Miles Kington Remembered: Ten questions that are not often asked

31 March 1995
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The Independent Online

Ten ways in which people nowadays finish off a sentence that starts:

"Surely you don't still...?"

"... have a cooked breakfast every morning?"

"... allow people to smoke in your house?"

"... take sugar in your tea?"

"... smoke that stuff?"

"... have your old Status Quo records?"

"... listen to The Archers?"

"... get a Sunday paper?

"... find The Goon Show funny?"

"... believe in God?"

"... believe in atheism?"

Ten things which characters in The Archers are always having:

A coffee; Babies; Nasty accidents; A quick pint; A conversation about another character whose voice has never been heard in the programme; Second thoughts; More coffee; Plans for parties; Worries about sheep dips, milk quotas, and other contentious things that justify having an agricultural consultant listed in the credits; To deal with unpleasant characters whom you know will get their come-uppance even if you have to wait 18 months for that pleasant moment of revenge.

Ten things which characters in The Archers never have:

A cup of tea; Nice accidents; Plans to go out and buy new clothes; A slow pint; An appearance for one episode only; Political opinions; Encounters with extraterrestrial beings; Crop circles; Moustaches; Any inclination to listen to The Archers.

Ten made-up place names which never sounded remotely as if they could really exist:

Ambridge; Discworld; Gotham City; Barchester Towers; Blankshire; Megalopolis; Rawlinson's End; Crinkly Bottom; Alphaville; Llareggub.

Ten place names which always sounded made up, even though they are real places:

Welwyn Garden City; Brasilia; Brazzaville; Leonard Stanley; Bix Bottom; Ashby de la Zouch; Newton-le-Willows; Cricket St Thomas; Llanfairpwllgwyn etc etc; Dodge City.

Ten expressions which have not been decimalised or metricated:

Penny for your thoughts; Give them an inch and they'll take a mile; A guinea pig; The penny's dropped; Not short of a few bob; Spend a penny; Penny for the guy; I wouldn't give tuppence; Came down like a ton of bricks; Inching slowly away.

Ten expressions which not only demean women but demean specific women by name:

Mary, Mary, quite contrary; Not on your nelly; Plain Jane; Sue and be damned; A cheap sally; Darby and Joan; Off the peg; Sweet Fanny Adams; Poison ivy; Shrinking violet.

Ten words which we and the Americans insist on pronouncing differently:

Caribbean; garage; inquiry; controversy; versatile; fertile; Warwick; nauseous; futile; zee (for zed).

Ten questions which have never been answered satisfactorily:

Stands Scotland where it did?

Why is the English word for a driver "chauffeur", if the French word means "someone who heats something up"?

Why do we wear a wristwatch on the left wrist?

If Kochel put Mozart's life and work in order, who did the same for Kochel?

If Smith is the commonest name in England, why isn't the French equivalent, Lefevre, the commonest name in France?

What's it all about, then?

Why do people call the left-hand lane of a motorway the "inside lane", when it is actually the outside lane?

Why is it called a double bass, when there is no single bass?

Why is a boy soprano called a treble, when there is no such thing as a double?

Why is a play for two people called a two-hander, when they've got four hands between them?