I got my love of irony, words and singing from my father. A lot of the silly words I use, some of the nonsense songs I sing and the rhymes I spout come from him. It’s a continuum of course as it is quite clear that although I hardly really knew him, my paternal Grandfather was just the same. Recently I was playing with my Great-Grandson and in the course of coming up with a list of animals he might be hiding under the bed I included the Hipporhinostricow. This is an animal that’s inhabited my life since … for ever! I got to thinking about this creature and decided to do a search to find out more of it’s history and habitat. Just entering the word in a search engine gives a plethora of results and the first thing you notice is that the irrepressible Spike Milligan comes up again and again. I have to confess I had never seen his poem:-
Such a beast is the Hipporhinostricow
How it got so mixed up we’ll never know how
It sleeps all day and whistles all night
And it wears yellow socks which are far too tight.
If you laugh at the Hipporhinostricow
You’re bound to get into an awful row
The creature is protected you see
From Silly people like you and me
… and I hasten to add his Hipporhinostricow bears no resemblance to the one I see around!! I wanted to find out more about where the word might first have arisen. So did a search to exclude Spike bless him (you can see the results here: yarnwhispering.co.uk/hiprnsc). I was amazed to discover that it seems to be missing from history BSM (before Spike Miligan). It was unlikely but looking at the dates and ages it was, perhaps, just possible that the “pater” had acquired the word from the Goon Show or some early Milligan broadcast. So I asked him whether he had got it from my grandfather:-
Yes it was from your grandfather. I thought he’d made it up himself. Never seen or heard the nonsense rhyme before. He was an odd man.
Putting aside my immediate though of kettles and pots I found this fascinating. So the animal was in the wild BSM and perhaps like me he learnt it from his father? If only he hadn’t hung up his shoes, I would have asked the wonderful Michael Quinnion at worldwidewords.org if he had any other sightings of the animal in the wild. So if you know anything more, get in touch. While you are about it keep a lookout for the Noscerinus too; I hear they like to nip the ear lobes of people listening to stories.