Humour français

I have been trying to get to grips with the French sense of humour. Given my tenuous understanding of the language, this is something of a tall order and I’m resigned to it being a long and ultimately fruitless task. Nevertheless there should be a few laughs on the way. Here are a few general observations.

The French can be very funny. We’ve recently been watching a Netflix comedy series Dix pour cent, about the staff working at a talent agency in Paris. It’s available in the UK with the title Call my agent and I strongly recommend it. It’s cleverly written, well-acted and easily stands comparison with the best of US and UK comedy. Another excellent programme on French tv is Scènes de ménages ( a Scène de ménage is what a UK policeman would call a “domestic”). Each week we see a series of very short sketches, each featuring one of a set of six couples ranging in age from their thirties to their eighties. It’s now in it’s tenth series and the characters are all well-established. Again, its well written and acted and I’m a little surprised a UK company hasn’t picked up this simple but effective format.

On the other hand, French humour can often be very childish. When I was teaching in Paris, I was surprised by how often a group of adults could be reduced to fits of giggling by any passing mention of nudity, bodily functions or lavatories. Once I discovered this, I found a touch of the Frankie Howards was a useful way of enlivening a lesson that was beginning to sag a little.

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The phrase double entendre is not used in France To get the English meaning across in France you would say double sens or sous- entendu.    

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The French love calambours (puns). The language lends itself well to them for two reasons. Firstly, in spoken French, the syllables in a sentence are much more evenly stressed. An English person is unlikely to misunderstand the phrase “mighty tower” as “my tea tower” but in French “les rapaces” (the birds of prey) sounds identical to “les rats passent ” (the rats are passing). Secondly French has a lot more homophones than English : sain, saint, ceint, (healthy, saint, surrounded) are all pronounced the same, as are ver, vert, vers (worm, green, towards ) and sceau, saut, seau (seal, jump and bucket). The list of homophones seems to be endless.

 Puns have an honourable history in French classical literature. In the 16th Century when the dramatist Corneille wrote: Le désir s’accroît quand l’effet se recule (Desire increases when the effect recedes), he knew full well that his audience would pick up the alternative Le désir s’accroît quand les fesses reculent ( Desire increases when the buttocks recede).

A popular type of pun today is Monsieur et Madame. These are similar to English “knock knock jokes” (or the late arrivals at the ball in I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue – Mr & Mrs Decent-Exposure, & their son, Ian; Mr & Mrs Nutcluster, & their daughter, Hazel)

Monsieur et madame Vanbus ont une fille. Comment s’appelle-t-elle?
Hillary!

Mr and Mrs Vanbus have a daughter. What’s her name?
Hillary!

(“Hillary Vanbus” = “Il arrive en bus,” = “He’s arriving by bus.”)

Monsieur et Madame Bonbeur ont un fils, comment l’appellent-il?
Jean.

Mrs and Mr Bonbeur have a son. What’s his name?
John!

(“Jean Bonbeur” = jambon beurre = a ham sandwich)

Monsieur et Madame Diote ont une fille, comment s’appelle-t-elle?
Kelly!.

Mr and Mrs Diote have a daughter. What’s her name?
Kelly!

(Kelly Diote = Quelle idiote! = what an idiot!)


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The French also like spoonerisms (contrepèteries) – where two letters are switched around in a phrase to change its meaning. Again these have been around a long time – In the 15th century Rabelais gave us “Elle est folle de la messe.” ( she’s crazy about mass) and “elle est molle de la fesse,” (“she has a soft behind.” ).

Most of the modern versions I’ve come across are obscene but this poster is relatively tame.

 Macron nous a dit 2 gros mois / Macron nous a mis 2 gros doigts (Macron told us two great months / Macron gave us two big fingers.)

Here’s another: Les Russes sont en fetê. / Les fesses sont en route. (The Russians are celebrating. / The buttocks are on their way). They do seem to have a thing about buttocks, don’t they?

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Like all nations the French have their stereotypes. The target for national humour is Belgium, with Belgians being portrayed as uniformly thick. They are similar to Irishman jokes in England, and about as funny:

Pourquoi les Belges ont-ils arrêté la chasse au canard?”
Parce qu’ils n’arrivent pas à jeter le chien assez haut!”

