Archive for the Words Category

Elvis Lives

Posted in Words on September 3, 2011 by timlafferty

That headline is sadly not true but it is an anagram. I’ve written before that Tim Lafferty = Matt Firefly = Raffle My Tit etc. and I’ve been doing a bit more casting around for good anagrams. There are several online anagram generating tools, including the INTERNET ANAGRAM SERVER which is itself an anagram of I, REARRANGEMENT SERVANT. Here are a few of my favourites:


david cameron = advice random

george bush = he bugs gore


princess diana = ends in a car spin

madonna louise ciccone = one cool dance musician = occasional nude income

william shakespeare = i am a weakish speller = i’ll make a wise phrase

Almost Spooky

the eyes = they see

debit card = bad credit

decimal point = i’m a dot in place

astronomer = moon starer = no more star

telescope = to see place

desperation = a rope ends it

conversation = voices rant on

christmas = trims cash

snooze alarms = alas no more Zs

schoolmaster = the classroom

eleven plus two = twelve plus one

And my favourite, one which I’d do well to remember more often:

listen = silent



Acrostic Atrocities

Posted in Words with tags , , , , on July 23, 2011 by timlafferty

In the sorry affair that is the News Corp phone hacking saga there was at least a moment of humour when the News of the World (NOTW) was closed. Apparently Rebekah Brooks wanted to prevent what happened at the Daily Express when journalist Stephen Pollard hid a message in his final editorial which said “Fuck You Desmond”, aimed at the proprietor of the newspaper. Finding no such naughty messages in the final edition of NOTW it went to print but nobody noticed the hidden messages in the crossword clues, which included “woman stares wildly at calamity”. Crossword answers included “stink,” “calamity” and “we,” “are,” “sacked” and  “tomorrow”. This was all spotted by the Guardian, whose article about this and other hidden messages, known as acrostics, contained a hidden message itself.

A lot of the News Corp problems seem to be related to hidden messages, or at least emails and documents that didn’t seem to be seen by some key senior executives. I know nothing of that but I do know that apparently Homer Simpson’s hair and ear are the hidden initials of his creator’s name – Matt Groening. The Simpsons is broadcast by Fox which is owned by….News Corp.

I found acrostics very useful when trying to memorise lists of items for exams and I’ve also come across a few acrostic poems over the years. There’s even an online acrostic poem generator. I’d rather hoped it would be like predictive text – type in a few words and it would write the poem. It’s not that sophisticated but I chucked in a few words about the phone hacking scandal and this is the outcome:

Newspapers naughty
Everyone hacked off
Wendi throws punch

Shaving foam frenzy

Coppers involved
Oh dear
Rupert looks old
Pension looming

Vampire Scrabble

Posted in Words on June 14, 2011 by timlafferty

I’ve found a new addiction – Scrabble on Facebook It’s not so much the game that I enjoy, but the chat with opponents from all over the world. So far players have included: a suspiciously pale girl in Transylvania playing at night; a woman in Barbados who used to live near me and knows some of the same people; a woman in Hong Kong who, like me, used to drink in Joe Bananas bar 22 years ago; a man in South Africa who told me he was naked; and a man in Lagos, Nigeria whose first language is Yoruba.

The game with the Nigerian prompted me to look up languages in Nigeria and there are 527, of which 514 are still “live”. My favourite sounding ones are Ogbogolo and O’chi’chi. The longest name of a Nigerian language is Numana-Nunku-Gbantu-Numbu and the one that I reckon would get you a good score if you could put it down in a Nigerian Scrabble game is Zizilivakan. But here’s the thing – none of these people said they play Scrabble in their first language but they’re all so good at it in English – they regularly come up with words that have me reaching for a dictionary.

Anyway, got to dash; I need a FIX (13 points).

Why Not?

Posted in Uncategorized, Words on March 6, 2011 by timlafferty

There’s a TV commercial running at the moment for Direct Line Insurance with the sign-off “Why not call Direct Line…” Why not is such a lame call to action; it might as well be followed by “…if you’ve got nothing better to do.” On the other hand, one of the cleverest and bravest ads on tele lately has been the one for Marmite, the strong-tasting yeast extract spread. The ads are based on “love it or hate it” showing clips of people either relishing it, or virtually gagging on it. What’s clever is that they’ve recognised that people who hate it aren’t going to change their minds based on something they’ve seen on TV, so they may as well alienate them. What they want to do is remind the rest of us how much we like it and make us feel special, part of an elite.

