Word Of The Day : Mop

Word of the day : Mop.

Mop is the technical term for the stuff that grows on top of a Beatle, hence moptop, as in the illustrative phrase “four loveable moptops who conquered the world”. There are other meanings of mop, both as noun and verb, but you know what?, I think I have already told you about them, out of turn, when I was meant to be telling you about the word glue, as well as boggle and clunk, none of which words I was able to give proper attention to because of a flurry of correspondence from pesky reader Wlad Onanugu. See previous Word Of The Day entries to relive the full horror.

Speaking of Mr Onanugu, he has sent me yet another letter. It arrived while I was writing the above paragraph. Here is what he has to say for himself:

Dear Mr Key : Why are you telling us about mop when you said you were going to tell us instead about nap? Also, if I am keeping proper track of things, were you not meant to be telling us about pencil? I have a few further questions for you regarding parp – as well as toot and hooter and tots – but I need to marshal my thoughts very carefully before putting pencil to cardboard torn from a packet of breakfast cereal.

I confess myself utterly befuddled by Mr Onanugu’s ability to know what I am writing about before I have posted it here at Hooting Yard. The awful, terrifying thought occurs to me that he might be some sort of phantasmal being whose only existence is inside my skull, an emanation of the brain brought on by god knows what.

At times like these it can be helpful to slosh out the ears by listening to a few Beatles hits. By the way, if you are not clear what a Beatle is, you will find several references to them elsewhere on Het Internet. One word of warning : if your source of Beatle lore is the pronouncements on the subject by the late Kenneth Williams, please note that “that Beatle who married an Asiatic woman” was not, as Williams has it, Ringo Starr.

Wild Is The Wind

Like the leaf clings to the tree, oh! my darling cling to me, for we are like creatures of the wind, and wild is the wind! Wild is the wind! Wild it is! As wild as the wind in The Wind starring Lillian Gish. This wild wind howls across the desolate tarputa, so you must cling to me, my darling, and I must cling to these railings, and our clingings, yours to me and mine to the railings, will prevent us being blown away, like specks of dust in the wild wind.

I cling to the railings surrounding the huge cement hollyhock that is the only landmark for miles and miles across the desolate tarputa. It is the work of the noted cement hollyhockist Sidney Hock, though the railings are municipal. When unveiled, so many moons ago, it was painted, all green and pink and crimson, with emulsion, but the relentless wild wind has stripped it of its paint and now it is a bare cement hollyhock towering on the tarputa, a handy landmark where such as we can arrange our assignations. For we are like creatures of the wind.

Sidney Hock placed other cement hollyhocks in other locations, but this one is his masterpiece. That is why it is protected by railings. They are stout and strong, the railings, the better to withstand the wild wind. I cling to them now, as you cling to me, as the wind roars. We cannot hear each other speak, but what use is speech?

The cement hollyhockist was himself a mute, by dint of some unfathomable hysteric blot upon his brain. From the age of ten, after a picnic, not a word was heard from his mouth. He had a great feeling for the tarputa, for its desolation, for the wild wind that roars across it, flattening everything except the enormous cement hollyhock which looms above us as we cling. Here we can conduct our assignations safe from the prim and priggish villagers in their broad-brimmed hats and black frock-coats. We shall not skulk in alleyways and shadow. Out here on the tarputa, in the howling wind, we cling, me to the railings and you to me, like the leaf clings to the tree.

World Of Interiors

I don’t believe any one of you would like to live in a room with a murdered man in the cupboard, however well preserved chemically:- even with a sunflower growing out at the top of a head.

John Ruskin, Fors Clavigera, Vol. II, August 1871

Going Forward

Going forward, should Hooting Yard strive to be more


A couple of nights ago I had a dream in which the protagonist was Lucas Sudja. I had – and have – absolutely no idea who Mr Sudja is, or was, and so, with my finger pressed firmly on the 21st century vacuum o’ vapidity – sorry, I mean zeitgeist – I took to Facecloth to find out.


