Monday, 30 April 2012
It is said that the Spanish pronunciation of ‘s’ as ‘th’ originated in the 16th Century from a collective desire of the people not to want their lisping king, Philip II, to feel special. An envoy would have gone round saying we’re all going to lisp now, everyone, thtarting from now; that meanth you and the retht of Thpain. Got it?
‘I can’t do that. I’ll sound like a girl,’ says one touchy male subject of the Spanish kingdom.
‘Well that might sound politically correct now but sometime in the future, believe me, it will not.’
‘Not doing it.’
‘Look just because you lisp doesn’t automatically mean you’re effeminate.’
And the envoy was right because Mike Tyson has a lisp and he was the kind of person who could beat you to a pulp and eat your ears.
‘And anyway you already started lisping without knowing it,’ adds the envoy.
‘You, everyone, you’ve all been calling our monarch, King Philip. His real name’s ‘Silip’.’
‘Yeah, think about it. He’s got a lisp. He’s been trying to tell people for years.’
In the modern era we got the king to shoulder the responsibility for correcting his speech. We found that instead of reaching out to correct the population, it was more cost-effective to tackle one person’s denial. George VI of England didn’t have a lisp – otherwise we’d have watched ‘The King’s Thpeech’ – but a stutter. Had he adopted the King Phil approach, we would have had the British people stuttering, spelling dire consequences for the learning of English in foreign countries. In schools, a half-hour lesson would have been taken up with the children greeting their teacher: ‘Ge-ger-ger-ger-ger-good mer-mer-mer-mer-morning Mer-mer-mer-miss’; followed by ‘Ger-good mer-morning, cher-children. Per-pack up yer-your ber-books and things ner-now, the-there’s the ber-bell fer-for end of ler-lesson.’
The King P lisp story is contended. Really, did a whole populace change their pronunciation for the sake of their ruler? Are we to believe that a king with a different kind of speech defect could have the same impact? Say, a king with Tourette’s? Surely not. But then there did used to be kings of Scotland…
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
|Church: The theatre of revelations, both spiritual and trainers related.|
Oftentimes it is only when we step into country churches that we realise that our trainers have developed a squeak. We try to act detached from the squeak, but there it is a constant companion as we step over to read that intriguing bronze plaque. ‘This one died in 1724!’ you exclaim to your partner who will certainly be as interested as you in finding the first recorded dead person in the church. But then you venture forth, checking out a bit of apse or a section of nave and the squeak tells everyone else in the church keeping it quiet (like you’re supposed to), that yes it is you making the noise. You needn’t look around trying to work that out any more. Yes, it’s me with the heretical trainers. Satisfied now? People from the country, meanwhile, know exactly where they are wearing wellies. The welly is consistent, dutiful. True to form it makes a jaunty clumping noise with every step, be they old or new. And the welly will always drag your socks off inside the boot after a short walking distance.
Squeak detection rates are low in a typical urban environment due to the high level of background noise on the high street. Buses, cars, chirping chuggers and barking drunks outside the little booths set up to unlock your mobile phones (for a reason as yet unclear – pressing the ‘*’ key, you can perform that function yourself. Possibly it’s a service for the type of person who buys pre-washed salad) all serve to mask sneaker malfunction. It is only if we chance across a reference library, the one oasis of sound pollution in the metropolis, that we stand a chance of spotting the squeak. But, alas, the likelihood is diminishing since the invention of secondary research (research of research) at wikipedia.com.
The answer we think to the trainer squeak will be to take it easy, setting off to ponder the vestry or the font, slightly taking our foot off the gas. But no. Try walking slower and the trainers then just go ‘squea-ee-eek, squea-ee-eek’. We only succeed in achieving elongated, more arresting squeaking.
Meantime, cobblers are missing out on some cashing-in action. They should seek to increase their range of shoe repair solutions (SRS’s) by working out a way of combating the squeak. Somehow. Though one way does suggest itself:
The cobbler hands you your trainers when you go to collect. And then a tape recorder. Great you say. Thanks. But why the recorder?
‘Try the trainers on,’ says the cobbler.
You walk across the shop and the squeak’s still there, every bit as bad as when you handed them in. You prepare to give the cobbler a piece of your mind, but he reaches over and presses the play button on the recorder and says try walking in them now. You begin to pace, the tape rolls and the sound of traffic kicks in with the ‘pfft!’ of a ring pull and:
“Oy! D’ya wash yer own fookin’ salad an’ all?”
“Excuse me, are you drunk? …sorry, I only came down here to see if you could take a look at unlocking this for me.”
“Can I just take up two minutes of your time, sir?... Have a lovely day, sir… Hello madam, can I just…”
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
Monday, 16 April 2012
It is a slight phenomenon that people whose homes you visit always have the exact number of books to fill their bookcases. You would think that they might start with their first book, something like a ‘Peter and Jane’ (presumably edition 1a, the first in the series in which Peter is entreated by Jane to jump (paraphrasing Jane: ‘Jump, Peter, jump’; Peter cajoling Jane to reciprocate in kind with ‘Jump, Jane, jump.’), a single volume lost in the vast shelf space of a bookcase, when a book collection has ventured no further than a book acquisition.
In the Nazi era, book etiquette was primarily: bung them in a big pile and burn them. Nazi book clubs were attended not so much by literary types but people with poor circulation thankful for the warmth generated. Fascist book club members were less inclined to suggest next meeting, ‘I’ll bring along a good book’; more likely, ‘I’ll bring the marshmallows.’
