Monday, 18 January 2016

Groovy (and Wrong)

'She had started on the subject of progress. "We mustn't let ourselves be groovy, Canon Jocelyn," speaking to him as if he were deaf. 'We must have a scientific point of view."
 "Ah, yes," said Canon Jocelyn. He pronounced "Ah" as if it were "Myer", with an indescribable intonation of aloofness.
 "I mean, however much you object to it, we can't go back. We must be progressive. Eppur si muove."
 "Groovy", "scientific", "progressive", he winced at the words...'

This passage occurs in The Rector's Daughter by F.M. Mayor, published 1924 (which I am reading), and presents the word 'groovy' in a curious, to me hitherto unknown, light - as meaning, in fact, pretty much the opposite of what it came to mean in the Sixties: stuck in a groove, as against - well - groovy, baby.
 Another curiosity in The Rector's Daughter is a reference to 'such a wrong part of London as Kensington'. It is considered 'wrong' as against Hampstead, Chelsea, Bloomsbury, St John's Wood and (for heaven's sake) Hammersmith. Kensington has clearly come up in the world since the Twenties. I'm sure Ivy Compton Burnett - or indeed T.S. Eliot - didn't think they were living in a 'wrong' part of London. How times change...


  1. Several years ago, I checked out the computer language Groovy, a scripting language built on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). I liked it well enough, but its requirement of a certain level of JVM made it impractical for my purposes. I did find that the name made for some difficulty. Googling for information about this or that aspect of the language tended to bring up pages of irrelevant, silly results.

  2. I bet it did! I wonder who came up with that name, and why...

  3. The designers of programming languages often reach for the quirky. This goes back at least to JOVIAL, Jules' Own Version of the International Algorithmic Language, which the US Navy used for many years. I would guess offhand that the choice of "Groovy" may have been affected by Ruby; certainly the name of the web development framework Groovy on Grails is a takeoff on the older Ruby on Rails.