Three Little Words “fit the bill” in Wolf Hall

I am completely enraptured by the BBC production of Wolf Hall.  At times I call it Wolf Hall for Dummies as it is so easy to understand – I didn’t finish the book.  Much as I enjoy most historical novels and biographies this one wasn’t to my taste.

But that is beside the point.  It is the language  in the novel and the TV production  which interests me.  At no time in the written word or on the TV screen did I feel uncomfortable with the language.  It was so natural I didn’t even stop to think that this was not necessarily the type of speech that was used in the early 1500s.

So I found it surprising to read in English newspapers  the complaints about a word which nowadays is not acceptable in polite society but in the time of Henry VIII was in fairly common usage.  I didn’t even have a flicker of discomfort .  It was perfectly OK in a bit of man talk for those times.

But, and it’s a big but, I lost the thread and my jaw dropped when Jane Seymour said she would find a prayer which would “fit the bill”.  Fit the Bill.  To me that is completely out of character.  Modern English is used  in the novel but to me it is modern English devoid of any really quirky sayings which don’t really” fit the bill” for a story about Cromwell. This would have been used  in the second novel which I didn’t buy but I presume the saying was used by Hilary Mantel.  The saying  originally cropped up in a written work early in the 1800s but is still widely used today.

The Oxford and Cambridge English Dictionaries are a good source of information  for the using and  meanings of words  in classic novels or in  period pieces written more recently. .They do a wonderful job of getting back to the  original meanings of words instead of just parroting current usages as many of the contemporary dictionaries do.

And so back to the BBC and the wonderful portrayal of Cromwell, You see the story through Cromwell’s eyes and Mark Rylance’s subtle portrayal  is so good that you can almost tell what Cromwell is thinking.

So I will forget “fit the bill” and go back to adoring the BBC’s Wolf Hall.  I didn’t even notice the white teeth which niggles with some people as reported in The Guardian

In the meantime full marks to the designers and their choice of a  colour palette.  Combined with candles it is just  perfect.

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Semple, Hanff and Audrey Gordon

I wish I were more adept at finding the past posts which had led my reading choices so that I could give credit where credit was due. About a month ago someone wrote about Maria Semple’s  “Where’d you go, Bernadette” and the description was enough to make me decide to read it.  It certainly wasn’t the garish cover which attracted me.  But there was something in the blog which made me deviate from my usual conventional reading pattern. I started it today and have read fifty pages.  By the time I got to page 10 and Ollie-O I was hooked.

Ollie-O has been brought into a school to motivate the Parents Association to raise money to encourage a better class of people to the school and to shift the location of the school away from the next-door wholesale seafood distributor. Families are divided into Subaru parents and Mercedes parents.  Well, a Lexus is acceptable !

Because this is an American writer satirising  her own American society I can laugh long and loud which perhaps I wouldn’t do if it was written by a non-American.  I would have you all down on my head like a ton of bricks if I were to be so cruel to you !

When reading about Ollie-O I soon had a face and a voice for her. Some of you may know Audrey Gordon, the celebrity chef, with her snobbish and racist comments on TV. I’m  sure Ollie-O looks and sounds like an American verion of Audrey.

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But Ollie-O is only a small part of the book which is written in various voices  in different forms of communication between the characters in the book – an extension of the idea used in Helene Hanff’s delightful “84 Charing Cross Road”, an exchange of snail-mail letters between a customer and a bookshop. In fact in the pre-internet days when I used to  order books from James Thin booksellers in Edinburgh at the other side of the world  I was quite sure I was going to become the new Helene Hanff !

But Ollie-O is only a small part of the book which is about a bright student and her bright parents.   I am so looking forward to reading more.

Choice of school – for a better education or for social climbing ?