Eglantine Lady Fantod, the legendary raconteuse and grande dame of Golden Age linguistics, recalls halcyon days in a series of interviews with Freya Shipley. The full memoir will be published in 2012 by Taradiddle Press, Oxford (8 volumes, price 17p).
“Sacks, Sacks, Sacks. That’s all these young sociolinguists ever think of. They simply don’t realise what things were like when I was a girl.
“There were nights when no one slept at all in the seamier colleges of Cambridge, what with the continual cris de joie floating around the staircases. Couples spent whole nights crouched in junior common rooms, furtively off-
“Dear me, when I think what we used to get up to at house parties before the War. It’s all gone now, of course. One misses the formality of twelve really well-
“Scandals? Oh, yes—there were times when it all went terribly wrong. There was the notorious Smythe-
“Of course in those days most people were dreadfully strict about it all. I remember my dear brother Ranulph used to go absolutely apoplectic when he caught us experimenting with nasalization down in the summerhouse. “Where did you get those vowels, gel?” he’d shout at me. “Under a rock?!” Ranulph found many of his own vowels on continental hunting trips, or else in the woods on his estate in Shropshire where the shooting was particularly fine. I remember one season he and the Prince of Wales bagged 18,000 brace of [ö]s. Cook preserved them in aspic, and we dined off them for weeks. And Ranulph was always forcing guests to admire that  that he’d brought down on safari. He’d had it stuffed by a taxidermist and mounted on the wall in his library. I’m sure you’re far too young to remember all that. Dear, dear— plus ça change, plus c’est le mouton fou.
“Leave me now, dear child—it’s time for my gin posset.”
[See also an earlier extract from an interview with Eglantine Lady Fantod in Vol CLIII, No 3. —Eds.]
Freya Shipley is the author of Whither the feline bilabial? Her forthcoming book Grassman’s Law for Lemurs has attracted widespread concern.