Monday 31 July 2006


Remember Frank Richard’s larger than life (and non-politically-correct) schoolboy, Billy Bunter - the so-called Fat Owl of Greyfriars - who was superbly portrayed on television by the late Gerald Campion?

I mention this because of a comment posted on yesterday's blog about the origin of the name ‘Jiminy Cricket' which, I suggested, was really a euphemistic alternative to the (possibly) blasphemous use of the name 'Jesus Christ'.

Now, if you ever read the comments on any of my blogs, you’ll know that the Diva of Deception is a regular poster of comments and is, herself, not easily deceived! Hence her remarks on the matter of Mr Cricket and Mr Christ...
Thanks for the insight into the origins of both the 'Pinocchio' story and the character and name of Jiminy - my favourite character in all of Disney.

My first visit to Disneyland resulted in my buying a Jiminy doll. Now I wonder if, due to the origins of the name, it's an appropriate 'doll' for a Jewish person? And is the exclamation 'Crikey!' from the same stable? Literally?
What can I say, Diva, except----

Oh, Lor'! Yes, I’m afraid it is it is! So too, are the exclamations (if you're ever tempted) Cripes! and Criminy! Hence my thinking back to the days when Master Billy Bunter used to say Crikey! and Oh, Lor! all the time without any of us ever giving it a second’s thought!

As for the religious question…

I have to say that I consider a Jiminy Cricket doll an entirely appropriate thing for ANYONE to have about the place, because he’s a “happy-go-lucky fella” (as he sings in his other feature film, Fun and Fancy Free) and because he most definitely knows RIGHT from WRONG, which is pretty important - whatever your religion!

In our house, I can happily reveal, Mr Cricket gets on terrifically well with my friend Buttons who happens to be a Non-Conformist --- and a rabbit which is, after all, only one letter longer than a rabbi…

So, when it comes to the issue of having or not having your own personal Jiminy Cricket, I’d say: “always let your conscience be your guide!”

[Image of Gerald Campion as Billy Bunter: The BBC Guide to Comedy]

Sunday 30 July 2006


This may be an entirely inappropriate subject for a Sabbath-day blog, but my recent mention of Walt Disney's 1940 film, Pinocchio, reminded me that the name of the puppet's 'Official Conscience', Jiminy Cricket, has a curious history...

When, in 1883, writer 'Carlo Collodi' (real name Carlo Lorenzini) began writing Le Avventure di Pinocchio for an Italian children's newsparer he included a brief encounter between the marionette and a Talking Cricket who, in those days, still didn't have a name.

Pinocchio tells the Cricket that his ambition in life is to "eat, drink, sleep and amuse myself, and to lead a vagabond life from morning to night," and this prompts an outburst of weighty moralising by the Cricket who informs the puppet that: "As a rule, all those who follow that trade end almost always either in a hospital or in prison." This, in turn, leads to an exchange with an extremely ugly outcome...

"Take care, you wicked, ill-omened croaker! Woe to you if I fly into a passion!"

"Poor Pinocchio! I really pity you!"

"Why do you pity me?"

"Because you are a puppet and, what is worse, because you have a wooden head."

At these last words, Pinocchio jumped up in a rage and, snatching a wooden hammer from the bench, he threw it at the Talking-Cricket.

Perhaps he never meant to hit him, but unfortunately it struck him exactly on the head, so that the poor Cricket had scarcely breath to cry "Cri-cri-cri!" and then he remained dried up and flattened against the wall.

Later in the story, the Cricket's ghost comes back from the dead to do some more sermonising, but Walt Disney decided to keep the Cricket alive and to continue his spirited attempts at guiding Pinoke on “the straight and narrow path” throughout the movie.

Obviously, such a major character required a name… But the moniker 'Jiminy Cricket' wasn't Disney's invention; it was borrowed from an already everyday expression - dating back to 1848 - denoting puzzlement or surprise: “JIMINY CRICKETS!”

But, why Jiminy Crickets? Well, if you look at the initials of that name -- J. C. -- there's your answer…

Jiminy Crickets (or sometimes Jiminy Christmas) is a euphemistic alternative to swearing by the person Quentin Crisp used to refer to as "Mister Nazareth"!

It seems likely that the origin of the expression was overlooked by Disney who had already allowed it to be used by the dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (made three years before Pinocchio) when, on returning from their diamond mine, they discover that their home has been invaded by a princess with a penchant for cooking and cleaning!