Why did the Belgian stop hunting ducks?
They couldn’t throw the dog high enough.

The only Belgian joke that has made me smile doesn’t really fit the category:

 “The director of Pulp Fiction is making a movie about a Belgian comic book character who gets coronavirus and has to self- isolate. It’s Quentin Tarantino’s “Tintin’s Quarantino”.

I’ll get my coat.

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Within France there are numerous regional stereotypes but these very according to where you ask. Here are a few opinions I’ve picked up from some very unscientific research. As far as I am aware, there isn’t a scrap of truth in any of them:

Parisians think that everyone outside Paris lives on a farm.

People to the south of Paris (Versailles, Chartres, Orléans): are “closet monarchists”.

The rest of the country think that Parisian are rude, sulky and arrogant.

People from Normandy can’t give you a straight answer to a question and are addicted to apples.

People from Nord-Pas-de-Calais are depressive, in-bred and alcoholic.

People from Brittany are stubborn, scheming and “really alcoholic”.

People from Alsace are uncommunicative, with ridiculous accents and shitty weather.

People from the Auvergne are crafty, greedy and live on cheese.

People from Marseille are always exaggerating, and the women are the equivalent of Essex girls.

People from the south-west (Basque country) are loud, colourful and alcoholic.

People from Toulouse are always late and live on cassoulet.

People from Lyon are laid-back and have an inferiority complex towards Paris.

People from Poitou and the Loire ( i.e. us) are stubborn, boring, conservatives.

People from Bordeaux are champagne socialists (“gauche caviare” ); they either have an uncle who owns a vineyard or are pensioners living by the sea.

People from Nice are not very nice at all.

I’d be glad to hear of others or of any observations on French humour.                  

On Beer (3)

  “Next to music beer was best.”  Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

“The new Beer Bill  has begun its operations. Everybody is drunk. Those who are not singing are sprawling. The sovereign people are in a beastly state”  (A letter from Sydney Smith.to John Murray referring to The Beer Act of 1830)

Lady Holland, A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith

The sergeant stated that the defendant staggered badly after getting out of the car and smelt strongly of drink. Defendant: I have not touched a drink for ten years. District Justice: Did you have any of this new ice cream? Defendant: Well, I had, your honour. District Justice: How much had you? Defendant: I had a twopenny wafer in Drogheda, your honour. District Justice: Is that all? Defendant: I felt a cold coming on me and had two cornets at Swords. District Justice said he was determined to put down the growing practice of people driving around in motorcars and pulling up at roadside sweetshops to consume ice cream. If such persons feel they need ice cream, they must leave their cars at home. The Sergeant said that the defendant had a small freezer in the back of the car which bore the traces of fresh ice cream; the cushions also had traces of wafer-crumbs. District Justice: No doubt he said ‘Crumbs!’ when he ran into the other car. (Laughter.) Defendant stated that he had bad teeth and did not like ice cream but took it as a tonic and also to prevent himself getting colds. He realised now that he had been foolish and was prepared to take the pledge and drink only whiskey in future.

Flann O’Brien on alcoholic ice-cream, Cruiskeen Lawn

They placed food in front of him,
they placed beer in front of him;
Enkidu knew nothing about eating bread for food,
and of drinking beer he had not been taught.
The harlot spoke to Enkidu, saying:
“Eat the food, Enkidu, it is the way one lives.
Drink the beer, as is the custom of the land.”
Enkidu ate the food until he was sated,
he drank the beer-seven jugs!– and became expansive and sang with joy!
He was elated and his face glowed.
He splashed his shaggy body with water,
and rubbed himself with oil, and turned into a human.

from The Epic of Gilgamesh

You will not be able to stay home, brother

You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out

You will not be able to lose yourself on skag

And skip out for beer during commercials

 Because the revolution will not be televised         

 Gil Scott-Heron The revolution will not be televised

Genial and gladdening is the power of good ale, the true and proper drink of Englishmen. He is not deserving of the name of Englishman who speaketh against ale.

