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.

Unexciting Book News

Back in February I announced the forthcoming book Mr Key’s Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives. You lot have no doubt been panting with spittle-flecked anticipation ever since, impatiently awaiting the day when you can sashay into your nearest bookshop and buy dozens of copies for family, friends, and semiliterate hobbledehoys you encounter in the queue at the soup kitchen.

Alas! What with one thing and another, unbeknown to me, Constable have decided to postpone publication until September 2015. To ensure that your Christmas is not thereby ruined, I will try my best to issue a brand new Lulu paperback for the festive season. Watch this space.

On Wings Of Pod

A new Hooting Yard podcast is now available from ResonanceFM:

On Wings Of Song

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A Clerihew

A little belated, but here is a topical clerihew:

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
Was a columnist of some renown
But it was a TV appearance, rather than something she wrote,
That prompted Michael Fabricant to want to punch her in the throat.

Summer Recess

In correspondence received the other day, one of my readers described the eerie Hooting Yard silence as a “summer recess”. This is a splendid way to think about what otherwise might be considered the alarming emptiness in my bonce. So a quasi-official summer recess it is, punctuated by the occasional brief spot of blather.

Meanwhile, you can go and read about Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich & Wynken, Blynken & Nod in The Dabbler, and you can hear the great Norm Sherman reading A Weekend With An Owl God on the latest Drabblecast. As Norm says, if you don’t love Frank Key, you don’t know what love is …

Pigs (And Plums)

I am indebted to Richard Carter for drawing to my attention this snapshot from the Tweeting account of Andrew Ray (@Some_landscapes). Mr Ray has been reading News from the English Countryside 1750-1850 compiled by Clifford Morsley:


Perking Up

It is rare for an entire fortnight to pass in complete silence here at Hooting Yard, but that is what has happened. It is a sorry state of affairs and I cannot blame it entirely on the aforementioned loss of my mojo. Clearly what is needed is for me to PERK UP. To this end, I have been working my way through a self-help regime entitled PERKING UP. I will not go into the details of what this consists of, as I do not want you lot to be overcome with waves of nausea, spiritual despair, and the withers. Suffice to say that I went to the nearest grocery kiosk and obtained a supply of plums, and on my way home I walked widdershins around the kirk several times. More than that I had best not say, for the time being.

While my PERKING UP begins to take hold, there are a couple of small matters to bring to your attention. First is the dearth of memorable utterances thus far from the commentators at the foopball World Cup. I had hoped to bring you a torrent of inanities, but alas there is little to report. Perhaps worth noting was one pundit’s observation that “He’s a very talented foopballer – he knows where the goal is”. But really the tournament has been something of a disappointed to date, with nothing to match such past gems as “For a moment there, he looked like a baby gazelle who’d just plopped out of the womb”.

Second, I am delighted to draw to your attention this newly-released podcast from Resonance104.4FM. Originally broadcast over two years ago, but none the worse for that.

King Jasper’s Castle, Its Electrical Wiring System, Its Janitor, And Its Chatelaine

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Wellbeloved Gutters

Meet me at midday at Wellbeloved Gutters, and we can swap dogs and consider the drainage.

Did I want to exchange Rags for Scamp? It did not seem as if I had a choice in the matter. It was not that I had any affection for Rags, he was flea-ridden and sick and dishevelled, but he was my Rags. Lord knows I had little else to call my own, certainly nothing else living and wheezing.

I used to have my own cart, on wheels, but it toppled down a slope and fell to bits at the bottom. I was distracted for a mere moment, by a bittern, or was it a plover?, but a mere moment was enough for me to let go of the handle of the cart and for its subsequent ruination. Then I was a man without a cart. Shortly afterwards, I obtained Rags, by accident, outside a milk bar. The dog attached itself to me. It followed me home, if you can call the wooden pallet in the shelter of the viaduct home.

I called it home, for a month or two, before fate swept me up and plopped me in a hotel. Rags had to stay outside, on a patch of ground near the car park. I fashioned a kennel for him out of bits of hardboard and nails. The patch was in the lee of one of the hotel’s huge forbidding windowless back walls. I know nothing of architecture, but it struck me as an unusually designed building. The innards were somewhere between palatial and gaudy. What a trick fate played to plop me there!

I tried to imagine Scamp – big, bounding, brisk, panting Scamp – sitting half-in, half-out of the kennel, eating from Rags’s bowl, in the shadow of the hotel. I tried and failed. So I went down to the lobby and asked for some notepaper and scribbled a reply.

I will meet you at midday at Wellbeloved Gutters. I am happy to consider the drainage. But a dog-swap is out of the question, for the time being.

I pressed a coin into the mitt of an urchin and sent him off to deliver my message. Then I obtained some bones and jelly and went out the back to feed Rags. His chain had been smashed to pieces, as if by a maniac’s axe. Untethered, Rags had fled. I returned to the lobby, slumped in an armchair next to a palm tree, and bunched my fists.

Later, torrential rain fell on Wellbeloved Gutters. The rain drained away as rapidly as it fell, for they are highly efficient gutters, probably the most efficient gutters in Pointy Town.

The Importance Of Scroggins

The importance of Scroggins lies in its custody. Not one cupboard, but two, are necessary, each fitted with a heavy padlock. The keys should differ from each other in minute yet decisive particulars and be kept secreted at the bottom of the garden, hanging from the branches of a pugton tree, disguised with tinsel or birdlime so that they appear to be organic growths upon the tree. The tree itself ought to be fenced off with railings, railings with spikes, spikes!, sharpened spikes. Only then can Scroggins be said to be held securely. If you wish to allow visiting times, make them at dead of night, in mist or fog, with full documentation. Have a dog, too, one that howls. Ignore the distant beating of drums. Drums are the playthings of toddlers.


Dabbler-3logo (1)

Over at The Dabbler you can read my exclusive World Cup 2014 preview, which is uncannily similar to my Euro 2012 Foopball Tournament preview of a couple of years back. I am hoping to bring you the best of the commentators’ startling insights (“How long is it since Ronaldo was marked by an anagram of himself?”) in the coming weeks.