin arriving early to enjoy bowls of niff-soup and tankards of guzzwort. Soon, the tables will be full, all the seats taken. Leaning-jutters will lean against every inch of the old walls. Cavern-owls hang from every beam. Lollop-bears lollop by the bar in eager anticipation. In time, the entire village crams itself into the inn, keen to get on with this most important of businesses – the creation and naming of this year’s brand new Dalespeak word.
All of which reminds me of a similar meeting held many years ago – and the time a humble Officious Krate taught us all a new word.
It was a crumlush evening, and I could already hear the commotion from the crowded inn spilling out through open windows as I made my way slowly through the village. Pushing my way through the crowd, I caught Slivert’s eye behind the bar.
“Even’up, Matlock,” he smiled, passing me a foaming tankard of guzzwort. “Here we are again, eh? Another year, another word to be decided.”
“I’m afraid so,” I agreed above the merry throng, glancing across at the large table by the fireside where Serraptomus already sat, staring anxiously at the revellers. “Doesn’t seem like our clottabussed District Krate is very keen for it to start, though.”
“Always the same, every year,” Slivert sighed. “Don’t know why he puts himself through it, to be honest.”
Feeling sorry for the small, stout, tweeded bear, I made my way over and sat down next to Serraptomus, Slivert joining us soon after and calling the inn to order.
“Alright, now,” Slivert announced with the authority only a respected landlord commands,
“We all know why we’re here. So let’s just try and let the business of Winchett Dale’s new word be as civilised as possible.”
“Barjelum!” a female squork immediately called out.
“I beg you pardon?”
“It’s my suggested word,” she replied. “For ‘civilised’. Sick of hearing civilised. Want ‘barjelum’ instead.”
Boos immediately greeted the proposed word, heralding (in a manner typical of Winchett Dale) a slightly uncivilised row. Or, perhaps, a very ‘unbarjelum’ row.
Slivert called the inn to order once more, giving the floor to Serraptomus who slowly got to his feet, his chair scraping loudly on the stone floor in the expectant silence. “Creatures of this most saztaculous dale,” he began, voice trembling, “I have been lucky enough to be Officious Krate of Winchett Dale for…”
“Far too long?” a strivet mouse squeaked.
Ignoring the laughter, he valiantly ploughed on. “And I do appreciate you tolerating me, as frankly, I’m not very good at it.”
“A right gobflopper!” a large lollop-bear at the bar confirmed.
“But this committee always brings me…”
“Trapped wind?” a young cavern-owl suggested.
Serraptomus frowned, trying to continue. Sitting by his side, I couldn’t help but admire him. Every meeting, every year, it was the same; Serraptomus striving in his own way to be officious as his efforts were widely mocked by all and sundry. And yet, strangely, if you’d asked any creature if they ever wanted a different Officious Krate in Winchett Dale, every one of them would have defended Serraptomus to the last. Why? Because his clottabussedness also made him one of them. To have another who might actually try and impose even a semblance of law and order would have been intolerable. So, in many ways, Serraptomus was the key to their freedoms, and hence valued as one of the dale’s greatest assets. But that didn’t mean creatures held back if they didn’t like what he was proposing.
“So, what I’m asking,” he bravely continued, “is, are there any other suggestions for our new word apart from ‘barjelum’?”
There was along silence, during which the female squork looked around the room, nodding confidently. “Well, I think that says it all,” she announced. “No other contenders, therefore I win. All very barjelum if you ask me.”
“Barje-what?” a leaning-jutter suddenly asked.
“Barjelum,” she sighed. “I just told you! It means ‘civilised’.”
“But what does ‘civilised’ mean?” the jutter replied, genuinely confused. “Never heard of it.”
The squork was about to lose her temper. “You were all arguing about it just a few blinksnaps ago!”
“Were we?” The leaning-jutter looked to his friends, who, typically for Winchett Dale, shrugged, then, for no apparent reason, began to argue amongst themselves, setting the whole inn off once more.
Slivert looked to me over the clottabussed commotion. “Any ideas, Matlock?”
