The Top 10 Top 10s of 2016: insults worn as badges of pride, modern proverbs and unknown acronyms

The best of John Rentoul’s weekly lists from this year, including the important information that Aga is the Swedish abbreviation for Gas Accumulator Company

John Rentoul
Saturday 24 December 2016 10:51
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The Iron Lady: photo by Jean Guichard via Getty Images
The Iron Lady: photo by Jean Guichard via Getty Images

1. Iron Lady. First applied by the Soviet military newspaper Red Star to Margaret Thatcher to suggest that she was stubborn and inflexible.

2. Prime Minister. Originally a derogatory term meaning the monarch’s favourite.

3. Know-Nothings. The American Party, 1850s. Opposed immigrants and Roman Catholics. Originated as a secret society whose members claimed they “know nothing” about it.

4. Quaker. Religious Society of Friends. So called because founder George Fox bade magistrates “tremble at the Word of the Lord” when brought before them in 1650.

5. Suffragette. Derogatory term coined by the Daily Mail and adopted by more militant suffragists.

6. The Vermin Club. Formed by Tories (also originally an insult) in 1948 after Aneurin Bevan called them “lower than vermin”.

7. Barmy Army. Coined by Australian commentators for English cricket fans constantly cheering despite their team losing to Australia in 1994-95.

8. Scouse. Pertaining to Liverpool. Short for lobscouse – a cheap stew for sailors.

9. Queer. Reclaimed by the gay pride movement in the 1980s.

10. Geek. Late 19th-century English, “fool”, of Germanic origin, related to Dutch gek, “mad, silly”.

1. Admiral. Arabic, emir al-.

2. Rigmarole. Eighteenth-century English, “ragman roll”: a game in which descriptions of characters were written on a scroll.

3. Yoghurt. Turkish.

4. Svelte. Italian (svelto, the past participle of svellere, to pluck out).

5. Doolally. Indian place-name, Deolali.

6. Craic. Irish spelling of English “crack”.

7. Khazi. Italian, casa, a house, brothel.

8. Sassenach. From Saxon, “Saxon”.

9. Veranda. Portuguese.

10. Que sera sera. Neither Spanish nor Italian, it’s basically nonsense.

1. The ’N Betweens. Then Ambrose Slade, from a record-company secretary who named her handbag Ambrose and her shoes Slade. Then they dropped the Ambrose. One of Mike Reid’s better jokes was to pronounce it to rhyme with Sade.

2. The Rollin’ Stones. After a Muddy Waters song, “Rollin’ Stone”. The “g” was restored when they signed to Decca Records.

3. The Guildford Stranglers. None of them was actually from Guildford, and a mere place name was not tasteless enough.

4. On a Friday. Radiohead. Because that’s when they rehearsed.

5. Seymour. Blur.

6. Bastard. Lemmy’s original choice of name for Motörhead.

7. Westside. Westlife.

8. The Obelisk. Then Malice, Easy Cure and finally the Cure.

9. Smile. Queen.

10. Angel and the Snake. Blondie.

1. Pakistan. Coined in 1933 for Punjab, Afghan (North-West Frontier) Province, Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan. Strictly a backronym, retrofitted to Urdu for “Land of the Pure”.

2. Gulag. Russian: G[lavnoe] u[pravlenie ispravitelʹno-trudovykh] lag[erei], “Chief Administration for Corrective Labour Camps”.

3. Aga. Aktiebolaget Gasaccumulator (Swedish for Gas Accumulator Company).

4. Laser. “Light amplification by stimulated emitted radiation.”

5. Scuba. “Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.”

6. ‏Base jumping. Parachuting or wingsuit-flying from a building, antenna, span (bridge) or Earth (cliff).

7. Radar. “Radio detection and ranging.”

8. Flak. From German Fliegerabwehrkanonen, “aeroplane defence cannon”.

9. Syriza. Contraction of Coalition of the Radical Left in Greek. Another backronym: syriza (pronounced suh-ree-zuh) is Greek for “radically”.

