John Walsh: btw

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The Independent Online

Doh! Look what Homer Simpson has gone and done. He, and the writers of The Simpsons, have managed to offend the entire population of Argentina, because of a discussion between Homer and his pals in a forthcoming episode. They're complaining about the poor choice of political candidates, when one of them opines: "I'd really go for some kind of military dictator, like Juan Peron. When he disappeared you, you stayed disappeared." To which another adds: "Plus, his wife was Madonna."

Shock and outrage have greeted this dimwit interchange, because it was, of course, not Peron but his successor, Jorge Videla, under whose dictatorship thousands of dissidents were "disappeared". And Eva Peron is still so revered across the nation, that many people objected to her being played by Madonna in the film of Evita, and still do. Can't somebody tell the offended Argentinians that Homer and his pals are supposed to sound like ignorant birdbrains?

* JK Rowling was fighting off tears last week when trying to block publication of The Harry Potter Lexicon, on the ground that it breached her copyright. She may have had another reason to weep: she was told by the judge that he couldn't make head nor tail of her work. Mr Justice Robert Patterson Jnr told the court that he didn't like the Potter books; that, OK, he'd only actually read half of the first one but he thought some bits were, frankly, "gibberish". Cheers for that, m'lud. He liked Dickens, he said, and predicted that the trial could be as hideously protracted as that of Jarndyce & Jarndyce in Bleak House. Honestly. Can't the best-selling author in the Western world demand a better-quality judge?

* Such is the proliferation of "geek-speak" – the use by young boffins of made-up words to communicate with other social inadequates about new technological trends – it has been officially classed "Europe's fastest-growing dialect". But not all geeks are dwellers of Loser's Lane. Some can be romantic heroes. Like Bernie Pang from New Jersey, a software programmer who last week hacked into his girlfriend Tammy's favourite video game, "Bejewelled", and re-programmed it so that, when she reached a certain score, a pink ring and a marriage proposal popped up on the screen before her. She accepted both.

* The traditional, ancient privileges available to head boys or girls at Britain's leading public schools, as revealed in the current issue of Country Life, make riveting reading. At Charterhouse, you could daringly, "wear a pink tie or scarf". At Tonbridge, you could keep a flock of sheep on the cricket pitch (that would have made you popular).

But the most striking privilege is surely that once found at Blundell's in Tiverton, Devon, where the head boy was permitted, "to keep a pig at school, and a mistress in town". It's piquant to imagine a pre-war, teenage Fotherington-Thomas wondering where on earth he is to find a scantily-clad, flashing-eyed houri to install in an inexpensive Tiverton love-nest.

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