Origins Of Innit

One of the more distressing verbal infelicities committed by young persons nowadays is the strewing of their utterances with “innit”, as in “I was like oh my god innit”. My chief objection is that it is almost always ungrammatical. It used to be the case that “innit” was a truncation of “isn’t it?”, but if you listen carefully to teen persons, their “innit”s can rarely be construed as such.

The changing fads and fashions of teensprache are a mystery, at least to me, for I have not studied these matters properly. But I think I have stumbled upon the reason why “innit” has become so ubiquitous. Last night, I watched a snippet of BBC4’s John Lennon Night, an edition of Top Of The Pops 2 (recorded some years ago, I think) in which Yoko Ono did little introductory pieces to camera for a selection of songs by her bespectacled Liverpudlian husband. The programme began with Yoko saying:

“We didn’t think [Give Peace A Chance] would be a big song, but it is, innit?”

Yoko was, of course, using “innit” in a grammatically correct manner, but I am convinced that a generation of young persons heard this when it was originally broadcast and, bowled over by the Beatle relict’s verbal flourish, duly began to imitate her on any and every occasion.

I am thus forced to revise my view of “innit” and will henceforth say a little prayer for world peace and a wish for no possessions whenever I overhear it.

Poetry Masterclass

Warning by Jenny Joseph is, apparently, Britain’s best-loved postwar poem. It is said to be “life-affirming”. Pah! Who needs life to be affirmed when, as Dr Malcolm said, and as we all know, “life will find a way”? Anyway, let’s take a look at the poem, shall we?

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

Well, I am not a woman, but I am old, and I’m not wearing purple. I am not Erik Satie, for god’s sake.

With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.

The only people who habitually wear red hats are cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. At the time of writing, women, whether old or young, are not allowed to become priests, let alone cardinals, so there is some kind of cognitive dissonance going on here.

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves / And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.

This demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of Bismarck’s domestic policy in late 19th century Germany. It was guns before butter, not brandy and gloves and footwear. What sort of nation state can you expect to build if everybody totters around in a stupor brought on by spiritous liquor, decked out like the most foolish of New Romantics?

I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired

Actually, that’s fair enough. So that line can stand. But only that one, so far.

And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells / And run my stick along the public railings / And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

No you bloody well won’t, because you’re slumped on the pavement, or preferably in the gutter, remember? You’re far too tired to get up and start charging around the place as described here, because your tiny brain is exhausted from all that catch-up reading you’ve had to do to correct your misunderstanding of German history.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain / And pick flowers in other people’s gardens /And learn to spit.

Nobody learns to spit. You just spit. In any case, whether learned or innate, if you spit and steal you will get an Asbo, and so you should. Carry on, and you’ll be banged up in a large concrete building with iron bars on the windows and made to sew mailbags until you die, whereupon you’ll be buried in an unmarked grave over which quicklime will be poured to hasten your dissolution. (I may have an outmoded view of prison conditions, but a man can dream.)

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat

Oh, so all of a sudden this is about me? It’s all very well casting aspersions upon my majestic dress sense etcetera from behind prison walls, but I’m not the one forced to wear a rough sackcloth uniform covered in arrows and withering away on a bread and water diet. (See above re: prison conditions.)

And eat three pounds of sausages at a go

Yes, thank you, I will eat as many sausages as I like. That line can stand.

Or only bread and pickle for a week

You don’t understand German history, and you don’t listen. I have no idea where you get the idea there might be pickles on the menu. See above – bread and water, not bread and pickle.

And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

Stationery is fine, but you won’t need a beermat for your rusty beaker of water, and what in heaven’s name are these “things” in boxes? Lovecraftian monsters with suckers and antennae? You’ve got another thing coming if you think they’ll stay happily boxed up. As soon as you turn your back they will burst from their confines and latch on to your throat and drain the lifeblood from you, what’s left of it. And they will make an absolutely terrifying noise while they do so.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry / And pay our rent and not swear in the street / And set a good example for the children.

Pure wishful thinking, given that you are sprawled on the cold stone floor of your prison cell with a hideous alien being that defies all known organic lineaments wrapped around your neck sucking your blood and slowly, slowly crushing the last breath out of you.

We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

By “the papers” I assume you mean those academic papers about Bismarck that you ought to have been reading when you still had the chance. Too late, too late.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?


So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised / When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Yeah, yeah, and I’m Erik Satie. Get a grip, for god’s sake.

Thus we are left with two lines of clarity from all this delusional twaddle:

I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired / And eat three pounds of sausages at a go

And that can be cut to make it more punchy:

I shall sit down  / And eat sausages

Now that is a poem the nation can be proud of!

Ticking Off Hitchens

I do not often contribute to the Comments threads on blogs. Whether this is a character flaw or a virtue I am not sure. Probably it is sheer idleness. However, up bright and early this morning I turned to Peter Hitchens’ latest postage over at the Mail Online, and came upon this sentence:

Seeing several of [Mary Renault’s] books at bargain prices, I stuffed them in my backpack and began reading (as it happened) ‘The King Must Die’ as I waited for a delayed train on a country platform.

I could not let this pass without comment. So I commented:

Mr Hitchens : I really must take issue with your use of the word “backpack”. It ill becomes you. “Backpack” is a barbaric neologism used by young persons, often those on so-called “gap years”. In future, please ensure you use one of the three – yes, three! – acceptable alternatives, “rucksack”, “haversack”, or – my personal preference – “knapsack”.

