Category Archives: Language

Are the Facebook PC police about to ban me because of my sexually risqué name?

I have a Facebook account in my own name – John Thomas Fleming.

On it I post links to articles which I think are interesting and/or funny.

The Daily Mash is a satirical British website.

Today I tried to post a link on my Facebook page to one of the Daily Mash articles.

The Daily Mash’s satiric article was headlined:

MUSEUM OF 1970s SEX EUPHEMISM TO OPEN IN LEEDS

My comment accompanying the link was… “Surely it should open in Bristol?”

A reference to a jolly British euphemism for a lady’s breast.

My post was blanked-out by Facebook because:

“This post goes against our Community Standards on nudity or sexual activity”

and I was banned from posting on Facebook for 24 hours.

Robin Askwith in Confessions From A Holiday Camp (1977) (Photo by Columbia/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5871814a)

I am not sure if Facebook objected to my use of the word ‘Bristol’ or the Daily Mash‘s somewhat risqué picture which was a still from one of the 1970s series of Confessions of… films… These were ‘naughty yet acceptable’ films in the genre of the Carry On… movies.

Britain has a long tradition of family filth Stretching back to Shakespeare and Chaucer and certainly including – perhaps most surprising to Americans – the traditional (ideally utterly filthy) British Christmas pantomimes for children.

The Confessions of… films were more permissive than the more innocent Carry On… films. But were still considered middle-of-the-road even then.

Obviously Facebook’s image-searching computers and more puritan-minded American tendencies need a re-tweak.

The worrying thing is that I was given the name John Thomas Fleming by my innocent parents. I was named after my two grandfathers. I believe the origin of the phrase ‘John Thomas’ is Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a novel which I nor I am certain my parents never read.

I now fear for the good citizens of Bristol city, who face a potential blanket ban from Facebook for living where they do: a conurbation which shares its name with an example of Cockney rhyming slang.

This is all a bit reminiscent of the early days of censorship on the internet when farmers found that innocent references to their common farmyard creatures were getting them banned as pornographers… in particular, any reference to their cocks.

Oh, alright… the bloody Facebook image-searching computers actually took exception to the photo… But, really, do me a favour.

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A fancy man at the Edinburgh Fringe confused by the English language…

Katsura Sunshine in London in his self-made denim kimono

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about Katsura Sunshine – Canadian comic teller of traditional Japanese Rakugo stories, who starts playing his last eight shows at the Leicester Square Theatre in London this week and then hightails it for New York shows in November.

Sunshine lives half his year in Tokyo and half in Camden Town in London. He always wears a kimono in the street and, usually, a bowler hat.  He tells me:

Sunshine at the Edinburgh Fringe

“I remember the first time I tried to get into a pub in Edinburgh wearing my kimono after a show and they refused me entry, saying: No fancy-dress!

“The guy was wearing a kilt, which looked pretty fancy to me.

“In Canadian English, we say ‘costume’ not ‘fancy dress’, so I actually didn’t know what he was talking about until later.

“To Canadians, ‘fancy’ just means ‘special’, so I thought he was asking me to wear something more boring.”

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Edinburgh Fringe, Day 21: Tampons and how obscenity can be subjective

WARNING: USE OF EXTREME LANGUAGE IN THIS BLOG

Helen, sitting in a room with a Periscope and 1,200 visitors

In the afternoon, I took the plunge and went to Helen Wallace’s Up Periscope at Southside Social.

She claims it is the only Fringe show which can (and has) had one member in the audience and 1,200 people watching.

She livestreams it on Periscope, interacting with the live audience in the room (today, well into double figures) and with the online audience. More complicated than it sounds. Very well handled by her. And ripe for development in future years.

Being a woman of taste, she then packs up every day, leaps out and races to get to the increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club round the corner to The Counting House.

Today, the audience there included five of the people involved in Malcolm Hardee – Back From The Drink… a comic play to be put on by ex-squatters who were evicted from the late Malcolm’s Wibbley Wobbley floating pub. Nothing to do with me.