Jiminy Crickets is an example of what is called a 'minced oath' - a kind of profanity chosen by those who would rather "mince their words", than risk giving offence…

So, instead of saying J**** C*****, you say Cheese and Rice, Jeepers Creepers, Jason Crisp, Judas Priest --- or good old Jiminy Crickets!

Other examples of 'minced oaths' include such Shakespearian expletives as 'Zounds', short for 'God's wounds' referring to the crucifixion, and 'Gadzooks', from 'God's hooks', or the nails in the cross.

By golly!, By gosh! and By gum! are all handy ways of NOT saying By GOD! And By Jove! is useful if you normally address the deity as Jehovah but want to avoid outright blasphemy.

On the other hand, the commonly used Drat! is a seriously shortened version of God rot it! which actually has a good deal more oomph to it and, in my opinion, really deserves to be reinstated into the language.

It should also be noted that Figs! and Fink! - should you happen to hear them used - are alternatives to the ubiquitous 'F' word - though, I'd guess, pretty much obsolete nowadays…

So, there you are: a bit of movie history and a lesson in etymology all in one!

Godfrey Daniels! What more could you ask?

[Image of Pinocchio and the Cricket by Greg Hildebrandt on Spiderwebart]

Saturday 29 July 2006


Noteriety at last!

From today’s edition of the Australian publication…

…comes the following report:
POLICE are 'outraged and disgusted' with what they describe as lenient sentences handed out to the first of the Palm Island rioters yesterday.

Police union president Gary Wilkinson called the outcome a 'dark day for Queensland justice'.

"The sentencing is an insult to those officers who nearly lost their lives when the police station was burnt to the ground," he said in a prepared statement. "Anyone involved in burning down a police station ought to go to jail for a considerable period of time."

In the dock were Russell Parker and Brian Sibley, charged with stealing by looting during civil unrest.

Sibley and Parker had taken advantage of the police retreating to the island hospital to join in the looting of the deserted police barracks, a type of offence the judge suggested the community despised most.

Russell Parker was jailed for six months, and Brian Sibley also received six months.

Sibley has already served almost three months in pre-sentence custody, so will possibly be released late next month, if early release is granted.
Some delays in updating this blog are, therefore, to be expected…


My blog-friend Cafrine at the ever-entertaining wonky comma is (understandably) trying to understand what the devil is going on in Lost and I dare say she is not alone…

Now this isn’t very comforting (and certainly not original) but there is just an outside chance that NOBODY in the Whole Damn World knows what's going on in Lost - not my Lost-savvy Cafrine (who has enough theories for at least two more seasons) or, possibly, even the writers...

Sorry, forgive me! I do realise that this is a heresy tantamount to saying that the Pope might have doubts about the existence of G*d...

Anyway, as to my own theory…

I believe that when the ‘creators’ finally run out of things to do with this bunch of Lost Guys 'n' Dolls, one of two things will happen:


Seven (note the mystical number) more castaways will show up who've spent the past 40 years thinking they were on somewhere called Gilligan's Island and, supervised by Locke (who will turn out to have once worked in marine salvage), the survivors will combine their efforts, raise the S S Minnow and finally get the hell out of there...


Mr Roarke and Tattoo will emerge from the jungle in their crisp white tuxedos and break the Bad News that everyone is actually stranded in a TV Time-Warp but that there is also Good News...

A curious character calling himself The Doctor having just landed in a old-fashioned British police-box (inadvertently squashing an errant polar bear) is willing and able to take them to someplace called ‘The Village’, where someone who used to be known as ‘Number 6’ has now been promoted to ‘Number 1’ and is waiting for them in order to start a new game of chess…

Whatever the outcome, we should none of us ever forget the famous maxim: "Questions are a burden to others, answers a prison for oneself."

Friday 28 July 2006


“When are you going to play ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ on your Disney radio programmes?” my friend Mandy demanded. “I’ve heard three shows so far and you haven’t once played what must be the most famous Disney song of all!”

If you, too, are wondering when this much-loved, much-recorded number from Disney’s 1940 animated classic Pinocchio gets an airing on my BBC Radio 2 series, Ain’t No Mickey Mouse Music, well, I can tell you: the wait is finally over! Tonight’s the night!

The topic of this, the final programme in the series, is ‘The Mouse and the Message’, looking at the way in which Disney movies have taught us to ‘give a little whistle’, ‘look for the bear necessities’ and take a ‘step in the right direction’: a shamelessly optimistic philosophy that dates back to Disney’s 1933 film Three Little Pigs and the song that became the anthem of the depression-era America, ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?’

