Monthly Archives: August 2006

A mouse walks into a music shop

A mouse walks into a music shop and asks the shopkeeper “Have you got a mouse organ?”
The shopkeeper replies “No”.
The mouse walks off.
The next day another mouse walks into the music shop. “Have you got a mouse organ?”

it asks.
“No,” replies the shopkeeper,

“but it’s funny you should ask as there was another mouse asking for the same thing yesterday.”
The mouse nods and says “Oh yes, that’ll be our Monica”.

Verbifying the Gerund

There is a new trend in the English Language and that is to verbify words. Verbifying words is the concept of taking a noun like mouse (like a computer mouse) and then describing the concept of using the mouse like this “I just had a quick mouse around the screen”. It may have existed for a long time, but certainly in modern times it has become much more popular because of the rapid invention of new things. We all tend to know what the new thing is called (unless we’re still referring to all of them as thingy still) but sometimes its more difficult to know how to describe using the thing itself. Another example is “Video” to mean the Video Cassette Recorder. Or “Video” to mean record things on the Video Cassette Recorder.

The extra fun part about “Verbify” is that it is self referential. “Verbify” is a “Verbified” version of the noun “Verb”.

Verbify does have a rather ancient opposite though, something that we’ve all being doing for ages probably without remembering the name for it. A gerund* is when you take a verb and then turn it into a noun. Eg. “I am going to sing”, and then in the next sentence, “Everyone hated Alex’s singing”. In the second sentence the thing that people are doing is “hating” so what I’m doing has become a gerund.

But despite being opposites they can be used together, hence “Verbifying” is a gerund version of “Verbify”.

*I first came across a gerund when learning Latin at school**

**Yeah I know – weird huh***

***I would have been a judge but I didn’t have the Latin.

A bloke walks into a pub with a slab of tarmac under his arm…

…and says to the barman, “can I have one for me and one for the road”?

Guilt half-life

I have a guilt half-life. It’s quite useful because dealing with guilt is one of the most important things I have to do on a daily basis.

I feel guilty for everything. As Woody Allen once said, “if one guy is starving someplace, it puts a crimp on my evening”. Basically the reason I get out of bed in the morning is because I feel that I would be letting people down if I didn’t.

So what is this guilt half-life? Well basically every time I do something stupid I feel guilty about it but it gets a score (in my head) of how bad it was. But sometimes its difficult to tell exactly what that score is at the time. I feel bad at the time but the only real way to tell exactly how bad I feel about it is to see how long it takes to fall through the different levels of telling people how stupid I’ve been.

Basically, I like telling stories more than I mind feeling embarrassed about how the stories make me look. So when I do something stupid a bit of me knows that sooner or later I’ll be telling people about what I did. Each story makes the following progression.

1 – Tell Katherine, she often gets to hear it when it’s still very raw
2 – Close friends
3 – Family
4 – Friends in general in the pub
5 – The readers on this blog

So when it finally hits the blog that’s a sign that I no longer feel embarrassed about what I did. Not really. And that’s almost always the moment to retire the story from being retold. Everyone’s heard it once, and if they haven’t I guess they could always look it up. But the main thing is that if you’re telling the story in public you’ve got to have the fight between “embarrassment at finishing the story” and the “need to get another laugh” to give it the emotional punch you want. It definitely makes it funnier, which is why when it gets to the blog it’s probably over for the guilt and the story itself.

Todays creative thing

instead of being a short story is a video – it’s my first upload to YouTube and I made it for my Formula One blog. But I think you can enjoy it even if you don’t know anything about Formula One:

Shakespeare goes in to a pub and asks for a drink

And the landlord shouts at him, “Get out, You’re bard”.

American English

American English is a difficult beast. Oscar Wilde said America and England are two different countries separated by a common language. But sometimes it seems that there really is less in common between our languages than we think. In fact I was just writing about some of those differences the other day.

Unlike many other British authors of the moment I choose not to point and laugh at our American cousins. The Americans do seem to be the one group that it is socially acceptable to be xenophobic about. But i did discover an interesting thing about Americans as a group which might sound like it was me taking the mickey a little bit. But I’m not it’s just interesting that’s all.

I don’t know if you’ve installed any software recently. But if you have then you’ll probably have had to choose the language that you want the software installed in. And recently, in the last few years there has been a change. In the old days you would get either English or a choice between American or British English (usually you would get the choice if the software included a dictionary of some kind).

But now in situations where it would before only offered English or another language we only get the American English choice. And this is because, it turns out, a number of American people don’t think that are speaking English. They think they are speaking American.

