Snips, snails and puppy dogs’ tails

Evidently the term snips, in this context, is from the Cumbrian (English) dialect and it means small eel

Off the Line –

Karen Haviland


Remember that old nursery rhyme What are boys made of? Well, according to the rhyme, the mini version of our male population is made up of snips, and snails and puppy dogs’ tails.

Just an aside: evidently the term snips, in this context, is from the Cumbrian (English) dialect and it means small eel. Those who know the rhyme know there is a counterpart in the rhyme for girls and, unlike the boys’ description, our mini female population fares quite well.

Oh and yet another aside: that rhyme, while acceptable years ago is apparently now considered sexist against both boys and girls. Personally, I think it is more stereotyping than sexist, but that’s just my opinion.

As I read the above paragraph I realize that once again I have meandered somewhat off my original point of this column.

I know a little boy. We call him George. He is the ripe age of 11. Unfortunately for his parents, he meets the above criteria for boys in the rhyme. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

George is an engaging, charming and mischievous little boy who has sparkling blue eyes, an eternal grin and hair, although cut short, always seems to be somewhat out of place. His sense of humour is natural and hilariously impeccable. His impish face alone never fails to make one laugh.

Woe to his parents, George seems to have no fear ­— none whatsoever. After all, he did jump off Perrys Bridge several years ago when he was around six or seven years old.

As I said, he has no fear.

Just about that age George had a girlfriend. Their parents were friends. One day, while the parents were visiting each other, George decided to take his girlfriend for a ride. But because George is George a ride in a car would never do. He chose instead to take her on the ride of her life in a motor home.

Needless to say — and I know you all knew this was coming, George put the gear in neutral and off they went. Luckily for them, the motor home bumped into something and stopped before much damage was done. George escaped relatively unscathed from his first joyride. I’m not sure though if he escaped his parent’s wrath. His little girlfriend escaped without a bump too.

Nothing has changed with George since then, except maybe he’s gotten even braver.

Oh, did I mention he is my nephew?

Anyway, the other night his mother and three siblings were visiting. We were having a great time swapping stories and such. The kids were fully engaged and everyone was having fun. George, I might add, is the youngest of his siblings and sometimes, just by the very nature of that, is occasionally overshadowed despite his bigger than life personality.

He was having none of that. Like a bolt of lightning he jumped up from his chair and began writhing his skinny snake hips, moving his feet and performing the perfect John Travolta Staying Alive dance while all the while singing (shouting?) “B-Ba-Balesta!” over and over and over again.

You had to have been there. All of us were howling in laughter. This of course, encouraged George to really lay it on thick, which caused us to laugh even harder, which caused him to ramp it up full speed ahead. By the way, that’s the only speed George knows.

It was finally time for George to go home. His blue eyes were twinkling and he had a huge grin on his face as he made his theatrical exit. Mission accomplished! There’s no one who can say George was overshadowed that night.

After he left, our friend who was there said to my husband, “That boy is going to cost his parents a lot of money.”

Yes indeed. I do believe he was right. But I, for one, would never want George to change. He is perfect just the way he is despite the snips and snails and puppy dog tails.


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