Quockerwodgers

I was telling my grandchildren about the television programmes I watched as a child. One we had got past the astonishment that the programmes were in black and white, that there was no such thing as 24-hour television or catch-up services and that there were, at best, only two channels available, we got on to the subject and form of children’s programming. Most consisted of puppets whose strings were clearly visible even on the grainiest and lowest resolution television set.

These were marionettes who had strings appended to each of their limbs and their heads and a skilled puppeteer could make each move independently by just a pull of the string. A quockerwodger was a different type of puppet altogether with just one string which was attached to its head. When the puppeteer pulled the string, the head would move but the limbs would jerk wildly.

This wonderful word originated in Britain in the 1850s as a piece of slang. Its derivation is obscure, the quock element possibly being a dialect word meaning to tremble or shake. Inevitably, it was used as a slang term to describe a politician who was under the influence of someone else. Political insults were much more inventive in those days.

I wonder what a cabinet full of quockerwodgers would have been called.

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