Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

“Beanie in aisle 5”

If you’re ever in the supermarket in Cirencester and hear “Beanie in aisle 5” announced over the tannoy, keep your eyes open for teenage shop assistants hurrying to the cheese aisle. Why? Because beanie is a code word for a fit chick, invented by my nephew Seb when he and his friends did shift work there as a way of alerting each other to the presence and location of an attractive girl. And even though Seb has moved on to bigger and better things, the beanie code is apparently still regularly announced over the tannoy system.


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I discovered the term a few years ago when I took Seb & his brother Alex canyoning near our house in the French Pyrenees. There’s a deep canyon only fifteen minutes drive up the mountain, and in the summer it echoes to the shouts of helmeted, wetsuited canyoners, who slither down waterfalls, rappel down cliffs and jump from 40′ high rocks into icy pools. When we took Seb and Alex, we went with Jean, the wiry, toothless Catalan guide from inextremis-aventura.com (from whose website I took this pic). Jean brought his girlfriend / assistant Sabrina with him, and as she is extremely fit and gorgeous the boys used the beanie code to alert each other when she was looking particularly sexy, such as when we stopped for a picnic and she peeled off her wetsuit.

I took a calculated risk by going canyoning with Alex, who’d always been more physically timid than his parcours-loving brother, and was also afraid of heights after a nasty experience on a zip wire at aged seven. Fortunately, the presence of a beanie was the push he needed to overcome his fears: with Sabrina cheering him on he amazed himself by jumping off a 30′ ledge and sliding down a waterfall like a proper daredevil.

Last winter Alex went skiing for the first time with his gorgeous girlfriend Emma (an experienced skier). Swinging on a cable car seat in the Alps, he was amazed to realise that he wasn’t scared of heights anymore, and he went on to impress himself, and impress Emma, by doing parallel turns rather than snowplough within a day of arriving. Attributing all this to the canyoning experience, Alex rang to thank Nick and me again for having taken him. Me? I think it was the beanie effect.

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