Remoulding for the fun of it English as a language can be teased and moulded to great humorous effect, and few could master the art as well as the late PGWodehouse.
His most memorable characters are the bumbling Englishman Bertie Wooster and his efficient, erudite valet Jeeves, and you would be hard pressed to tell that a single author wrote these conversational lines (from Jeeves in the Springtime) for both:
Jeeves: “A somewhat curious character, sir. Since retiring from business he has become a great recluse, and now devotes himself almost entirely to the pleasures of the table.” Bertie: “Greedy... you mean?” Wodehouse drew upon and had fun with his classical school education. Those familiar with Shakespeare’s Macbeth will recall that after Macbeth’s incoherent ramblings on seeing the ghost of Banquo seated at a formal banquet, Lady Macbeth asks that the guests depart without formality, saying, “Stand not upon the order of your leaving”. This line is paraphrased to humorous effect inWodehouse, when a safe-cracking burglar, hearing a noise without, ‘stood not upon the order of his going’.
In another story the hero, Archibald Mulliner, is a guest at a country house, but is held captive audience by the boring hostess in the living room while her daughter (whom Archibald loves) is talking with his rival for her hand. Archibald espies a battleaxe on the wall, and longs to “remove the weapon from its hook, spit on his hands, and haul off and dot this doddering old ruin one just above the imitation pearl necklace”.
For fans, the fun of PGW lies in the repetitiveness. And here’s how the author rebuffed the allegation that his books are all the same: “A certain critic – for such men, I regret to say, do exist – made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained ‘all the oldWodehouse characters under different names’. He has probably by now been eaten by bears... but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the oldWodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it’ll make him feel, I rather fancy”.