In a Word: Helicopter

A Christmas present long ago prompted an effort to learn how to spell the gift’s name

Dear Mr Claus,

I expect I am wasting my time writing to you again this year. It’s not easy being me. To be ignored by you, of all people, year after year feels like a judgment. And I haven’t been that bad, really. Honestly. So I am mystified, and annoyed.

That’s why I’m addressing you now as “Mr Claus”! In my part of the world being given such a title can mean either respect or its opposite. The tone is all.

I’ll leave it to you to decide which applies here.

There is another reason. In that same part of the world you would be (affectionately) known as "Santy". Santa is too mid-Atlantic for us, and more associated with a wine (Santa Rita) or that place in Spain (Santa Ponsa).

When we add a ‘y’ or ‘een’ to first names it suggests a sort of warmth. So we have Christy or Mickey, or (sometimes even) Patsy.

My affection towards you has cooled, however. You don’t call, you don’t write, or even respond to my letters.

Yes, I remember the better times when you never did forget me at Christmas. Like the year you brought me a helicopter and how I spent most of that Christmas and New Year learning how to spell the word so I could impress my teacher when I went back to school. Which I did.

So anxious was I to show off my new prowess, I blurted out “Mrs, Forde, I got a h-e-l-i-c-o-p-t-e-r for Christmas”, before she even asked. Such was my fear that I might forget how to spell it, if I waited.

Anyhow, this time I am not asking you to bring me anything for Christmas. I just want an answer to a question that has me bewildered since the pandemic began early last year.

Why has that book Where the Crawdads Sing remained in the Irish best-seller lists for the past 21 months at least? I hadn’t taken too much notice before then. It stuns me.

Yes, I read it during the first lockdown. It was mildly interesting and is memorable only because every week since then I have seen it lurking there among the best-sellers, a bit like Woody Allen in Zelig. Can you cast any light on this?

Helicopter, from Greek helix for 'spiral' and pteron for 'wing'.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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