Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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26 April, 1996

"Sir Charles," oft one hears one's readers cry (and one has it upon the most authoritative of authorities that were one's masses of admiring readers herded into railway carriages--third class, one imagines--the resulting train would stretch from London to the barbarian climes of Edinburgh), "Sir Charles, how is it that you speak with such obvious good breeding? How is it that your words flow trippingly from the tongue, dancing in our very ears and haunting us with their mellifluous resonance for days after? How is it that you are Master of the English Language, the greatest of all tongues e'er to grace the pages of Johnson's Dictionary?"

One fibs ever so slightly. One's readers (and one did not include the several hundred dining carriages in one's railway calculations above, for one must assume that one's readers are as ravenous for 'grub' as they are for the scraps of culture they glean only from oneself) did not use those exact words. They said, "Sir Charles, how come you talk so good?" One used one's artistic license, however, to illustrate the very point of this weekly exercise: With a bit of thought and care, any reader can scale the literary heights upon which one stands, firmly planted, at the peak. Of course, only one personage (and one refers to oneself) can remain 'King of the Mountain'. But to see one's readers ascend the Foothills of Vocabulary would be preferable than allowing them to dwell ignorantly in the Lowlands of Ill Speech.

One has requested one's secretary--a very example of a dullard if ever there was one--to prepare a short list of the common phrases and exclamations popular among his dim-witted, poorly-educated, and no doubt lice-ridden peers. Though one is certain that when grunted by monosyllabic louts with intelligence quotients that match the waist size of their 'Underoos', these phrases are quite effective in their own way, observe as they are transformed into glittering jewels in the mouth of a baronet:

Sez who?: Oh, is it indeed as you assert, you mush-mouthed poltroon begot of an ill-fated union between drunken patrons of a particularly seedy chip shop?

Your mama! (A most curious phrase. One had to have it explained to one in context): Vicious scoundrel, though you stand there with poor posture, that inane snaggle-toothed grin spread across your graceless visage, smugly assuming that your words have cut one to the very quick, let one assure you that you have only confirmed one's opinion of yourself, which is so low as to cause the famed depths of 'Death Valley' seem positively mountainous in comparison!

Picture: Outta My Way, Varlet!Outta my way or it'll be your face and my fist!: Vile blackguard! Despotic tyrant! Remove yourself from the vicinity of oneself or one will be forced to resort to fisticuffs! Indeed, sirrah! One proposes to administer to you a well-deserved thrashing that one will relish to the very bone!

And ultimately, observe how the phrase, You (expletive deleted) lousy (expletive deleted)! is redeemed by a heavy larding of thrilling vituperative: O, buttock-mouthed blossom of a pestiferous trull! O, crusty botch of nature! O, diseased whoreson whose saucy belchings are as the very fires of the lowest valley in H-ll! Yes, one is deigning to address you, bub!

In short, armed with a few graceful flourishes here, a well-chosen metaphor there, and an exhaustive knowledge of the synonyms for 'strumpet', and one's weekly followers will more than equipped to trade barbs with their opponents. Readers, your friends and family will be astounded and impressed at your overgenerous eloquence of your new verbal style. . . or at worst, convinced that you have spend too many leisure hours at the cinema watching Cutthroat Island.

For another week, one ever remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Tentative writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

This is so exciting. I've never had the opportunity to actually contact anyone quite as important or as famous as yourself.

As a recent addition to your phalanx of devoted admirers (fans sounds so common), I have gone back and read everything in the archives to make certain that you haven't been asked this question previously (I can't believe I'm the first to ask -- perhaps your modesty has prevented you from answering sooner). Nonetheless, seeing no reference to it, I shall ask (if it's not too impertinent): What incredible service did you perform for Great Britain that led to our Queen (if indeed it was she and not her blessed father) to admit you into the knighthood?

Perhaps you could tell your devoted supplicants a little about the ceremony itself? I've heard it's very moving.

Tentative in Tiddleshire

Sir Charles replies:

Poor, ignorant soul,

Were it not that the correspondent had liberally flattered oneself--and to be frank, one enjoys such praise immoderately--one's condemnation would be sure and swift. To assume that one is a mere knight! One is still aghast at such a faus pox!

