Friday, October 10, 2008

ground ground nuts

In her book 84, Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff responds to a friend who is visiting England:

“I fail to see why you did not understand the groceryman, he did not call it ‘ground ground nuts,’ he called it ‘ground ground-nuts’ which is the only really SENSible thing to call it. Peanuts grow in the GROUND and are therefore GROUNDnuts, and after you take them out of the ground you grind them up and you have ground ground-nuts, which is a much more accurate name than peanut butter, you just don’t understand English.”

84, Charing Cross Road is a surprisingly affecting collection of correspondence between Hanff and an English bookseller, Frank Doel, and a few others. The correspondence got its start in 1949 when the British government was still imposing rationing, a legacy of the war. Besides sending a little money to buy books, Helene makes friends by shipping tinned goods, like ham and tongue. The back and forth between the effusive New Yorker and the reserved Londoner provides contrast yet Doel seems to get Hanff’s sometimes sarcastic wit.

The paragraph I quote above is outside the main thread of the book but fun anyway.


Polaris Supernova said...

I actually just finished this paragraph in the book and happened upon your blog when I was trying to see if they really do (did?) call peanut butter "ground ground-nuts" in England.

I guess this is just a shout-out, but I kind of feel inspired to write my own blog about the book(s) I'm reading, if not for anyone else but me and the occasional internet straggler.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Polaris. "The occasional internet straggler" -- you've got my audience pegged!

On your blog you say, "[Are] the books she requests ... as random and unusual as I find them to be?"

I recognized most of the books she wanted and have read some of them. (Or excerpts.) But you might note that Hanff herself recognized that her tastes were out of sync with her contemporaries.

I've been mildly interested in antiquarian books, mostly through my devotion to the Oz books; there's quite a subculture.