January 3, 2012

wherefore art thou wittles sucky?

In the old days of 2011, I sometimes caught myself wistfully thinking that if only I had an e-reader, I could download all the classics that I normally never take with me anywhere. Now that I own this magical contraption, I'll probably still read paper books, but I am excited to use it for two types of books: old favorites and new books in hardcover that I'd be loathe to carry around. The cheapo in me has already downloaded a bunch of classics (both read and unread), and I'm looking forward to buying newer books that are, quite simply, tomes (Stephen King's new JFK book, for example).

Great Expectations is one of those books that I'd love to have with me all the time, so it was one of the first books I downloaded. Hip Pip hooray!
"You get me a file." He tilted me again. "And you get me wittles." He tilted me again. "You bring 'em both to me." He tilted me again. "Or I'll have your heart and liver out." He tilted me again.
--Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
One of the best parts about rereading classics is that you come across amusing bits of archaic language that you can later slip into your vocabulary to confound people every now and then. Wittles, apparently, are like vittles (Vs and Ws were often interchangeable in the old days), which are like victuals, otherwise known as grub. The file was not food (unlike the gumbo file my mom adds to her delicious gumbo), but rather, a metal file meant for shaving away at this prisoner's shackles.

Poor Pip scurries off to retrieve said items. For his "wittles" he selects "bread, some rind of cheese, about half a jar of mincemeat (which I tied up in my pocket-handkerchief with my last night's slice), some brandy from a stone bottle (which I decanted into a glass bottle I had secretly used for making that intoxicating fluid, Spanish-liquorice-water, up in my room: diluting the stone bottle from a jug in the kitchen cupboard), a meat bone with very little on it, and a beautiful round compact pork pie."

Whoa, there. I never noticed that part about Pip being an underage alcoholic up in his room. Poor kid. Still, other than the pork pie (which sounds acceptable), he could have done better. Hope that escaped convict didn't have very great expectations for his wittles...because they kind of sucked.

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