Knowing there was only one effective course of action, I took out my hawthorn wand, flicked my paw and sent a frizzing blue vroosher harmlessly into the roof, causing a loud whistle and a bang that silenced the inn. I rose to my feet. “So,” I said, “I have a suggestion.”
“Will it be civilised?” someone asked.
“I do hope so. We may well squabble, but mostly I think we’re all quite barjelum, underneath.”
To my pleasant surprise, the inn nodded. Even Serraptomus looked relieved.
“I think that this year’s word should come from someone who’s never suggested one in all his officious years in our dale. Someone who’s always tried his best, no matter how many times he’s glopped up. Someone who takes a joke, but also allows us to live how we want to. Therefore, I think it should be Serraptomus who makes the suggestion.”
“Me?” Serraptomus gulped. “Really?”
“But I’m sure it would be a most clottabussed word,” he protested. “A real gobflopper.”
“And that,” Slivert encouraged, putting an arm around his tweed-jacketed shoulders, “is why it would also be quite fittingly perfect.”
Serraptomus looked to the ceiling, utterly lost as the whole inn waited. I have absolutely no idea what thoughts went through his officious head as he stared at the empty space above him. It felt as if, somehow, he was reaching for an inspiration beyond each and every one of us. And yet slowly, in the silence, a smile gradually spread across his face.
“And?” I asked. “What is it?”
Serraptomus slowly spread his arms out wide, beaming broadly. “The word,” he announced,
The whole inn leant forward.
“Is….fuzzcheck!” He stood looking at us all, wincing slightly, waiting for the insults and abuse, the spell (if indeed, it had ever been one) now quite broken.
“But what does it mean?” a spotted-wrinkle asked.
He cleared his throat, nervously rubbing both paws together. “It means everything’s alright.”
The creatures considered this, Slivert catching my eye, impressed.
“But how do we use it?” a disdula asked.
Serraptomus cleared his throat. “You use it whenever everything’s alright. You use it as a greeting. You might see someone, and you say ‘Everything fuzzcheck?’, and they say, ‘Yes, and fuzzcheck with you, too?’.”
Slivert nodded, rising to his feet and grandly announcing. “And I say we’s found ourselves a new word! A most fuzzcheck new word. So who’s for another guzzwort, eh?”
“Fuzzcheck!” the whole inn replied.
And so, amidst the fun, chaos, singing and dancing, Winchett Dale celebrated the creation of our brand new word, quickly deciding that most things in their life were indeed ‘fuzzcheck’ – and indeed, became more and more ‘fuzzcheck’ as the evening wore on.
After a while, I took my leave to depart for the journey back though the village and Wand Wood to my small, crumlush cottage. But at the doorway of the inn, the female squork tugged at my robe.
“P’raps next year for barjerlum?” she asked.
I couldn’t help but smile. “I think,” I said, “that’s a most fuzzcheck suggestion.”
And now, looking back on this entry, I sincerely hope everything is quite completely fuzzcheck with you, too.
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a place as ‘majickal’ as Winchett Dale has its own language. Some of the words might initially confuse you. So I thought it only right to include a short glossary of to shed light on words or terms you may initially find confusing! Who knows? They might even become part of your language; a little of my world reaching into yours, traversing the distance and proving the ‘majickal’ connection between us all.
Blinksnap – (n) A mere moment; the time it takes to blink a hare’s eye.
Clottabus - (n) A bit of a fool. Clottabussed – foolish, but mostly harmless.
Crumlush – (adj) Cosy, warm, lovely.
Frizz – (adj) The crackling noise made by a wand when its tip lights up.
Fuzzcheck – (Adj) – When everything is quite alright.
Ganticus – (adj) Huge
Gobflop – (v) To fail at something.
Glopped-up – (n phrase) When something has gone wrong.
Majick – (n) Our word for what you know as ‘magic’.
Nifferduggle - (v) To sleep.
Oidy – (adj) Very small.
Scrittle - (V) The movement of creatures through the undergrowth.
Saztaculous - (adj) Incredible, fantastic.
Twinkling-lid - (n) The night sky full of stars.
Twizzly - (n) To feel scared; something rather scary.
Coming Next Time – The Autumn Witches’ Market…