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political pronunciations of ‘police’

Has anybody else noticed that when Tory politicians talk about the police, they always pronounce it as one syllable: pleece? Whereas Labour politicians and politicians of other parties, and I think most people generally, pronounce it as a two-syllable word, though with the stress on the second syllable: po-LEECE. Does anyone know why that is? I wonder if it is because pleece is or was a more upper-class pronunciation. Admittedly these days it’s no longer necessarily true that Tories come from more privileged backgrounds than Labour politicians. But my theory is that pleece was traditionally the more patrician way of saying it, and that pronunciation has been passed down through the Tory party over generations, reinforced at innumerable party meetings, committees and conferences, and is now almost a kind of Conservative identity tag. Other theories welcome, of course.

P.S. May I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers – here is the link: https://unbound.com/books/adam-gowers . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come! And if you support it you will get your name in the back and an invitation to the launch party.

Love and sex

I read recently that researchers have found that references to sex in pop songs are much more frequent than they used to be. Pop songs back in the 1960s were about love and never used the word ‘sex’; but now pop songs are about sex and never use the word ‘love’.

But of course pop songs in the 60s often were about sex, it just wasn’t explicit. (The Beatles’ Please Please Me was a veiled request for fellatio, apparently.) Some years ago I posted a piece about the Cliff Richard song The Young Ones, in which I pointed out its sexual sub-text; and this seems a good time to re-post it:

I’ve taught myself to play “The Young Ones” on the piano recently. It’s not difficult (well, it was quite difficult for me, as I can barely play, but it is not a difficult song). Singing along to it I’ve become much more aware of the words. I used to think it was just a jolly song about the joys of being young, but it has a much more precise purpose than that. It’s a seduction song, addressed to a young woman by a young man. Here are the words with my gloss:

The young ones, darling we’re the young ones,

and young ones shouldn’t be afraid

To live life (to have sex)

While the flame is still strong (while sexual desire is still strong)

‘Cause we may not be the young ones very long (we’ll be too old to be interested in sex).

Tomorrow, why wait until tomorrow (please don’t let’s wait any longer to have sex, I can’t stand it)

‘Cause tomorrow sometimes never comes (if we don’t have sex now we may never have it)

So love me (so have sex with me)

There’s a song to be sung (there’s sex to be had)

And the best time is to sing it while we’re young (the best time to have sex is when we’re young).

Once in every lifetime comes a love like this (if I can convince you I’m in love with you, you might have sex with me)

Oh, I need you (I want to have sex with you)

You need me (you want to have sex with me) (I hope)

Oh my darling can’t you see (please, for Christ’s sake)

That young dreams should be dreamed together (young people should have sex together)

And young hearts shouldn’t be afraid (to have sex)

And some day when the years have flown

Darling then we’ll teach the young ones of our own (Look, I’m serious about you, we’ll have kids one day, just as long as you have sex with me right now).

Hats off to Roy Bennett and Sid Tepper for those lyrics. Odd to think of the asexual Cliff Richard singing them. It’s like an updated version of Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress”.

(P.S. May I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers – here is the link: https://unbound.com/books/adam-gowers . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come! And if you support it you will get your name in the back and an invitation to the launch party.

Roger Moore review

So Roger Moore has left us. When I was growing up he was my ideal of an English action hero – as the Saint, as the handsome half of the Persuaders and as James Bond. And it came to pass, some four decades later, that I reviewed his autobiography for the Independent. Regrettably it was not as positive a review as I should have liked to be able to give; nevertheless it was an honest review and paid tribute to his amazing career – and so here it is: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/my-word-is-my-bond-by-roger-moore-1757291.html

P.S. May I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers – here is the link: https://unbound.com/books/adam-gowers . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come! And if you support it you will get your name in the back and an invitation to the launch party.

Gorse and furze

A couple of weeks ago I went with some chums for a weekend away in Dorset. We took a walk over the heath to Studland Bay, and all the gorse bushes were ablaze with yellow flowers. I say ‘gorse bushes’, but I could just as well have said ‘furze bushes’, for I remember being told as a boy that gorse and furze are synonyms, and moreover the only true synonyms in the English language. That is, they refer to the exact same specific thing without any differences in connotation or nuance. There are plenty of near synonyms, like small and little, for example. But those two are not exact synonyms, because little indicates some kind of emotional attitude (a lovely little house; a horrible little man; a nice little treat; a stupid little wanker), whereas small doesn’t. So they are not interchangeable. Leopard and panther are zoologically synonymous, I believe, but would be used in different contexts, panther sounding more literary and poetic. So they are not interchangeable either. But gorse and furze are interchangeable, absolutely and always.

Is it true, though, that there are no other exact synonyms in English? Let me know if you know any.

P.S. May I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers – here is the link: https://unbound.com/books/adam-gowers . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come! And if you support it you will get your name in the back and an invitation to the launch party.

An amusing spelling error

Yesterday I was in Milton Keynes for an Open University co-ordination meeting. This summer I’m marking the Creative Writing End of Course Assessment; and all of us markers had to meet up, mark some sample scripts and come to agreement over the grades, to prepare us for marking the real thing. Anyway, one of the scripts contained possibly the best spelling mistake I have ever seen.

It was in a story about a woman going on a date with a man she had met on the internet. She got all dressed up in her best frock, make-up and high heels and went to meet him in a cocktail bar. There he was, tall, dark, handsome and elegantly dressed – and as he leaned forward to greet her “she caught a whiff of his fragrant colon”.

P.S. May I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers – here is the link: https://unbound.com/books/adam-gowers . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come! And if you support it you will get your name in the back and an invitation to the launch party.

Demise

Not last night but the night before, I was watching a BBC2 documentary about the giant asteroid, nine miles wide and travelling at 40,000 miles per hour, that hit the Earth 65 million years ago and sent the dinosaurs into extinction. Interesting subject. But why, when the presenter said “We may finally be able to paint a picture of the demise of the dinosaurs”, did I feel irritated?

Demise. I just don’t like that word. I think it stems from when I was writing an essay about Macbeth in the sixth form, and I used the phrase, “after the demise of King Duncan”, and my English teacher wrote in the margin “Please!”. I asked him what was wrong with it, and he said that the word sounded facetious, a pompous word used only by lawyers, journalists and humorists. Why not just say “death”, since that’s what I meant?

Well, you know what, Mr Giles, you were absolutely right. 38 years on I see just how right you were. I wish you’d been there to advise that presenter.

P.S. May I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers – here is the link: https://unbound.com/books/adam-gowers . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come! And if you support it you will get your name in the back and an invitation to the launch party.

Thoughts on tennis balls

I’ve just finished reading Jonathan Franzen’s excellent novel Purity and there was a short passage near the end which I enjoyed so much I have to share it. It concerns the feelings of Pip Tyler, the protagonist, for tennis balls:

Could a more perfect manufactured object than a tennis ball be imagined? Fuzzy and spherical, squeezable and bouncy, its stitching a pair of matching tongues, its voice on impact a pock in the most pleasing of registers. Dogs knew a good thing, dogs loved tennis balls, and so did she.”

This perfectly sums up my own feelings about tennis balls (and dogs), but I would never have thought of putting them into words, nor done it so elegantly if I had.

P.S. May I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers – here is the link: https://unbound.com/books/adam-gowers . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come! And if you support it you will get your name in the back and an invitation to the launch party.