Kate Copstick (left) and Jane Hill in the lively Grouchy Club

Also there, was performer Jane Hill whose show is titled Cow.  I learned a lot in the ensuing discussion between Kate Copstick and Jane in that – something I had not known – calling someone a “cow” is, it seems, much more offensive in Glasgow than elsewhere in the UK – more severe, even, than in Edinburgh.

It seems – and I can only pass this on as discussed – that the word “cow” is a far more offensive word in Glasgow than the word “cunt”.

In Glasgow, as has oft been noted, the word “cunt” can be used almost affectionately just as, in Australia, the word “bastard” can be affectionate.

The Australian sentence “Ah, yah bastard, I love yah! Yer ma best friend!” can be almost directly translated into Glaswegian as “Ah, ye wee cunt, yer a lovely wee cunt, so y’are…”

But the use of the phrase “Yer a cow” in Glasgow is liable to lead to the use of cut-throat razors and the infliction of Glasgow Smiles.

These are the sort of useful life tips you can only hear amid the comedy industry chat at the Grouchy Club.

Jane Hill had actually arrived to clarify exactly how she had once made tampons, as I had mentioned it in a blog two days ago.

She was keen to point out that, rather than knitting condoms as part of a cottage industry, as I had fantasised, she had been employed in the “tampon hand assemblage” business in Portsmouth.

After that, I should point out, she pursued a highly prestigious career in independent radio and the BBC.

Sarah Morgan-Paul with a local body guard

Coincidentally, in the evening, though, I saw Tales From a Tampon, in which Sarah Morgan-Paul does straight old-school stand-up (that’s not in any way a criticism) about the history of the tampon while dressed as a tampon. As it is straight stand-up in a costume, it neither counts as Malcolm Hardee Award Comic Originality nor a Cunning Stunt… I vaguely remember someone wandering round the streets of Edinburgh a few years ago dressed as a tampon. Or it might have been a dildo. The memory plays visual tricks after too many years at the Fringe.

Suggestions for Cunning Stunts are, strangely, now coming out of the woodwork despite the fact the Malcolm Hardee Awards shortlist was announced on Monday.

Later tonight, I got a call from the director of the aforementioned squatters’ play Malcolm Hardee – Back From The Drink – with unlikely cunning stunt possibilities to publicise it… Alas, simultaneously too late for the Malcolm Hardee Award nominations AND too late to get any media publicity before tomorrow night’s performance.

Despite allegedly having done a lot of research on types of cunning stunt, said director had not realised I was involved in the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards. But he said they had been discussing a (non-destructive) stunt at the Awards Show (two days after his show, so hardly going to help publicise it.)

I am not sure which of us was more confused at this point.

I then opened my email and there was a message from the US highlighting, once again, the importance of advance research. It said:


Hi John,

I’d like to invite MALCOLM HARDEE to be featured on our TALK BUSINESS 360 “Industry Innovators” TV program which airs on American Airlines during the entire month of December 2017.

Our in-flight TV show is available to millions of business and leisure travelers, presenting one-on-one interviews with profiles of business leaders.  Recent guests include P&G, Dell, PwC, LG Electronics, Verizon, Bayer, Hilton Hotels, Stanford University, Suzuki and more.

The good news is we’re extending a remnant rate this week of only $3,995 (normally 11K) for production, distribution, and re-usage rights for a 2-minute video, making this an affordable vehicle to communicate your message and grow your brand.  Please contact me as soon as possible for more details as space is limited.

Sincerely,

Michael Smith
Producer
TALK BUSINESS 360 TV
TV That Means Business


I replied:


Wow, Michael,

Great rate and a real honour to have Malcolm recognised as one of the “Industry Innovators”!

Where would the recording take place and what date? I will then arrange to have Malcolm’s ashes shipped to wherever is best for you.

He drowned in 2005, so there will be a lot to catch up on in the recording. Will there be an interviewer?

Best wishes,

John


So far, no reply.

