Phrasing the future

I’ve spent too long watching TV this Christmas holiday. If I made resolutions, I’d tell myself to behave. Do something productive. But, in truth, once in a while a bit of blobbing out in front of the box doesn’t do any harm.

There have been excuses: the last ever Downton – it was time to let go; a one off Sherlock special – utterly, er, average; Doctor Who and a Christmas special – another roast fowl; a test match (that’s cricket people). But there has been dross, too.

However I have become quite partial to Gogglebox whose premise is, for those of you not aware of this soon to be British Institution, that various families are filmed watching TV programmes and their comments are played back. Reality TV that is often hilarious.

One element involves the off topic discussions that are caught on camera. Like last week and the Vicar (a woman) explaining her embarrassment that she had seen a good looking woman leaving a tatty shop (I think) and had intended to say ‘You look like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis’; but instead said ‘You look like a butterfly emerging from a clitoris’.


lavender stalks ready to be converted into spears

Misspoken phrases, misheard words. It brought back the time, in the 1960s when Dad took us on long walks as kids (entertainments were sophisticated and no expense was spared back then). Often he’d pull out a long stalk of grass, suck out the milky juice and then throw it at us, spear-like with a cry of ‘Banzai – Stabu the Elephant Boy!’

“Stab You?”



What was all that about? I looked it up just now and it turned out he was talking about Sabu, the Elephant Boy, a star of 1930s Indian cinema. This young man had quite a history and it set had me thinking about whether I had just misheard Dad with his ‘Stabu’ or that’s what he actually said.

By that tortuous route I alighted on a link to a wartime radio show called ‘ITMA’ (It’s That Man Again – which it informed me, was a reference to a moustachioed German causing a stir across the Channel). It seems ‘Stabu the elephant boy’ might have been a creation of that show.

And in reading about ITMA, I found it was the source of a number of catchphrases of the time: ‘Can I do you now, sir’ ‘TTFN’ (tata for now, which I use a lot to my children’s slight annoyance) and ‘After you Cyril; no after you Claude’. All of which peppered my childhood a couple of decades after the end of the war, proving the longevity, back then, of such silly expressions; they certainly wiggle their way into the subconscious like one of those cheap music ear-worms.

dick emery Dick Emery

Catchphrases have an odd way of framing different periods of my life. Mid 60’s TV and there was ‘Oh you are awful, but I like you’ (Dick Emery) and Blue Peter ‘Here’s one I made earlier’. Later, in the 70s and teen age years it was ‘They don’t like it up ’em, sir’ (Clive Dunn), I’m Free (John Inman) and even ‘Bernie the Bolt’ (Bob Monkhouse). Partly I suppose it was because we only had two, three or four channels back then and no video recorder so we all watched TV together, all the generations, so these things infected every walk of life, they became our conversation pieces.

Do catchphrases still have the same resonance today? I had a think hard and came up with Catherine Tate’s ‘Am I bovvered’ and Buzz Lightyear’s ‘To Infinity and Beyond’. These entered the household lexicon at some time in the last ten years or so, but I can’t honestly say many others have. Which I think is a shame. It rather emphasises we don’t have those shared experiences any more, across the generations. They seemed to be neat shorthand for shared experiences, albeit rather superficial and I suppose I miss them.

Ian fletcher


And then, pondering their loss, I realised there’s one I still share with the Textiliste. It comes from a TV spoof of the Olympics, 2012. ‘Well, that’s all good then’. It’s beyond explaining and few people will know it, I expect.

These days it’s what’s trending of course, #s and all that. So, in the spirit of the new year I hope we all find ourselves sharing a #trend that isn’t #JeSuisParis but rather something trite and ephemeral.

I wonder what others think? Do you have favourites?

As a post script there is one misstatement that is a family favourite: the Vet, aged about 7, came home to tell us, sadly, of her school friend who had a food problem and had been found to be Black Toast Intolerant. She feared if I cooked breakfast at the next sleepover I might kill the poor soul.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in TV and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Phrasing the future

  1. colinandray says:

    Catch phrases – “Bazinga!” (presume no need to identify prog).
    I have always been perplexed by the proliferation of TV programs that show “real life” scenarios and/or people having fun. It seems to me that I can watch “real life” scenarios outside my door anytime I want to and, as for having fun, I would much rather be having fun rather than watching other people having fun. Am I missing something???

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      You have to watch it, as they say. Often it’s the natural comedians amongst the watchers that make it. But yes, in principle it really shouldn’t work at all.


  2. merrildsmith says:

    Black Toast Intolerant is pretty great. It reminds me of a radio show here that used to have a segment called “misconstrued lyrics.” They were the words people thought were being sung–as in “there’s a bathroom on the right” for “There’s a bad moon on the rise.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. noelleg44 says:

    I always liked Monty Python’s “And now for something truly different!”

