Playing with words and meaning.

The Peterborough was a daily column in the Telegraph newspaper for best part of a century. it was almost always funny,  often knowing, and sometimes a bit saucy. One editor was asked where on earth such a column fitted in a newspaper known for its conservative – and Conservative – readership. He replied that he saw the column’s role as ‘the antidote to the rest of the paper.’ Certainly a respite from news of appalling events across the globe and nearer home.

Anecdotes were sent in by readers, or staff members – some of them were probably too good to be true, but they were included anyway. I recently came across a collection of ‘editor’s favourites’ and decided to share a few of the ones that, as well as perhaps making you smile, also illustrate what a wonderfully playful language English is. The French may have fancy descriptions – ‘jeu de mots’ and ‘double-entendre,’ for example – but their language can’t beat ours for sheer exuberance and humour, intentional or otherwise.

Here are a few of my favourites from this collection:

bikini topAdvertisement in a shop in Hawaii selling beachwear: You will never find better or more exciting bikinis than ours – they are simply the tops!

The house in a Scottish beauty spot offering: Bed and Breakfast with Local Honey.

The advert for a: collapsible bed – ideal for guests.

Under a poster outside a community hall there was an advert for a talk: Baldness – is there a cure? Under which someone had scrawled: No. Prepare to meet thy dome.

And in the local library there was another poster: Ecumenism means getting to know the opposite sects.

A rural council handout on the threat of sheep scab was headed: Mite Bite Might Bight Sheep.

This is from the short history of a boys preparatory school in which the music teacher said his favourite instrument was the viola, because so few boys played it.

Notice in an English public house: Don’t drink if you are driving – there is no cure for the mourning after.

A dentist with a sense of humour? Sign outside the building: Dental Surgeon 2th Floor.    dictionary

And finally, for the writers among you: “Your typing is very neat,” the office manager was overheard telling the new typist. “But you should use the office dictionary any time you are in doubt about a spelling.” “That wouldn’t work,” she replied. “I’m never in any doubt.” Ah, such connfidence!


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