George Borrow, Lavengro

Brewery barge with export stout. England. Sea air sours it, I heard. Be interesting some day get a pass through Hancock to see the brewery. Regular world in itself. Vats of porter, wonderful. Rats get in too. Drink themselves bloated as big as a collie floating. Dead drunk on the porter. Drink till they puke again like christians. Imagine drinking that! Rats: vats. Well of course if we knew all the things…  

James Joyce, Ulysses

Suppose we go and try some lager-bier? … It is a new beverage, of German origin … you will not like it for some time, because it is quite different from Barclay and Perkins’s beer.

David W. Mitchell Ten Years in the United States: Being an Englishman’s View of Men and Things in the North and South, 1862

The snows of the Tyrol,

the clear beer of Vienna

Are not very pure or true.

From Sylvia Plath Daddy

Always be drunk.
That’s it!
The great imperative!
In order not to feel
Time’s horrid fardel
bruise your shoulders,
grinding you into the earth,
Get drunk and stay that way.
On what?
On beer, poetry, virtue, whatever.
But get drunk.

From Charles Baudelaire Be Drunk! (translator  unknown) 

On Bicycles

The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.  Iris Murdoch, The Red and the Green Being dangerous without being fun puts bicycles in a category with open-heart surgery, the war in Vietnam, the South Bronx, and divorce. Sensible people … Continue reading “On Bicycles”

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. . . H.G.Wells .

The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.

 Iris Murdoch, The Red and the Green

Being dangerous without being fun puts bicycles in a category with open-heart surgery, the war in Vietnam, the South Bronx, and divorce. Sensible people do all that they can to avoid such things as these.

P.J. O’Rourke, Republican Party Reptile

I really handled it with ease, except one time I crashed into a dog and another time I collided with two women, and I was very happy.

 Simone De Beauvoir, Wartime diaries

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.

 Ernest Hemingway, Battle for Paris. Colliers magazine September 1944

Bicycles are almost as good as guitars for meeting girls.

Bob Weir, Grateful Dead  in Dave Hunter The Fender Telecaster  

‘I do not believe in the three-speed gear at all,’ the Sergeant was saying, ‘it is a new-fangled instrument, it crucifies the legs, the half of the accidents are due to it.’

Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman

To ride a bicycle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bicycle is the product of pure reason applied to motion. Geometry at the service of man! Give me two spheres and a straight line and I will show you how far I can take them. Voltaire himself might have invented the bicycle, since it contributes so much to man’s welfare and nothing at all to his bane. Beneficial to the health, it emits no harmful fumes and permits only the most decorous speeds. it is not a murderous implement?”

Angela Carter, Vampirella

…bright-shirted racers of the Tour de France zoomed by like fantastically bicycling macaws.

 Joseph O’Neill, Netherland

“But Holmes was shaking his head, and his face was puzzled and expectant rather than joyous. “A bicycle, certainly, but not the bicycle,” said he. “I am familiar with forty-two different impressions left by tyres. This, as you perceive, is a Dunlop, with a patch upon the outer cover. Heidegger’s tyres were Palmer’s, leaving longitudinal stripes. Aveling, the mathematical master, was sure upon the point. Therefore, it is not Heidegger’s track.”

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Priory School

The man who is learning how to ride a bicycle has no advantage over the non-cyclist in the struggle for existence: quite the contrary. 

George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah

Still I am not thoroughly convinced yet that I was not killed. Anybody but a vegetarian would have been.

Shaw learning to cycle in  Michael Holroyd,  Bernard Shaw: The New Biography

I think it is just terrible and disgusting how everyone has treated Lance Armstrong, especially after what he achieved, winning seven Tour de France races while on drugs. When I was on drugs, I couldn’t even find my bike.

Willie Nelson, in Al Wiggins, In the World

On Beer (2)

They are particular about their drinking vessels at the Moon Under Water, and never, for example, make the mistake of serving a pint of beer in a handleless glass. Apart from glass and pewter mugs, they have some of those pleasant strawberry-pink china ones which are now seldom seen in London. China mugs went out about … Continue reading “On Beer (2)”


“The sacred pint alone can unbind the tongue…” James Joyce, Ulysses

They are particular about their drinking vessels at the Moon Under Water, and never, for example, make the mistake of serving a pint of beer in a handleless glass. Apart from glass and pewter mugs, they have some of those pleasant strawberry-pink china ones which are now seldom seen in London. China mugs went out about 30 years ago, because most people like their drink to be transparent, but in my opinion beer tastes better out of china…

… to be fair, I do know of a few pubs that almost come up to the Moon Under Water. I have mentioned above ten qualities that the perfect pub should have and I know one pub that has eight of them. Even there, however, there is no draught stout, and no china mugs.

