A WORKING PERSONS GUIDE TO MR DE PFEFFEL JOHNSONS POSH BOY B.S.
So instead of laughing in embarrassment at your limited understanding of Etonian in-jokes, you can now decode what the supercilious Berk is on about (Berk, Cockney rhyming slang from Berkley Hunt: C**t).
Aryan bull pig
‘You can call me an Armenian chicken farmer or an Aryan bull pig, but don’t call me incompetent.’ Bojos response to a student magazine attack on his bid to be President of the Oxford Union, 1982. Johnson’s family has roots in Turkey, which included Armenia in the days of the Ottoman Empire. Apparently that was more relevant then.
Deliberately unintelligible language or jargon used for the purposes of obfuscation by politicians. Basically the whole of Boris Johnsons output.
‘It is known to the politico-journalistic class as a junket, jolly, freebie or boondoggle; and which is classified, for the benefit of irritable taxpayers, as a conference.’ On an Anglo-Italian conference in Venice. Daily Telegraph, March 11, 2004.
Noun: wasteful project; a term originating in 1930s America. As in “Christ Domenic that Track & Trace App is a sodding Boondoggle for your mates at Serco!”
‘For three whole minutes [Churchill] stands there, while the Tories cachinnate and the Opposition benches try to make noises of sympathy… This is a disaster, a living death…’ Conservative MPs laughed at Churchill, while Opposition MPs supported him when he dried up due to a brain malfunction during a speech in support of workers’ rights in 1904. From his book The Churchill Factor, 2014.
Verb. To cachinnate; to roar with laughter, from Latin cachinnare ‘to laugh loudly’. Apparently using a dead language IS big AND clever.
An outsider who meddles in politics. Used at the end of the American Civil War to describe Northerners who moved South to avail themselves of political opportunities in the defeated states. A bit like Donald Trump promising to ‘drain the swamp’ before dump slurry in it instead.
‘Stop this chip-o-rama rubbish!’ Reply to a Labour MP’s complaint that top universities take too many old Etonians. House of Commons, March 15, 2007.
Borisism, noun. Based on the proverb ‘having a chip on one’s shoulder’ — a grudge or sense of entitlement. In 19th-century North America, when two men were in dispute, a chip of wood would be placed on the shoulder of one and the other would try to knock it off. Could also have been about the lower orders penchant for Pommes Frites
A boastful and self-important person; a strutting little fellow. If cockalorum suggests a crowing cock, that’s because cockalorum probably comes from kockeloeren – an obsolete Dutch dialect verb meaning “to crow”. Basically Mark Francois
A useless waste of space – a very hurtful 15th century insult. Cumber was a verb that originally meant “to destroy’ or ‘to burden’. So a cumber-world is a person who hinders the world without any useful purpose. As in ”Where’s that Cumberword Grayling these days, we’ve a Commons Select Committee to fob off with him!”
‘My ambition silicon chip has been programmed to try to scramble up this cursus honorum, this ladder of things.’ On political ambition. Desert Island Discs, Radio 4, October 30, 2005.
Noun: the ascending order of public offices; from Latin ‘course of honours’. A posh way of saying ‘Climbing The Greasy Pole’ although that phrase has negative connotations in the Dorms of Eton.
A nincompoop. Derived from the name of a 13th century scholar named Nicolas d’Orbellis. He was a supporter of the much-derided philosopher John Duns Scotus, whose followers were the original “dunces”, it will be noted that the nickname ‘Scotuses’ didn’t take off.
‘She was blonde. She was beautiful… And she had just overtaken me… I wasn’t having it. If there is one thing calculated to make the testosterone slosh in your ears like the echoing sea… it’s being treated as though you were an old woman by a young woman… The whole endocrine orchestra said: ‘Go. Take.’ On driving an Alfa Romeo. From his book Life In The Fast Lane, 2007.
Noun. The endocrine glands produce hormones. In other word ‘It gives me the Horn!’
Someone with a mania for holding public office. It’s from Spanish and is a combination of empleo (employment or public office) and mania. It is curable and can be treated by a General Election
‘When you hear Matthew Pinsent speaking, you feel your littleness. What are we politicians and journalists? Just… epiphytes upon our national culture.’ On the Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent. From his book Friends, Voters, Countrymen, 2001.
