Some of you were openly contemptuous of my mistake, some of you were quite kind and understanding, pretending that I really knew the truth all along. And for those of you who haven't the faintest what this is all about, a letter from a correspondent called Hilary Mackenzie will fill you in.
She says: "The catch-phrase came from Wilfred Pickles who hosted a rather dreadful cross between a quiz and a chatshow in the Forties. It was called Have a Go! and that in itself was a popular catch-phrase. The programme bristled with them - eg 'What's on the table, Mabel?' referring to the glittering prizes available like a pair of fur gloves or 30 bob, and also the stunning question, 'Have you ever had an embarrassing moment?' (this invariably to shy young women whose knicker elastic had failed them at solemn moments).
"My grandmother adored this stuff; my parents dismissed it as 'corny' (another dated word ). As a child, I saw it as yet another example of the daftness of grown-ups. But I've remember all the catch-phrases! Isn't it maddening?"
Yes. And the silly thing is that I knew perfectly well that it was Wilfred Pickles who said "Give her the money, Barney!", and that Arthur Askey was someone quite different, someone whose catchphrases were "Hello playmates!" and "I thang yeow!".
He was also someone who made 78 rpm records of songs like "The Worm", "The Bee" and "The Knitting Song", which my father had bought and got tired of, and which I thought were hilarious. Even these many years later I can remember whole chunks of these ditties, such as the opening of the "Knitting Song":
Some like football
Some like darts
I like knitting
And the gentler arts
Half a dozen needles.
An ounce or two of wool,
Fills my cup of happiness -
Chock full ...
I think I even saw Arthur Askey on stage once, when I was a lad in the Fifties, and we always went to the local pantomime in Liverpool, which brings me miraculously to the next point on which I have been copiously corrected by readers. I said recently I had come across the word "jigger" in a Billy Bunter book, being used to mean "a bicycle" and I took the chance at the time of supplying an exhaustive list of other meanings of "jigger".
But to Liverpudlian readers it was not exhaustive. Quite a handful have written to me to say that there was a peculiarly Scouse meaning of the word, referring to the lane running between back gardens of terraced houses.
Janet Laming, now of Cambridge, says: "When I was a child in Liverpool in the Forties and Fifties, streets of terraced houses often had a parallel alley at the bottom of the backyards or gardens, giving pedestrian access to the house. I sometimes heard it said of a bandy-legged man that 'he couldn't stop a pig in a jigger'. I never met a pig in a jigger, but the idea caught my imagination enough to have stayed with me."
A wonderful expression, and I shall try to adopt it. However, I was really hoping that someone would come up with other slang expressions for a bicycle except for "jigger", as it seems odd that we have no demotic word for a bike apart from "bike". The only letter on the subject has come from Mr Paul Dillingham in far off Finland, who says that he was taught at Winchester in the Fifties that "bogle" was a colloquial word for bicycle.
I have never heard of this. I do know, however, that in Scotland the word "bogle" means a ghost. Does this add anything to the richness of the debate? The answer, of course, is that it does not.
And that concludes this round-up of recent readers' points - except to say that I am impressed by a fax from Glasgow, bearing Gerry Dunne's nominations for a competition I mentioned for the Most Annoying Remarks in Daily Life:
"Not to put too fine a point on it",
"Not so as you'd notice",
"A word's as good as a nod to a blind man",
"What's your problem, then?",
"Cat got your tongue?",
"As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted ... ",
"Can I just run this by you?",
"How long is a piece of string?"
To which I would just add, "I hear what you're saying" and "There you go then".Reuse content