George Orwell , The Moon under Water

Thirstily he set it to his lips, and as its cool refreshment began to soothe his throat, he thanked heaven that in a world of much evil there was still so good a thing as ale.”

Rafael Sabatini, Fortune’s Fool

 ‘I see,’ said Karl, staring at the quickly emptying basket and listening to the curious noise which Robinson made in drinking, for the beer seemed first to plunge right down into his throat and gurgle up again with a sort of whistle before finally pouring its flood into the deep.    

Franz Kafka, Amerika

Oh, this beer here is cold, cold and hop-bitter, no point coming up for air, gulp, till it’s all–hahhhh.”

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Here’s to your health, said Kelly. Good luck, I said. The porter was sour to the palate, but viscid, potent. Kelly made a long noise as if releasing air from his interior. I looked at him from the corner of my eye and said: You can’t beat a good pint. He leaned over and put his face close to me in an earnest manner. Do you know what I am going to tell you, he said with his wry mouth, a pint of plain is your only man. Notwithstanding this eulogy, I soon found that the mass of plain porter bears an unsatisfactory relation to its toxic content and I became subsequently addicted to brown stout in bottle, a drink which still remains the one that I prefer the most despite the painful and blinding fits of vomiting which a plurality of bottles has often induced in me.”

Flann O’Brien, At Swim-two-birds

Fill with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber

Through the chambers of my brain.
Quaintest thoughts Queerest fancies,
Come to life and fade away:
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.

Edgar Allan Poe   Lines on Ale

There is an ancient Celtic axiom that says ‘Good people drink good beer.’ Which is true, then as now. Just look around you in any public barroom and you will quickly see: Bad people drink bad beer. Think about it. 

Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Beer’s intellectual. What a shame so many idiots drink it.

 Ray Bradbury The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse

I don’t think I’ve drunk enough beer to understand that.

 Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent

“[Barnabas speaks] “I will drink water.”

“Water? But water is not fit for men to drink. For the cattle, for birds and beast, but a man needs ale . . . or wine, if you are a Frenchman.” [William answers]”

Louis L’Amour, To the Far Blue Mountains

“There is this advantage about German beer: it does not make a man drunk as the word drunk is understood in England. There is nothing objectionable about him; he is simply tired. He does not want to talk; he wants to be let alone, to go to sleep; it does not matter where— anywhere.”

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men on the Bummel

I’d tried to straighten him out, but there’s only so much you can do for a person who thinks Auschwitz is a brand of beer

 David Sedaris  Naked

On Beer (1)

He tells me … that I must drink now and then ale with my wine, and eat bread and butter and honey—and rye bread if I can endure it, it being loosening. Samuel Pepys, Diary,17 November 1663 It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full … Continue reading “On Beer (1)”

For a quart of Ale is a dish for a king .

Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale

He tells me … that I must drink now and then ale with my wine, and eat bread and butter and honey—and rye bread if I can endure it, it being loosening.

Samuel Pepys, Diary,17 November 1663

It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset; free from streakiness of taste; but, finally, rather heady. The masses worshipped it, the minor gentry loved it more than wine, and by the most illustrious county families it was not despised. Anybody brought up for being drunk and disorderly in the streets of its natal borough, had only to prove that he was a stranger to the place and its liquor to be honourably dismissed by the magistrates, as one overtaken in a fault that no man could guard against who entered the town unawares.

Thomas Hardy, The Trumpet-Major

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The Rat, meanwhile, was busy examining the label on one of the beer-bottles. ‘I perceive this to be Old Burton,’ he remarked approvingly. ‘SENSIBLE Mole! The very thing! Now we shall be able to mull some ale! Get the things ready, Mole, while I draw the corks.’

