Monthly Archives: November 2012

Cute hoors and chocolate teapots


As if the government weren’t making a sufficient hames of everything it touches, the BBC, NHS and various regulatory bodies have all got in on the act in recent weeks.  As I explained in a post some time last year, to make a hames of something means to make a mess of it. The expression is derived from a particularly complicated harness used for plough horses. Everyone screws it up.

A cute hoor is another creative Irish expression. Cute means clever, and hoor means exactly what it says on the tin. A cute hoor is a rogue or a charlatan, someone who seems respectable and upright but who never misses a chance to rip you off. In Ireland it’s applied to everyone from cowboy builders, to bankers, politicians, tax evaders – the whole sorry bunch of them. Sound familiar? Stand up and take a bow Dennis McShane, Starbucks and many more too numerous, and possibly libellous, to name. In the Emerald Isle they tend to be lumped together as ‘the Cute Hoor Party.’

Somewhat to my consternation I can’t find a specific slang term for bank or bankers. The Irish seem content with the British rhyming slang, which I have to admit, works. So why change it? Though they have in a sense; at least there’s a derivative. In Ireland they call it an Allied Irish, after the well-known bank of that name.

I’m always surprised to find myself surprised at the goings on, not simply in parliament but in local government, corporations and governing bodies. Just when you think no one could make a bigger mess of things, they make a bigger mess of things.  As far as I’m concerned they’re a bunch of amadáns, utter eejits. To use an expression that comes from Waterford, my own neck of the woods, I’ve seen better heads in a field of grass. I mean what are they up to? They don’t seem to have the sense they were born with. As much use as lighthouse on a bog, or a chocolate teapot. They won’t stop till the whole economy is banjaxed, even more than it is already. It’s enough to have you reach for the black stuff and drink yourself stocious.


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Watch out, there’s a duck about

Ducks clip art

I once met a girl who was frightened of bananas.  She was the sort of girl that makes you clench your teeth being tiny, perfectly proportioned, exceedingly pretty and clever too. To add insult to injury – she was extremely nice. It was in our advanced French class. The third term. Most of us had followed the course for two terms and were getting there. Some spoke beautifully but were not too good at the grammar. Some had terrible accents but could express themselves like natives. Miss Perfect of course spoke and wrote like a Frenchwoman.

I can’t exactly remember why or how the subject of phobias came up.  One day during an exercise, the point of which I no longer remember, we had to go round the class in turn and tell everyone about things we were frightened of. Miss P, I’ll call her Annie, had us all open mouthed with astonishment when she said she was frightened of bananas.  I found that so endearing I completely changed my mind about her.

She was very convincing but I’m not sure everyone believed her. They should have done for there is indeed a known phobia. It’s called – you guessed it – bananaphobia. Bit disappointing really. You’d think they could have come up with a better name.  I don’t usually spend a lot of time thinking about phobias – but recently a fellow member of Toastmasters introduced the subject into his highly entertaining speech. Among the phobias he mentioned was – wait for it -anatidaephobia – a fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.

I love it. It conjures up wonderful images of ducks lurking behind curtains or peering out from behind trees. Ducks in raincoats with the collars turned up. Or ducking (sorry) behind the wet fish counter in Sainsburys to avoid detection.  I trawled the Internet. I found plenty of sites that listed anatidaephobia, many as if it were a real phobia. Sadly it isn’t – it comes from the talented Gary Larson’s cartoon series – The Far Side. I wish it had been real but I’m not surprised it’s made up. It’s rather reminiscent of the late, lamented James Thurber in its quirky humour.

For all the funny made-up phobias – anoraknophobia, for instance, of Wallace and Grommet fame – there are plenty of real phobias that strike most of us as amusing though I’m sure they are no joke to people who suffer from them. Imagine having ablutophobia and being scared to wash. Or unable to go to a party because of your globophobia, your fear of balloons.  Or risking scurvy because lachanophobia stopped you eating vegetables. With a summer like ours pity the poor people who fear rain, a condition known as ombrophobia. And I for one would be very sad indeed if my phobia was ailurophobia – because I love cats.

While there are plenty of real phobias, many of them extremely strange like fear of string or rooms or hands, it’s the made up ones that are the most hilarious. And they have the added advantage of not risking running the risk of upsetting genuine sufferers. Luposlipaphobia is another from the wonderful Gary Larson. –fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly waxed floor. But my favourite has to be the ducks. And for some unaccountable reason, the string.

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