Sunday, April 25, 2021

The man on the back of the Clapham Omnibus lives in Peoria, Illinois

In a comment on my last post, longtime reader Graham Edwards, who happens to live near the town of Stornoway on the Island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, mentioned "the man on the back of the Clapham Omnibus" and then added parenthetically "(a reference which I think I am correct in saying you have used in the past)".

Readers in the U.K. may find this hard to believe, but Graham's comment is the first time in my entire lifespan of 80 years, 1 month, 7 days that I have ever encountered the phrase "the man on the back of the Clapham Omnibus". I have never seen it in print or heard it spoken and I am not clairvoyant enough to have used it in the past. Graham, you obviously have me confused with some other rhymeswithplague.

So for those of you who are scratching your heads, here is your reading assignment for this beautiful April afternoon:


Graham did pay me a compliment, saying, "I do enjoy your precise use of words." I am not nearly as precise as my English friend Doug Braund, whom I met around 1967 in Poughkeepsie, New York, where I had begun working for IBM two years earlier. I thought of Doug when Graham mentioned the word omnibus. Doug was on temporary assignment in Poughkeepsie from the IBM laboratory at High Wycombe in England, and he was very precise. He was modern enough to say bus instead of omnibus, but when he wrote it on paper I noticed that he was careful to write it as a contraction, 'bus, instead of the more common word, bus.

I have no idea how I remembered that today, but didn't it fit nicely into this post?

15 comments:

  1. It is a phrase that I frequently use in my posts. It is the man on the Clapham omnibus, not the back of the Clapham omnibus. I studied law and it was a phrase used by our then Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning, to describe the ordinary man, the reasonable man, in his summing up. I don't think he originated the term but he liked to use it. Graham is a self confessed man with a bad memory and I believe he is confusing you with me in the use of the expression.

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    1. Rachel, ah, you have solved the mystery then. I do read your blog but that that phrase never jumped off the page at me before. Now I shall be seeing it everywhere, I suppose.

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  2. Interesting. I thank you, Graham and Rachel for clarifying that term for me!

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  3. Bonnie, I don’t want to put words into other people’s mouths, but you are very welcome, very welcome, and very welcome, I’m sure!

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  4. My son lives near Clapham Common in south London and I have travelled there aboard a red London bus. I believe it was a Number 35. However no judges in powdered wigs appeared on the top deck to ask my opinion about current matters of law.

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  5. Neil, I thank God for small favours.

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  6. I'm just attempting to read a few blog posts whilst re-habilitating myself back into Hebridean life after a couple of weeks away in the Central Belt. I have no idea why I thought you may have used the term. Like Rachel I read law so the phrase is second nature to me (even though I inserted an unnecessary phrase into it). As Rachel said I have an appalling memory. I am often confused. Anyway the post was interesting. Thank you.

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    1. Graham, no need to apologise for being confused. Most people are from time to time. For example, my insurance agent back in Florida once told me I had a photogenic memory (I’m sure he meant photographic) and our pastor back in Florida said from the pulpit one Sunday “running into the perennial brick wall” (I’m sure he meant proverbial). I am not suggesting in any way that confusing me with Rachel is anything at all like using a malapropism, though for some reason my own use of the word malapropism makes me think of Munchausen’s By Proxy. In many ways I may be the most confused person you know. Anyway I’m glad you found the post interesting.

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  7. Thanks for the pointers to a couple of interesting reads, RWP. Words have ever been my delight, and playing with them is the best exeTrcise a thinking mind can indulge in. :-)

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    1. Jinksy/Penny, it’s always a delight to hear from you, and I’m glad you found the linked-to articles interesting.

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    2. But I'm sorry for my earlier typo! You can blame it on my fingers that Lollyfrangle....( I'd send a link, if I could remember where I posted the poem in which the word was invented !! )

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    3. Jinksy, I apologize to Google for all the bad things I’ve ever said about it and all the bad thoughts I’ve ever thought about it, because simply by googling lollyfrangle I very quickly found a website called pens-poems.blogspot.com (ring a bell?) and a poem called “Spellcheck Nightmare” on a post entitled “Weird” that was published by you on 2 December 2010.

      You are very welcome!

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    4. Oh, RWP! It's not only our birthdays that link our Piscean minds! We are blessed with curiosity, exactly like The Elephant's Child! hehehe....

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  8. Hello from a first time visitor to your blog who came here from Leaves on My Tree (Emma Springfield's blog). Admittedly, your blog name intrigued me enough to drop in. And, now I find this post which sent me clicking on to learn more about such an unusual term. My education is never-ending with the things bloggers teach me.

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  9. Welcome to the blog, Beatrice P. Boyd!. I hope this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

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