FLAT EARTH

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The Independent Online
Beastly little men,

those Serbs

MOST of this century the Serbs have had quite a good press in this country - plucky little allies and so on - but the full-throated roar of abuse in some of the papers this week ("Bandits!" "Get the Rat!" etc) has its own idiosyncratic lineage. In perhaps the first appearance of a Serb in English literature, a blue-chinned royal from Belgrade got the same treatment in Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate. He was foolish enough to cross the field of vision of the violent Uncle Matthew at a ball in pre-war Mayfair: "I ask you, look at that sewer," rages the intemperate peer. "So that's a Serb, is it? Just what one would expect, needs a shave. Hogs, one and all."

Flash in the can

IN ALABAMA, which last month brought you the return of the chain gang, prisons have ordered 50 startling pink uniforms to be worn by inmates who expose themselves to female staff. All other means of dissuasion had failed: in a variation of the would-you-do-that-at-home? school, for example, the authorities gave female warders disposable cameras to snap the beasts in flagrante. "We told them we were going to send the pictures to their mothers," said a shocked spokesman. "And they laughed and said they didn't care."

Argy scum

THIS is not a column that reprints others' misprints, but just to keep the chauvinist tone rolling along nicely, I think we will this week: the Herald Trib reports a complaint from the Argentine captain after a World Cup game the Pumas lost to Western Samoa. He blames an early whistle just as his team were on the Samoan line: "Our scum was going forward, and that could have changed the result," he said.

Floss of liberty

PRISONERS in California, unlike those in Alabama, love their old mothers, favour a fruit and high-fibre diet and worry about oral hygiene. One Richard Loritz is suing his jailers because they did not provide dental floss. He says he developed four cavities since he could not floss while held on a charge of shooting his girlfriend six times. Four cavities is certainly a cruel addition to Richard's loss of liberty, but - I don't know - we still feel worse about the six cavities acquired by his beloved.

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