Eglantine Lady Fantod, the legendary raconteuse and grande dame of Golden Age linguistics, recalls halcyon days in a series of interviews with F. Shipley. The full memoir will be published in 2008 by Taradiddle Press, Oxford (8 volumes, price 17p).
“How well I remember it all. A vanished world. Dear me, yes. Those gatherings at ‘Fluffy’ Jespersen’s place on Capri. The parties went on literally for weeks. I can still see Mary Haas dancing Salome on the moonlit beach, while that imp Harvey Pitkin caught live evidentials in the tide pools and dropped them down the backs of people’s kimonos. It was there that Syd Lamb and Erté put their heads together and designed Stratificational Grammar, which was worn by absolutely everyone on the Riviera that season.
“And of course dear Ferdie de Saussure blowing all those laryngeals through his ear trumpet. Had us in stitches. Though it made a lot for the maids to clean up afterwards. Ah, youth, youth! Où sont les langues d’antan? Où est le lapin de ma tante?
“I was there on the night when Chomsky sidled up to Emeneau at the buffet and murmured, ‘John thinks that the driver of Mary’s car has put her books onto her piano.’ To which Professor Emeneau famously replied, ‘Whisht you naughty minx or you’ll be getting a visit from the Spank Fairy!’ At the time, of course, we all thought it was just good fun. Somebody opened a fresh case of Veuve Cliquot and all was forgotten for a time. Well, we simply couldn’t have known, could we. Syntax is a dish best served cold.
“Then it would be on to my own bijou nest in Cap-
“You’re too young to remember that divine musical revue, Oh Kid, O.T! It was a smash hit in the West End. Gertie Lawrence starred opposite Alan Prince, with the Prague School as a wonderfully cheeky chorus. Their big dance number
“Ah, la vie bohème. Toujours gai, kid.
“Leave me now, dear child. It’s time for my negus and vicodin.”
[See also a later extract from an interview with Eglantine Lady Fantod in Vol CLXI, No 1. —Eds.]
Freya Shipley is a small arboreal linguist.