Like ordering roast beef and bread

Recently while at a Vietnamese restaurant, I ordered noodles instead of rice with the dish that I wanted. The weird thing about this is that I didn’t know that I was ordering the wrong thing. The menu gave me no guidance. And in a restaurant which I often go they have the same dish and there I have ordered noodles and never been corrected. But when I was in this restaurant the waitresses gave me a look that told me I was crazy – it’s a look I’ve experienced before. And she suggested that I tried the rice with it because it would go much better. I continued with my order for two reasons. First because I’ve never been a massive fan of rice and second because I’ve had the combo of this dish and noodles before and I’ve very much enjoyed it.

But I could tell that in this particular case which my misbehavior had been truly revealed. I had clearly been a snob and not taken the food advice that I was given which is something I rarely do. My favorite thing is to go into a restaurant and ask them what they would recommend. And usually it is fantastic. So why different. It is because I had become used to what I wanted. But the same could be leveled at the person telling me off.

I was trying to think during the meal of the local cultural equivalent of what I had done and I can only imagine it is like ordering roast beef and bread, or something of that ilk. Maybe ordering Chicken and Yorkshire pudding although it’s becoming more acceptable these days. Something that would be so outrageous that the waitress in a country pub would tell me off.

But it led me to a thought which I think is one of the most interesting things in British cooking (although there are many things which are terrible) the most important good thing is that chefs here seem to be more willing to experiment against the grain – against the combinations that people have become comfortable with – than in most other countries. And perhaps this is because they have had no national reputation for so long that they have been forced into cooking a wide variety of imports. But the creative spark of cooking genius which does appear in Britain seems to take these bits and pieces and turn them to their advantage. And perhaps it is the way in which Britain has been accused of having no style that it really excels because what fantastic British food seems to me to be about is an ability to embrace the best of everything and put it next to something you wouldn’t expect would be fantastic but is. Because British chefs have more room than most to be able to say, “I’ve tried this, and you know what? It actually worked”.

Moon Minors

Last time we left Simon he was about to poison all of the cheese on the moon. If you need to refresh your memory then please check out: Moon Miners.

Simon had announced at a large meeting of all of the leading mice that to save the moon they needed to re-establish the aristocracy. That the mice he had brought to this meeting deserved to be treated better than all of the other mice (to this he had great applause they all thought so too). But how would they be able to show to the other mice that they were better than them (at this he got muted grumbling about it had been his idea in the first place to tell everyone about the cheese)? He told them that he had finally decided to tell them the last secret the prince had told him before he died it was a secret so amazing that it would mean a way to re-establish the aristocracy. There was a way, he told them, to get to the centre of the moon and that when they got there they would have access to the most fantastic fresh cheese in the world, the cheese that they would find there would make normal moon cheese seem flat and tasteless and that with help from all of them they could have exclusive access to this cheese.

They agreed so rapidly that Simon thought it might even be a trap, but it wasn’t. These powerful mice had been feeling so silly of late that they had been no better than a common mouse that they were ready to do anything to be able to prove they were better. They were completely desperate to re-establish their superiority.

So off they set and started digging, it was tough work, and these mice had never really done a days work in their lives so keeping them motivated was hard at first. But after a short while the cheese taste had improved so dramatically that the greedy mice were rushing to try and get back to the front of the digging party.

Simon bided his time, he knew that once they reached the fondue centre of the moon then he would be ready, but until that time he would simply have to keep up the pretence.

Then finally, the big day came with a squeal of delight one of the mice had struck liquid cheese and it had oozed out all over his whiskers. They all kept digging around as Simon instructed until there was a wide opening, and Simon called out, “Bring the carrying barrels”. They brought down the barrels of poison from the surface which Simon had told them were barrels for transporting the cheese up (he told them that they were reinforced to deal with the heat which is why they were so heavy). As they were set down on to a specially constructed platform which Simon had built himself he turned to the other mice around him and said, “You are my brothers, all of you but you are not friends of me or the moon”. This place that was once so good has been destroyed by us all, and now one act of vandalism by me must restore the balance. And with this, before they could do anything about it, he pulled a special rope and all of the barrels went rolling straight into the centre of the moon. Each one melting in the sheer heat of the centre and realising its deadly poison.

“I have poisoned the cheese, and although the cheese grows slowly the poison will not, within two days all of the moon will be poisoned, and within hours it will be too risky to take a bite. You must all go back to your old ways of eating grain and working for a living. There is nothing you can do now to stop it, the moon will be saved and if you ask me why I did it I did it for our children.” And with that Simon jumped into the molten cheese and instantly died.