“This is a ferry-tale story.”

Ferry. Fairy. Furry. I have had students who pronounced all three of these the same, and students who pronounced two of the three the same. (I was carefully brought up by a graduate of the New York Normal School—later called Columbia Teachers College—so I make clear distinction among them all.)

Most of them manage to choose “fairy” for “fairy tale” when they write it down, though.

Is there latent homophobia lurking in this student’s error, suggesting that “fairy” can’t be right for a children’s story? I have had students quail a bit when discussing the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The nasty ignorant things whispered in junior high and high school corridors never fully leave the unconscious mind, evidently.

Time to bring back “faerie.”

I prefer to think that the problem is that people just don’t believe in fairies nowadays (no matter how hard they clapped as children to save Tinkerbelle), and the word is leaving the lexicon.

Imagine, then, a literature developed much as sea shanties developed: stories told on ferryboats to pass the time. When I was in high school in New Jersey, I admit, I had a couple of pretty nice dates riding the Staten Island Ferry sans car, nuzzling and talking at the rail as the water passed quietly beneath. And I had a nice chat once with an Alaskan commuter as we rode the ferry between mainland Ketchikan and the little island the airport sits on. And when my truelove and I go to Nantucket, we sit on the top deck of the ferry and talk, perhaps tell a few stories, as the gulls ride the air currents beside us hoping for something edible to drop out of someone’s hand. Ferries are good places for quiet talk, good places to let the mainland go and move into the realm of gray quiet and imagination.

I would like to think there are ferry tales out there. If none exist, I wish some of the wonderful writers of the world would start to make them. In fact, I think my student’s sentence up there would make a grand opening for the first story in the ensuing collection. For now, let’s pretend it IS the beginning of a story. I’ll re-present the first sentence, and you can dream on from there:

This is a ferry-tale story. ………………………

"authentic" Victorian photo of young girl with fairy

The ride on the Ketchikan Ferry isn't long, but it's lovely.

p.s. Today’s choice followed my reading this morning of a lovely alliterative version of “Red Riding Hood” on the blog “Year-struck”: http://year-struck.com/.

About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

5 responses to ““This is a ferry-tale story.”

  • Philip Schaefer

    Growing up in the Midwest, i could not hear any difference between the words “Mary” and “merry”. In fact, I denied there was one, and at heart still deny it. Soon after I met my wife Mary Jane, almost forty years ago, she listened to a debate among Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy, from Minnesota, and George McGovern, from South Dakota. I was at work, so I asked her what she had thought. She said: “They all talk like you do.”

  • philosophermouseofthehedge

    Ears don’t seemed to be as fine tuned to sounds – maybe because life has gotten so loud – with constant noise? Anyway, one vote here for bringing back “faerie” and it’s original meaning.

  • yearstricken

    How delightful that we both shared our fairy/ferry tales on the same day. It made me happy. You make the ferry tales sound so enticing – you should write some for us. And I agree with the philosopher above – we should bring back “faerie.”

  • Gregory B. eLBIN

    Ferry cross the Mersey…

  • Suomy Nona

    Huckleberry Finn : a Ferry Tale story for you to check out

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