However, no song better typifies Disney’s positive, upbeat approach to life than Leigh Harline and Ned Washinton’s ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’.

I still remember the first time I saw and heard that song: sitting in the front row of the circle in the Odeon, Bromley, sometime in the early ‘sixties, when Pinocchio was already on its umpteenth re-release.

Up on the screen, the diminutive figure of Jiminy Cricket (wearing a top hat, tail-coat and spats and looking nothing like any cricket I’d ever seen), bathed in a spotlight and crooning this exquisite melody prior to telling us the story of the “little puppet made of pine” who becomes a real boy because his maker/father, Geppetto, believed that…

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires

Will come to you

If your heart is in your dream

No request is too extreme

When you wish upon a star

As dreamers do

Fate is kind

She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of

Their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue

Fate steps in and sees you through

When you wish upon a star

Your dreams come true…

Of course, cynics will say that is, literally just ‘wishful thinking’ but, in 1940, it was a sentiment that caught the imagination of everyone who saw the picture and pretty soon established itself as the Disney Company’s official theme-song.

The night I watched Pinocchio for the first time, I fell totally under the spell of Disney and his artists; so much so, I and went back to the Bromley Odeon six more times that week to see, again and again (this was in the days of 'continuous performances'), what I still consider the greatest masterpiece of film animation.

‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ has probably been 'covered' by more recording artists than any other Disney number - from Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby to Eternal and ‘N Sync - and a zillion others in between - but, for me, it will always be associated with the oh-so-high voice of Cliff Edwards (below) a popular 1930s recording artist who was better known as ‘Ukulele Ike’.

Edwards, who had earlier had the distinction of performing the very first screen rendition of the song, Singin' in the Rain', in The Hollywood Revue of 1929, made a unique contribution to Pinocchio, not just with his singing of 'Wish Upon a Star' and 'Give a Little Whistle', but through his unforgettable vocal characterization as Pinoke's ‘Official Conscience’!

Anyway, that’s the plug for tonight’s programme: BBC Radio 2, 88-91 FM; or, if you miss it, then you can alway ‘Listen Again' on line - at least for the next seven days. [NOTE: THIS FACILITY IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE]

And now here’s a plug for the artist who drew the image of JC and Pinoke at the top of this blog as a design for a 2004 US postage stamp.

His name is Peter Emmerich and he’s not only responsible for creating some terrific Disney-inspired images, he’s also a diversely talented draughtsman with a witty line in caricature and a gift for capturing the foibles of humankind.

You can check out his work at Peter Emmerich's Sketchbook.

All of which should keep you busy; and, if it doesn’t, just remember: keep out of mischief --- and “always let your conscience be your guide”!

Thursday 27 July 2006


Every family has its little sayings… My family had one that was used endlessly and which (even though I am now the last survivor of the line) I still find myself saying from time to time - unintelligible though it may be to everyone else!

I was five or six years old and on holiday with my parents at the blissful Kentish seaside of Broadstairs.

One Saturday, my paternal Grandparents joined us for a day by the sea and it was on that afternoon that my Grandfather famously insisted on taking us all out for "A really nice CREAM TEA!"

The tea-shop - along the road to Dumpton Gap - was the usual kind of Olde English establishment: chintzy curtains, chequered table cloths wheelback chairs and copper kettles hanging from the old oak beams.

The cream tea, however, was decidedly not up to snuff. It was, of course, during the austere 1950s, so maybe the scones were a little dry or the cream a bit thin or the portion of jam somewhat measly.

All I know is that my Grandfather - a generous man who never penny-pinched in his life - was deeply unhappy with the quality of our Cream Tea and downright scandalised by the bill when it eventually arrived!

Today it seems amazing that a cream tea for five people (however indifferent its quality) should have cost as little as seven-shillings-and-sixpence (in today’s money, a mere thirty-seven-and-a-half pence!) but for my Grandfather it was far too much for the far too little that we'd received!

All the way back to the beach he stomped along, shaking his head and snorting in disgust: “Bang goes seven-and-six!”

And that is how I remember that day and my Grandfather and if you ever hear me say “Bang goes 50p!” - or “£5” or any other amount - then you’ll know the reason why!

Wednesday 26 July 2006


In case you haven’t noticed there are some pretty gay 'goings-on' going-on in the advertising world - particularly when it comes to the marketing of men's underwear.

There was a time - back in the halcyon, post-war days when Marks & Spencer weren't always in financial trouble and the women folk did the shopping, when it was said that wives and mothers bought men their underwear --- and mostly from M&S.