If the Nazis had been around today with their same attitude to books, we would have a very different situation. Instead they would be looking to purge ebooks, dragging and dropping them into a folder; menacingly, with intent, highlighting the collection using Control A (or Apple A if they’re using a Mac) – the equivalent of dousing books with petrol – a finger dithering significantly over the Delete or Backspace key; before then confining them to history (or at least temporarily to the Clipboard if they hit Control X). Not such a grand gesture as the torching of towering literary pyres, but an event all the same that would come to be commemorated no less terribly as: ‘Dropunddragnacht’.
In the not too distant future, we will be able to download our whole book collection onto a memory stick.
‘Mummy! I can’t get my coat on the coat hook,’ we will hear commonly from children unable to attach their jackets by their hanging loops.
The mother will be drawn to attend to a problem she suspects with the coat rack only to find the source of the child’s grief – two coat pegs freshly nailed side by side upon the wall.‘No wonder. That’s not a coat rack, love. That’s daddy’s new ebookshelf.’
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Monday, 9 April 2012
|What you will get in South Africa if you ask for 'arse cream'.|
Chemists have a section in their shops called ‘Family Planning’. But it’s woefully underprovided. Not one brochure. No suggestions like why not take your kids to the zoo? Or how about a trip to Alton Towers? Yet proper family planning would be so useful in the summer holidays, for instance, when the kids could do with a bit of structure to their day. All there is in the Family Planning section, is a selection of condoms. You can’t just give them a condom you got from Family Planning and say there you go have a nice day; look forward to hearing all about it when you get back. Life doesn’t work like that.
Anusol has taken over from condoms as the embarrassing item to buy over the pharmacist’s counter. The name of the ‘piles alleviator’ has helped achieve this.
‘Here’s the challenge – can we come up with a name that will leave no reasonable doubt or misunderstanding what a cream with anus in the title could be for?’ asked the marketing manager at Anusol.
‘Other ideas floating about?’ he added. What’s the consensus team on ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Haemorrhoid Cream’?
We now have the benefit of hindsight. The answer the team came up with was… ‘Anusol’. And so to do we know the answer to another question asked of the marketing team at Anusol: ‘Anyone here know what a euphemism is? Anybody…? Nobody?’
Editor’s Note: When travelling in Chile, I was suddenly struck down by a bout of haemorrhoids. I repaired to the only chemist shop in the town of Puerto Monte. As my Spanish was limited, I took along with me a travelling companion fluent in the lingo. I tried asking her to request the Anusol, but that didn’t work. She wouldn’t. She instead told me the Spanish for haemorrhoids and left me to it. Off the assistant went to search for the cream as I stood waiting with a host of townsfolk who had up till this point regarded me as a stranger. They were now intimately acquainted with the facts surrounding my haemorrhaging arse. ‘Este por mi madre,’ I then hastily added, inspired, summoning up enough scraps of Spanish to convey that the medication was not for me but my mother. The assistant returned with the cream and made a reply that I didn’t understand. ‘What did she say?’ I asked my translator friend, who replied: “That’s what they all say”.’ Understandably, I was rather proud of myself. “That’s what they all say,” the shop assistant had said. My Spanish was patently improving.
Thursday, 5 April 2012
Tuesday, 3 April 2012
Upon the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, we might expect a commemorative dinner hosted by Heston Blumenthal. Let’s only hope then that he doesn’t insist on doing his own research for the theme, else his cooking staff are in trouble. Here he is conceptualising:
‘I’m going to do a cut of beef – beef culottes (we’ve all heard of skirt steak, but Heston would have found a rarer cut, not quite skirt but culottes, named after the 1980s-favoured flappy shorts that looked like a skirt (the only instance of optically deluding garment)). Now I want the perfect marination with the ultimate enhancer of beef – mustard. But how best to infuse the meat? Aha! Well, I have help on hand. Here’s a letter dispatched by a Private Tommy Farrell of the Royal Fusiliers from the Western Front. In it, it says:
“To my dearest Elspeth,
Well my darling, I hope this finds you in good health…”;
Blah, blah, blah, until we reach what for me is the most interesting passage:
“… the warning went up, masks on. Poor old Sergeant Fellows couldn’t get his apparatus on in time. Bought it I’m afraid. Mustard gas…”
Mustard gas! That’s it! I submerge my culottes in a trench – much like the New Zealand Maoris do with their hangis, burying the meat underground – and waft over the mustard gas. In its gaseous form that mustard is going to penetrate the beef to the max…’
Blumenthal might then finish off his staff with the deadly mustard gassing used to devastating effect by the German military, having not been very thorough with his research. He would then prepare radish bayonets caramelised by a Third Generation farmer (going slightly off-theme here), parsnip obelisks drizzled with poppy seeds, accompanied by a triple-picked juniper berry jus (triple-picked involving picking the berries, putting them back on the tree, re-picking them etc – influenced somehow by the Mexican refried beans dish (see on this blogsite the Tiny Bang Theories entry September 2011 ‘From Refried Beans to Used Bog Roll’).
A break in courses would then follow in the Christmas version of the dinner where diners are invited to play a game of football, then resume at tables on the other side of the restaurant for the dessert – the Armistrudel.