READING FOR KIDS – ON PUNS, BOLLOCKS ABOUT COSSACKS AND OUTER SPACE

It occurs to me that if I was trying to teach, or if I had a publisher who took me to lunch, I might propose that there could be an interesting language lesson to deliver on the subject of puns, starting with this week’s list, from a shopping-centre research company, of jokey shop names.

Sun. Tel. 23.2.14 has the following letters on the subject.  I include the one about the hairdresser although I must admit I haven’t got it yet.

* Talking shop

SIR – You report that Junk & Disorderly was honoured for having the best punning shop name in Britain.

The best I’ve seen is a butcher’s in Tooting, called: Halal – Is It Meat You’re Looking For?

Frank Dobson
Morpeth, Northumberland

* SIR – Until a few years ago, an antiques shop in Bures, Suffolk, bore the name Den of Antiquity.

A hairdressing salon in Raynes Park, London, bore the title Coiffure by Comber.

On the same street, a doctor’s clinic was denoted by the plaque: Dr Hackett, Surgeon.

Barry McCartney
Sudbury, Suffolk

 

The Manchester Evening News report of the story, 17.2.14,  carried a full list of winners, as below …

A Manchester kebab shop has been voted as having one of the best pun names in the country.

Abra-kebabra was named in the top ten in a poll run by a firm which monitors retail trends.

The store polled 13 per cent of the vote and landed fourth place in the poll.

The contest was won by a second hand shop in Chesterfield called Junk & Disorderly, which won 33 per cent of the vote.

The Local Data Company selected the 10 best pun shops from the 700,000 businesses across the country it surveyed during 2013.

Pun competition results

1. Junk And Disorderly, Chesterfield 33.3%

2. Pane In The Glass, Ashford 18.8%

3. Barber Blacksheep, Brighton 14.5%

4. Abra-kebabra, Manchester 13%

5. World Of Woolcraft, Gillingham

6. Sofa So Good, Edinburgh

7. Heaven Scent, London

8. Hippy Daze, Lancing

9. Pawchester Cat Hotel, London

10. Licence 2 Fill, Torquay

 

Also worth snipping is the Sun. Tel. report on the rumour which swept the nation, in 1914, about a huge force of Cossack warriors being shipped into Britain from Russia and out again to fight the Germans on the Western Front.

The Cossack story is a good example, from 100 years ago, of the speed and power of myth.

I like the theory that the whole story, of troopers with snow on their boots who would fight the Germans for us, was sparked off by some Scotsmen on a troop train telling the English they were from Ross-shire.

The Teleg. report is at:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/10655888/A-Russian-revelation-where-the-mythical-Cossacks-of-WW1-were-really-from.html/

 

Another possible  topic for some purposes might be Great Letters Column Debates.  The Telegraph has just had one, on whatever happened to coloured loo paper, as summed up by reporter Harry Wallop, 21.2.14 ….

It is one of the great mysteries of modern life – up there with why sinkholes have suddenly emerged and how to secure peace in the Middle East. Where have all the coloured loo rolls gone?

Like so many great debates, it was started on the letters page of The Daily Telegraph. Readers who put pen to paper are an august body, a group who truly understand the anxieties of Middle England.

And at the start of this week, Michael Draper from the fine village of Nether Wallop asked: “Why is it impossible now to buy blue lavatory rolls? Unless we find some soon, I will be forced to redecorate my bathroom.”

This opened a Pandora’s Cistern. It turned out that the slow demise of peach, lavender, magnolia and mint shades of toilet tissue deeply troubled many. Especially in Surrey. Six out of 10 letters on the vexed subject came from this county – which suggests the lavatories of Leatherhead and the water closets of Woking are unhappy places, rooms devoid of a dash of daily three-ply colour.

One suggested a trip to Provence, where black paper can be found. Another wrote that her sister brings back green loo rolls from Rome to Bisley. A correspondent in Bletchingley described a priest friend who used to change the hue of his loo rolls to match the liturgical seasons: green for Trinity, purple for Lent and Advent and pink for Saints Days. Sadly, this man of the cloth is now stuck in a perpetual Christmas season of white.

These correspondents are not hallucinating. Sales figures back up their belief that coloured paper has fallen from fashion. Matt Stone, brand manager at Andrex, says: “Ten years ago, three in 10 rolls of Andrex sold were coloured, whereas now it is one in 10. In past decades it was more fashionable to match toilet paper colour to bathroom design, but our current range reflects the shift in consumer tastes to predominantly neutral tones.”

On Tesco’s shelves, just four of 61 loo roll products are coloured.

To most people, admittedly, loo roll is a purely functional item. But to a small number it is a key part of the bathroom decor, as crucial a decision as to whether to stock suvin cotton and beachwood fibre bath towels or to slum it with a polyester mix. To have aqua blue sheets in a room painted in “tangerine twist” is likely to see you blackballed from the Cobham bridge club.

Such anxieties are on the wane, however. Mintel, the market researcher, says that as recently as 2008, 20 per cent of consumers said matching colours with decor was “one of the most important factors when buying household paper products”. Last year, that figure fell to 7 per cent.

Robert Opie, founder of the Museum for Brands, Packaging and Advertising, says that in part, bathrooms – and in turn, loo paper – are affected by the ubiquity of technology giant Apple and its mostly monochrome consumer electronics, which influence interior decor.

“This is how fashions work,” he says. “Inevitably the next generation want to reject what their parents and grandparents favoured.

“Go back to the 1950s and everything in the house was coloured – vacuum cleaners, washing machines, cookers. By the Sixties and Seventies bathrooms were all lavender and avocado suites. Now so many things are white.”

He notes, too, that coloured loo paper might be seen as incompatible with an eco-lifestyle. The quinoa classes certainly prefer their paper white with flecks of recycled Guardian, even though the manufacturers insist that it is a myth that the dye makes it less biodegradable. Perhaps the most important trend, though, is the rejection of a Hyacinth Bucket gentility that saw many hide their apricot-coloured loo roll (invariably “lavatory tissue”) underneath a cover in the shape of a flamenco dancer, frowned upon as impossibly déclassé.

Now, the coolest bathrooms are rocking a below-stairs servant chic: all enamel tooth mugs, scrubbed floorboards and Victorian industrial tiles. Coloured loo paper is just too showy. Outside of Surrey, the only place it can be found in great quantities is Hollywood, where Simon Cowell favours black rolls (monogrammed).

But pure white loo roll can still be a vehicle of snobbery. Sainsbury’s says top-of-the-range paper makes up 24 per cent of its sales in mid-November. A month later, as in-laws and guests descend, these quilted, extra-thick sheets make up 35 per cent. It doesn’t stop there.

The latest trend is for paper “enriched” with aloe vera or shea butter, while recently launched are “lightly moistened toilet tissues” – baby wipes for grown-ups.

The new battleground is no longer colour, but texture. I await your correspondence.

* On 22.2.14, the Telegraph carried the following reader’s letter:

Merrily we roll along

SIR – Christmas wouldn’t be the same in our house without Christmas-themed toilet rolls (Letters, February 21).

These are removed from their holders at the same time as the Christmas decorations, and any unused paper stored for next year.

Kevin Leece
Gravesend, Kent

 

PS:  Quiz masters might be interested in a line from a Jon Ronson report (Gdn Mag 22.2.14) on Richard Branson’s preparations for a flight to “outer space”.  Turns out the definition is 100k (62 miles) above sea level.

 

**

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