Struwwelpeter Strikes Again!

There’s no getting away from him. There I was politely minding my business, being distracted by an online friend who has developed a penchant for Mrs Miniver, or more accurately the writing of her creator Jan Struther, when up popped Struwwelpeter again.

It seems that the original set of cautionary tales was written about 10 boys and one girl. Jan Struther had three children and if you added their cousins to Struther’s three then the total boycount would be 10 plus one girl. Not something a creative person could let pass without comment so, in 1935, JS came up with “The Modern Stuwwelpeter”, illustrated by E H Shepard (of Christopher Robin /Winnie the Pooh fame) and published weekly in Punch.

One of my favourites is Cheeky Charles:

“……No words unfit for him to hear
Had ever reached his sheltered ear–
For instance, such disgusting slang
As “Gosh” and “Golly,” “Blow” and “Hang.”
Imagine, therefore, what a pang
His learned father felt one day
When Charles distinctly said, “Okay.” ….

Whether or not Charles was any worse than his contemporaries we cannot be sure but Struther’s description of his casual way of speaking shows that even in the 1930s speech was evolving. I recently discovered an American poet, Taylor Mali and his comment on the way young people speak in his poem “Like – You Know”.



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