Saturday, October 09, 2010

'Atty' more or less explained!

Okay, I asked for it!

Like millions of other children, one of my favourite books was "The Wind In The Willows" by Kenneth Grahame. He was born in Edinburgh in 1859 and Grahame's son Alastair, affectionately known as Mouse, was the original audience for the stories told through a series of letters. In 1908 the letters became the novel and the book has been in publication ever since.

The setting was the Wild Wood, and the protagonists were the anthropomorphic Mole, Badger, Otter, Toad and... Ratty.

I hasten to point out that Ratty was no rat but a water vole. And at a very early age he was my favourite character, for no reason that I can possibly explain. I must have been very young, though, if I was mispronouncing his name... 'Atty!

I wonder why I insisted on taking this name for myself?  I have seen Ratty described as rakish, slightly self-important... How on earth could I as a child have predicted characteristics which would surely take over six decades to emerge?

It occurs to me that ascribing to babies and toddlers nicknames from the animal world is an odd phenomenon. From the very beginning our daughter was Maus (German for 'mouse').

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