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UK gangster Reggie Kray on criminal slang and his suicide bid in prison

Micky Fawcett (left) with Reggie and Reggie’s wife Frances (Photograph from Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days)

My chum Micky Fawcett gave me a very interesting book on Saturday: Slang by Reggie Kray.

It does what it says on the tin.

It is a dictionary of (mostly criminal) British and American slang words and phrases.

The cover claims it is “A must for Television Viewers, Film Directors and Script Writers.”

It includes some (to me) rare phrases such as:

“He’s at the jack and danny so blank him…”

“Cop for his boat and blow…”

“Get a rhubarb…”

and

“To be slommory…”

But perhaps I have led too sheltered a life.

Written when Reggie had ‘only’ done 16 years

The Slang book was written (with help from Steve Tully) when Reggie was 50 years old and in Parkhurst Prison – around 1983 – when, the book’s foreword says, he had “been in prison now for sixteen gruelling years”.

Reggie was released from prison on compassionate grounds in 2000, eight and a half weeks before he died from cancer. aged 66. He and his twin Ronnie Kray, were born in 1933. They were arrested in 1968 and imprisoned in 1969. Ronnie died in prison in 1995, aged 61.

In the book, Reggie gives his hobby as “Writing” and his ambitions as “To be recognised as an author and to live in the country”.

As well as slang and nostalgic photos of the ‘good old days’, Reggie goes in for a bit of philosophising. It starts:

Reggie Kray (centre) among friends, including actor Victor Spinetti, actress Barbara Windsor, actor George Sewell, singer Lita Roza, comedian Jimmy Logan and actor Ronald Fraser (Photo from the book Slang by Reggie Kray)

“I had hidden myself under the blankets, I was soaking in sweat and blood. Whilst I continued to saw away at my wrist, with a broken piece of glass, which I had broken from my TV spectacles.

“Eventually I fell into a fitful sleep, only to wake up the following morning to the clang of the bolt being drawn across my cell door.

“It seems that my prayers had been answered in a strange sort of way, because prior to this attempted suicide, I had calmly smoked what I thought to be my last cigarette, and said a prayer. My state of mind stemmed from a period of time I had spent at Long Lartin Prison, and my meeting up with a foreigner…”

It is an interesting read.

Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days is arguably the most realistic insider’s view of working with the Krays… as well as some other… erm… escapades.

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A comedy award winner in tights; fifth Fisting Day; and confused linguistics.

spectacularspectrumofnow_logoLast night, my comedy year was completed when I went to The Spectacular Spectrum of Now (image above) – Cassie Atkinson and Neil Frost’s quarterly show in London’s King’s Cross.

It was billed as a Psychic Strippers show and – sort of – delivered on both. But I went because the bill was such a cracker – Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee The Story Beast, the very talented Katia Kvinge and Beth Vyse, very intelligent musical comedian Luke Courtier and Fred Strangebone as a walrus. There was also a bit of nudity at the end though I am not sure if this was 100% planned or not.

Michael Brunstrom last night - as Mary Quant

Michael Brunström last night – as Mary Quant

But the cherry on the cake – if cherry he be – was this year’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Michael Brunström re-performing the act he sadly did NOT include in his Edinburgh Fringe show this year – 1960s fashion legend Mary Quant talking about her time on an Antarctic whaling vessel, dressed in a pageboy wig and tights, holding a home-made harpoon and speaking in what I still think is a slight German accent. Michael Brunström tells me it is not a German accent, so maybe it is a residual Chaucerian accent. But it is the second time I have seen it and I can but dream of a third time. Comedy gold.

After this welcome oddity, I went home to find an email from visual artist Marc Seestaedt, one half of the Berlin-based performance duo Sticky Biscuits who insinuated their way onto the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show in August this year by gatecrashing a live Grouchy Club show and auditioning unasked.

They are very good at self-promotion.

Which is what the email was about.

Hey John it said. This Wednesday is International Fisting Day (yes, that’s a thing that exists) and, if you feel like mentioning it, this video we did  is just right for the occasion.