I was amused by those replies where my respondents shared their own dreams, but more pertinent to this post was Marina Organ’s question whether I had Googled Lucas Sudja, and my reply. It was only when the question was put to me that I thought about the possibility of GoogleNod – a vast archive cataloguing all that is contained, not in the “real” world, but in the world of dreams.

The content of GoogleNod would of course be utterly different to the stuff we find on its parent search engine. Utterly different, but somehow, tangentially, familiar. Lucas Sudja would be there, along with the tribunal of Henry Cow-baiting Irish Maoists, indie band The Fresco Runes, Dave Brock’s handmade wardrobe, and a myriad of other shimmering phantasms from the Land of Nod.

GoogleNod would simply collect the material, certainly make no attempt to “interpret” it. That fool’s errand can be left to the man Vladimir Nabokov called “the Viennese quack” and his increasingly preposterous acolytes. It matters not what Lucas Sudja portends. What matters – if any of it matters at all – is that he now exists, however faint and fugitive, because I dreamed him.

Further Astonishment

In my post yesterday on Christina the Astonishing, I said that I would be doing further research. In the Comments, Mary O’Grady helpfully led me to the entry on this orphaned Belgian peasant in Butler’s Lives Of The Saints, and I have also been consulting any number of Catholic websites. Those of you who do not have time to devote to such devotional devotion, and would prefer the simpler option of watching a brief video, are referred to Busted Halo (“an online magazine for spiritual seekers”) where you can watch an episode of my new favourite show, Father Steve’s Spooky Saints. Dig that crazy Catholic animation, daddy-o!


Saint Christina the Astonishing sitting in a tree to escape the stench of sin

Word Of The Day : Glue

Word of the day : Glue.

Today I want to look at the word glue. I also want to take the opportunity to mop up the two earlier words of the day I have not yet had a chance to examine, boggle and clunk. Mop, incidentally, is a fine word in itself, so let us pencil that in for tomorrow. And while we are about it, let us pencil in pencil for the day after tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have received yet another letter from Wlad Onanugu. I presume it is another bit of wittering about parp. I cannot say for sure, because – with iron in my soul – I have thus far made a titanic effort not to open it, and thus have not yet read it. Perhaps I never will. I might shove it, unopened, into my wastepaper basket, from whence it will be tipped along with all sorts of other papery detritus, into a great roaring furnace, when I have located such a furnace.

I ought to make it clear that it is not my habit to treat all correspondence from readers so shamefully. Usually, I pore over your letters, rereading them a couple of times, until I have winkled from them every last drop of whatever it is they contain – wisdom, wit, top tips, a scattering of breadcrumbs – and then I chew the end of my pencil before scribbling a response. If you take the trouble to write, I ought to take the trouble to reply. So I have terrible misgivings about Mr Onanugu’s latest missive. But quite honestly, if I have to bang on about parp yet again, this series is never going to get anywhere.

After I wrote that paragraph, my terrible misgivings got the better of me, and I decided after all to open, and read, Mr Onanugu’s letter. If it turned out to be all about parp again – and toot and hooter and tots – then so be it. I would frame a response which, I hoped, would dissuade my pesky correspondent from ever putting pencil to paper again for so long as he lived.

As I reached across my desk for the letter, however, I knocked over an opened can of Squelcho!, from which I had taken only a single dainty glug, with the result that I ended up with a puddle of fizzy luminous highly-coloured chemically-enhanced liquid on the floor. I was not entirely sure how high its acidic content was, but I feared it might start eating through the floorboards, like the blood of the alien in Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979). So at once I fetched a mop to mop it up. See what a great word mop is? It is both a noun and a verb. One mops with a mop. And I won’t even begin to talk about Beatle-hair!

Anyway, I was so exhausted after my mopping (with a mop!) that I had to go and take a nap. Which means that I will have to set aside boggle and clunk and glue for another day. On a more positive note, it could be argued that I have already composed an illustrative sentence for tomorrow’s word of the day, mop. Perhaps I can substitute nap for mop, tomorrow. Wait and see.


I was intrigued by this snippet in the diary column of the Guardian. Yesterday, we were told, was

the feast day of Christina the Astonishing, a 12th century Belgian saint who could fly and occasionally lived in holes, ovens, and ponds while preaching.