One is a baronet. A title of privilege, of honour, of distinction. Why, anyone can be a knight--even that rubbishy 'little tramp' Charlie Chopin! On the ladder of peerage, a baronetcy is a 'rung up' from a mere knighthood. But oh, what a rung!

As for the 'ceremony', one will merely state that a baronetcy is hereditary, and thus the ritual went something like this:

The scene: The Grand Salon of Dining, Blandsdown. MATER, one's own mother, sits at the foot of the table. ONESELF is enjoying pheasant at one's place, while YOUNGER BROTHER is casting already dissipated glances of interest at ELSIE, the serving maid. GROSVENOR, the parlourmaid, enters.

GROSVENOR: Begging your pardon, mum, but Sir Teddy, he's dead, mum. Someone slipped a toaster in his bath.

MATER: Thank you, Grosvenor. That will be all.

ELSIE (bursting into tears): Who would do such a wicked, wicked thing?!

MATER: That will be all, Elsie. You are dismissed from our employ. Pack your things and go. I will not have unpleasantness during meals. (ELSIE runs from room.)

ONESELF: One supposes that I must assume the grave mantel of responsibility for the health, well-being, and fortune of this illustrious family, so rich in history and refined breeding, eh, Mater?

YOUNGER BROTHER (cheerfully): Not good about the Pater, eh?

MATER: Now now, son. Your father died happy, I am sure. He always did like his toast well done!

(A delicate chuckle all around)

With that rare glance into the family life of one's early years, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Leah, Esq. writes:

Dear Sir,

Though I have only recently discovered your column, I cannot help but admire a man of your dignity and obvious education. (Note from Sir Charles: How true! How true!)

However, I feel it to be my duty to point out one small error that seems to have escaped the notice of you and yours. In the opening paragraph of your introduction, you mention your desire to help "the hoi polloi." I am sure that you are aware that the literal translation of "hoi polloi" is "the herd." Therefore, the phrase "the hoi polloi" translates redundantly as "the the herd." A mistake such as this, though insignificant enough to be almost beneath your notice, may prove worrisome to your beloved readers, who have less weighty matters to occupy their minds.

Leah Rymar Williams, Esquire

Sir Charles replies:

Eloquent lady!

'Tis with a tear that one pens this reply, for it has been over a year now--three hundred and sixty-five days! twelve months!--that one has been dispensing these valuable and cherished pearls of wisdom, much like a giant blue-blooded clam, though not quite as disgusting or gelatinous. . . . One had a point in there, somewhere in that vivid and well-executed metaphor. One has quite forgotten what it was.

Oh yes! It has been over a year since one first made the assertion that appears at the head of each weekly column, but you, lady fair, are the first to 'twig' onto what I intended as a little test--not an error! One's readers know that one is a master of all tongues, modern and ancient. Lingua franca in tocca romana, you know. Or, as young Penelope Windsor-Smythe assures one it is said in the Latin 'Vulgate', Utshae upwae ouyae oldwae oolfae! ("Let the reader be alert!")

Bidding the correspondent a hearty au reservoir, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Picture: It Reflects Badly on the Employer!

Mrs. Heloise van Berkum writes:

Dear Lady Felicia:

I suspect my maid of dressing in my evening gowns while I am out paying my morning calls. She is otherwise of sterling character and arrived with good references. Should I overlook this slight deficiency, or confront her?

Mrs. Heloise van Berkum

The Lady Felicia replies:

One had a similar conundrum during the early, heady years of one's picture-book marriage to Sir Charles. His first valet, B---, who came well recommended (and spoken of highly by Sir Charles own father), was the consummate gentleman's gentleman.

Sad was the day, though, whereupon one caught him prancing down the west hall wearing naught save one's own newly-fashioned corset and garters. One must explicate here, however, upon a fine point. It would have been quite excusable had B--- been wearing his own corset and garters. One's own nephew by marriage, Chauncey, has been involved in many a theatrical production (and highly lauded in the Americas) wherein men impersonate women.

The fault rests squarely on the principle of station, for he was a Servant, wearing the clothing of his Employer. Once servants begin wearing the garments of their betters, they will soon be assuming the airs of their betters. This is a practice which must needs be nipped in the bud. One suggests--nay, insists!--you dismiss the girl forthwith.

Serenely, one remains,
Lady Felicia Grandiose

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