Scottish Daily Mail
You say Jekkle, I say Jeekul . . .
QUESTION We’re told that Dr Jekyll should be pronounced ‘Jeekle’. Is there any evidence as to the author’s intention? The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr hyde is one of the most famous supernatural horror stories of all time.
Written by Robert Louis Stevenson and first published in 1882, it examined the duality of human nature, expressed as an inner struggle between good and evil — in this case, in the forms of the scientist Dr Jekyll and his evil alterego, Mr hyde.
Although most people who have seen the movies pronounce it ‘Jekkle’, the correct Scottish pronunciation is ‘Jeekul’, rhyming with treacle.
According to Putnam’s 18,000 Words Often Mispronounced (1926), by William henry Phyfe, Robert Louis Stevenson himself confirmed this, saying: ‘The family pronounce it in the manner stated.’
The family in question being that of renowned english garden designer Gertrude Jekyll (18431942) — a good friend of Stevenson’s and the clear inspiration for the name.
In the terrific 1931 Paramount film, Dr Jekyll And Mr hyde, starring Fredric March, the ‘Jeekul’ pronunciation was used. The 1941 MGM version starring Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner did much to popularise the nowfamiliar pronunciation.
It has been suggested Stevenson chose ‘Jeekul’ to rhyme with ‘seek all’ in opposition to Mr hyde (or Mr hide) in reference to the game hide and Seek.
Morris Tilledsley, Bristol. QUESTION Why were the ‘barefoot doctors’ of communist China so named? The barefoot doctors predate Communism in China by about 25 years. In the late Twenties and early Thirties the Chinese nationalist government was having difficulty in encouraging wellpaid urban doctors to move to rural areas where the need for healthcare was great.
As a result, it provided basic medical training to some country dwellers so they could offer medical assistance locally.
Later, Mao’s Communist government supplied more structured training.
These trained workers were referred to as ‘barefoot doctors’, since much of China’s farming and rural economy involved rice growing in waterfilled paddy fields, where the farmers worked without shoes.
Typically, barefoot doctors would be graduates of the secondary school system who had received about six to 18 months’ training and could treat minor ailments and injuries, and dispense Western and Chinese drugs. Many grew herbs for herbal remedies.
There was a focus on prevention, rather than cure, with the barefoot doctors carrying out immunisation projects. This had a significant impact on healthcare. The barefoot doctor scheme ended in 1981 as part of the move away from collectivism to entrepreneurship.
Barefoot doctors were given the option to take a national exam that would allow them to study medicine more formally and become ‘village doctors’.
Many doctors now working in rural China started out as barefoot doctors. Chen Zsu, a Chinese minister for health, is reputed to have done so.
The barefoot doctor scheme provided the basis for the 1978 AlmaAta Declaration, which encouraged countries to set up similar primary healthcare systems in deprived rural areas.
Bob Cubitt, Northampton. QUESTION Further to jokes told in the Soviet Union, does anyone know of any from the Roman Empire? There’S a famous political anecdote in which Tory radical enoch Powell, when asked by a notoriously chatty house of Commons barber how he would like his hair cut, replied ‘In silence.’
This is a very ancient joke, featured in the joke anthology Philogelos and credited to Archelaus, a 5BC king of Macedon. enoch Powell was a classicist and well aware of this.
Paul Whitehead, Wolverhampton. A Joke was told in Cicero’s time about that great orator. Walking past the slave market in Rome, Cicero saw a slave who looked remarkably like him. he asked the slave: ‘Was your mother ever in Rome?’
The slave replied: ‘No, master, but my father was!’ Peter Nicholson, London N6.
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