Clearly I am going to have to do further research, and when I have, I will let you lot know what I have discovered.

Word Of The Day : Clunk

Word of the day : Clunk.

I had hoped, today, to deal with the word clunk, as well as catching up with yesterday’s word, boggle, which as you recall had to be postponed while I addressed further matters regarding parp. Alas, I am diverted from my proper course by another letter from Wlad Onanugu. This time he writes:

Dear Mr Key, I was touched by your thoughtfulness in recommending to me further reading on the knotty problem of parp and toot and hooter and tots, et cetera. Indeed, I was so touched that I am afraid to say I let a few tears run down my cheeks. My weeping and snuffling soon ceased, however, when the significance of those parenthetical words “(out of print)” appended to the recommended title sank in. Sure enough, as I trudged around the bookselling kiosks of the dilapidated seaside resort where I live, I discovered that this Dobson pamphlet was completely unavailable. I was met with blank stares, looks of incredulity, a pitying pat on the head, and, by one particularly apoplectic bookseller, the threat of his slavering, sharp-fanged guard dog.

Eventually, at a jumble sale at the local self-esteem ‘n’ diversity awareness hub, my rummaging did unearth a pamphlet by Dobson. A glance at the Gestetnered cover, however, revealed that it was devoted to a wholly different topic. The title was Several Potentates Of The Ancient World With Collapsed Lungs & Their Concubines (out of print). I bought it anyway, for tuppence, and took it home hoping that perhaps the pamphleteer might have a passing word to say somewhere about the whole parp toot hooter tots business.

Arriving home, I snapped open a refreshing can of Squelcho!, plopped myself down in my armchair, and began to read. Shortly thereafter, I was weeping again, but this time from brain-jangling frustration. The pamphlet seemed to me the most utter poppycock, and try as I might I could wring no sense from it whatsoever. If this is a typical example of Dobson’s work, I am feeling quite relieved that I did not continue my search for the pamphlet you recommended. Please send me a postal order for tuppence as compensation.

I am sorry that Mr Onanugu found Dobson’s prose intractable. There is a possibility, however, that he may well have stumbled upon a copy of the notorious “rogue” edition of Several Potentates Of The Ancient World With Collapsed Lungs & Their Concubines. This was the one where the original text – a model of shining clarity and Dobsonian oomph – was translated into Hungarian, and from Hungarian into Tagalog, and from Tagalog into Dog Latin, before being translated back into English. It was the work of the mischievous literary prankster Hector Nuisance.

Tomorrow I hope to crack on with boggle, and clunk, and tomorrow’s word of the day, glue.

Word Of The Day : Boggle

Word of the day : Boggle.

I am afraid that before we move on to boggle, we have unfinished business with yesterday’s word of the day, parp. Reader Wlad Onanugu writes :

Dear Wordmaestro, I am confused by your maunderings on the word parp. You say it is pretty much identical to toot, but then proceed, in your illustrative sentence, to refer to a hooter, rather than, as I might have expected, a tooter or parper. My mental chaos is compounded by the fact that you also make mention of tots, virtually the same word as toots, though entirely different in meaning. I looked forward to improving my word power with your new series. Instead I find myself quite dreadfully unhinged.

Mr Onanugu will find it helpful to consult Dobson’s pamphlet Parp. Toot, Hooter, Tooters, Parpers And Tots : A Complete Guide For The Bewildered (out of print). I have not read it myself, but am told it is almost, but not quite, “the greatest pamphlet ever written”.

Duvet’s Grave

Further to yesterday’s piece The Rotating Grave, I am indebted to David Cranmer for sending in this drawing of poor exhausted Duvet’s rotating horse-grave.


Word Of The Day : Parp

Word of the day : Parp.

Parp is a verb, pretty much identical to toot. Here is an illustrative sentence: In an apoplexy of rage, he parped his hooter. To act out this sentence, for example in a classroom full of tots, you will need a hooter. You should also smear your face with beetroot juice to give it that “purple with rage” look, and be able to boggle your eyes convincingly. Tomorrow we will consider the word Boggle.