Today that seems considerably less likely. For example a recent news story --- sorry, item of gossip --- revealed that even the former captain of the England football team, David Beckham, buys his own knickers...

Allegedly, David spends £1000 a month on several dozen pairs of Calvin Klein underpants and only ever wears them once before throwing them away --- but, hey, so what? Maybe Victoria simply can't get the hang of how the washing machine works...

Anyway, let's just suppose, for the purpose of this argument, that the majority of customers who currently shop for male underwear are, in fact, male.

My question is: 'In what direction does their needle point when it comes to sexual orienteering?'

I am, of course, well aware that many manufacturers are chasing the highly lucrative ‘pink pound’, but surely - even based on the most generously calculated statistics - the gay community can’t be single-handedly keeping these companies in business?

Obviously not...

Then why are so many of them going in for such patently homoerotic advertising?

Psychologists may tell me that Abercrombie & Fitch’s use of virtually nude men to sell clothes is really about creating an illusion in the mind of the would-be purchaser that if he buys some new A&F gear he’ll also get a newly pepped-up body to go with it…

But the gay swishy-ness of it all is decidedly puzzling and A&F are not alone...

Plenty of other companies seem to be consciously concerning themselves with the extent to which their product placement is 'in' or 'out' of the closet…

Take the case of Wax brand who are so anxiously hedging their bets that they ran - and then removed - this curiously ambiguous image from their website…

Others seem perfectly glad to be (possibly) gay...

In the case of C-in-2, one is left wondering what on earth they were thinking of when they came up with their current campaign showing a brace of law-enforcement officers catching a couple of C-in-2-wearers, literally, with their pants down…

Obviously we're into fantasy time here, but precisely whose fantasies are being catered for?

One might ask the same of a raft of advertisements that have surfaced in what might be called ‘The post-Brokeback Mountain era’.

Cowboy imagery is now most definitely ‘in’ - and with decidedly gay undertones; and no one is more up for this than Ginch Gonch, as their current advertising campaign reveals…

It's no good asking me, of course, but maybe amongst the chaps in Straightworld, this kind of soft gay imagery implies nothing more than a bit of youthful fun and frolic, a sense of the freedom that existed in the days before relationships, mortgages and babies: an opportunity - in the imagination, at least - to be able to rustle a few bulls and horse-around with the fellas in a ‘macho male-bonding (without having to going quite as far as those two dudes in the movie) kind-of-way'.

But then, maybe it’s not such a new concept after all: witness the undercover activities of these all-American guys from the 1930’s…

Now, I guess that, seventy years ago, the slogan:'And now the Shorts with the Seamless Crotch go Gay! (BUT NOT TOO GAY)' scarcely raised a single eyebrow, but what about this one...?

Are you seriously telling me that the lads depicted - ostensibly trying to see if they can tear that 'NO-TARE FLY' - weren't really flirting with a decorous form of the same forbidden-fruit-picking fantasy currently being encouraged by so many of today's advertisers?

Tuesday 25 July 2006


Yesterday’s horrific news of the art installation Dreamspace causing deaths and injuries when the inflated maze of multi-coloured PVC corridors became inexplicably airborne and then crashed in County Durham was terrible and tragic.

Since Dreamspace has been successfully and safely exhibited on many previous occasions to the great pleasure of millions of visitors, it is also sad to think that people will never again experience the sense of delight and wonderment as they wander through the structure’s elliptical doorways from cool green and blue rooms into others that blazed with yellow or burned with red…

Created in 1996 by Maurice Agis, Dreamspace was a labyrinth of 115 interlocking cubicles illuminated by the ever-changing natural light penetrating the PVC membrane from outside and pulsating with specially-composed music and sounds and with the movement of visitors who (having removed their shoes and donned capes) wandered about enjoying a wholly unique environment.

The setting - impossible to describe adequately other than by analogies: a cathedral of light, a tactile cave of coloured chambers - evoked feelings of relaxation and refreshment that were enjoyed by people of all ages.

We first visited Dreamspace in Dulwich Park in 2004 and found it so exhilarating and so deeply moving that we returned on another occasion, this time with our cameras, and took many images that, for us, will always bring back memories of a extraordinary experience.

That the space of dreams has now become a space of nightmares should be a cause for much sadness in a world where so few dreams survive and where so little time or space is left for dreaming…

[Images: © Brian Sibley/David Weeks]

Monday 24 July 2006


The last loaf for possibly yards around and it sat there - alone, unbought and unwanted - in the shop window of the chicly trendy little Brighton deli, just before closing time. We should have known better: £1.45 for something that was the size (and, as it turned out, weight and consistency) of a small house brick.

