Virginia Barton

On raspers

Catholic Herald, 22 April 1988

 

Some explanation of the word “rasp” may be necessary before I launch into one. Contrary-like it has nothing to do with soft fruit, though at some future date things horticultural may well twine, convolvulus fashion, among the high-minded concepts this column ought to contain.

This noun – “rasp” – minted south of the Thames, is onomatopoeic and redolent of sawdust. It sprang to the lips of an exasperated wife, choked to the back teeth by the droning monotone of her husband “banging on” (in modern parlance) yet again, about his pet subject, films.

LassieBlurImagine the scene: a kitchen half an hour before dinner time where she is furiously trying to perform a dozen tasks simultaneously, and where he has cornered her with a lengthy description of some forties footage.

“For goodness sake stop ‘rasping’”, she snaps, flinging the gravy from pan to pot. Affronted but intrigued, he is arrested m mid-rasp, celluloid lovelies, Bogart and Lassie vanish in a trace.

Thus words are born.

The situation demanded something really different, and though sired by irritation, it’s a word that can be put to good use. It circulated rapidly among that particular family, then passed like chicken pox, swiftly and circuitously, to my own kitchen somewhere in the Midlands.

It’s interesting to note, en passant, that I heard the word employed in a homily, the clergy (and teachers) being natural raspers, used as they are to a captive audience.

 

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