The Third Leader: Of manners and men

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The Independent Online

Scklopburble alarslop. Sorry, caught me talking with my mouth full. Yes, I know, it's disgusting. What I didn't know was quite how disgusting quite how many people find it: an advertisement featuring call-centre workers singing the praises of fried chicken with their mouths full of it has attracted a record number of complaints, surpassing even that one in 1995 for safe sex showing the Pope wearing a safety helmet (indeed).

Scklopburble alarslop. Sorry, caught me talking with my mouth full. Yes, I know, it's disgusting. What I didn't know was quite how disgusting quite how many people find it: an advertisement featuring call-centre workers singing the praises of fried chicken with their mouths full of it has attracted a record number of complaints, surpassing even that one in 1995 for safe sex showing the Pope wearing a safety helmet (indeed).

It also out-provoked the dead hamster selling jeans, the regurgitated dog, and 50 Cent glamorising crime in aid of sportswear sales (also considered mild compared with spitting).

Some caveats. The ad did contain call centres, quick triggers to suppressed rage. (Steady!) And the Advertising Standards Authority rejected the complaints, expressing confidence in the corrective powers of parents (and probably foreseeing a convulsion of complaints about forks as shovels, elbows on the table, and food not being chewed 32 times).

I'm not sure they were right. Manners, for the British, have always been both the key to survival on a crowded island and the means of feeling superior to more obviously civilised peoples such as the French and the Italians.

Manners are also the outward sign of an inward morality, the one true indicator of, pace Aretha Franklin and T Blair, Respect. J P Donleavy has always been a striking advocate; if I may, I should like to leave you with, for inspiration and example, his exquisite excuse for the loud and public breaking of wind, which, if I have it right, goes as follows: "My soul speaks when my mouth knows the moment is too divine for words." Thank you.

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