Had we not cut into it (‘sawed’ would be a better word) it might have had its uses - such as a doorstop or a means of robbing jeweller’s shop windows - as it is, we are now committed to getting our money’s worth from something that calls itself a loaf but which not only has a grey pallor and the density of a complex mathematical formula but also smells like Guinness, and, when eventually sliced, looks disturbingly hairy!

Sunday 23 July 2006


In a recent post, Anna at bluelikethis (a blog, by the way, of which I am a big fan) took the cultural leap from reading Time magazine to listening to Disney music - possibly (ego says "Yes"!) on a series called Ain't No Mickey Mouse Music currently being reprised on BBC Radio 2 'Listen Again'.

Actually, it wasn't so much of a leap, as one small step for a mouse, since Disney's films (and the latter-day ups and down in the kingdom of pixie-dust) have been continuously chronicled in the pages of Time and interestingly - though not surprisingly - the Mouse-meister was, personally, twice featured on the cover: on 27 December 1937, celebrating the landmark release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; and on the same date in 1954, when Disney was moving into his second 'Golden Age' of animation and diversifying into television and - his own unique invention - the theme-park business, brand-named: 'Disneyland'.

Click on images to enlarge.

Regardless of whether or not you are a Disney fan, there are many fascinating examples of Time cover-art and articles from over eighty years of publishing to be found in the excellent Time Archive.


“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out…”

- Ray Bradbury

Visit my Ex Libris blog to read about Ray Bradbury’s collection of short stories, The Golden Apples of the Sun.

[Image: Coffee-cups from illy: la cultura del caffè]

Saturday 22 July 2006


Living, as he did, surrounded by the most disgustingly unpleasant sewage, the Sewer Rat was soon able - with only a minimal amount of muckraking - to find out the dirt on everyone!

There were no smelly, smutty secrets that he did not know and when others discovered that he knew things about them that they didn’t want anyone to know, they made the Sewer Rat their friend - inviting him to private parties, weekends in the country and all the most prestigious social events - in the hope that, through flattery, they could buy his silence.

The Sewer Rat enjoyed the kind of life denied to most rats and, since he was constantly discovering more and more dirt on more and more people, succeeded in widening his circle of intimate friends and social influence until he was able to forget that he was, in fact, just a Sewer Rat.

Everyone else, by common consent, decided to tolerate the Rat, since they knew that it is always better to have those who can damage you as an ally rather than an enemy, even if they were born and bred in the sewer. After all, as a price for confidentiality, the occasional, albeit pungent, smell of sewage was little more than a minor inconvenience.

© Brian Sibley 2006
Read more of my Likely Stories.

Friday 21 July 2006


With tonight’s broadcast of the third part of my four-part series on BBC Radio 2, Ain’t No Mickey Mouse Music, I was thinking back across almost a quarter of a century and reflecting on how lucky I have been - as a Disney fan-boy - to have met so many of the actors who used their voices to speak on behalf of famous Disney characters.

In 1982, on my very first visit to the Walt Disney Studio in Burbank, California, I was wandering round the archives in a state of bleary-eyed wonderment when I suddenly heard an outburst of spluttering and squawking and turned to find myself face to face (or, rather, nose to beak) with Clarence 'Ducky' Nash: the man responsible for the impenetrable vocal tirades of Donald Duck!

'Ducky' Nash was a delightfully wacky character and - after fifty years in the role - thought nothing of holding a conversation with you in 'duckese'! Wanting a memento of such an unexpected encounter, I asked him to sign a Donald comic book that happened to be in my bag and I subsequently managed to get one of my vintage Donald books inscribed by both man and bird!

A few years later, I met Ducky's counterpart, Jimmy MacDonald, who provided the falsetto voice for Mickey Mouse - having inherited the task from Walt Disney himself - and, later still, I found myself interviewing Wayne Allwine, Mickey’s current alter ego (in character, I might add!), along with his wife, Russi Taylor, who squeaks for Minnie Mouse.

The role-call of Disney voice talents whom I have met and interviewed includes Paige O’Hara and Angela Lansbury (Belle and Mrs Potts in Beauty and the Beast), Jodi Benson (Ariel in The Little Mermaid), Ilene Woods (Cinderella) and Betty Lou Gerson who was the corncrake voice of Cruella De Vil and who - even at the age of 84 - was still as scary as hell!

