Know Any Edwardian Cuss Words?

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When you begin repairing other people’s pens, you start to see all sorts of damage; things you wouldn’t normally even imagine. Of course, then you do begin to imagine: what stories go along with what you see before you?

Waterman 412½VP

Waterman 412½VP

This week we had one such cross our bench. And a picture is worth a thousand words.

It is a truly lovely pen: a dainty Waterman vest pocket-sized eyedropper. Uncommonly, it is fully overlaid with silver, even the lower end. Dating to the earliest 1900s, these were all hand-made. From the water-tight section threads to the floral engraving on the barrel: true works of art. And the nibs? Fully flexible, responsive, yet strong. But then, everything is relative.

And at some point, something happened to this pen. Something bad. This would be that point where imagination takes off. Did the owner, obviously someone with fine appreciation for pens, loan it out? Or was it simply a bad day?

The cap went on a little crooked. And there was a slight gap—just the slightest—between the inner and outer caps. And the tip went into it.

Now normally, that would cause one to say “hmph!”, pull the pen out, and re-cap it properly. Thus, my theory about the lending. Because that sensible reaction, the reaction of any person with an appreciation for the finest of pens, didn’t happen.

Whoever had the pen in hand kept going. The nib was stuck between the inner and outer caps, and they just kept screwing the cap down. And the further the cap went on, the further the nib was pushed. And pulled sideways.

Can you feel the pain?

Waterman 412½VP - torn nib detail

Waterman 412½VP – torn nib detail

Now, an alloy of gold and copper (which is what this is) is a tough thing. The more it is worked, the harder it gets. And so even a thin piece of gold is quite tough, and only gets tougher.

But we just had to keep going, didn’t we? And the more the cap was screwed tight, the tighter the nib was wedged in, until it caught. And then it started to be pulled sideways. And so much force was put into that pushing-and-pulling, that the tines were torn, quite literally, off.

And so, our imagination dictates, some very improper Edwardian cuss words likely were released. If we are right, and this pen was loaned out at the time, there may have been another batch of improper Edwardian cuss words, unleashed shortly after it’s return.

We could only get one of the tines out. The other remains, forever entombed in both pen and memory.

The moral of this tale? Go gently. Any time you do something with a pen—even a simple, ordinary thing like putting on it’s cap—think about what you are doing. If there is resistance, or something doesn’t seem right, stop. Undo it. Or redo it. Or do it another time.

If you force it, something bad could happen. Know any Edwardian cuss words?

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