Up for Grabs, the wad squad

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The Independent Online
GOSH! I'm amazed how many of you agreed with me (and my pet) that the days of the "fat cats" were numbered, and that a replacement expression was needed.

Many brimmed with venom. "What's wrong with Greedy Amoral Bastards"? demanded Adrian Brodkin of London, "or maybe Greedy Rapacious Amoral Bastards - Grabs?" Others in similar acronymic vein include Succubi On Director's Salaries and Businesspeople Accruing Salaries, Tax-breaks And Richly Deserved Share-options.

John Cole of St Albans came up with a creative list including Divi Spivis, Wad Squads, Jam Raiders, and Pirates of Industry. BM Brown of Reading was equally inventive with Avaristocrats, Geldschwein and Lolly Louses, while Geoff Cox of Rugby offered Monopololly Men.

Rosie Aitchison of Penton, Cumbria, produced Troughers, "as in noses therein", suggesting that a beluga would be the appropriate collective noun. Mary Trimble of Totnes simply said we should revert to Bloated Plutocrat - "the overgrown words match the overgrown bank balances," she explained.

But my favourites are more bizarre. The anonymous Dubliner suggested the baffling but euphonious Wassily Potatoes. Andrew Orlowski came up with Babylonish Masons (source Jane Austen but he is not sure where). And Chris Sladen of west London produced a series of insults from Aubrey's Brief Lives. These include Tarrarags, Blindcinques, Rascal-jacks and the winner ... Scobberlotchers.

According to Aubrey, Scobberlotchers were those who "did no hurt, were sober, but idling about the Grove with their hands in their pockets and telling the number of the trees there or so".

If we assume Grove was an expensive hotel, and that "trees" is slang for share options, we have a reasonable definition. Anyway scobberlotchers is a good word, even if the tabloids couldn't fit it in their headlines.

IT IS well known that the Japanese learned much of their industrial skill from us. But it was still extraordinary to come across the Pembroke-Dock and Tenby Gazette of 9 June, 1877, and discover that the first ship launched at the Pennar Works in Pembroke Dock was the Japanese Armoured Corvette Hi-yei. The town was then a notable centre of naval shipbuilding, as witnessed by the list of guests at a dinner held by Mr EJ Reed, founder of the yard. They included Heinrich Schliemann (who discovered Troy), Baron Reuter and two Chinese ambassadors.

The Japanese attending the launch included Enonya Kaorn, a former finance minister and, the Gazette says, "a gentleman who was one of the early admirers of England among the Japanese nobility, and who in troublous times was, on account of his English proclivities, attacked and most severely wounded". A reminder that 10 years earlier Japan was still a feudal country that did everything it could to keep out foreigners. The Japanese shipbuilding industry grew into the biggest in the world. Pembroke Dockyard was closed in 1925. Oh well.

Four by two rules

RE. IMPERIAL measurements in Europe (Bunhill passim), from Laurence Blackall of Putney. "Yes, the Germans buy by the pfund and so do the French by the livre and the Dutch by the pond. And the Germans use the zoll (inch) for much of their pipework (and halbzoll). When I was a young researcher investigating the French market for laminates, I asked a wise old respondent why all sheets of laminates had dimensions of 1.22m x 2.44m. 'For ze same reason all plasterboard and plywood 'ave zese dimensions. It is your damn eight by four'."

THE OTHER week Bunhill was bemoaning the sad abbreviation of the names of chartered surveyors. Andrew Long of Hagley in Worcestershire tells me of a Devon solicitors' firm that truncated its name for no good reason that I can see: Nash Howitt Cocks and Clapp became Nash Howitt & Co.

On the grounds that the old ones are the best ones, and may even be true, Mr Long offers the story of an application to Birmingham Law Society by A Payne of Leamington solicitors Wright Hassall. Then there are the estate agents Doolittle and Dalley of Kidderminster, Brighton Gay of Devon, and another Devon company, Force (its signs declared "Sold by Force") ...

Flagging patriotism

SILLY THING. UK Paper had a logo in red, white and blue - which made sense given its name. Now it has redesigned it in blue and gold, the colours of the Common Market. It looks daft.