Friday, 31 January 2014

I Heard A Word


It was my scrambled eggs that started this absurd train of thought. Now I knew that the Americans were fond of a dish called shirred eggs – and I always thought these two were one and the same. After all, shirring elastic gathers fabric up into a sort of scramble.

shirring elasticshirring1

shirred eggs

I started checking this out, and discovered that for years, I have been quite wrong about this. Actually, shirred eggs are known in Europe as baked eggs, or oeufs en cocotte.

[I don’t like oeufs en cocotte though]

But the recent discussion of teaching phonics, and the wonders of the English language got me thinking about the word shirred. I have never heard anyone use the word shirr, just shirred and shirring. That set me off on a train of thought about the words which rhyme with shirred, and the glorious variations of spelling.

As I shirred the third egg, the kettle boiled. But my tea tasted odd, so I inferred the kettle element must be furred up. I heard a man talking on the radio about his pedigree herd. Then I motored to school.

Isn’t it absurd that word after word can be spelt so differently and yet still rhyme? [Gove, move, love …]

breathe window

On final question – what do YOU call the action of breathing on the window, in order to write messages in the condensation? I have always said “So I huhhed on the window” Which is yet another way of spelling the rhyme. The ultimate condensation writer was, of course, Miss Froy, in The Lady Vanishes. 


And by the way, if you don’t like your eggs scrambled or shirred, but boiled, check out Jenny’s beautiful pictures on The Custards recently.


  1. Dear Angela
    I am so heartened to read that you too spend time considering origins of words and tracing the history of them. We LOVE The Lady Vanishes in our house - but ONLY 1938 the version (similarly 'Rebecca' - only 1940 version will do here...oh and 'Goodbye Mr Chips'...guess which one there!).
    I have never heard of shirred eggs so I have learnt something new today already. Thank you for calling in Angela - I am still laughing about your Barry Bucknall comment from ages ago!
    Best wishes

  2. In total agreement about these film remakes. Kenneth More's 'The 39 Steps' is not a patch on the original Donat version. And Tom Hanks ''Ladykillers' was unspeakably bad!

  3. Angela, you are a total hoot! I was initially flummoxed by the word for breathing in the window then laughed out loud at the 'huhhed' as that is exactly what we use too but I've never been sure if it is a word or an action in place of there being a real word for it. Huhhed is my word for the day and thanks for the laugh.

  4. I'm ashamed to admit that I had no idea what shirred eggs are, but as an American I can report that scrambled eggs are very popular on our side of the pond.


  5. In my house it is called "Are you going to clean the windows then?" I am such a killjoy!

  6. Thankyou, today I learned about shirred eggs, having never heard of them before. I like the idea of huhhing on the window, around here we huff on it.
    I often ponder on the way we readers automatically know how to sound out words that look very similar and sound very different, sush as heal and health, or those tricky homophones which sound the same, are spelled differently and have different meanings. Always thought the phonics debate was a non starter, phonics doesn't work for every word, and even when learning sounds for single letters or groups of letters the rules don't always work, we tell children "th" makes this sound, but think how it differs in "this" and in "thing." Teaching reading is a great deal more complex than many people (politicians) ever understand. Wow... you did start me thinking today! Vee x

  7. You might like Racel Khoo's recipe for croque madame muffins, which are like eggs and ham baked in toast muffins.
    They are absolutely yummy, dead easy and there is a youtube video showing you how to make them.
    I also posted about them here:

  8. I have never heard of shirred eggs before and I am an American. Maybe people from the northern part of the U.S. like it.

  9. Hmm. I've never heard of shirred eggs, but I'd say that scrambled eggs are probably the #1 preferred type of egg cooking here in the U.S. I like my "over easy" though.


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