The majority of chat-up lines date back to the birth of man, but occasionally new ones emerge. An award for the state-of-the-art approach must go to the man I met at a recent dinner party. 'Can I have your home number?' 'No.' 'How about your home address?' 'No,' I repeated. 'Does that mean a fax is out of the question?'
Aware that most people tend to open their mouth only to stuff in a foot, Harry Samiy has come to the rescue with a book entitled 100 Chat-Up Lines. 'Do they actually work?' I asked. 'To be honest, some are so corny, I hope the woman will simply take pity on the man,' he laughs. 'If I got my face slapped, I didn't include it.'
The book is divided into categories such as the party, the bar, the disco and the beach, and I decided the only way to test the theory was some practice. I had an invitation to a glamorous party that night, so nervously clutching the book behind my back, I spotted my prey.
'How do you do that?' I asked an unsuspecting male. 'Do what?' came the reply. I sighed, I pouted, then whispered: 'Hypnotise women with your eyes.' He looked flustered, then stammered: 'Do I? I wasn't aware of it. But if you say so. Can I get you a drink?' Good grief. It worked.
When I gently explained that he was helping with meaningful research, Todd kindly volunteered to assist my arduous study. 'Pick me out a girl. I bet I can get a good result.' I spotted a cool, leggy blonde with a striking face. 'That one,' I said. He paled, his confidence faltered. 'Oh no, not her. Don't make me do this.' Typical male, backing down. Just because this woman was Anneka Rice.
After supplying Todd with alcohol and pointing to a suitable quote in the book, he bravely tried to memorise the format.
Boy: 'Is it true that most girls say yes when they mean no, and say no when they mean yes?'
Boy: 'I thought so. Now, can I buy you a drink?'
Boy: 'What would you like?'
Then it was time to establish eye contact which was difficult, as he was seeing out of four. Still, he did his best. Now the big one - how to make the physical approach. The answer came when we spotted a bowl of peanuts on the table behind her. Walking over to reach for a handful, he oozed: 'Hi, I've been meaning to ask you this all evening, is it true that when most women say no, they mean yes?'
'Yes,' Anneka replied. 'Terrific,' said Todd with considerable charm, oblivious to the fact he had screwed up the format. 'In that case, can I get you a drink?' She smiled. She actually smiled, and the conversation flowed. I hovered with a notebook. But Anneka turned on me. 'Who are you?' she asked. 'A journalist. We're doing an in-depth feature entitled Existentialist Verbal Exchanges. Todd's my assistant.'
Anneka froze. 'When I said 'yes', I thought Todd was talking about food. Profiteroles. I always say no when I mean yes.' With that, the poor girl bolted. Todd looked forlorn, and walked away in a despondent huff.
I stood at the bar alone, surveying the scene. 'Can I ask you something personal?' whispered a sweet-faced man. 'Sure,' I answered, curious and flattered. He looked me in the eye and smiled. 'I've got to think of it first.'
It was comedian Rory McGrath, who helped my research with some tips for the boys. 'One unfailing approach is: 'Hi, is your boyfriend still giving you a hard time?' All girls have trouble. So she'll either demand how you know, or think you've met before and feel flattered you've remembered. Either way, you're talking.'
Suitably inspired, the next night I took a couple of friends to a trendy bar in west London. Their mission was to test out 'the chat up'. 'I don't believe they work,' sighed Dirk. 'It's the girl that chooses. She either fancies you, or she doesn't. Nothing you can say will add to your chances. In fact, the wrong thing will kill it.'
Regardless, he gamely approached a woman. 'Hi, my name's Dirk . . . .' She brightened. 'That's an unusual name.' 'It's Scottish,' he preened, deepening his Glaswegian vowels. We might have lost a chief researcher, but had gained an important insight - unusual names and accents really 'pull'.
Meanwhile, Joanne was busy leafing through 100 Chat-Up Lines, looking for a quote. A man passing by asked: 'Is that a good book?' Joanne was so surprised she nearly dropped it. 'Sure is. I'm only on page three and it's working already.'
The best line so far though, had come from a cool dude near the door. Dipping his finger into his glass of Perrier, he slowly wiped the tip on my sleeve. 'Do you need any help getting out of those wet clothes?' he smiled. Original. I was impressed.
But the two barmaids, Kelly and Sam, had heard it all before. Kelly was bored with the 'What's your star sign?' approach. This gave me the chance to test Dirk's theory. If the guys had been attractive, would that line have put her off? 'Yes, absolutely.' Really? What if it was Mel Gibson? She paused. 'From him I would accept 'Do you come here often?' '
100 Chat-Up Lines costs pounds 1.99 from: Ideas Unlimited, PO Box 125, Portsmouth, Hants. The first 50 readers to write in to Ideas Unlimited will receive a free copy of the book.