10. Zip code. “Zone improvement plan.”

1. Socialist Workers Party.

2. Holy Roman Empire. Rare genuine Voltaire quotation: “Neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.”

3. Carphone Warehouse.

4. New Scotland Yard.

5. Eurovision Song Contest.

6. Lord Privy Seal. Ernest Bevin said he was “neither a Lord, nor a Privy, nor a Seal”.

7. Madison Square Garden. The original venue may have been near Madison Square but even it was never a garden.

8. Champions League. You can qualify from finishing fourth and it’s a cup tournament.

9. Bayeux Tapestry. Made in England, and is embroidery.

10. John Harvard, Founder, 1638: inscription on the statue at Harvard University. It is not him and the statue doesn’t date from 1638 (the model was an unknown resident of Concord in the 19th century); nor was he the founder: when he died in 1638 he left a library to a school that had been founded two years earlier, which was renamed after him in 1639.

1. Sortie de Camions, French 17th-century mystic

2. Tetanus Booster, Southern US Senator

3. Hertz Van Rental, 17th-century Dutch painter

4. ‏Hong Kong, younger brother of the misunderstood oversized gorilla playboy

5. Morden Via Bank, South African actor. Mainly played aristocrats in German horror films of the 1920s

6. ‏Ambre Solaire, glamorous 1930s French film actress

7. Helvetica Bold, purveyor of discreet adult services to the gentry

8. Stella Artois, Brummie gal who married into the French aristocracy in exile in the late 18th century

9. Chilcot Inquiry, star quarterback for Ohio State Buckeyes football team

10. Cédez le Passage, burlesque dancer

1. “Truly, truth is stranger than Photoshop.”

2. “No good ever comes of answering an office landline.”

3. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to phish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

4. “The least-followed egg is the angriest.”

5. “A watched update never loads.”

6. “Tweet in haste, regret immediately.”

7. “If at first you don’t succeed, try turning it off and on again.”

8. “Power corrupts. Absolute power keeps your smartphone fully charged.”

9. “Never go below the line.”

10. “You Brexit, you fixit.”

1. Languid.

2. Spindly.

3. Curt.

4. Intertwined.

5. Grandiloquent.

6. Turgid.

7. Pentasyllabic.

8. Autological.

9. ‏bed.

10. Cantankerous.

Click on the link above for explanations.

1. Graduate tax.

2. Rent control.

3. Universal basic income.

4. Proportional representation.

5. Rail nationalisation.

6. Death penalty.

7. Import tariffs.

8. Robin Hood tax (financial transactions tax).

9. More runways.

10. Rebalancing the economy.

10. Jokes

And finally, a bonus Top 10: a new round-up of the best of Glenny Rodge, Moose Allain and others.

1. Two horses at a party. Which one finds it hard to mingle? The shire horse. Andrea Snowmann.

2. “My work here is done.” – Yoda, pointing at his desk. Glenny Rodge.

3. ‏The A4 is jammed. It’s stationery. Moose Allain.

4. Genie: “What is your first wish?” Joe: “I want to be rich.” Genie: “Granted. And what is your second wish?” Rich: “I want lots of money.” Fro Vo Ho.

5. Eskimos have more than 50 words for snow. These include snope, snegative, snevergonnahappen and, of course, snotonyournelly. Glenny Rodge.

6. Schadenfreude is a German word that means taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. The nearest British equivalent is “British”. Moose Allain.

7. My mate got arrested trying to mug a sea cow. What was he charged with? Crimes against a manatee. Lola Kempes.

8. “Fancy bumping into you here also buying a globe!” “It’s a small world.” Moose Allain.

9. Then they came for the bins, and I did not speak out, because I was not a bin man, and they were, and that was their job. Dubious Genius.

10. “Do you like Tolstoy?” “Of course. Who doesn’t?” “What’s your favourite book?” “The one where Woody is kidnapped and Buzz tries to save him.” Glenny Rodge.

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