The Rotating Grave

Rex Rotograv, the avant garde rotogravurist, left instructions in his will that he was to be buried in a rotating grave. Like William Beckford, the rich and eccentric author of Vathek (1786), he wrote the will in a ship’s cabin, on the hat of a valet. Unlike Beckford, Rotograv did not have his own valet, so, with the aid of his personal magnetism and the promise of a portrait in rotogravure, he commandeered a valet from a passenger berthed in a nobbier part of the ship. Also unlike Beckford, who died in his cabin sailing home from the West Indies, the rotogravurist survived his voyage, as, one hoped, he might, given that in his case the ship was a ferry plying the short distance between the Port of Tongs and Tantarabim, crossing the Great Sopping Wet River four times daily. Upon disembarking, Rotograv realised that he had neglected to produce the promised rotogravure for the valet.

He had already experimented with a rotating grave for one of his dead horses. Rotograv was fond of horses, and liked to go galloping along the clifftop paths of his bailiwick seeking scenic loveliness which he would then “interpret” in his avant garde rotogravures. His artistic skills far outstripped his capabilities as a husbander of horses, however, and the attrition rate was dreadful. Rotograv lost count of the dead horses he buried.

The idea for the rotating grave for the horse Duvet came to him in a dream. Duvet was still alive at the time, but died the very next day, when Rotograv was galloping along the cliffs to see the abandoned lime kilns at Loopy Copse. Poor exhausted Duvet perished from a baffling medical condition the like of which does not bear thinking about, and which you would not understand in any case unless you happened to be a tiptop expert in horse health, and even then you might scratch your head in wonderment.

Duvet’s grave was powered by a pneumatic contraption and did a full 360° rotation every five minutes. Oh, it fairly spun round and round!, disturbing many a mole and other burrowing creatures.

For his own grave, as described in detail with imperishable ink on the valet’s hat, Rotograv envisioned a variable speed of rotation, now fast, now slow, depending on the atmospherics above ground. It would be a stupendously complicated feat of subterranean engineering, but, he thought, and hoped, he had many years ahead of him to finesse the design.

He did not. The day after returning home from across the Great Sopping Wet River, an infuriated and bare-headed valet came rushing up to him in the street, demanding the avant garde rotogravure portrait he had been promised. A fight ensued. Rex Rotograv was unarmed, but the valet, as valets do, carried a stiletto. And so passed from this world a man unparalleled.

Ubiquitous Majors


From today’s Daily Telegraph. Thanks to Gareth Williams for bringing it to my attention.


My old man’s a dustman. He wears a dustman’s hat. Unless you are a dustman yourself – or a milliner – you may be unfamiliar with the dustman’s hat. I am neither a dustman nor a milliner, but I am wearing my old man’s hat as I write, so I know exactly what I am talking about.

Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili, the pockmarled, moustachioed Georgian, famously renamed himself Stalin, the Man of Steel. At the height of the Solidarity protests in Poland in the early 1980s, Lech Walesa was conflated with the Man of Iron of Andrej Wajda’s film of that title. Neither steel nor iron, my old man is a Man of Dust.

I said that he wears a dustman’s hat, but then contradicted myself by saying that I am wearing it. I ought to have said he wore a dustman’s hat, before I stole it from him and plopped it, at a decidedly non-rakish angle, on my own head. Just as I stole from him his cardigan and his tobacco pouch and his Italian-made and unexpectedly stylish Armando Del Foppo boots.

I hasten to add that the old man is not my father. I call him “my” old man because he is the latest in a series of old men I have abducted off the streets and chained up in my attic. I help myself to whatever they have about their person that takes my fancy, be it hat, cardigan, pouch and boots or, say, wig, dentures, walking stick and ear trumpet, and I commission Old Ma Popsicle to take up to them a bowl of gruel or milk slops once a day. But being old, my old men invariably die within a few days. I haul the corpses downstairs and into the garden and bury them in the flowerbeds under the Pointy Town moonlight. Old Ma Popsicle is sworn to silence. I know far too much about her past for her to blab to the coppers.