When I was a small boy, if I had been more exasperating than usual, my father would either call me a “daft ape’rth” or a “blithering idiot”, depending on the severity of the offence. On rare occasions the offence was severe enough to render him speechless. Once I tried to find out if the electric fire was on by putting my finger through the bars; that gave us both a shock I can tell you, painfully so in my case.
The “daft ape’rth” insult was generally mobilised for cases of minor irritation. For many years I assumed I was being likened to an ape (well that’s what it sounded like), until one day the penny, or rather the halfpenny, dropped. I was actually being called a “daft halfpenny worth”. I’m not sure what I was a halfpenny worth of, but I don’t suppose so small an amount of money would have gone very far, not even in the 1960s. A couple of ‘Fruit Salads’, half a Penny Arrow, or one sixth of a thru’pny ‘Lucky Bag’, sweets being about the only reference point I had back then when it came to assessing the true value of hard cash.
The phrase “blithering idiot” used to make me imagine some poor feeble minded soul, lying on the floor in a foetal position, twitching away like the inmate of a Victorian lunatic asylum. Its definition according my online dictionary is “an extremely stupid person”. I’d rather guessed that’s what my father meant by it, but I can find no definition in the same dictionary for the verb “to blither”. “Blithe” meaning happy or carefree comes close, but it’s far more likely that I simply misheard him, and he was actually saying “You blathering idiot”. To “blather” means “to talk for a long time in a silly or annoying way”, and if I’m honest that does sound a bit familiar.
So, I was either happily stupid, or talkatively stupid. To be frank, and especially looking back at some of my earlier blog posts, my money's on it being both!