Friday, 23 July 2004

Old men singing and dancing

Someone was complaining to me the other day about the way that "convince" is now often used instead of "persuade", as in "I convinced him to leave". I sympathised with the poor fellow's concern, of course, though it seemed to me to be a slighter matter to worry about than the virtual disappearance of "assert", which has come to be replaced by "claim", but, as happens constantly nowadays, I found that my grandfather had a contribution to make to this discussion.

Not in person, of course. He was born in 1861 so if he had lived he would have been 143 this year, and it is quite a while since he has been personally involved in anything at all. But he did illustrate very clearly how "persuade" is not a verb to be messed about with.

Apparently, when it was not possible to dissuade him he used to do a sort of soft shoe shuffle while singing, quite loudly:
Oh, I persuaded him
I persuaded him
Till he didn't need persuading any more
With the kitchen poker
I persuaded the old joker
I persuaded him to get outside the door.

This must have been a very distressing for all his family but I daresay they got used to it. He also had a way of trumpeting through his moustache, and I was very glad to learn the other day from a letter to my local paper that later generations did not lose this skill:

I wonder if any of your older readers remember Stamping Fred, who used to be a well-known character down Factory Lane way during the war, some 60 years ago when I was a lad.
Every evening he would be outside one or other of the pubs, doing his stamping act, which consisted of nothing more than stamping up and down in his great boots while making a sort of trumpeting noise through his moustache.
He was a droll sight, with his battered shako and trousers made of old gunny sacks tied up with twine. Many were the pennies and halfpennies he used to collect, though I'm sorry to say that I and the other lads used to make fun of him. I often wonder what his story was, and what became of him. Yours faithfully, A.C.Barsley (Mr)