Daphne du Maurier Daphne du Maurier

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du Maurier language and nicknames

George du Maurier delighted in the company of others, including his children, in whom he encouraged independence of thought and the opportunity to speak out.  This was quite an unusual approach in Victorian families.  Guy, Gerald and their sisters thus grew up conversing on a wide range of subjects with their parents and amongst themselves, gaining in confidence and self-assurance.

When Gerald married and had children of his own he developed a similar relationship with his daughters.  Conversation was encouraged and he expected them to be able to join in and contribute at luncheons, theatre visits and other social events, with a constantly evolving and largely adult group of people.  He also encouraged the use of coded words and phrases that developed into the du Maurier family’s own language.  This meant that words and nicknames could be used and the family would understand each other but guests would not and a double conversation could exist.

This language of coded words was used by all the family, including later generations, with Daphne’s children and their cousins all in on this secret world of the du Maurier language.

Here are some examples of du Maurier words and their family nicknames.  If you know of any more do contact us, with the word or name and a reference source, and we will add them to the list.

du Maurier codewords

(We would like to acknowledge the late Oriel Malet and Weidenfeld and Nicholson, the publishers of her book Daphne du Maurier: Letters from Menabilly – Portrait of a Friendship, for the following list of du Maurier codewords).

beaming down – what Christians know as ‘the communion of Saints’!
beeding – looking closely at something
brewing – thinking out a story, or a character
C. of L. – Change of Life
cliff, to – throw away, chuck out, ignore
crumby, to crumb – high hopes, anything grand or especially good
Day (someone’s) – daily routines, habits, lifestyle
Doom – any dire happening
Frisky – an eccentric old person
Gondal, to – to make believe, or pretend
hard chair, on a – to be offended, or in a bad mood
honky – the opposite to Royal
in bal – pregnant
jam-along – easygoing, informal
Main – of major importance
menace, menaced by – attractive, attracted by
mincy – affected, mincing
nanny – anything frightening, or threatening
nim or pal, to – normal bodily functions
passage wandering – aimlessly killing time
pegs or to peg – someone whom one momentarily invests with romantic glamour, but more particularly as the inspiration for a fictional character
psychological politics – interesting discussions
Robert – the curse
routes or non-routes – familiar routines, or habits
royal – good-mannered, well-bred
See Me – conceited, high and mighty
shilling, a – anything disappointing, worthless
Silly Values – anything selfish or superficial; materialistic
Subs – subsidiary characters, or plots
T.C.W. – private or secret
teedle, to or T.N.N. – skip, or pass over something or someone
Tell-Him – long, boring story
Trit – a short walk, particularly with a dog
wain, waine – embarrassing, or to be embarrassed
wax, to – sexual intercourse
Witherspoons – dull, conventional types (with apologies to real Witherspoons, who may be brilliant)

du Maurier nicknames

Kicky, Kiki – George du Maurier (Daphne du Maurier’s grandfather)
Pem - Emma du Maurier née Wightwick (George du Maurier’s wife)
Gyggy – Eugene du Maurier (George du Maurier’s brother)
Isobel - Isabella Scott née du Maurier (George du Maurier’s sister)
Trixie – Beatrix Hoyer-Millar née du Maurier (George du Maurier’s daughter)
Toby – Guy du Maurier (George du Maurier’s son)
May – Marie Louise Coles née du Maurier (George du Maurier’s daughter)
Mo – Muriel du Maurier née Beaumont (Daphne du Maurier’s mother)
Billie - Sybil Beaumont (Daphne du Maurier’s aunt)
Puff, Piff, Piffy – Angela du Maurier (Daphne du Maurier’s sister)
Bird, Queenie – Jeanne du Maurier (Daphne du Maurier’s sister)
Bing, Track, Tray – Daphne du Maurier
Boy, Tommy, Tib, Guardsman, Moper - Frederick Browning (Daphne du Maurier’s husband)
Bee, Flave – Flavia Leng née du Maurier (Daphne du Maurier’s daughter)
Kits, Rab, Boo - Christian Browning (Daphne du Maurier’s son)
Hacker, Hakka – Olive Browning née White (Daphne du Maurier’s daughter-in-law)
Poo, Poonie, Pooch – Marie-Therese de Zulueta (Daphne du Maurier’s granddaughter)
The Zulus – Marie-Therese and Paul de Zulueta (Daphne du Maurier’s grandchildren)
Tod – Maud Waddell (Daphne du Maurier’s governess and friend)

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