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

‘Only a pint at breakfast-time, and a pint and a half at eleven o’clock, and a quart or so at dinner. And then no more till the afternoon; and half a gallon at supper-time. No one can object to that.’

R. D. Blackmore, Lorna Doone

—Open two bottles of stout, Jack, said Mr O’Connor. —How can I? said the old man, when there’s no corkscrew? —Wait now, wait now! said Mr Henchy, getting up quickly. Did you ever see this little trick? He took two bottles from the table and, carrying them to the fire, put them on the hob. Then he sat down again by the fire and took another drink from his bottle. Mr Lyons sat on the edge of the table, pushed his hat towards the nape of his neck and began to swing his legs. —Which is my bottle? he asked. —This lad, said Mr Henchy. Mr Crofton sat down on a box and looked fixedly at the other bottle on the hob … In a few minutes an apologetic Pok! was heard as the cork flew out of Mr Lyons’ bottle. Mr Lyons jumped off the table, went to the fire, took his bottle and carried it back to the table.

James Joyce, ‘Ivy Day in the Committee Room’, Dubliners

And twice a day he smoked his pipe,

And drank his quart of beer:

His soul was resolute, and held

No hiding-place for fear;

He often said that he was glad

The hangman’s hands were near.

Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gaol

Abdul Kadir had tried to make things go, as he always did. He had emptied most of the bottled beer, a quart of stout, a flask of Beehive Brandy, half a bottle of Wincarnis and the remains of the whiskey into a kitchen pail. He had seasoned this foaming broth with red peppers and invited all to drink deep. This had been his sole contribution to the victualling of the party.

Anthony Burgess, Enemy in the Blanket (The Malayan Trilogy)

‘You must have seen great changes since you were a young man,’ said Winston tentatively. The old man’s pale blue eyes moved from the darts board to the bar, and from the bar to the door of the Gents … ‘The beer was better,’ he said finally. ‘And cheaper! When I was a young man, mild beer – wallop we used to call it – was fourpence a pint. That was before the war, of course.’ ‘Which war was that?’ said Winston. ‘It’s all wars,’ said the old man vaguely. He took up his glass, and his shoulders straightened again. ‘’Ere’s wishing you the very best of ’ealth!’

George Orwell, 1984

… you can’t be a Real Country unless you have a beer and an airline—it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.

Frank Zappa, The Real Frank Zappa Book

Morse poured himself a can of beer. ‘Champagne’s a lovely drink, but it makes you thirsty, doesn’t it?’

Colin Dexter, The Way Through The Woods

On Cheese (1)

A silence fell at the mention of Gavard. They all looked at each other cautiously. As they were all rather short of breath by this time, it was the camembert they could smell. This cheese, with its gamy odour, had overpowered the milder smells of the Marolles and the Limbourg; its power was remarkable. Every … Continue reading “On Cheese (1)”

Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. 
G.K.Chesterton, Alarms and Discursions

A silence fell at the mention of Gavard. They all looked at each other cautiously. As they were all rather short of breath by this time, it was the camembert they could smell. This cheese, with its gamy odour, had overpowered the milder smells of the Marolles and the Limbourg; its power was remarkable. Every now and then, however, a slight whiff, a flute-like note, came from the Parmesan, while the Bries came into play with their soft, musty smell, the gentle sound, so to speak, of a damp tambourine. The Livarot launched into an overwhelming reprise, and the Géromé kept up the symphony with a sustained high note.

Émile Zola, The Belly of Paris

I do like a little romance—just a sniff, as I call it, of the rocks and valleys. Of course, bread-and-cheese is the real thing. The rocks and valleys are no good at all, if you haven’t got that.

Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?

You mightn’t happen to have a piece of cheese about you, now? No? Well, many’s the long night I’ve dreamed of cheese—toasted, mostly—and woke up again, and here I were.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

The train was crowded, and I had to get into a carriage where there were already seven other people. One crusty old gentleman objected, but I got in, notwithstanding; and, putting my cheeses upon the rack, squeezed down with a pleasant smile, and said it was a warm day.

A few moments passed, and then the old gentleman began to fidget.

‘Very close in here,’ he said.

