Virginia Barton

11 July 2015: Word games


11 July 2015


Did you have a comforter, a security blanket, or a noonoo when you were small? Most children do. I had Pidge until I was 16. He fell out of the car on the Great North Road while I was being violently sick thanks to a surfeit of pork pie. I still miss him. My daughters had an assortment of cotton cloths or soft toys variously named Abi, Baubau, Panda, and Patchy – each one with its own particular smell, faded colour, and ragged or battered shape.

leetarget6440aWell now, in my old age I have my liseuse. No, I don’t trail it around with me, dragging it through puddles. Neither do I suck it, or insist on taking it to church or to the dentist. Not yet anyway. Rather, I cuddle it round my shoulders for instant warmth. It doubles up as a hot-water-bottle for old cold feet, or as a large muff.


A Parisienne friend of my daughter knitted my original liseuse; it died in the wash after years of constant wear. The name, I guess, means something to put round your shoulders when reading, but it is not a bed-jacket. Some people who know no better call it a “shrug”. It is much longer (wrist length) and wider, and far too elegant to be called by such a hideous word.

Since the original liseuse shrank to dolly size, I have been longing to replace it. An extraordinarily kind friend who belongs to the Pins and Needles group here, where BH and I live, kindly volunteered to suspend her quilt-making on my behalf. This is typical of our community of rather elderly residents: they constantly put one to shame with their generous spirit.

(The very day we moved in, on a Saturday evening when all respectable plumbers were at the pub, a water tank burst in the flat above. Water water everywhere. But within minutes a gallant neighbour, leaning heavily on a stick, was at the door with mop and pail. He showed me how to call the “Helpline” and offered to get his own personal teetotal plumber. What a gent!)


Apart from all that – guess what I just found out? A liseuse, in your actual FRENCH, is an ebook! It’s a Kindle device, a Kobo, a Pocketbook and so on. It follows that, since 1983, when MY liseuse was made for me, the meaning has changed or at least stretched, to include the digital book. Thus the mysteries of language and the subtle, slightly shifting change of use.

If we put our minds to it, no doubt we could cite many other examples – Scrabble players and Crossword fanatics should be experts at this – how about a few suggestions?

Not unusually, my own mind has gone a complete blank. Just yesterday I couldn’t for the life of me remember my best friend’s mother’s maiden name.



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