Category Archives: Humour

Incommunicado

Not being well up on Italian hits of the early 70s, I only learned about this today, but I think it’s great.

In 1972, the singer Adriano Celentano released a single called ‘Prisencolinensinainciusol’. The words are gibberish, but intended to sound like someone singing in English with an American accent – or at least, how such a song sounds to a non-English speaker.

“Ever since I started singing”, he once said, “I was very influenced by American music and everything Americans did. So at a certain point, because I like American slang — which, for a singer, is much easier to sing than Italian — I thought that I would write a song which would only have as its theme the inability to communicate. And to do this, I had to write a song where the lyrics didn’t mean anything.”

(Here’s a direct link – your browser may give you a better viewer than the player above.)

According to Wikipedia, the song was very popular, reaching the top 10 in several European countries, and, if you search, you can find a couple of other versions featuring Celentano, and tributes by numerous groups since. But this is my favourite; I certainly found my foot tapping to its beat… and I thought the choreography with mirrors was great!

All of this reminded me of a trip to Indonesia in my youth, where I ended up playing guitar with a group of guys who thought that Eric Clapton sang about “Snog, Snog, Snogging on Seventh Floor”. (I wrote a post about this and about ‘Mondegreens’ a little while ago… let’s see… gosh! – even that post was more than 16 years ago!)

Anyway, today I started down this particular rabbit-hole thanks to Charles Arthur pointing me at a Twitter thread containing some other linguistic gems, including this clip of Sid Caesar’s performance at one of Bob Hope’s birthday parties sometime in the 80s. A five-minute comedic performance with almost no words that can be understood by anybody:

(Link)

Wonderful stuff.

Hiawatha’s milkman

Now I seize the empty bottles
Take them to the moonlit doorstep
Bid them journey safely onward
Ponder where the gods will take them…
Leave them there beneath the starlight
Leave them there beneath the doorbell
Turn the latch upon the door lock
Climb the stairs to sleep and wonder.

Then the midnight milkman cometh
Creeping o’er the crunchy gravel
Coming to the moonlit doorstep
Coming with the reinforcements.
Bottles new or long-recycled
Bottles young or aged with wisdom
Some have seen a thousand breakfasts
Seen a thousand frost-free fridges
Sat there on the kitchen table
Sat there by the coffee-maker…
Sat there on our autumn doorstep.

Then the milkman, bending over
Clasps the empties to his bosom
Takes them to their waiting transport
Takes them to their future breakfasts
Where, renewed, refreshed, replenished
Sitting by the coffee-maker
Do they talk of where they came from?
Do they tell of other kitchens?

Household feuds, excited children,
Life around the morning table?
Frothing latte, steaming porridge,
Milk with cookies, tea for comfort?
Do they speak of years of service?
Doorsteps grand and thresholds cozy
Meals they’ve seen, and parties hosted
Kettles boiled while crumpets toasted?
Ere their daily task is over
Ere the rinse, and then the doorstep.

Now the milkman, bending over
Clasps the empties to his bosom
Takes them to their waiting transport
Takes them to their future breakfasts…

QSF

Unexpected item in the bagging area

This is an old sketch, but a decade or so on, it’s still rather relevant at some of the supermarkets I visit:

(direct link)

Love it.

I’m still bemused, long after we stopped using disposable carrier bags, at how many of these machines still can’t cope with the weight of a bag you’ve brought yourself. Even those that supposedly have a ‘Use own bag’ facility always end up calling a staff member for support…

Waitrose, of course, was ahead of the game on this one. They introduced their self-scan-as-you-shop system about 16 years ago, and we’ve been using it ever since. And if you do prefer to scan at the end using their self-checkout tills, there’s none of this ridiculous weighing business.

As a friend put it some years ago…

“Waitrose? That’s the place where, as you walk out, they mention that it would be awfully nice if you gave them some money?”

It’s rather pleasing that, after all this time, that system still seems to work for them.

Strength Gel

Samson had his long hair, Asterix and Obelix their magic potion, but for today’s man-about-town wishing to increase his muscular prowess, I discover that this small and convenient tube of ‘Strength Gel’ is readily available from most pharmacies!

It’s surprising, because Anbesol is a name I knew from my youth. A treatment for mouth ulcers and similar dental complaints, it was packaged as a very small vial of liquid. Well, the strength gel, it turns out, can also be used for this antiseptic and anaesthetic purpose, and, indeed, has such a powerful calming and numbing effect that I’m surprised Simon and Garfunkel didn’t write a song about it.

As to why it might be Adult strength gel, though, I can only leave to your imagination. The packaging is very uninformative about any use in more intimate situations, but I would suggest any experimental applications be done very, very cautiously.

Well, that’s reassuring!

I discover that what has been happening to my waistline recently is perfectly normal and natural, and lots of other people are being tested for it too.

It’s called ‘lateral flow’.

Windowizer continued

I’ve had lots of fun comments about The Windowizer. People asked things like:

  • I like the Mac version – do you make one for Windows?
  • Where’s the Mute button?
  • Does it cut you off after 40 mins if you haven’t paid?
    and so on.

Amidst these customer support questions, I’ve been working on a conference-call version to help you communicate with groups of other people, but if there are more than about three or four participants, it becomes a lot less portable, because they also need some scaffolding to appear in the correct layout. Work needed there.

My friend Shaw also sent me this cartoon:

A think the spirit of Heath Robinson is still alive…

Introducing the Windowizer

Am I getting old and cynical?

