Caught By A Phrase

The Textiliste has no sense of smell. Not really. So it wasn’t unusual to have a sack pushed at my face and asked to sniff. Dried lavender, you see. From last year.

Collected from the garden it will be used to fill small cushions for sale. I had to check it still had oomph.

I moaned about the imposition (I was pretending to be asleep – I was never good at that – when the Financial Broker formerly known as the Lawyer was a babe and cried in the night, I would fain sleep while the Textiliste fained death) but she wasn’t to be denied. So I resorted to throwing a stalk at her, spear-like, crying ‘Banzai – Stabu the Elephant Boy!’

“Stab You?”

That’s what Dad said when he flung a grass stalk at us on a long walk (boy, were our entertainments sophisticated back then).

I thought I’d better check if there was such a character 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 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 I’m informed, 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. ITMA, I found, was the source of a number of catchphrases of the time: ‘Can I do you now, sir’ ‘TTFN’ (tata for now) 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 of such silly expressions; they certainly wiggle their way into the subconscious like one of those cheap music ear-worms.

Catchphrases have an odd way of framing a different period of my life. Mid 60’s TV and there was ‘Oh you are awful, but I like you’ (Dick Emery). 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 we all watched TV together, all the generations, so these things infected every walk of life.

Do catchphrases still have the same resonance today? I had to think hard as I’m not so sure. I came up with Catherine Tate’s ‘Am I bovvered’ which I do use occasionally. This 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. Now Brucie is no longer rolling out ‘Give us a Twirl’ on Strictly what is left? They seemed to be neat shorthand for shared experiences, albeit rather trite and superficial and I suppose I miss them.

And then, pondering their loss, I realised the BBC spoof of the Olympics, 2012 (which believe me, from someone who worked for both the ODA and LOCOG over four years up to the 2012 Games, was far too near the mark to be really funny) has given me the Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) ‘Well, that’s all good then’. I don’t suppose it has stuck with as many as the older ones did but it’s still out there, struggling to survive in this harsh competitive world of ours.

I wonder what others think? Do you have family favourites?

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.
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23 Responses to Caught By A Phrase

  1. trifflepudling says:

    At work I often have cause to paper over slight disasters by using Ian’s ‘So that’s all good, then’, though I can see why you wouldn’t!
    For a while, the one used often at the office was ‘Computer says No’.
    Hated those wartime radio progs my mother liked, though I suppose anything was better than the actual war itself …!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Oh I agree. My parents thought Jimmy Edwards Tommy Handley and Arthur Askey hilarious. And don’t get me started on Will Hay and the crazy gang… shudder. If I never see Oh Mr Porter again it won’t be soon enough


      • trifflepudling says:

        Did you ever meet the cast of Twenty Twelve? It must’ve been great fun to make. I often think of it when listening to someone spout faux positive drivel in a meeting!
        Was with family yesterday and we decided 2012 was probably the last time nearly the whole country thought it was great to be British…

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        I never did though each episode was on the week’s agenda at our legal briefing.


  2. Darlene says:

    It’s Monty Python phrases in our house. Things like, “you think you had it bad….” or “is this the 5-minute argument or the full half-hour.” or “What do you mean you don’t have any cheese!” I could go on. Once when we got stuck in a blizzard in Canada and I was on the verge of tears, hubby turned to me and said, “We used to dream of driving on roads as good as this.” Of course, I cracked up and no more tears were shed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Although it isn’t a catchphrase,”Got any O’s?” always cracks me up!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. willowdot21 says:

    Remembering all those catchphrases with affection! There is Catherine Tate’s, “speak to the hand the face ain’t listening”, Fools and Horses a big thing when the boys were home.
    “You plonker” “Cushti” “this time next year we will all be millionairs” Chuckle brothers ” Me to you”
    And Kenneth Horne and the gang were a wealth of catchphrases! Especially Rambling Sid and Julian and Sandy! Happy days..
    .. Trump had a few ….oh! Okay …that’s false news!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, that’s all good then is a catchphrase I’m rather fond of, Geoff. I did not know the Elephant Boy by either name.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Catherine Tate’s is one of my favourites

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bia Bella Baker💗Proud author of: HECCTROSSIPY book 1 The Legend of the Land says:

    ☺️Followed you on Goodreads!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ruth says:

    We tend to stick to repeating the Monty Python phrases we loved so much growing up… ‘Nice though the abattioir is…’ is certainly oft-used in our household as a method of lightening the mood during disagreements over differences of opinion, and ‘I fart in your general direction…’ is a favoured insult to take the heat out of slagging each other off! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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