with Professor Timothy Bottom
Nowhere is the frenetic pace at which language evolves so excitingly demonstrated than in the field of swearing. If you passionately want someone to know that they are a complete FRUMPBANGLER, or a rancid heap of SPAPCHIT, or even that they are the inbred son of a TWANKY FROOTPAPPER, then you have an almost limitless choice of words and phrases at your disposal. And that choice is expanding all the time as people come up with new insults, oaths and expletives.
So let's take a look at some of the most interesting swearwords in circulation and, if you can get the hang of how to use them, maybe you won't finish up looking like a complete SPRUNT.
This word derives from the old German word 'trampschaft', which was used up until the mid-19th century to describe a major component on a foot-treadle operated loom. The trampschaft was known to break frequently, causing significant inconvenience, expense and injury - especially when it flew off unexpectedly and hit workers in the rear.
What made it worse was that the trampschaft was an entirely redundant part of the overall mechanism, serving no purpose other than to provide work for travelling loom menders. Not surprising then that in its modern form TRUMPSHAFT is used to describe something that is unreliable, useless and likely to be a pain in the arse.
If someone called you FRATTOCKY, you might think that it meant that you were like a frattock. Well, that's rubbish, but it's not unexpected since it's exactly the kind of thing that a FRATTOCKY person like you would believe. FRATTOCKY is used to describe someone who jumps to logical conclusions based on perfectly reasonable assumptions, but who must be ridiculed and derided for it all the same. There is no such thing as a 'frattock'. You are not to know that but we're going to laugh about you all the same, because you're so FRATTOCKY.
SPEEDLETWAP has two distinct meanings, depending on how it is used. If a total stranger was to hiss it at you from their corner of their mouth, perhaps as you were passing them on the street, then it means a small, hand-operated talcum powder dispenser of the type once common in the 18th century. Since such hand-operated talcum powder dispensers are these days quite rare, and since it is even rarer that anyone would want to clandestinely mention such an object to you in the street, the use of the word in this context has all but died out.
Alternatively, if someone was to scream the word SPEEDLETWAP at full volume directly into your face, it means the former residence of Baron Otto von Liepstein of Bavaria. The building was demolished more than eighty years ago and the only person ever known to go around screaming it at people is currently in a secure hospital, so the use of the word in this context is equally rare.
I don't know why I mentioned it, really.
In these enlightened times, TUPPLEMONKING is no longer an offence in most Western nations. Not if you're doing it right, anyway. That said, you'd probably get a few disapproving looks if you started TUPPLEMONKING in the fruit and veg aisle of your local supermarket. I certainly did, anyway, and the manager wasn't at all pleased when he had to throw out a whole consignment of fresh radishes.
I'm sure most people will be familiar with this one: CHONK is one of the most commonly used words in the English language, helped by the fact that it can be used in a wide variety of different ways. You will surely have heard phrases such as "I couldn't give a CHONK, mate," "What the CHONK do you think you're playing at?" and "This CHONK suddenly got real." But what the CHONK does it all mean? Well some historians think that the word is Roman in origin, but Professor Kyle Barnabas from the Oxford Centre for Frittering Away Public Funding has gone on record to state that this is a load of old CHONK, and that the CHONKING CHONKERS who insist on perpetuating this kind of ill-educated CHONKERY ought to be CHONKED in the CHONKER, then perhaps they'd think twice before opening their stupid CHONKING mouths.
"The word clearly comes from the Greek," Professor Barnabas concludes. "And I'll have anyone who dares say different. Come on, do you want some!"
The first known use of this word was on the Rosetta Stone, an ancient Egyptian decree instructing people to stop GRUMPFUTTING in the streets. Ancient Egyptians were forever doing this, probably because they didn't have telly back in olden days, and officials were concerned that it was a public health hazard and was scaring the cattle. Any GRUMPFUTTERS who were caught GRUMPFUTTING had to have a damn good explanation for what they were doing, else they would be heavily fined or thrown in prison. This last punishment proved to be a particularly good deterrent, since Egyptian prison cells were usually far too small to get any GRUMPFUTTING done in any meaningful way.
The word appears on the Rosetta Stone in three different languages, including Egyptian Hieroglyphics, although in most reproductions the symbol for GRUMPFUTTING is censored as it is considered obscene.
Finally, the most recent word on our list. The first known use of SCHLUNT was a week last Tuesday when a man shouted it at me from his car after I accidentally cut him up at a roundabout. Its exact meaning is not clear, but the man didn't half seem cross.