‘Quite oppressive,’ said the man next him.

And then they both began sniffing, and, at the third sniff, they caught it right on the chest, and rose up without another word and went out. And then a stout lady got up, and said it was disgraceful that a respectable married woman should be harried about in this way, and gathered up a bag and eight parcels and went. The remaining four passengers sat on for a while, until a solemn-looking man in the corner, who, from his dress and general appearance, seemed to belong to the undertaker class, said it put him in mind of dead baby; and the other three passengers tried to get out of the door at the same time, and hurt themselves.

Jerome K Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

I’m as bad as anybody. Down at Bournemouth, I kicked a tray of cups up into air and one hit Luther Blissett on the head. He flicked it on and it went all over my suit hanging behind. Another time, at West Ham, I also threw a plate of sandwiches at Don Hutchison. He’s sitting there, still arguing with me, with cheese and tomato running down his face. But you can’t do that any more, especially with all the foreigners. They’d go home.

Harry Redknapp, Independent, 10 October 1999

Clerk (suddenly): What about peace? Yes peace. I’m from Bohemia. I’d like to get home once in a while.

Chaplain: Oh you would, would you? Dear old peace! What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?

Berthold Brecht, Mother Courage and Her Children

Je me souviens d’un fromage qui s’appelait la Vache sérieuse (la Vache qui rit lui a fait un procès et l’a gagné).

I remember a cheese called Serious Cow (Laughing Cow sued it and won.)

Georges Perec, Mi Ricordo

Isn’t it the natural condition of life after a certain age? … After a number of events, what is there left but repetition and diminishment? Who wants to go on living? The eccentric, the religious, the artistic (sometimes); those with a false sense of their own worth. Soft cheeses collapse; firm cheeses indurate. Both go mouldy.

Julian Barnes,  Flaubert’s Parrot

A corpse is meat gone bad. Well and what’s cheese? Corpse of milk.

James Joyce, Ulysses

Sometimes I think I’m liquefying like an old Camembert.

Gustave Flaubert in Susannah Patton, A Journey into Flaubert’s Normandy

Biblical Wisdom

On Grand National Day: Zechariah 12:4 “In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. On drinking: Proverbs 20:1 –  “Wine [is] a mocker, strong drink [is] raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Proverbs 23:20 – “Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of … Continue reading “Biblical Wisdom”

On Grand National Day:

Zechariah 12:4 “In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness.

On drinking:

Proverbs 20:1 –  “Wine [is] a mocker, strong drink [is] raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Proverbs 23:20 – “Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh.”

Isaiah 28:7 – “The priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgement.”

On people to avoid:

Deuteronomy 23:1  – “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

2 A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.

Ezekiel 23: 19-“Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt

20 There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.”

On Self Isolation:

Hebrews 13.8 –  “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”

Commonplace Sunday, 23rd February, 2020

He was a Frenchman, a melancholy-looking man. His aspect was that of one who has been looking for the leak in a gas pipe with a lighted candle.

 P.G. Wodehouse, The Girl in Blue

Only take this for a corollary and conclusion; as thou tenderest thine
own welfare in this and all other melancholy, thy good health of body
and mind, observe this short precept, give not way to solitariness and
idleness. “Be not solitary, be not idle.”

Richard Burton, the final lines in The Anatomy of Melancholy  

Early in their careers, Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise are said to have stood outside the Glasgow Empire after one of their shows, listening to the comments of the departing audience, one of which was, “I suppose they were all right – if you like laughing”. 

Miscellany

Overheard on a trip to the UK February 2020

On a train to Liverpool St. (two women talking):

‘Two miles. That’d be like mine to Tesco’s.’

(describing a mobile phone) ‘Not like that farty little thing of mum’s.’

At Clapham Junction station:

‘…I went to Slough today to get a seal for my oven door, and they were all in Sainsbury’s. Slough’s over-run with them.’

In a Brighton pub:
‘Who?’
‘Kenneth Branagh!’
‘What, the actor?’

On a bus:
‘Even when I’m on a diet, Wednesday night is curry night … and Friday night is pub night.’

