This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Thing Not To Do Today: be drenched.

Dr Foster
Went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain.
He stepped in a puddle
Right up to his middle
And never went there again.

Dr Foster must be one of the first pieces of verse I ever heard.

It always rather worried me. Firstly, poor Dr Foster (I was a very soft-hearted child); and, secondly, why doesn't the verse  rhyme?

Gloucester is pronounced Gloster, so the first lines are all right; but what about the puddle/middle bit?

I know now that originally Dr Foster stepped in a piddle, and not a puddle (piddle and puddle used to mean the same thing). Sadly, piddle was too rude to say by the time I came along.

Of course, changing piddle to puddle not only messes up the rhyme scheme but also takes away the chief joke.

Ah well. Editors, eh?

Here in Southern England it is still raining. Now there are even floods in the commuter areas around London. Not that commuting is easy, what with the washed-away railway embankments.

We've all been getting drenched.

Still, it could be worse. There's probably a poor poorly horse somewhere near Windsor who is going to get drenched inside and out, because to drench a horse is to give it medicine.

I hope it's better soon.

Now. I have to go to town. Where are my waders?

Thing Not To Do Today If You Can Help It: be drenched. This word has, predictably, been used in England for a long time. It comes from the Old English drencan, to cause to drink.


  1. We've seen all the flooding on the telly here.
    Been lots of wind too from what we've seen.
    Hope it calms down soon, so you can think about not being drenched!

    Love the Dr. Foster verse.
    I never knew 'piddle' had the same meaning as 'puddle.'
    My lesson for the day! Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Jingles. Yep, lots of wind. My daughter's old half-timbered house had a whole plaster wall panel blown out on Friday. There'll have been more than a piddle of rain coming through there.

  2. Ha! We worried about exactly the same things, Sally!

    Whenever I recited that nursery rhyme, I would say "right up to his muddle" because it sounds better (and one can assume that Dr Foster, being rather flustered at happening upon such a deep puddle, might have mispronounced 'middle' during his exuberant exclamations).

    Also, as Dr Foster is my own namesake, I can't ever visit Gloucester without wondering if too am going to fall into a puddle.

    1. There have been lots of flood warnings for the Severn at Gloucester during the last few days. If you must go, Eddie (and I'm not, repeat NOT encouraging you to do so ) take a video camera. I mean, you might as well make a YouTube fortune while you're there.