I have also been very fortunate to have been able to count two Disney voices as special friends…

The first was the late Adriana Caselotti who, with a smile and a song, provided Snow White's operatic trills in Disney’s first animated feature-film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

I had many years of correspondence with Adriana and paid several visits to her curious Hollywood home, which had a wishing well in the front garden! Others made fun of her eccentricities, but I found her a remarkable woman and a true survivor and, one day, I hope to write more about her and the extraordinary way in which she lived her whole life in relation to a film role she had created - without any on-screen credit - way back in 1937.

My second Disney friend is Kathryn Beaumont, who has the singular distinction of being the only actress to portray two Disney heroines: the eponymous Alice in Wonderland and Wendy in Peter Pan.

Kathryn not only spoke and sang for both these characters, she also served as a model, acting out many scenes from the stories in live-action to provide visual inspiration for the artists creating the animation magic.

She was only twelve when Walt signed her up to play two of the most famous children in English Literature and - despite being named a Disney Legend in 1998 - she remains incredibly modest about her involvement with these much-loved Disney classics, perhaps because she has succeeded in having a richly fulfilled life - and living it, for the most part, outside the world of showbusiness.

Although self-effacing about her work for Disney, Kathryn was somehow persuaded to allow me to interview her for Ain’t No Mickey Mouse Music and she makes her own delightful - and insightful - contribution to the series.

Kathryn and her husband Allan are two of my favourite American friends and we’ve spent many happy days together in Los Angeles and London. I especially love this picture of them both in which they're obviously letting the dog (Toby) see the rabbit (Buttons)!

As well as being able to hear Kathryn Beaumont on Mouse Music, you can read more about her career and her time at the Disney studio on this nicely put-together fan site.

Thursday 20 July 2006


The heat-wave swelters on, setting sizzling new records and, consequently, leaving us all in a muck-sweat...

Yesterday was the hottest July day, in the UK, since 1911 and in the not-much-cooler evening David took me - as a belated birthday treat - to see the new production of Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George at London's Wyndham's theatre.

The show is staged with scintillating vision and huge technical pizzazz - but sitting, dripping, in the Royal Circle, my heart went out to the gloved and hatted cast all tightly buttoned-up in their nineteenth-century brocades, bonnets, bustles and boots.

At the beginning of the second act, the characters depicted in George Seurat's painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, are living in the framed picture hanging on a gallery wall and complaining about having to stand or sit still for so long - and the heat!

Was it my imagination, or did they sing the repeated line "It's HOT up here!" with, perhaps, a little more passion than usual?


According to the authorities responsible for keeping an eye on the thermometer, today's temperatures have dropped very slightly --- to only near-tropical levels!

You could have fooled me!

I still feel that if I were a lolly, I'd already be down to my stick!


Oh, dear God...

If ONLY it were that easy!

Wednesday 19 July 2006


I recently blogged a thought or two on what I call WYTAWYG (What You Type Ain’t What You Get) and the role of the well-intentioned, but far from perfect, spell-checker.

This prompted me to ponder a small literary mystery: why haven’t J K Rowling or Terry Pratchett (as far as I know) thought of providing the wizards of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry or Discworld’s Unseen University with the invaluable services of exactly that - a Spell-Checker?

It seems to me, that the teaching staff overseen respectively by Professor Dumbledore and Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully could make profitable use of the services of such a functionary.

Essentially, the chief role of the Spell-Checker would be to ensure that spells were properly formulated before being ‘cast’:

“No, no, no! It’s ‘Eye of NEWT and toe of FROG’! It never works the other way around!”

However, the Spell-Checker might also be given discretionary powers of censorship in order to restrain any over-zealous wizards from spell-making that could cause unnecessary mayhem:

“Enough! This is nowhere near serious enough a situation for the use of a word like ‘Abba-Dabba-Ooga-Booga-Hoojee-Goojee-Yabba-Dabba-Doo’! You can have ‘Abbadazoola’ but NOTHING STRONGER!”

But I digress…

My real reason for returning to this subject was to note that the rewrite offered me by my computer's spell-check in place of “Call me Ishmael” is, perhaps, more widely known than I had supposed.

In fact, I’ve just discovered that cartoonist, Craig Swanson, made it the subject of one of his drawings - five years ago!

So, if you’re in need of a wry smile or two, take a browse through the very entertaining Notebooks of Craig Swanson at Perspicuity.

Meanwhile, Ms Rowling and Mr Pratchett: let me know which of you wants to use the Spell-Checker in your books and we’ll talk terms…

[Magic image: Puzuzu]