Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

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Be My Valentine

Though Spring certainly hasn’t sprung, and the birds and bees (and poor old Somerset cows and sheep) are so waterlogged that there’s little love action going on, the arrival of Valentine’s Day still naturally turns one’s thoughts to love. And thus, last night, in the Pig’s Ear in Chelsea, the topic of conversation did just that (more specifically, it turned to the reasons why our friend Richard has yet to find it).

Love heartIt’s not that he’s a bad catch: Richard (who bought the night’s first bottle of Claret) is a sweetheart: generous, warm-hearted, diffident, and charming. Still in his 30s, he’s tall and well-built (verging on nicely cuddly), and makes up for the paucity of his hair by having lovely, expressive, soulful eyes. A successful entrepreneur, he’s comfortably off, so doesn’t have to worry about the rat race, which means he has time to pay attention to friends and family. He even loves kids, for God’s sake, and is the go-to-guy when his beautiful girl friends are looking for a godfather for their offspring.

So, what’s going wrong?

Well, by the time the three of us (me, Richard and our friend Annie) had downed our second bottle of wine, the reasons had become a little clearer…

Text talk

Light started dawning when he shared an ongoing text conversation he’d been having with a prospective date – a close friend of one of his many girlfriends, who’d  decided they’d be perfect together. A couple of dozen texts, sent and received over a three-month period, with many a tentative plan to meet, had all come to nought. What had gone wrong? Well, firstly, why not just ring her, and have a proper conversation? Who wants to chat about nothing very much to some stranger they’ve never seen and not yet talked to? You have to act sometimes, rather than keep life at a distance.

The perils of being a wing-man

We remembered then that his best friend is a charmer: handsome, and far from diffident. They hang out together all the time, and Richard always takes the role of wing man, and, as is traditional, never gets the girl.

Online dating


So we asked him about internet dating, something I have positive personal experience of, as nine years ago I was lucky enough to find my true love on a dating site (Dating Direct, since you ask). We were early adopters, and the scene has developed massively since then, with one in five UK relationships now estimated to have started online, and more than nine million Brits registered with a dating site. There’s a plethora of sites to choose from, from Guardian Soulmates to Match.com, eHarmony to My Single Friend. And, of course, there are special interest sites, such as Be Naughty and MySugarDaddie (sic), PositiveSingles.com (for the HIV positive), farmersonly.com (with all this rain, they need a little sunshine in their lives), uniformdating.com. There’s even one called DiaperMates.com, to bring those who like to dress up in diapers, and those who like to change diapers, together…

Anyway, I digress. What’s clear is that there are lots of options for those looking for love. So, we asked Richard: which dating services do you use? Match.com? eHarmony? Dating Direct? It turned out that this wannabe family man was trying to find love on Tinder. Tinder! The straight equivalent of Grindr, an app whose every pouting picture contains a promise of commitment-free shagging, mind-numbing hangovers and long-lasting regrets.

We asked Richard if he was just looking for a shag. But even as we asked it, we knew that wasn’t it true. He’s an innocent. An old-fashioned guy, more interested in companionship and family than in pulling.

Speed dating

Then Richard mentioned that he’d tried speed dating, and we laughed: we couldn’t imagine how a date like that would go. So, laughing, I persuaded him and Annie to role-play a speed date.

Richard started, and his questions were perfectly polite: “How are you?”, “What do you do?”, “So, what are your plans for the weekend?” Somehow, though, they dead-ended the conversation. So I got Annie to ask the questions, and she turned out to be a natural: “If you were given £10k tomorrow, what would you do with it?”, “If you could live anywhere in the world, money no object, where would you go?”. Faced with such unexpected questions, Richard’s conversation flowed, although his answers were rather eccentric – he said, for instance, that he’d like to live on the back of a whale, and travel around the world and hang out with other whales, ending up in Antarctica, carving himself a fishing hole. But though this whimsical answer is fun, there are few girls not of the Inuit tribe who’d want to marry and raise kids with a a guy who lives by an ice fishing hole…

The moral of the story

If you’re looking for love, it helps if you know what you’re looking for and look for it in the right places…

Here, from TED, is an investigation into love: http://www.ted.com/playlists/143/in_the_mood_for_love.html.

And, if you need some encouragement, here are a few good reasons to search for it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/14/this-is-your-body-on-love_n_4780934.html?ir=GPS%20for%20the%20Soul.

Movember: the Cerne Abbas giant sports a ‘tache

The Cerne Abbas Giant sports a 'tache for Movember

The Cerne Abbas Giant sports a ‘tache for Movember




The Cerne Abbas Giant made Dorset proud today, by sporting a fabulous moustache in support of Movember.

The Giant’s grass moustache (grown by British Seed Houses) is, at 36′ by 9′, big enough and bushy enough to make even Tom Selleck green with envy.

Magnum PI

Magnum PI

The chalk Giant has joined the ranks of those sporting a ‘tache for Movember in support of health programmes that combat prostate and testicular cancer (and mental health challenges).


It seems an inspired pairing: the priapic Giant
(who says size doesn’t matter? Ed.) and the Movember charity, which aims to make an ‘everlasting impact on the face of men’s health’ through its support for prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health. 

The Giant already has a reputation for virility, with folklore holding that infertile couples making love on its huge appendage will conceive within two years (that is, if the guy isn’t too intimidated to be able to perform…).

The National Trust showed its funny and compassionate side by giving permission for the grass moustache to be added to the chalk giant for a day.