The Economist had this down to a fine art with their poster advertising, making people who read it feel that they must be a cut above the average. For example:

You can so tell who doesn’t like read The Economist

They’ve also played on the fear of looking ignorant, for example (approximate headline from memory):

“I never read the Economist.”

Assistant Manager, 49

An Economist TV commercial which ran a few years ago showed a man sitting in business class on an airline, when Henry Kissinger sits down next to him. The voice-over went something like this:

So, you’re going to be spending the next 4 hours talking to Henry Kissinger. Nervous?”

I admired the Economist’s advertising for years and I think it explains why something with such a dull sounding title punched seriously above its weight. For years they continued to invest in advertising, even when times were tough, which is why their circulation sales were the most robust in the industry. But in the last three or four years even they seem to have been hit by the downturn in print media; I don’t see so much of them these days and what they’re doing lacks some of their previous cleverness.

When I was at BusinessWeek I was tempted to run a poster campaign that had the word “Economist” on a red background, and then the word “Pragmatist” below in BusinessWeek colours. Thankfully someone further up the line decided that waging war on The Economist probably wasn’t a good idea.

The FT’s ‘No FT, no comment’ tagline played to similar fears – that if you don’t read it, you won’t have anything to say on important issues. But their advertising has never been quite as clever or consistent as The Economist’s. My favourite moment of schadenfreude (I was working for the competition at the time) was when they used a pink yacht to promote the launch of their Australian edition, but it hit Sydney Opera House and sank. Picture here.

Probably the best advertising that the FT has done involved no copywriting at all – they wrapped the newspaper around Hong Kong’s tallest building, Two IFC. My friend Mary-Frances Bellman was behind that ground-breaking and memorable stunt, which garnered a huge amount of press coverage. Click here for pictures. The moral of those two FT stories is to be memorable, but for the right reasons. And why not?

A Body of Text

Posted in Words on February 22, 2011 by timlafferty

The human body isn’t generally thought of as a print medium, but it can be. Take tattoos. I heard today that a man in the U.S. had the text of Leviticus 18:22 tattooed on his arm; it forbids male homosexuality (photo here). Presumably he’s not aware that Leviticus 19:28 forbids tattoos.

I know of a man who had “R.I.P. Mum” tattooed on his arm even though Mum was alive and well – he thought Rest In Peace meant, like, Peace Man. On an airport bus a few years ago, I overheard a woman asking an elderly couple about their matching tattoos. They had each other’s names etched on their arms. They said they’d been together for 50 years so reckoned they would probably not split up, and they no longer had parents telling them they couldn’t have them. I thought that was kinda cool.

Even though I spent 10 years in the Navy, I don’t have any tattoos and I’d have to be very drunk indeed to have one now. I really dislike heavily tattooed bodies but I don’t mind the odd discrete etching. Once, in the back of a Hong Kong taxi, a mate’s girlfriend flashed me the little dolphin on her buttock. It was over 20 years ago but still strikes me as a rather erotic moment, which probably makes me sound a bit of a saddo.

If being jabbed with a needle hundreds of times doesn’t appeal, you could wear a witty t-shirt instead. And, unlike a tattoo, you can change it easily when you get bored. A Facebook friend-of-a-friend in the U.S. wrote this on her page today:

“Just saw a young man at the gym wearing a shirt that said, “I heart bush” and thought, “I really hope he means p*ssy”.”

Other t-shirt captions I’ve seen and liked recently include:

Dyslexics Untie

I’m not a complete idiot; some parts are missing.

“The trouble with being punctual is that no-one’s there to appreciate it.” Franklin P. Jones.

Bomb disposal expert. If you see me running, try to keep up.

Men and women are from Earth. Deal with it.

Practice safe food; use condiments.

Please send me your favourites (that’s a request not a t-shirt slogan).

What would you have tattooed on yourself? On your worst enemy?


A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog featuring the self-deprecating humour of James Blunt. An article about him in the Sunday Times Magazine this week talked about exactly that (among other things about him) and gave some of the same examples. You read it here first, free! (I’d be flattered if they’re reading my blog to get ideas but it seems unlikely).

