On my bedroom wall I have two pictures of the Hindu god Ganesh, that cheery life-enhancer who is an example to us all: which of us would stay good-humoured if lumbered with an elephant's head after being decapitated by an irascible Poppa who mistook us for Momma's lover? My sceptical Hindu friends Kuku and Aruna tell me that there are boring scientific explanations of why last week a posse of idols apparently went on a milk-drinking binge. Sadly, I am forced to agree. But when I mention that a cub reporter had claimed that his photograph of Ganesh had drunk a spoonful of milk through a glass frame, Kuku, ever mischievous, said sternly: "You are a journalist. Surely, in a spirit of scientific inquiry, you should try the experiment on your Ganesh pictures?" So I did, and he didn't touch a drop. Mind you, as I remarked to Kuku when I reported this, the explanation may be that my Ganesh is the sort of bacchanalian god who drinks only champagne.

Seeing my woebegone expression, the tenant of my affections stopped laughing at your many letters, put his arm comfortingly around me, and asked: "How could they believe this of you?" And it is true that my initial response was to wail like a banshee when I opened this newspaper to read that I was apparently comparing the state of my column (more material coming in than out) with the "Aegean" stables.

But before I began to formulate my response, I thought it wise to check the original. I rushed in terror to the typescript I had faxed to HQ only to collapse in sheer relief at finding it read "Augean". So if I could doubt me, why shouldn't you? And, true enough, the deluge of letters revealed you all to be doubters. One reader, Dick Glover, was kinder than many in offering a limerick ending:

For a woman of wit

To confuse sea with sh**,

Ruth! The error is, frankly, plebeian".

Gerald Corbishley (who began woundingly "Dear Ruth Dudley E/No classicist, ye!") explains: "It was the River Alphaeus that Hercules diverted to cleanse the ordure of 3,000 head of cattle, not the Aegean Sea, and not King Aegeus, who leapt into his eponymous sea - allegedly - when he thought Theseus had died." But Clifford King has the last word:

There once was a King known as Augeas,

Whose oxen's consumption was orgy-ous.

Hercules said "I'm able

To clear out your stable

Until the whole place is quite gorgeous."

Although, bafflingly, while only a couple of you thought I might have been joking about "Aegean", several of you assumed I was being disingenuous in declaring my ignorance of the word "petomane".

Not so. If I ever knew it, I'd forgotten it. The word was coined from the verb " `peter' (to fart) and `mane' (from the Greek `mania')", explains Bernard Sharp, "so `un petomane' is a fart freak/a phenomenal farter [just as `un melomane' is a music enthusiast]." As Ron Winstanley points out, Will Carling would have done better to refer to the RFU Committee as "The Petomane in session". Suzanne Parry provided the best limerick:

Dear Ruth, to you I'll explain

What means the word "petomane".

It's a term rather smarter

Than "trumper" or "farter"

But, sadly, it smells just the same.

The French turn-of-the-century music hall artiste, Le Petomane, about whom I am now extremely well-informed, had the "distinctive ability", as John Miller primly put it, of "exceptional control of his anal sphincter". Through suitably modified black satin breeches, he produced musical notes and blew out candles, gas jets and so on. "Let that be a caution to you never to commit to print words you don't understand," wrote Maeve Friel. 'Fraid it hasn't been, Maeve. I loved the postbag.

Scene: Traffic lights in Sloane Street, London SW1.

Time: Mid-morning last week.

Observed: (by my correspondent Ian Munro): Grand Lexus limousine, diplomatic plate, registration "UK 1". August personage in front passenger seat intent upon scratching his fortune from a newspaper card.

Comment: Innovative financing scheme for emergent Ukrainian economy?

Cue Alistair Morton?

You wrote, too, with plenty of advice about what I should do with the various pieces of Irish ephemera on which I have previously reported. Val Crysell thinks I should wear my newly acquired Orangeman's bowler while drinking from my Gerry Adams mug, "thus preserving impartiality while combining the two". Jon Suthrell is more ambitious, with a solution requiring me first to buy the Adams statuette I saw in the Sinn Fein shop: "Second, place the statuette in the hat. Third, fill the mug. Fourth, empty it over the statuette. Fifth, parcel up the result and send it to Ian Paisley. This will leave you with the mug, for which a use will doubtless occur." Jim Kendrick thinks aesthetically rather than politically, recommending I fill the bowler with good Irish peat sown with four-leaved clovers, drill a drainage hole in the base of the mug, plant it with shamrock from all over Ireland and plunge it into the hat, give the result warmth and light and feed with Irish whisky. At little extra cost this can be converted into a hanging bowler.

I think that's unnecessarily elaborate. Jim F Allen (or is it Jim and F Allen?) has/have the right idea when she/they recommend/s that I make my tea in the mug and then cover it with the hat. "This will a) keep the tea hot; b) allow steam to escape; c) provide a useful piece of symbolism."

That's enough letters. I am surrounded not by ordure but by amusing, concerned, learned and worried contributions about, inter alia, elves, fish, insults, job centres, linguistic horrors, railway staff, scratch cards and, of course, poetry and verse challenges to come. Be patient. We will get to everything in time.

Incidentally, Martin Russell and John Whitaker, I am well aware of what Edwards rhymes with: my father was known by some of his students as `Cuddle me Bedwards". But if you think I'm going to publish the limericks you have sent me on that theme, you've got another think coming. I may not be long on gravitas, but I have my limits.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
More From
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Manager

£55,000 - £65,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accountant with ...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

£45,000 - £55,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified accountant...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: opening round in the election contest of the YouTube videos

John Rentoul
Anthony Burgess, the author of 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'Earthly Powers,' died 17 years ago  

If Anthony Burgess doesn’t merit a blue plaque, then few do

John Walsh
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor