Matthew Steeples discovers Michael Winner’s links to descriptions of unwelcome “out of towners”
My last linguistic rambling explored two words, “plebs” and “ladettes,” that, like Andrew Mitchell MP, truly need to be eliminated from our culture. The next two in this series, “grockles” and “emmets,” have far more amusing origins and truly sum up the eccentricities of those living in the South of England.
I was led to believe that the word “grockle” was an ancient description of “those not from round here,” but having done a little research I now discover that it actually emanates from the 20th century The Dandy’s comic strip, “Danny and the Grockle.”
The Dandy’s “grockle” was nothing other than a dragon like creature. There wasn’t anything more to the beast and it wasn’t until 1964 that the term became popularised when it was used in a film set in the Devon resort of Torquay. In The System (renamed The Girl-Getters for the US market), starring Oliver Reed and directed by Michael Winner, one of the characters states:
“Bloody grockles and their caravans, always jamming up the Devon lanes!”
Henceforth, the word became forevermore linked to tourists and thus we can hold Michael Winner responsible for bringing it to the world’s attention. Winner, who describes, himself as: “A totally insane film director, writer, producer, silk shirt cleaner, bad tempered, totally ridiculous example of humanity in deep shit” really should proudly add a reference to this to his Twitter handle.
Other definitions of the “grockle” are more specific and an especially amusing one separates these interlopers very clearly:
“It’s used as an insult towards ignorant and usually posh tourists; those with caravans; those with five kids, a dog, a grandad tagging along and those that have been coming to town for twenty years and think they know and own the place.”
The same commentator on this term continues:
“Someone holidaying in Christchurch who’s from Southampton isn’t a grockle… Foreign tourists aren’t [grockles] either as these generally tend to be considerate people when traveling and don’t make a nuisance of themselves… However, when I went to Puerto Banus near Marbella, I’d heard it was very exclusive but it was full of grockles still.”
The word is now so recognised that it was used in an a 2010 article in The Sunday Times about the sale of Lord Cowdray’s £25 million home in West Sussex:
“Bar a few open-garden events, the Cowdrays have never allowed visitor access to the property, so the eventual buyer won’t have to endure grockles coming up the drive.”
Whilst we have discovered that a “grockle” is a pretty general term, in Cornwall they have a more specific variation. The Cornish use the pejorative nickname “emmet” for tourists.
Derived from the Cornish language word for “ant,” the “emmet” is an analogy for the way in which both tourists and ants are often red in colour and appear to mill around. “Emmets,” it seems, are nuisances who get in the way and whom the locals would rather weren’t there.
Be they a “grockle” or an “emmet,” tourists may well generate millions in revenue for the people of the South West but still, as many a local will say: “They’re not welcome round ‘ere.” I’m sure many a restaurateur feels similarly when Mr Michael Winner lands on his doorstep.
View Michael Winner’s official website at: http://www.michael-winner.com/
Follow Michael Winner on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/mrmichaelwinner