HISTORY LESSON – 6

I have always been interested in the history of words.

Apparently, a long time ago, there was a Viking family that lived in Rye, in East Sussex; which isn’t that far from where I live now.
The youngest son was a bit of a tearaway and used to disappear for days at a time in his tiny sailing boat. He always said he was fishing and indeed he often returned with quantities of fish, but he also brought back presents for his mother . (Harumph. Anybody out there listening? LO,TG Ed)

Arriving home looking rather pleased with himself, he would present her with silk stockings [long before they were invented!], strange substances that when cooked in griddle cakes made his mother feel rather light headed, bottles of cognac, flint powered pipe lighters [she had several, rather natty clay pipes, nicely decorated], expensive smelling perfumes and sometimes something he called ‘muesli’.

“Oh, Lars, you are so good to me” exclaimed Ma, and fussed over him; treating him to pickled herring and unpickled cauliflower. (No wonder he was so good to her!! Lo,TG Ed)

Eventually Lars, during a rather wild gathering in the local hostelry, began bragging about his exploits – which as the Avid Reader can no doubt see, must have involved illegal trips across the channel, picking up goods that should have had excise charged on them.
Unfortunately there was a Custom and Excise official sitting moodily in the corner of the pub and, momentarily forgetting the extremely tricky practical problems involved with pursuing the objects of his sexual desires – he was very attracted to wasps, with bees coming a close second – he arrested young Lars and hauled him off to jail.

His mother, on hearing the news, ran pell mell through the town, desperate  to see her beloved son.

“Oh, my darling boy – if you hadn’t been so smug, Lars ……” whereupon she collapsed of an apoplexy, dead as a door nail.

The local rag got hold of the story of course, and with the usual accuracy of the press misquoted the last words that Mum ever uttered, so that ‘smug Lars’ became synonymous with the practice of evading excise duty, and the word ‘smugglers’ entered the English language.

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Post script: Budgie smugglers is/are something else completely. (Yes. Horrible, horrible horrible. Lo,TG Ed)
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