Mrs Elton, in Jane Austen's masterpiece Emma*, is a dreadful woman. She is snobbish, conceited, vindictive, manipulative, unavoidable, uncaring, asinine and self-righteous.
I'm wondering, though, if perhaps in her blundering stupidity she might have got one thing right.
'One has no great hopes of Birmingham,' she says. 'I always say there is something direful in the sound.'
And, though Birmingham is full of valuable people:
ELO. Photo by
and civic wonders:
St Martin's Church, The Bull Ring, and Selfridges Store. Photo by GavinWarrins
I can't help but think in that direful she was actually on to something.
Word Not To Use Today: Birmingham. (The British Birmingham is pronounced BERming'm.) The word comes from Beormingahām, which means the home or settlement of the Beomingas, who were the people of Beorma. Beorma in Old English means frothy or fermented (as in the head on beer) and is the same word as our modern word barmy.
*Not that I am seeking to suggest Jane Austen only wrote one masterpiece.