Noun. A plant that grows on another plant. Translates as “I’m a bit of a weed’
An old fogy or someone who is behind the times. Vanity Fair novelist William Makepeace Thackeray ,cos we’ve all read that, is thought to have used it first and it derives from “foozle”, meaning to waste one’s time. Desmond Swain is a good example.
One of Shakespeare’s best put-downs, coined in Henry IV, Part 2: “Away, you scullion! You rampallion! You fustilarian!” Falstaff exclaims. Describes someone who wastes time on worthless things. See Chris Grayling for a full, in depth explanation.
A tall, ungainly or awkward person. Emerged in the late 16th century from Scottish and northern English dialects. The insult is usually applied to a woman – from gammer short for grandmother and stang meaning “pole or stake”. Just imagine Theresa May in Ill fitting stilettos dancing to Abba.
‘You feel as if your buttocks have been suddenly clamped by the leather seat… My face was being pushed back into a gibbering rictus as the G-forces kicked in…’ On the experience of driving extremely fast. From Life In The Fast Lane, 2007.
Noun. open-mouthed with fear. In other words his ringpiece was puckering. Gobsmacked.
Whinger – An 18th century northern English word for someone who is always complaining. Like the Proletarian scum!
A clownish, slovenly person. Came into English usage from 15th century German, as grob means rough, coarse or vulgar.
‘You don’t know about Guppygate and you don’t care? Good. Let’s leave it at that. It is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.’
On being quizzed over a secretly recorded plot in 1990 to supply a fellow Old Etonian, convicted fraudster Darius Guppy, with the contact details of a journalist so he could have him beaten up. Friends, Voters, Countrymen, 2001. In other words conspiring to beat up a journal is fine, we’ve all been there, no one cares.
A corrupt or scheming politician. In 19th century English a highbinder was a ruffian or gang member. In America it was used to describe gangs and secret societies and by 1890 had come to mean an unscrupulous or lying politician. Pot calling the kettle black there Bojo.
‘Deep down, because of some peculiarity in our psyche, we think it rather admirable to get bladdered, leathered, rat-arsed and otherwise hogwhimpering drunk.’ On the attitude of the British to alcohol. Daily Telegraph, August 11, 2005.
Adjective: extreme drunkenness; from American English, ‘enough alcohol to make a hog whimper’. Maybe he picked this one up as an infant in New Yoik. Pissed as a cart.
‘Somewhere in my endocrine system something gave a little squirt — adrenal gland, pituitary, hypothalamus, and pow, I could feel myself being transformed from this shy, spotty, swotty nerd.’ On hearing the 1981 Rolling Stones song Start Me Up as a teen. From his book The Spirit Of London, 2012.
Noun. Part of the brain that stimulates sex drive via the endocrine system and pituitary gland. Another poncy way of saying it gives him the Horn.
‘The chap always says, ‘I am now going to call upon soand-so to say a few words’, and then for an anarchic moment you think, which words shall I say — Hottentot? Axolotl? Carminative? — and how few can I get away with?’ Boast about his speech-making. Friends, Voters, Countrymen, 2001.
Noun. Term used by the Dutch in the 17th century to refer to the Khoikoi, a nomadic tribe in Southern Africa. Axolotl, noun: nearextinct amphibian found in Mexico. Carminative, adjective/noun: drug that relieves flatulence; from the Latin carminativum, a herb used to cure wind. Basically he thinks he can say what he likes because he’s clever and the audience aren’t.
‘Nothing excites compassion, in friend and foe alike, as much as the sight of you ker-splonked on the Tarmac with your propeller buried six feet under.’ After he was fired from the Tory front bench for lying about his affair with Petronella Wyatt. Daily Telegraph, December 2, 2004.
Borisism, verb. Humiliated; variation of ‘kerplunk’, the thud of something landing; also a game. ‘Crashed and Burned’ in other words
A clumsy fellow. Another obsolete term from the 16th century, derived from knuckle-bone, also the root of the term knucklehead.
Rogue or scoundrel. A 15th century insult which could come from the Middle English lodder, meaning beggar.