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      Yes we used that a lot. At uni we learnt sketches off by heart and I can still bore the family with the dead parrot or Australian philosophers sketches!


  4. KL Caley says:

    Haha! I love the “Black Toast Intolerant”. It’s strange how those moments stay with you years later. My mother enjoys telling the story of me announcing to her rather innocently that we had some moomins at the door! Great post 🙂 KL


  5. So many catchphrases here come from comedy references, both movie and TV. A lot of them came from popular shows like Saturday Night Live in its glory days, comic movies, and even news headlines… Trump’s use of “Huge”, Charlie Sheen’s ironic “Winning”. Political figures have a language all of their own. And there’s always ” Hashtag….everything.”

    You’re so right about the common phrases of the 50’s and 60’s, when we all gathered around those same 3 networks, long before Cable tv and the internet. Nice post. ☺


  6. Anabel Marsh says:

    I’m afraid we still use “I’m free” and “Ooh you are awful…” – sad really! As for Monty Python (completely different, surely? unless they had variations) I get a lot of opportunities to comment that “the whole place is shrouded in mist” in a suitably bad Australian accent.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. trifflepudling says:

    “No cheese, Gromit!” and “Nice peas, Norma” often appear in conversations with family and friends. Plus when The Killing was on, we all went around calling each other “Troels” in a Danish accent, heaven knows why! Insidiously cunning, the tv.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mick Canning says:

    Ha! Clearly we are the same age, Geoff! I remember everything that you recount, there, and also the ITMA references from my parents. And, since I’m here, yes, the Sherlock was a real disappointment, but we do have the CRICKET! Happy New Year! (or have I already said that?)

    Liked by 2 people

  9. CRICKET!! Sadly I have no TV channels this year so am missing it – but still glorying in last years wonderful excess! I’m about to adopt ‘black toast intolerant’ and suspect you may have just started a new catch-phrase! You may have to add the phrase into your tags to prove authorship for later scholars and researchers.

    I know we have lots of catch cries in this family – none of which I can think of at this precise moment 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Charli Mills says:

    No television or streaming in northern Idaho, but Longboarder checked out a tv series from the library and we binge-watched a show called Revenge. It was tasty. No great catch-phrases, but I’m working on my best she-cat-smile-with-claws-out look. And, Longboarder explained cricket to me! She has a friend who plays and she loves the game. Not sure I still understand, but then again, I don’t fully understand why I’m so excited to go to Sweet Lous (sports bar) tomorrow and watch the Vikings play the Packers for a shot at a play-off spot. Hopefully I won’t get beat up for daring to wear my Favre Vikings jersey. Packer fans hate the reminder that their star quarterback finished up his career across state lines. I’ll pay attention to catch-phrases.


  11. Aww… You’ve made me think of my roommate at university. Every night she’d say “Good night, John Boy” and I’d reply “Good night, Gracie.” 😀 I guess you has to be there. Anyway, I’m with Noelle here: “And Now for Something Completely Different” My brother and I grew up saying that. I still do. I’m definitely black toast intolerant.


  12. Norah says:

    I can’t get past Googlebox and the Vicar’s box … ah, sorry. My family and I are notorious for that type of error, but especially spoonerisms. I thought I had it in the basket with “late shite nopping” but then did better by denying that I was a “drine winker”. However Hub had to top it off with his request at a cafe for a “lemon turd cart”! Oh dear. I don’t know what those ears would hear in our house!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. davidprosser says:

    That Black Toast Intolerance is quite deadly so I hope you’ll be especially careful if when the youngster in question stays over.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. musicwaffle says:

    Christmas always makes us refer to the Advent Candler, as described by my son when 3. 15 years in, it never gets old!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Boys at my Jesuit school would always fail to stifle a collective giggle at ‘pray for arse’oles’

    Liked by 1 person

  16. “Listen very Carefully, I shall say this only once.” That is one that always got laughs even though everyone knew it was coming from Michelle on ‘allo allo’. “Rene! What are you doing with that servant girl?” was another one that always got me laughing and came from the wonderful Madam Edith (Carmen Silvera).

    I’ve never watched ‘Googlebox’, but have been told so many times that it’s fast become cult viewing.


  17. Lisa Reiter says:

    Ca-ching! Springs to mind. Really interesting to think about the old catchphrase. Maybe it has had its day or maybe I don’t watch enough TV to comment with any authority on anything other than “Silent Witness’ etc (Tonight BBC1, 9pm!) I did however give Sherlock a try – boring for bumbersnatch I have to say – what a shame. But then there is Gogglebox – ahh! The most frabulous TV ever!
    Happy New Year Geoff! Lxx


Comments are closed.