My mind today has been exercised by the concept of an “Avuncular”. Good word isn’t it? Very underused I feel. So I set about redressing this…
One of my characters is being an “avuncular”, and – while I’d like to think he is operating from the purest of motives – at the back of my mind lurks the possibility he’s more of a Svengali like figure; though he is certainly no incubus, and I’m sure he’s not manipulating my heroine. There are others in the story far better placed to do that. Besides, he’s too good looking to be the original manifestation of George Du Maurier’s character from Trilby.
So, for the moment, I will put aside this nagging doubt and return to my original musings.
An Avuncular is such a Victorian concept. It relates to the “uncle like” relationship between an older and younger – less experienced – person. Its first recorded use is in 1831, although it is of Latin derivation – from avunculus, meaning “maternal uncle.” Strictly speaking the term describes the relationship between an uncle and his nephew, but I first heard it used by Poirot in relation to a young lady he is with on a train. Murder and mayhem abound and he is helping her order wine and generally showing her the ropes.
Warming to my theme, I hunted around for other Avunculars. The most obvious (for me at least) were all the classic incarnations of the Doctor – especially Tom Baker and Pat Troughton. Santa Claus came readily to mind and then I stopped. I googled (well why not?) Vocabulary.com put the Dalai Lama forward as an Avuncular and there the trail stopped. It was far more concerned with telling you that Shakespeare invented Nuncle and that Materteral existed earlier and is the word for an Avuncular Aunt. In despair, I went to Facebook and posed the question to my friends.
Below are their offerings: some I agreed with; some I did not. I put them forward and leave you (dear reader) to make your mind up. Are they true Avunculars or would better adjectives describe them?
Mr Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)
Mr Brownlow (Oliver Twist)
Mr Micawber (David Copperfield)
Mr Tom (Goodnight Mr Tom)
The Professor (Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe)
Mr Jarndyce ( Bleak House)
Yoda (Star Wars)
Gandalf (Lord of the Rings)
Professor Dumbledore (Harry Potter)
Funny, but the one coming closest to my own idea of someone who is ‘avuncular’ is Dumbledore – and he does it under constraint. I fear that avuncular behaviour towards a young girl in these times would be regarded with suspicion, however innocent the motives.
And therein lies the problem. My heroine’s a 21st century girl slap bang in the middle of the 20th Century. She has our suspicion of his motives. Perhaps that’s why Dumbledore makes such a good Avuncular for the 21st century; he doesn’t want to be one. Mmmm, food for thought indeed. Thanks 🙂
Reblogged this on The Secret of Aldwych Strand and commented:
Can an Avuncular exist in the 21st Century? And can a 21st century girl trust one in 1949?
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