This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Saturday Rave: Sweeny Todd by Stephen Sondheim.

There are some strings of words so perfect, so delectable, so full of bounce and exquisitely-paced clatter, that they give delight forever.

The musical Sweeny Todd has words and music by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Hugh Wheeler based on the 1973 play Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Christopher Bond.


Sweeny Todd is a story of horror, but nevertheless there's one  part of it so absolutely perfect that it lurks near the surface of my mind and emerges, grinning fiendishly, whenever I visit a supermarket.

Shepherd's pie, it whispers, with a small snigger of delight, as I stride past the neat plastic trays of ready meals (and I never dare stop). Shepherd's pie peppered/With actual shepherd...

Horrid, isn't it. Really horrid.

But perfect, all the same.

Word To Use Today: sweeny. Sweeny has been most commonly used as London rhyming slang: Sweeny Todd - Flying Squad. (The Flying Squad were a department of the London Police Force, and hence The Sweeny came to mean the police.) Sweeny is also a disease of the shoulder muscles of horses. In this sense the word is probably from the German Schweine, which means thinness.


  1. Oh! That picture! Creepy!
    I should not have read the shepherd pie lines!
    There'll be no shepherd pie served at our table for a long time!
    I don't do horror very well - maybe I'm the pusillanimous pipsqueak! :)

    1. I'm rather the same, Jingles - which is probably why that line has stuck so firmly.
      Shepherd's pie is a silly name, anyway. If anyone was going to eat lamb it would be the farmer, wouldn't it, and not the poor man up on the hills.