I, perhaps foolishly, DID think he might be making it up but – No – tomorrow is, indeed, the the FIFTH annual International Fisting Day. Further than that, dear reader, I could not bear to investigate. But I should mention that Sticky Biscuits’ video is perhaps not for people who are easily offended. I might also say it could make some people uncomfortable. But I won’t.

But now to grander things – linguistics.

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that the Facebook computer translated

Тетка на идише шпилит, лучче, чем мы с тобой на иврите. Кроме того, она стендапистка и , реально классная!
as
Aunt in Yiddish nail, лучче than we are with you in Hebrew. In addition, she стендапистка and, really cool!

And Google Translate rendered the same
Тетка на идише шпилит, лучче, чем мы с тобой на иврите. Кроме того, она стендапистка и , реально классная!
as
Aunt Yiddish spiers, better than we are with you in Hebrew. In addition, it stendapistka and really cool! 

Which left me none the wiser.

I did two years of Russian at school but can only barely read Cyrillic.

However, my eternally-un-named friend (who neither reads Cyrillic nor understands Russian but has a Monk-like ability to uncover the truth) told me that стендапистка should, in fact, have a gap in it:

стендап истка

And, indeed, Google Translate successfully renders this as meaning:

Cleaning the stand-up – presumably stand-up comedian or stand-up comedy.

Thus the sentence becomes:
Aunt Yiddish spiers, better than we are with you in Hebrew. In addition, it is cleaning the stand-up and really cool!

It still means bugger-all, of course, so the linguistic mystery remains.

But I just thought I would clear that up slightly.

до свидания товарищ

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Sex in my daily blog, stendapists & the surreal style of computer translations.

Well, I was going to blog about the London Film Festival documentary which I saw last night – Being Evel: The Lives and Loves of a Daredevil. The trouble is it is a good documentary but not an exceptional one. Plus it is obviously shot for TV (big close-ups of interviewees). Plus Evel Knievel was really just not a very nice person.

Unlike, I suspect, former brothel madame Cynthia Payne, though I have never met her.

She cropped up in a blog I posted three days ago.

A Comment was posted online:

Thank you for the mention in your blog today, I always read it. Those were the days eh John, such fun. Hope that you are keeping well. Life is a bit quieter for me nowadays, but I wouldn’t change a moment of it all. Wonderful memories. Much love Cynthia xx

It is a joke by someone, OK?

But unlikely people do read my blog including, it seems, Russian-born, Israeli sex therapists.

There was a real Comment on my blog this morning from Lev Korogodsky. He was reacting to my blog of two days ago, which was titled: In rainy Montenegro, Lynn Ruth Miller prefers vodka to sex advice from Israelis

Lev Korogodsky’s profile picture on Facebook

Lev Korogodsky’s straightforward profile picture on Facebook

Lev Korogodsky is the Israeli sex therapist mentioned (but not named) in that blog. He commented:

Geat thanks for so high evaluation of my lecture in Montenegro!

… and he also posted a link to my blog on his Facebook page.

Facebook now helpfully gives automatic translations, which have their own linguistic splendour.

They render Lev’s original Facebook comment about my blog and Lynn Ruth Miller:

Неожиданный отзыв о моей лекции )))))!!!
А она, реально, еще та штучка!!!
as
An unexpected feedback about my lectures)))))!!!
And she, really, still that little thing!!!

Further comments from Friends on Lev’s Facebook page (with automatic translation) include one from George Mladenov:

“We then recovered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in our rooms by drinking large tumblers of vodka and meditating.” Так вот значит какие у вас методы!

translated as:

“We then recovered from post traumatic stress syndrome in our rooms by drinking large tumblers of vodka and meditating.” So that’s what you have methods!

Lev replied to this with:

Это не наши методы )). Это их британское декадентство )))))

It’s not our methods)). It’s their British decay)))))

Then Nicolay Amiel Trzhascal commented:

Тётка решила поднять себе рейтинг, а заодно по израильтянам проехаться. Это называется возвышение себя через опущение другого.

Aunt decided to make herself rating, and as a bonus for the Israelis, go for a ride. It’s called the elevation of themselves through the omission of the other.