Watch a video on this, here:


‘Penis dunking’ – a fab bit of over-sharing on Mumsnet

Mumsnet penis beaker

If you thought Mumsnet was all about sharing tips on breastfeeding tips and baby-friendly boltholes (like the fabulous Villa Jalon, near Valencia, run by Sarah & Johnny Robinson), the content of the current twitter and media storm might surprise you…

The Mumsnet penis-dunking post – yes, you read that right – even made it onto Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 earlier… The original poster has kept her composure remarkably well, seemingly convinced that any moment now someone else is going to ‘fess up to having a dedicated post-coital clean-up section too...

Comments like this – “Even if you have an acid fanjo and his sperm is nine tenths itching powder, surely you can use the bathroom at the same time? You can wash your fanjo in the bath and he can scrub his cock in the sink,” – had me crying with laughter. If you haven’t yet done so, it’s definitely worth following the link and reading the entire thread.


British humour rules. Period.

Bodyform Facebook page

When a young British man called Richard Neill wrote a funny rant on the Bodyform webpage, blaming them for misleading him about the true nature of periods, his post received more than 85,000 likes.

Read more…

Wah! It’s National Night!

I’ve always hated the slack-jawed look that the act of chewing gum gives people. Mastication ain’t pretty, and chewing gum while talking to someone isn’t just ugly, it’s rude. I also hate the spat-out chewing gum that darkens London’s pavements; as unwelcome in its way as the liver spots that are starting to appear on my own arms.

I was put in mind of all this over the weekend by a Singaporean friend who’d tacked extra days onto the holiday weekend for Singapore’s National Day (August 9th) in order to fly over for Cowes Week. While waiting for the wind to emerge one morning Miranda showed me a hilarious video produced for Mentos by BBH Asia Pacific this time last year. (Mentos must love the ban on chewing gum in Singapore, where the dirty little habit can result in a S$500 fine, and have built their brand presence there with ‘fresh ideas’ and by aligning themselves with the culture and concerns of Singapore.)

The Mentos promotion takes the form of a rap song that cheekily and humorously echoes the government’s concern over falling birth rates (Singapore’s birthrate is around 30,000 a year, and the city-state needs around 50,000 births to maintain its population and avoid the economic problems of an ageing citizenry) by encouraging married couples to get jiggy and conceive a brand new Singaporean in celebration of National DayRead more…

WANTED: single man with boat. Please send picture of boat.

single man with boatAs I’m sailing at Cowes this week, I was thinking of simply putting up this picture in lieu of a post… But then the lovely Charly, the youngest of our crew and the one at the pointy end (foredeck) responsible for hoisting, gybing and dropping the spinnaker, often while up to her calves in water, turned out to be rather marvelous at pub games. So, for your delectation and delight, here’s a video of her flipping a quite surprising number of beer mats… Read more…


I heard of a great version of lyrical mondegreen this week, relating to The Gap Band’s ‘Oops upside your head‘. Even if you’re too young to remember this first time around, you must have heard it; in fact you’ve almost certainly been mortified by your tipsy mum and her friends sitting on the floor and shimmying along to it with the rest of the wedding, bar mitzvah or Christmas party crowd.

3870652466_d3245b42bdAt my friend Alexis’s wedding party at Fulham Palace on Tuesday, I ended up swapping stories with Rachel, a friend I used to sing with in a gospel group called ‘Many Rivers’ (we had a regular gospel Sunday lunch slot at the Oxo Tower, and the 606 Jazz Club). Rachel mentioned a well-endowed girlfriend of hers who believed that The Gap Band were singing ‘Say, boobs upside your head, say, boobs upside your head’: this makes more sense when you realise that she has huge boobs, which really do end up upside her head when she shimmies.

I was hoping to find a specific term for misheard song lyrics but I don’t believe one exists, hence lyrical mondegreen. However, I did find soramimi, which is the Japanese term for lyrics in one language being misheard as intelligible words in another. (Apparently that’s what happens with the ‘Numa Numa’ song…) To show you what I mean, this is Mike Sutton, aka Buffalax, using soramimi on YouTube, overlaying Hindi film music clips with the words he thinks he hears in English, to humorous effect.

I’ll be posting more misheard lyrics later: in the meantime, it would be great to hear your examples.

dig a little deeper

61K0InWjL4L._SX385_My nephew Sebastian had a panoply of changed words and meanings:

“Effisgator!” he used to shout as my sister drove down the M4: it took a while to work out that this digger-loving three year old was spotting yellow JCB excavators (this was pre-Bob the Builder so perhaps inspired by Dig Dig Digging?).

“Stacky backy mash boe!” This was Seb’s frustrated two year old’s version of ‘just back off [or similar four letter words ending in **ck] and leave me alone’. (I might adopt that one myself: it would certainly save on the swear box donations.)

“Hinxie needs some milk”. This was Seb (aged 2 1/2) trying to say ‘Think he needs some milk’, when he was worried that his crying baby brother Alex might need breastfeeding. From then on, Alex was known as ‘Hinxy’, later ‘Hinx’.

Be good to hear your own versions of baby-talk, family expressions and phrases and names that just don’t feel right if you change the order around…


Jack, aged 3 Do you remember the funny things your kids used to say when they were little? The special things you or your siblings said when you were tiny?

My stepson Jack and his sisters love their grandpa and always fight to sit next to him. Chris is a tall, thin ex-army colonel who joins in with all the fun, dive-bombs them in the swimming pool, drinks too much wine and flirts with all the ladies, and when Jack was two he used to call him Grandma Man.

Read more…

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