‘A woman was sitting opposite me in a state of some dishevelment. She was extremely good-looking and had a tattoo of a butterfly on her bosom, but she was pretty far gone. Not since Pentheus was ripped limb from limb by the Maenads have we seen such drink-fuelled aggression from the female sex.’ Criticising Labour plans to liberalise drinking laws, after he was threatened in a pub in Carlisle. Daily Telegraph, August 11, 2005.
Noun. Drunken woman; Maenad, ‘raving one’, from Greek mainesthai ‘to rave’; Maenads were the female followers of Dionysus, the Ancient Greek god of wine. They would get into a state of ecstatic frenzy from drinking alcohol. Also popular in Carlisle apparently.
A stammering or blundering fool. The noun derives from the verb maffle, a regional term in Scotland and England meaning “to stammer; to speak indistinctly, or mumble”.
A Little man. A mandrake is a plant said to resemble a tiny person and mymmerkin is a derivation of the ancient word mannikin and means a small man. The majority of the current Cabinet could be described as such.
A political turncoat. Fans of Harry Potter will be familiar with it as one of Professor Dumbledore’s titles of Supreme Mugwump – and it is also the name of a reptilian alien species in William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. Backtracking Boris later claimed he learned it from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – except children’s author Roald Dahl actually used it in The Twits…for a Monkey.
‘I’m like a greased panther, a coiled spring.’ Joking about taking part in a charity England v Germany football match. His performance included barging headfirst into a German player’s stomach. Sky News, May 3, 2006.
Poule de luxe
‘I twanged the Winged Victory… as one might twang a tentative bra strap. Was there any of us who would not be affected by the beauty of the burred walnut fascia, the white leather seats as soft as the purse of some Saudi poule de luxe?’ On driving a Rolls-Royce. Life In The Fast Lane, 2007.
Noun. French poule ‘hen’, slang for prostitute; poule de luxe, expensive prostitute. He really does get horny around cars doesn’t he!
Reincarnated as an olive
‘My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.’ The Independent, 2004. Well that happened.
‘I mildly sandpapered something somebody said.’ On making up a quote about Edward II for an article in The Times in 1988. The Andrew Marr Show, BBC One, March 4, 2013.
Verb. To smooth over. Or in English, make up, lie.
Probably derived from scopperloit, an old English dialect word for a vacation or a break from work, a scobberlotcher is someone who never works hard. Well we all know someone who fits this one!
A bore you keep close because he has money. Poet and playwright Ben Jonson used the phrase in the 17th century to mean an unwelcome companion tolerated because he pays the “shot” (i.e. the bill). Rishi Sunak etc.
A shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politician. It first appeared in a newspaper in Kentucky in the US in 1846 but could have come from the German phrase schnelle geister or “quick spirit”.
‘The world ought not to be run by swankpot journalists, showing off and kicking politicians around…’ On why he entered politics. Friends, Voters, Countrymen, 2001.
Borisism. To ‘swank’ can mean to behave ostentatiously. As in earning more than a Prime Minister’s salary in order to pay for a Nanny. Tosspot.
‘My realistic chances of becoming Prime Minister are only slightly better than my chances of being decapitated by a Frisbee, blinded by a champagne cork, locked in a disused fridge… I’m 47 now. I hear the thrumming roar of young men in a hurry. And young women, obviously.’ Hay Literary Festival, June 3, 2012.
Verb. Continuous rhythmic humming sound.
Someone offering advice or opinions beyond their sphere of knowledge. In ancient myth an artist called Apelles heard a shoemaker criticising the way he’d painted a foot. Apelles made a cutting retort that the craftsman should only judge things he knew about and shouldn’t go “beyond the sole” – which is “ultra crepidam” in Latin. A Gobshite.
Used to communicate the intention for specific and targeted actions to combat Covid-19 instead of Lockdown.
A child’s vintage game where randomised moles appear to be whacked by said child in a specific and targeted sequence. Apparently the Proles like a catchphrase rather than basic English.
‘It would be wonderful if people were attracted by the cradle of civilisation, the ziggurats at Ur and the hanging gardens of Babylon.’ Sarcastically calling for the return of tourism to Iraq in a Westminster Hall debate. May 26, 2004.
Noun. Ancient temple built in what is modern-day Iraq.
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