On a Wimbledon-bound train:
‘That’s why he is where he is today.’
‘What?’
‘Living by himself in Colliers Wood.’

On a bus:
‘It was the best Scotch egg I’ve ever had … I couldn’t finish it.’

At Stansted Airport:
‘I’m with Diabetes UK now.’
‘I thought you were with RN…?’
‘RNIB? Yes, I was, until November. Then I joined Diabetes UK. I’m with the major donors team. Lots of untapped sources. Lots of wealthy people with diabetes. I’m very excited.’

The problem of keeping a sense of perspective in life …

On the one hand:

‘… birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.’ Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot.

On the other:

‘Trousers should shiver on the shoe but not break.’ Advice to Arnold Bennett from his tailor.

Miscellaneous quotes that will need sorting out at some stage

‘Sir Jasper Finch-Farrowmere?’ said Wilfred. 
‘ffinch-ffarrowmere,’ corrected the visitor, his sensitive ear detecting the capitals.

P.G. Wodehouse Meet Mr Mulliner (1927)

‘Surely: the adverb of a man without an argument.’

Edward St Aubyn, Bad News

To the dumb question ‘Why me?’, the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply, ‘Why not?’

Christopher Hitchens, Mortality

‘The General bade me discourse fair words to you, sir, anent traffic circuits.’
‘What the hell do you mean?’
‘I don’t know, sir,’ said Greening. ‘That’s exactly how the General put it.’

Anthony Powell, The Soldier’s Art

His own relations with the opposite sex took an exclusively commercial form. ‘I’ve never had a free poke in my life,’ he said. ‘Subject didn’t seem to arise when you’re talking to a respectable woman.’

Anthony Powell, The Military Philosophers

Phillip Larkin, bemoaning the sort of letters he didn’t receive:

“Dear Mr Larkin , I expect you think its jolly saucy for a schoolgirl to …”

“Dear Mr. Larkin, my friend and I had an argument as to which of us had the biggest breasts and we wondered if you would act as …”

Larkin on himself:

My sagging face, an egg sculpted in lard with goggles on … none of my clothes fit, when I sit down my tongue comes out.  

Both from an essay in Martin Amis’s The War against Cliché

No such thing
as innocent
bystanding.

Seamus Heaney, from Mycenae Outlook II. Cassandra

He was a Frenchman, a melancholy-looking man. His aspect was that of one who has been looking for the leak in a gas pipe with a lighted candle.

 P.G. Wodehouse, The Girl in Blue

Only take this for a corollary and conclusion; as thou tenderest thine
own welfare in this and all other melancholy, thy good health of body
and mind, observe this short precept, give not way to solitariness and
idleness. “Be not solitary, be not idle.”

Richard Burton, the final lines in The Anatomy of Melancholy

The ten commandments should be treated like an exam; only six should be attempted.

Bertrand Russell

The World is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.

Horace Walpole

There is infinite hope, but not for us.

Franz Kafka

Chotto monoganashii A Japanese term for the small tug of sorrow at things passing and changing.

Some favourite misprints

She had a small cruel moth.
I look forward to seeing you shorty.
I’ve been off work with a swollen prostitute.

For lunch I had Scotch, eggs and salad.

The police found the rugs in the back of the accused’s car.                     

***   

Mid-air refuelling is as easy, according to one Vulcan pilot, as ‘sticking wet spaghetti up a cat’s arse’.

Early in their careers, Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise are said to have stood outside the Glasgow Empire after one of their shows, listening to the comments of the departing audience, one of which was, “I suppose they were all right – if you like laughing”. 

                                     

Commonplace Sunday, 26th January, 2020

The ten commandments should be treated like an exam; only six should be attempted.

Bertrand Russell

***

The World is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.

Horace Walpole

***

Mid-air refuelling is as easy, according to one Vulcan pilot, as ‘sticking wet spaghetti up a cat’s arse’.

***

There is infinite hope, but not for us.

Franz Kafka

***

Chotto monoganashii A Japanese term for the small tug of sorrow at things passing and changing.

***

Some favourite misprints
She had a small cruel moth.
I look forward to seeing you shorty.
I’ve been off work with a swollen prostitute.
For lunch I had Scotch, eggs and salad.