Somehow, these days, I can’t get as excited about the way people push things through my letterbox as I used to, nor as willing to write reviews about the way the package slipped to the floor.

Well, it slipped through the door very nicely, but I think they forgot a third button on the form:

As an aside, I’m also slightly bemused that they still provide a ‘track your package’ link at this point?

11:03 Deposited through letterbox
11:03 Landed on doormat
11:07 En route to kitchen table
11:08 Delayed by conversation with wife
11:00-17:00 Expected arrival time in kitchen

Mind you, lots of people are more excited about things these days. I got some really great news yesterday that EE had updated one of my handset configuration files.

Time to crack open the bubbly.

Who let the dogs out?

Dogs are not subject to the same lockdown restrictions as the rest of us.

They’re clearly making the most of it, and heading out for adventures in their campervans.

Spotted outside Sainsbury’s yesterday. I’m guessing they were just stocking up on sausages to go in the fridge.

The New Etiquette

In the next few months, most of us will start to face a whole range of new social situations for which even the most careful perusal of Debrett’s will have left us unprepared.

No doubt you’ve already already pondered how best to communicate some of the following ideas (or respond when others say them to you), so please write in with your suggestions. Our agony aunt will be addressing these and other social dilemmas in a future column.

Topics for discussion:

“I have a mask here, and am very happy to put it on if you are at all uncomfortable with the distance between us. Ah, you have one too? Let’s see who feels the need to put it on first.”

“We’d like to invite you for dinner, but are unsure how soon you will feel comfortable with this. Could you suggest some months that would work for you?”

“‘Dress: black tie and mask. Decorations may be worn.’ Would wearing a mask in my regimental colours be appropriate?”

“Your story is very interesting and you’re clearly very excited about it. Would you mind standing downwind of me while you tell it?”

“That’s a very kind invitation, but I happen to know your husband is an anti-vaxxer and I’m not coming near your den of contagion until the R number is below 0.2.”

“Mr and Mrs Wyndham-Smythe request the pleasure of your company at the wedding of their daughter Sophie, as long as not more than 14 other people accept the invitation.”

“I find you very attractive and I’m not currently socially interacting with anybody else at the moment. I don’t wish to be too forward but… would you like to be in my bubble?”

Profile of a misunderstanding

I sometimes wonder whether my co-workers think I’m completely batty, and are just too kind to let me know.

Take yesterday, for instance. I was on a group call with half a dozen of them, and we were discussing Zoom videos, camera angles, background environments… all the normal casual chit-chat of today’s conversations.

“But Quentin”, said one of my colleagues, “what’s your profile image like?” She was asking about the new prototype staff pages on the department’s web site; a key topic of discussion at the moment.

I, however, was still in my own little world, thinking about camera angles, so I thought she was asking what I looked like from side-on! (Answer: no better than from the front, and probably even worse.) ‘Profile’, you see, has more than one meaning. So my response to her question about my account on the website was to turn sideways and talk about how sparsely my hair was distributed from any angle. It was only about 24 hours later that I realised what she must have meant, and collapsed in giggles. Everybody on the call was so nice that nobody said, “Eh? Have you completely lost your marbles?” The worrying question, though, is how often I’ve done this without realising my mistake afterwards…

Talking of ambiguity, there was a scene I always liked, which I think was from one of Steve Coogan’s films, though I can’t now find the source. Anyway, he was having a medical check-up, and it went something like this:

Medic: Blood pressure: fine.
Coogan: Mmm-hmm.
M: Heart rate: fine.
C: Mmm-hmm.
M: Cholesterol: fine.
C: Mmm-hmm.
M: Urine sample: outstanding.
C: Oh, thank you very much!
M: No – that means we haven’t had it yet.

The Opposite of a Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
24 Feb 2021

The Global Online-Traders’ and Community-Hosters’ Association

CAMBRIDGE, UK — Today sees the launch of a new industry body for major technology companies in the online-shopping, social-networking and other related fields. The Global Online-Traders’ and Community-Hosters’ Association (GOTCHA) exists to protect the value of news stories about its members, and ensure fair compensation of those whose activities actually generate the news.

“This is a problem which dates back to the dawn of the industrial revolution”, said William Boot, the organisation’s chairman and CEO. “Newspapers and other media have always been fascinated by the activities of large companies and the personalities who lead them. It is fair to say, in fact, that a significant proportion of their revenues are derived from such stories, and today you can barely open a newspaper or visit a news website without reading about the wealth of an Amazon chairman, the activities of a Facebook CEO, or the supposed iniquities of a Google algorithm.”

Boot, a low-paid former journalist himself, says that he gradually became persuaded of the lack of fairness in the current system and determined to do something about it by joining the other side and forming a campaigning organisation on behalf of those who actually feature in the news.

“Nobody is saying that articles shouldn’t be written about these organisations and entrepreneurs”, he explained. “However, we are clearly living in an unbalanced world when media organisations can make significant amounts of money simply by writing a few words about those who do the hard productive work. These technologists give up years of their life creating services that provide value, products that enrich people’s lives, and platforms that dramatically reduce the friction of global trading. It seems only fair that, when an article is written about a major technology corporation or one of its officers or investors, some portion of the revenue derived from that story should go to the company or individual concerned, since, without their success, there would be no story to write. GOTCHA will be campaigning tirelessly on behalf of its members and will be facilitating the resulting payments made by the traditional media outlets.”

GOTCHA, though founded in Cambridge, England, has yet to announce the final location of its headquarters, though the association has made it clear it won’t be based in Australia.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser