Competition no. 215: results

This is the first competition published in New Statesman and Nation to be judged by Sylvia Lynd. She must have been pleased by the move to the NS&N: her husband Robert, aka ‘Y.Y.’, was its star columnist. She chooses a subject still under debate today – pronouncing foreign place names. Why do we say Paris instead of Paree, but Nees instead of Nice? Answers on a postcard from the appropriately mispronounced place. (Even within England it is a problem. Nobody in Newcastle says Newcastle with a long a, and an emphasis on the second syllable; they say Newcastle with a short a, and an even beat on each syllable.)

She asks for a poem from 14-40 lines on the subject ‘The Discoveries of Foreign Travel’. This is characteristic of Lynd, who tends to give everyone a lot of rope, and then gives herself plenty of rope as well. 40 lines! And there is a specific insistence on the last line: ‘And Guadalquivir called ‘Gwad-al-kee-ver’. She doesn’t give a precise ruling on the weight on those syllables, and even her suggested pronunciation is open to doubt. For instance, here’s Fisher’s account of the river in 1797-8:

Fisher on Gquivir

But here’s Paul Gwynne from 1912 (see the footnote):


These are treacherous waters. But here’s the picture from Gwynne’s edition:


Lynd’s style is as ever chatty and distinctive (very few of the judges can be recognised without seeing the name. Lynd is one; Squire another; the dreadful Agate a third). If Barry, now on the NS&N board had any advice, it would have been to clear an additional column (effectively what happens). A couple of entrants, Palermo and Bow-wow, attempt to impress (e.g. Chicago = Shee-cago), but the latter apparently can’t do Valladolid … Guy Innes sees his whole entry printed but Lynd says it’s too clever for her (she can’t ‘do his eighth or nineteenth line’):


Perhaps the problem here is the switch between new and old (has no/ doth oft). Lynd has a great line in suggesting that she has heard gentlemen fall out when lunching in Soho because one has pronounced the second t in risotto… In her scatty way, pausing to accidentally reveal Pibwob’s name but call him Goldsmith instead of Goldsmid, she winnows her list to four, discards Allan M. Laing, and divides first prize (a guinea each) between H.C.M. and E.J., with W. Leslie Nicholls sneaking in for the half-guinea.






This is the first successful competition to be published in New Statesman, in my view.


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