Handkerstuff

Femme_disant_adieu_avec_un_mouchoir_(Tissot)

There are lots of things you can do with a real handkerchief which you can’t do with tissue. I remember that people used them to wave from trains when passing houses of people they knew. Actually you just stuck the handkerchief out of the window and it would wave itself. Of course, now you can’t even open train windows at all. I also have recollections of people in hot weather tying knots in the corners, soaking the hankie in cold water and wearing it on their heads.

And surely to be handed a freshly ironed, neatly folded, soft handkerchief to wipe one’s tears must be a consolation in itself. Thinking of that use, I believe that I have a whole class of new words to suggest. I do this with some apprehension, because though new words are amusing and sometimes mesmerising, they are a bit like unknown animals you bring back to your own house; some of them turn out to be bad guests and there are a few hundred words which in my opinion we desperately need to get rid of.

Despite this, in the single-volume dictionary I have to hand I am busy trying to push handiwork one way and handknit the other, so that I can make room to fit in a whole new pageful.

Let us suppose some bad news has blown in through the window or that something which never was supposed to happen has just knocked on your door. You are sad and distressed. What do you do to console yourself if no one hands you a handkerchief ? A handkerwalk makes me feel better sometimes, my footsteps stretch my cares out in all directions  around the town until they’re too thin to notice any more. Or perhaps you prefer to pick up the phone and have a handkertalk about it all. If there is someone you always call when you need to do this then that is your handkerfriend.

At night or in times of stress you might of course be seen opening the fridge in search of handkerfood. But there may be something specific you may find more comforting (and I want to point out that none of the following examples apply to me),
for example, a handkersausage, handkerchocs, or handkerchup (a thick layer of ketchup spread over what is pretty bad food to start with) There may be some people, though I find this difficult to believe, who turn to handkerporridge.

How about handkercraft ? A word which straight from its coinage rolls wobbling on its edge into ambiguity. Is this some hobby like woodwork or brick-laying which you turn to in dark times ? Or is it the motorcycle you tear down the road on while howling ? Or is it a car or even a boat ?

You may have a favourite handkerchair, perhaps there is only one handkerplace that makes you feel better, or you could be compelled to buy some handkershoes. Some people have handkerchildren. In Autralia there probably are handkeroos, but I don’t know what they are. Neither do I know what a handkernaut is, but I’ll know one when one turns up and I will know what to call  it/ her/him.

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