To which Lev replied:

Тетка на идише шпилит, лучче, чем мы с тобой на иврите. Кроме того, она стендапистка и , реально классная!

Aunt in Yiddish nail, лучче than we are with you in Hebrew. In addition, she стендапистка and, really cool!

As the Facebook computer failed to translate лучче and стендапистка, I looked them up in Google Translate, which reckoned they meant Lucci and stendapist. I then tried the whole comment in Google Translate and

Тетка на идише шпилит, лучче, чем мы с тобой на иврите. Кроме того, она стендапистка и , реально классная!
was translated into English as:
Aunt Yiddish spiers, better than we are with you in Hebrew. In addition, it stendapistka and really cool!

I am still none the wiser as to what the apparently English word ‘stendapist’ means.

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In order to speak and perform Italian language comedy, you have to live it

Romina Puma

Romina Puma, creator of fortnightly shows

Last night, in London’s Soho, I went to fortnightly Italian language comedy night Laboratorio di Cabaret – Il Puma Londinese. They usually have at least one English language act.

This is the fourth of their shows I have been to and I understand about a quarter of one percent of what is going on in the Italian parts. But the atmosphere is hugely enjoyable and, to illiterate me, the shows are like watching abstract comedy performance. I watch the visual performance and can appreciate the structure of the emotional delivery of the words and feel the emotional meaning of the words, even though I don’t understand the words.

Last night I went with comedy critic Kate Copstick, who is multilingual – she can speak English, Italian, Swahili and Glaswegian. She has written guidebooks to Italy.

“Did you understand 100%?” I asked.

“Maybe 90%,” she told me. “But, in Italian, people take a lot more words to say stuff so, in a way, to get the gist, you only need to understand 90%. One of the wonderful things about Italian conversation is it’s ‘Big’. You maybe say things twice or in three different ways. You just say more than you would in English.”

“Earlier today,” I said, “I was talking to someone about Irish English and it’s often more meandering than most English English and Irish people have told me it’s because the Gaelic is not a succinct language: it, too, needs more words.”

“There is just such fun in saying things in Italian,” said Copstick. “Alex Martini (the compere) was terrific – great energy and quintessentially Italian – which is a GOOD thing. Really, really likeable. But a night like tonight also proves there is an element to comedy that goes beyond the words. I didn’t understand 100% but I laughed more than I do in a lot of good English language gigs. It’s the feeling of fun and enjoyment and laughter.

(From left) Marouen Mraihi., Giada Garofalo, Giacinto Palmieri, Romina Puma, Alex Martini after last night’s show

(From left) Marouen Mraihi., Giada Garofalo, Giacinto Palmieri, Romina Puma, Alex Martini after last night’s show

“Those two girls – Romina Puma and Giada Garofalo – warm, funny, confident and out there – they really brought the audience into it all. Very warm, very female, very anecdotal.

“If you translated their set into English, it’s just very anecdotal, chatty, kinda Sarah Millican-ish. But the energy and the whole character of doing it in Italian just pulls you in so much more.”

“I have an English friend,” I told Copstick, “who worked in Tokyo then married an Italian and now lives in Milan – so she’s good at languages – and she told me the only way to speak Italian is to ‘live’ the language. You can’t just say Italian words with English speech rhythms: you have to almost perform Italian. Saying the plain words just doesn’t work.”

“Absolutely,” said Copstick. “Giacinto Palmieri is warm and wonderful when he performs in English but, in Italian, it’s like someone has lit a fire under him. In English, he is black and white; it Italian, he is in colour.

“What your friend said about ‘living it’… the minute you translate the Italian words into English in your head, it’s not as funny. The whole approach to the story and the whole way of telling stories in Italian is just different. Literally – to coin Frank Carson’s old phrase – it’s the way they tell ‘em.”

Kate Copstick enjoyed my lively wit (Photograph by Giada Garofalo)

Copstick found herself unable to resist my captivating wit last night (Photograph by Giada Garofalo)

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