My name is Dick Smidgin, motivational keynote speaker, and I want to talk to you today about my take on mindfulness. 'What is mindfulness?' people say to me. Or even: 'Where is mindfulness?' Sometimes people ask: 'When is mindfulness?' But those people are just being difficult.
Now, I know that some folk say that mindfulness is simply a load of old cock, devised to pander to the paranoid egos of a bunch of pathetic snowflakes and provide a lucrative income stream for silver-tongued bullshit merchants like me. And this, of course, is quite true - hey, I've just bought a house! But I'm sensitive to the validity of the observation and this is why I have developed my own form of mindfulness, which I call mindlessness.
Mindlessness is similar to mindfulness in many ways, especially the spelling, but it's cheaper and there is less paperwork. Some commentators describe mindfulness as 'noticing the world around them'. This is clearly a terrifying prospect, which is why one of the key principles of mindlessness is to rigidly define areas of our lives that it is perfectly ok to ignore.
Obviously, this requires concentration. It's very easy, for example, to ignore the sound of an animal in distress or the appearance of a particularly ugly child, but there are other stimuli that we need to train ourselves to ignore - the smell of an old lady, perhaps, or the sensation of being on fire.
Mindfulness is all about being 'in the moment'. Mindlessness, on the other hand, teaches us how to be a week last Tuesday. The great advantage of this is that a week last Tuesday is done and dusted - there's nothing that can be done about it now, so you may as well forget it. And remember, a week next Tuesday will soon be what a week last Tuesday was two weeks ago. So yeah... that probably means something as well.
So how does one go about becoming mindless? Well, there's hard drugs and alcohol but not everyone has the advantage of having a limitless income and a titanium liver. Nevertheless, there are two basic things that can help you.
Mastering your breathing is one of the main mindlessness techniques. Breathing is an incredibly wasteful and time-consuming activity and if we can learn to do less of it we can save a great deal of time.
But be warned, if you stop breathing altogether there will be a number of unpleasant side effects, including giddiness, nausea and death. Instead, try building up to it in gradual stages by holding your breath for longer and longer each time. One good technique is to alternate breathing in and breathing out on successive days. So, for instance, do all your breathing in on a Monday and wait until Tuesday to breathe out again.
Awareness, in mindlessness terms, is a double-edged sword. It's great to be 'aware' of some things - for example chips, television, shoes and so on. Sometimes being 'aware' means that we can avoid trouble - so, if you are 'aware' of a ten-foot hole in front of you, it can save you the trouble of being made brutally and abruptly 'aware' of your broken legs and an urgent need for medical assistance.
However, there are some things that we would prefer to remain unaware of - things like chickens, whiney little shits and Marmite. Unfortunately, the state of awareness comes with two problems. Firstly, it's automatic - it happens whether we want it to or not. And secondly, even when we're not aware of something, it doesn't mean the bleeding thing isn't there.
So, you think you're ready to start your journey towards mindlessness? It isn't easy, but it's not like you've got anything more interesting to do. Anyhow, here are some exercises that may help you on your way.
Dick Smidgin has a Level 2 Diploma in Mindlessness, Vapidity and General Disengagement and is available for corporate events, group sessions and one-to-one consultations as long as the money's right.
Patrick Kraft is a cosplayer with a difference: rather than recreating the costumes of fantastic characters from comic books, movies and TV shows, Patrick chooses to dress up as a thirty-three-year-old data entry clerk from Braintree.
"I tried dressing up as a wizard once," Patrick admits with obvious embarrassment. "It wasn't for me. It just seemed so phoney, so pointless. Cosplaying as a real person is much more exciting - I feel like I'm really walking in this guy's shoes, living his boring life, eating his shitty breakfast. Lovely."
It seems strange to us that someone would actually want to experience that level of everyday tedium, but when you consider that Patrick is by profession a stunt pilot, who risks his life every day, it starts to make sense. And he's not alone: there are plenty of others who feel the same way, including Formula 2 racing driver Colleen Vee, who relaxes by adopting the persona of a divorced, middle-aged cleaner from Huddersfield. Colleen is a regular at many of the specialised cosplayer conventions that take place around the country. She recently attended a two-day event at a plush hotel in Manchester, where she spent most of the weekend scrubbing out the toilets.
"It was great," she told us, still smiling joyfully and smelling of bleach. "My day-to-day life is full of fast cars, glamour and excitement, so the opportunity to spend a few precious days up to my elbows in shit was not one to be missed."
It's a sentiment echoed by many - such as Super Explodoman, for example. By day he is a regular superhero: righting wrongs, leaping tall buildings and doing all that superhero shit that you people seem to like; by night he revels in anonymity by becoming 'Gavin', a mild-mannered car park attendant with a limp, an official-looking hat and an unfortunate habit of reducing you to ash with his laser eyesight if you make the mistake of parking in a reserved bay. Hey, each to his own.
