John Walsh: btw

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The Independent Online

If you are wondering why Croatia fans at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday were so vocally enthusiastic from the outset, blame it on Tony Henry, the British opera singer who warbled the visitors' national anthem before the match. The anthem is couched in Old Croatian, a language full of ambiguities. Instead of the line " Mila kuda si planina" (which means "You know, my dear, how we love your mountains") the hapless Henry sang " Mila kura si planina", which translates as "You know, my dear, my penis is a mountain." Both the Croat squad and their fans were delighted by this unscheduled tribute to their virility, and they want to adopt Henry as an official team mascot. He must be so proud.

* The New Scientist magazine has been on a roll since 2005, when it published the book Does Anything Eat Wasps? – a collection of Q&As about the natural world. Like its successor, Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? it was a Christmas bestseller. A third collection, How To Fossilise Your Hamster, is in the charts. But what is this rival tome flying off the shelves? Do Ants Have Arseholes? And 1,000 Other Bloody Ridiculous Questions has nothing to do with New Scientist. It is, in fact, a childish spoof, asking such things as, "Where is the middle of nowhere?" and "How easy is it to fall off a log?" and "Do we really have no bananas?" It is No 1 at Amazon and is selling three times as many as the Hamster book. Honestly, can't we even take cute science seriously?

* Shocking to hear that Irish moonshine whiskey, or poteen, has been reclassified by Maynooth University as an antiseptic, a disinfectant and a boon in extracting medicine from plants. It's like saying that, because Laphroaig smells a bit like TCP, it should be used only for sore throats. My uncles used to swear by a slug of poteen on the cold morning of a Galway Blazers hunt. Aunt Dolly used to inject a hypodermic of the stuff into her amazingly intense Christmas cake. It was, though, undoubtedly very strong. My disreputable cousin John used to dilute it with milk. Too much of it neat could affect your eyesight and you'd end up falling face-down into the fire. "It's where the expression 'blind drunk' comes from," he'd say. Very good for polishing silver, too.

* Arranged marriages in India require a degree of compromise from all sides, but some things just will not wash. When Prabir Das, 33, a hospital worker in Assam, advertised for a bride in a local paper, it caught the eye of Dilip Roy, who thought he might be right for his daughter Shreshta. The men struck a deal, a wedding date was set and the bride's father began amassing a dowry. Prabir was invited to dinner – but the bride-to-be's suspicions were aroused and, after kulfi ice-cream, she seized his hair and ripped it away to reveal his bald pate. She then beat him for deceiving her and her family joined in. They took his wallet, mobile phone, driving licence and his motorbike as compensation for his being a secret slaphead. This wedding is not getting off to the best of starts, is it?

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