Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm and his brother, Wilhelm Karl were born in 1785 and 1786, respectively and turned into two apples of their mother's eye (she was very proud of them). They have become known as the brothers Grimm. And without at all showing any sign of disrespect to these two gentlemen, I would like to point out that 'grim' (with one 'm') means deadly serious and earnest in English... And you'll see why I mention that from what I am about to tell you: They propounded what is known in the field of linguistics as Grimm's Law.
This refers to the first Germanic Sound Shift, which among things postulates: Proto-Indo-European voiceless stops change into voiceless fricatives. No doubt I'm teaching my grandma to suck eggs (You all knew that anyhow). No? I'm glad I'm not alone with that! You (the non-linguistic types) will be pleased to learn that Jacob and Wilhelm also had a lighter side and spent a long time collecting children's stories, many of which do strangely enough have a 'grim' element. The one I have picked out is called Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH). Before I give a brief summary of the story, I have to refer to what is called the 'suspension of disbelief'. This expression was coined by the Romantic English poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Basically it means the viewers/readers/listeners have to accept what they see/hear as if it is real although they know that it's unreal. Back to the summary. LRRH sets out one day to take some cakes and biscuits to her grandma, who of course was quite capable of sucking eggs, when she meets a wolf. The wolf asks her (don't forget to suspend your disbelief) where she's going. LRRH gives him full details and the wolf rushes off to her grandma's house, goes straight in, gobbles her up, puts on some of her clothes and pops into bed. LRRH only having two legs takes a little longer than the wolf, goes into the house to meet grandma. She is a little surprised at the change in grandma's appearance and makes comments about this. The wolf clearly gets bored with her questions and is anxious for his 'pudding' so he opens his mouth and swallows LRRH as well. Now a huntsman, clearly blessed with a very fine ear, hears the mangled cries of the two prisoners in the wolf's stomach, rips open the creature's stomach and out pop the two captives.
In my last newsletter you may remember, I asked you to think back to the past. In this one I want you to shoot off into the future. I will give you an updated version of Little Red Riding Hood. She is now a young lady (still a bit short-sighted, I'm afraid) and she's very keen on saving the planet. Again she sets out to visit grandma but as she is about to get on her bicycle, she is accosted by our friend, the wolf. He is dressed to kill with all the most recent fashion accessories, gold earrings and several chains – all the latest bling-bling (elaborate jewellery). Nothing 'old hat', you follow... He's what you'd call a cool dude and he's also a smooth talker. He soon elicits from her where she's going and suggests with a wink that they have a bite to eat sometime, with the stress on 'bite' Naturally he drives a fast car that consumes a vast amount of petrol, which we call a gas guzzler. And naturally gets there well before LRRH. Once inside he consumes poor grandma, removes and hides his bling-bling, slips into some of grandma's clothes, drapes himself over a chaise longue and awaits the arrival of LRRH. She puffs her way up the drive on her bike and is quite shocked as she notices all the bright lights gleaming on both sides although it's broad daylight, the huge neon sign over the front door blazing and flashing Grandma's Place, the patio heater in the front garden blasting away although it's high summer and as she enters the living room, she sees the massive plasma TV occupying most of the wall, still on although no-one's watching it. Remember our LRRH wanted to save the planet... She and 'grandma' go through the same question and answer routine. About how different she looks, how big her ears and her mouth are and says: Grandma, what a huge carbo… but too late she is also swallowed up by the wolf.
What our young friend was going to say was: What an enormous carbon footprint you must have, grandma! What she was talking about was the huge amount of greenhouse gases that were being produced by her excessive use of wasteful energy. Poor grandma didn't know how many units of carbon dioxide she was shooting into the atmosphere. Did she know she could go in for carbon offsetting by paying money for trees to be planted to eliminate what she had created? LRRH was able to have a long chat with her grandma on such matters inside the belly of the big fat wolf. She told her she was endangering the planet with her way of life and ought really to adopt green policies and be eco-friendly, cut down the trips to town and buy a smaller car, hang her washing out in the garden instead of using the dryer. She should buy energy saving light bulbs, recycle as much as she could, produce little or no waste and not rely on fossil fuels lasting forever. Otherwise said LRRH global climate change would cause even more flooding, drought, rising temperatures and sea levels. Didn't she realise icebergs were falling apart, polar bears were grumbling because it was getting too hot and several groups of birds were having serious discussions in the UK about migrating to warmer climates because the winters here weren't too bad really and it saved all that travelling? It was all too much for poor grandma and she started to scream. This was just as well because a passing police officer (also with a fine ear) heard the noise, entered the house and with his penknife opened up the wolf and let the two ladies out. The rejoicing was tumultuous and there is even talk about a romance between the policeman and LRRH, possibly because he was riding an eco friendly bike! Grandma is now totally converted. She's got rid of all her wasteful lights and heaters, has got solar panels in her roof, now uses a much smaller TV, has a small wind turbine in the back garden and has even taken up cycling, rather unsteadily. The wolf is now a reformed character and has become a vegetarian. After all this excitement Grandma wanted to give her little granddaughter (who now, I am happy to report uses contact lenses) a little present and has made her a lovely new hood. And the colour of the hood? Awfully sorry Jacob and Wilhelm but well, it had to be green really, didn't it?
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