Sunday, 7 September 2008


I watched an interesting programme last night.

It was simply called "Guilty". Stephen Fry, chatting to an unseen and unheard interviewer, confessed his guilty love for a number of things. In his long list he included Abba, the television series Howard's Way (but mainly for the shouty-school-of-acting portrayed therein), darts, Delia Smith and Farley's rusks.

Mr. Fry also, it seems, enjoys a good swear. "The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or of a lack of verbal interest is just f***ing lunatic. Or they say, 'It's not necessary.' As if that should stop one doing it. Things not being necessary is what makes life interesting." Mr. Fry certainly does not lack education or verbal interest, that's for sure. If I had one tenth of his command of the English language I'd be pretty blooming happy. And that's swearing!

I recall some years ago a radio programme in which Stephen Fry spoke about British vs American English. One topic discussed was emphasis, in which he referred to the outlaw Robin Hood. Now, we Brits say "Robin Hood" (emphasis on surname), whilst our American chums say "Robin Hood" (emphasis on first name). To paraphrase Mr. Fry, it's as if an American wants to tell you about one of the many thousands of Mr. Hoods in existence, and places the emphasis on Robin just to make sure you know who they are talking about. To any American friends who may be reading this, it is by no means a criticism; merely an observation. In many ways, American linguistics are far more sensible than ours over here. Think about it; what best decribes the thing we walk on by the roadside? Pavement or sidewalk? And the bit of the car that we put stuff in - boot or trunk? One tip - if you need to erase a written mistake, don't ask an American for a rubber. Or ask if they would like some ginger nuts.

And what about American spelling? Honor, mold, center, catalog; all eminently sensible, but they wouldn't give you as big a score as the English versions when playing Scrabble.

I seem to have strayed somewhat from my topic. Guilty pleasures. We all have them. Even me. OK, so I've done a few Carpenters' albums in my time. I've watched and enjoyed The Little House on the Prairie (and Howard's Way, so Mr. Fry and I would have something to talk about, should we ever meet). Every now and then I get a craving for a microwaveable chicken tikka masala, despite the fact that it has enough fat and salt to supply the recommended daily intake for an entire battalion of soldiers. Oh, and I still have a fascination for aircraft, albeit I don't stand at the end of a runway with a pad, pencil and flask.

Guilty pleasures, anyone?


Janet said...

Guilty pleasures?

Disco music.

"Dancing Queen" by ABBA. That one will start my feet dancing anywhere (including under my desk at work, if it comes up on Radio 2).

"The Wind and the Lion" - a film within which Sean Connery demonstrates his inability to copy an Arab accent.

"Top Gear". (I'm a petrol-head-girl at heart.)

Scotch eggs.

And those are just the ones that come to mind immediately.


PS You forgot one British food which we Yanks find hysterically funny - spotted dick!

chris hale said...


I'd quite forgotten spotted dick! How is he these days? And has the ointment worked?

Stevyn Colgan said...

My guilty pleasures?

Really bad films. Wooden acting, terrible special effects and crappy storylines have me roaring. Recent top examples include 'Transmorphers' and 'Machine Girl'.

1970s prog rock - people like Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and early Genesis.

The Big Mac - I'm such a champion of good food - especially home-grown - that this really is a guilty pleasure. It's a horrid, exploitative multinational product and I eat about two per year but there's something about the blend of flavours that sets my heart racing. Or maybe that's the salt, fat and sugar.

Cartoons - Yes, I'm 47 but I will never, ever grow up. Favourites include Road Runner and Wile E Coyote, Droopy, Samurai Jack and anything by Tex Avery. Oh, and Scooby Doo (the classic 1960s/70s episodes) of course.

Swearing - Like Mr Fry I get quite cross with people who tell me that swearing is the sign of a limited vocabulary. It's all the more galling when I know that the person accusing me has a far smaller vocabulary than my own. By not using these words, we're extending and reinforcing the taboos around them. Why should any group of letters be considered obscene? It's madness. Aren't words like rape, murder, maim, stab, kill, abuse and torture far more obscene than words that describe sex, lovemaking and the biological equipment we use when doing so? And, anyway, by not using swear words, you're limiting your vocabulary surely?

There. I'm so ashamed.