If I Agreed With You, We’d Both Be Wrong

Posted in Words on February 15, 2011 by timlafferty

After a friend and her husband split up, she stayed in the family house and he moved into a flat.  A few weeks later he came round for a family meal, after which he said to her “There are many things I miss about living here, but you’re not one of them.” Fortunately she’s the sort that can see the funny side of a remark like that and appreciate it for what it is (apart from rude) – a paraprosdokian. That’s a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or re-interpret the first part. It’s often used for humorous effect, sometimes producing an anti-climax.

Winston Churchill was rather good at paraprosdokians:

“A modest man, who has much to be modest about.”


“There but for the grace of God….goes God.”

Here are some others, authors unknown, but forwarded to me by Sylvia Luckman:

The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on the list.

If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.

War does not determine who is right, only who is left.

Evening news is where they begin with “Good Evening” and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.

A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk I have a work station.

Dolphins are so clever that after a few weeks in captivity they can train people to stand on the edge of the pool and throw them fish.

A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.

Whenever I fill out a form that says “Person to notify in the event of emergency” I always write “Doctor.”

I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

I saw a women wearing a T-shirt which said “Guess” on it. So I said “Implants?”

Behind every successful man is a woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

You don’t need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.

Hospitality: making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were.

Some people cause happiness wherever they go. Others, whenever they go.

I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.

I always take life with a pinch of salt. Plus a slice of lime and a shot of tequila.

When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

You’re never too old to learn something stupid.

To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and then name whatever you hit as the target.

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

A bus is a vehicle that travels twice as fast when you’re running after it as it does when you’re in it.

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

If you know any good ones, please send them to me.

Top 20 Tongue-In-Hand Writing Tips

Posted in Words on January 15, 2011 by timlafferty

Here are some not-too-serious writing tips:

1. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

2. One should never generalize.

3. The passive voice is to be avoided.

4. Who needs rhetorical questions?

5. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

6. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

7. Remember to never split an infinitive.

8. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

9. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”

10. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

11. Avoid alliteration. Always.

12. Be more or less specific.

13. A writer must not shift your point of view.

14. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

15. Do not put statements in the negative form.

16. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.

17. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!

18. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

19. Take the bull by the scruff of the neck and don’t mix metaphors.

20. Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague; they’re so last year.

One definition of a cliché is ‘ A word or expression that has lost much of its force through overexposure.’ The first person to write a cliché is a genius, but the next person to use it lacks imagination. My friend Ruth Brandt wrote the piece below as a light-hearted exercise for students in her adult creative writing class. She says there are 52 clichés in it. How many can you find?

At the end of the day

It was a dark and stormy night when my old man hit the town.  He had had a bit of a wake up call earlier in the week, when the doctor had read him the riot act after telling him his blood pressure was sky high, and he had declared himself to be on the wagon. You could have knocked me down with a feather because for two whole days he had stuck to his resolution, sitting like a couch potato in front of the goggle box and not a drop of the good stuff passing his lips. I was over the moon. Mind you, it was as if he’d got up on the wrong side of the bed; I had to watch my tongue. I could be barking up the wrong tree but as much as missing the booze I think he was bored to tears not being down the pub with his mates.

The final straw came the evening he couldn’t find his glasses even though he searched high and low, crashing round the house like a bull in a china shop. No TV watching for him; he’s blind as a bat without them. Having left no stone unturned, he threw in the towel and came clean, admitting he must have left them at work.

“I’m going down the pub,” he declared.

I had to think on my feet. It struck me that I was stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea; if I let him go he’d be back on the beer and his blood pressure could go stratospheric, and if he stayed he’d be like a bear with a sore head. Eventually I made up my mind.

“You should listen to what the doctor told you,” I said.

But he knew better, true to form he retorted:

“That advice is old hat. Bill has a list of aches and pains as long as your arm and he says that laughter is the best medicine when combined with a jar or two with mates.”

By this stage I was worried sick about him getting in his cups, but even though it was raining cats and dogs he turned on his heel and went. As a matter of fact, he was so set in his tracks he wouldn’t have stopped for all the tea in china.

After forever and a day he rolled in looking like something the cat dragged in.

“Sorry,” he murmured; he knew he didn’t really have a leg to stand on.

I turned in, leaving him catching forty winks on the sofa, because when all’s said and done, the long and the short of it is that it’s best if you don’t mention the war.

Now that I’ve drawn your attention to clichés, you’ll probably spot them everywhere which may, er, get your goat.