These words of wisdom are awaiting moderation, but I hope to see them appear soon. Peter Hitchens is one of the few mainstream press bloggers who engages fully, indeed robustly, with his readers, so I also hope to see his grovelling mea culpa before too long.

Wond’ring Aloud

As I lumber about this world of ours, by turns perky and despondent, I often find myself wondering if it would be possible to enjoy all the comforts of twenty-first century western civilisation were I to be uprooted and cast, by some inexplicable agency, to live out the rest of my days on one of those far distant giant gas planets.

Probably not.

What News Of Moptops?

It has long been my conviction that newspapers in this age o’ pap ‘n’ barbarism are written and edited by numbskulls, dimwits, airheads and know-noughts. The sort of people who think “prima donna” is spelled, and means, “pre-Madonna” and who are indeed wholly ignorant of almost everything that happened before about 1985.

Here is a picture of Ringo Starr. I need not explain to Hooting Yard readers who he is.


Ringo was visiting the Chelsea Flower Show this week. A snap appeared in the Telegraph. The caption? “Ringo Starr, the narrator of Thomas the Tank Engine, with his wife Barbara Bach at the Chelsea Flower Show 2010.” [My italics.]

Cruel it may be, but one is tempted to force these nitwits to listen to “Octopus’s Garden” over and over and over again, until the cows come home.

Almost A Quiz

In a whimsical moment, I wanted to set a quiz in which readers were challenged to identify a quotation. But one drawback of what in Flemish is known as het internet is that pretty much any phrase can be tippy-tapped into Google and instantly (or within 1.7536284 seconds), there is the source blazoned upon your screen. It is all very well pleading with you not to cheat, but the fact that you can discover the answer for yourself after whatever brain-wracking time you choose to allow inevitably puts a dampener on things.

Anyway, my not-quite-a-quiz is as follows:

Who wrote ” I am you. Yes, you – that whole great majestically startling mentally epic burning model of heaven.”?

The first time I read that string of adjectives I gasped with glee.

ADDENDUM : “His eyes are bulging like the belly of a hungry chaffinch!” Do, please, follow the link provided by Outa_Spaceman in the Comments.

Bile Möp Kit

As I write, the result of the general election has been confirmed as a hung parliament, and it is not yet clear who will form the government. While pundits babble, let us take pause, and note that 6 May 2010 will go down in history, or at least in the Hooting Yard Book o’ Days (which amounts to the same thing) as the day Lembit Öpik lost his seat. Note that umlaut!

But as we hang our heads, and weep, remember that every cloud has a silver lining. Mr Öpik is now free to concentrate on other things, and I fully expect him to pursue a glittering media career. In a few weeks time, we will be unable to turn on a television or radio or i-hub without seeing the Estonian Anagram (bile möp kit?) presenting, for example, “The Lembit Öpik Meteorite Collision Show, With Russian Bimbos!”


On yesterday’s radio show I played the Hooting Yard Chant, in a simple version for two voices. It has now been given an audio going-over by Outa_Spaceman, and sounds quite formidable. Put it on repeat and use it as the soundtrack to your day.

Hooting Yard! Hooting Yard! Ha-ha and gazebo! We will vanquish all our foes! Where have all the flowers gone? Hooting! Hooting Yard!


A Solemn Promise

The calling of a general election means that for the next month the ether will be clogged with a miasma of vacuous twaddle. This sceptred isle will ring with the outpourings of brain-dead pointyheads and vox pop riffraff alike. And I shall lap it all up, with the enthusiasm of a cat pouncing upon an injured starling.

But but but. Much as Hooting Yard readers may faint with pleasure at mentions of cow-attack Blunkett and diminutive Great Helmswoman Blears and those curious little Milibands, I have been asked to make a solemn promise not to babble about such tosh. This means that you will be deprived of thirty-odd days of a Hooting Yard Election Watch, unless of course I crack.

Apparently, if I do crack, and break my vow, and start bloviating on matters electoral, I am likely to find myself in a similar position to this hapless peasant:


… which is a reminder to readers with more money than sense to take part in the auction.


Much cause for cheer and wassail today, as we celebrate Rolf Harris’ eightieth birthday, or Rolfmas. As far as I recall I have never written extensively about the cultural phenomenon that is this beardy – and now octogenarian – Antipodean, but one day I shall, when my poor prose is sufficiently boosted to address it properly.


Disastrous Mezzotint

Upon waking this morning, my first thoughts, as ever on this date, were of the Munich Air Disaster. Having sloshed ice-cold water on my head to dispel the pangs of loss, I then happened to read an interesting piece about mezzotints, which I recommend. Weirdly, it fails to mention the noted mezzotintist Rex Tint, but you can rely on me to make good that omission. For what I recalled, over my cornflakes ‘n’ egg à la Blavatsky, was that in the early months of 1958 Rex Tint was busy with what came to be known as “the cack-handed mezzotints”. This was a set of pieces which lack the sureness of touch and the dapper brilliance of his best work, but are nevertheless of interest, no piece more so than this rather clumsy mezzotint of the Busby Babes. So on this day, let us remember them, and remember too Rex Tint, who lost his mojo, whatever that might be, over half a century ago.