Holes are great, probably. Here are four you might be quite interested in. Sorry, should have put a bit more work into this introductory paragraph.
Builders renovating a property in Gloucestershire discovered a previously unknown doorway that had been bricked up for nearly four centuries. Oddly, although the doorway dated back to 1652, the building where it was found was an eighteenth century farmhouse.
"The building, the wall, even the doorframe - these were all definitely eighteenth century but the hole in the middle was much, much older," explained site foreman Duncan Grout. "It smelled really fusty, so it had to be."
Ellie Hinge, an expert in holes from Durham University, was called in to evaluate the extraordinary find, primarily by measuring it with a special ruler. At the time of writing, she has still not committed to an explanation.
"Some people claim that this must be some sort of time portal," she laughed scornfully, before getting a grip and turning all serious. "And of course, this could be a possibility. However, I think that it's far more likely that this hole comes from a much earlier building and was reused here. Builders are always doing that, the crafty gits. The bloke who did my kitchen extension used a cavity taken from a derelict bingo hall down the road, and I strongly suspect that the hole for the boiler flue was nicked from the town hall."
Despite refusing to the drawn on the doorway's origins, Mrs Hinge promised an announcement soon. "I've been taking scrapings from the masonry surrounding the hole," she said in her most recent statement. "Tonight I'm going to boil them up and take a look at them through a microscope. I don't get out much."
It may surprise you to know that the first ring-shaped doughnut wasn't developed until as late at 1932. Industrial dough-making techniques were in their infancy at the time and the brittleness of the raw materials meant that the original prototype was around twelve feet in diameter - much too large to get into the paper bag.
Successive refinements were able to bring this down to roughly the size of a car tyre - although these doughnuts also had the same taste and texture as a tyre, so they didn't really catch on. It wasn't until 1948 that doughnuticians managed to perfect a product that was small enough to hold in one hand, and which your teeth didn't bounce off when you tried to eat it.
Meanwhile, although the first prototype had crumbled to dust many years earlier, the hole in the middle survived, fetching a cool $42,000 when it was auctioned in New York in 1995.
The phonograph record is one of the most enduring inventions of our age, remaining popular with people who want their music in a physical format rather than a stream of ones and zeroes - even if they don't actually have a record player and never take the thing out of its sleeve. It is, they say, more permanent than a download, which is ironic since early records were certainly not.
The problem arose because the first commercially available records did not have holes in the middle: they simply rested on the turntable, trusting to luck and friction to keep them in place. They rarely did - stay in place, that is. Those early discs revolved at 78rpm, which meant that they spun off the turntables at some speed; and they were made of shellac, which meant that they shattered into pieces when they landed. And when we say 'landed' we mean bounced off the dog, shattered your favourite china or got lodged in your face. This was why the recommended attire for listening to a gramophone record was sturdy goggles, a crash helmet and, for the serious music-lover, a cricket bat.
That all changed in 1961 when legendary blues singer Fats Porker released Get Off My Damn Porch, the first LP to feature a hole in the middle. Within six months all records had them, and record-player-related injuries were significantly reduced.
Not many people are paid a fat load of somebody else's cash to sit around all day, eating junk food, knocking back vodka and watching crap on TV. Professor Godfrey Manners certainly wasn't, and yet this was exactly how 'Spanners' Manners chose to spend his time after being given an eye-wateringly massive grant by Oxford University to further the frontiers of cosmology and unlock the deepest secrets of space and time.
He would have gotten away with it too, had it not been for those pesky university bosses who, after five years of not hearing a peep out of him, decided to pay him an unscheduled visit to find out why he had never published anything. He had nothing to show them, obviously; no papers, no research, no theories - not even a complex-looking but ultimately meaningless formula chalked up on a board. But what he did have was the guile and low cunning of an expert fraudster. Rat-arsed he may have been, but he was quick-thinking enough to lead them over to the window, point up at a singularly uninteresting patch of the evening sky and tell them that he had discovered a black hole.
They, of course, said that they couldn't see anything. He, of course, said that of course they couldn't, it was a black hole.
Many years later, proper scientists who didn't spend days on end smashed out of their skulls on hard liquor happened to discover an actual black hole exactly where Manners had been pointing. No doubt the Prof would have been delighted by the discovery, had he not expired in a Vietnamese crack house several years earlier.
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All material Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2000-2020, and may not be reproduced without the express permission of the author. All characters, companies and organisations are fictitious, and any similarity to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.