Honnish and Boudledidge

The Mitford family.The daughters of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, were renowned and reviled in the twentieth century. Unity (“Bobo”), was a fascist and companion of Hitler who shot herself when Britain declared war Germany. Her sister Diana married the fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley and was interred during the war. Deborah (“Debo”) married the Duke of Devonshire, Jessica (“Decca”) became a political activist and a civil rights campaigner, and Nancy wrote novels and acclaimed biographies of Zelda Fitzgerald and Madame de Pompadour. In childhood, the sisters developed a secret language Jessica Mitford recalled in a biography of her sister Unity: 

“Boudledidge grew up in a very primitive fashion. Pal was Bal, equals Baddle, equals Boudle. Ch would be je; picture would be bigjure or bigjer; chair would be jer. T was d, and it went from there of its own accord. We were starting it at about the age of seven, and went on perfecting it until about ten. The language had to go with facial expression, which was one of great sorrow, and the noise was pressed out of the side of the mouth. ‘Uuge and objegzionalbe’ I called her, and when we quarreled I would urge her to ‘gommid id’, meaning that she should go an commit suicide– when she did, my mother reminded me of that, as though I had second sight.

As for Honnish, that was a language between Debo and me. Kenoy is Honnish for hen, so a phrase like ‘in a woy kenoy’ in Bobo’s letters is a borrowing, she would have been too old for Honnish, which was more an accent than anything else.”

Unity Mitford: A Quest, David Pryce-Jones, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976.

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