About - Personal

Personal Stuff

The following one-liner tells you who I am (but not where I came from and all that David Copperfield kind of cr@p, as Holden Caulfield famously remarked).

Robert (aka Robin) Erskine Waddell, born 1945, married 1967, two children.

[For the benefit of Google, that's R E Waddell or Robert Erskine Waddell
or Robert Waddell or (most usually) Robin Waddell]

The Waddells are plain folks, and none of them came over with William the Conqueror, but one of them way back got uppity and somehow had the phrase Orna Verum registered as a motto - so if you feel inquisitive, Google it, or follow these links:

(If the link is broken, see this copy.)

(If the link is broken, see this copy.)

I like it as a website name because it's a Kit Williams type pointer to my surname, plus it's subtly ambiguous (ie. Adorn The Truth or Embellish The Truth, where's this bloke coming from?). So what could be more appropriate?

And perhaps I could just show off the two other members of my household ...




Robin and Sonia Waddell, March 2011
© Christopher G. St. C. Kendall, Distinguished Professor Emeritus,
Earth & Ocean Sciences, University of South Carolina





Bouquet vs Bucket

Those of you condemned by accident of birth to live in the British Isles will appreciate what strong feelings are stirred by mispronunciation, real or perceived, especially of a surname or first name. Think Dalziel or Featherstonehaugh, and Ralph or Siobhan or – trickier still – Niamh.

And fashions change. When I were a lad, we pronounced the justly celebrated composer of Dido's Lament as Pur-cell. Not so now – the accent moved up to the front some decades ago, and Pur-cell, as in the detergent powder, is now de rigueur. Some people can get really angry if you say it the old way.

Well, just imagine how it feels to be called Waddell!

For a start, I've encountered a baker's dozen of misbegotten attempts at simply spelling it – Waddle, Waddel, Wadell, Wadel, Wadle (my personal favourite), Woddell, Wodell, Wodel, Wodle, Wardell, Wardle, Wordell, Wordle, Woodell, Woodall, and (quite truthfully) Widdel – or was it Widdle? One or the other, but admittedly only once.

And there have been others – I've got a list somewhere or another.

As an aside, when asked to spell it over the phone, I occasionally try and help by saying there are three doubles in it, but that's only to invite further bafflement!

Cutting to the chase, once the spelling has been surmounted (and one generally doesn't make an issue out of it), eight out of ten people will then say "Well, Mr Woddle, and how can I help you today?".

And I think to myself, "Why don't you call me Mr Smith, it's no more incorrect than Mr Woddle". If they've introduced themselves as Ethan or Tracy, I don't start calling them Nathan, or Trixie. It's all just a matter of listening carefully, and responding likewise.

What does actually irritate is when the other chap says "In Scotland we pronounce that Woddle", and it becomes a red mist moment. What he means is that I'm a stuck-up social climber, a pompous poseur, or worse, and he's taking it upon himself to put me right.

The simple truth is that some people (in Scotland and elsewhere) say it one way, some (in Scotland and elsewhere) say it the other. My father's family, Scottish through and through, called themselves Wa-ddell, and so therefore do I.

On the other hand, a brilliant BBC TV comedy sitcom ran for five years or so (and is still being repeated on the digital channels) based on the social pretensions implicit in the Lady of The House's way of saying her surname. It's a quintessentially British preoccupation, and takes our minds off lesser issues such as the National Debt.

Windbag Warning

Stella Gibbons, authoress of Cold Comfort Farm (and much else, I believe), liked to draw her readers' attention to especially fine passages of jewelled prose, with asterisks.

Samuel Johnson, on the other hand, advised aspiring authors to read through their compositions and wherever they encountered what they had thought to be a particularly fine passage, to strike it out.

What to do, as an Indian friend used to ask rhetorically when faced with such difficult decisions.

On the whole, I prefer a cleanly-written, factual style – such as George Orwell, or James Thurber, habitually practised. But I also have a personal weakness for alliteration and allusion, polysyllabic portmanteaux, concealed quotations, and the like, not to mention tourettish jokiness. And an inclination towards vividly-expressed but under-nuanced generalisations of the sort my father was habitually guilty of. Well, fruit falls close to the tree, and I'm too moribund to mend my ways.

And naturally, in the course of an undertaking such as this, one frequently has to cut to the chase and try to summarise a complicated situation as pithily as possible. Believe me, I've endured a fair amount of criticism for my oversimplifications and misrepresentations.

So I've decided (Aug 2015) to utilise a Windbag Warning system, which (like the marginalia in the Dummies Guides), alerts the reader as to what's going on in the text, by hyperlinking the thumbnails to this section.

Windbag Alert

Windbag Inert

Visitors to this website are enthusiastically encouraged to email me via robin@ornaverum.org to name and shame those passages that in their opinion should be demarcated in this way!