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Vitamin Q: the book!

~ Sunday, October 26, 2003

US Secret Service presidential code names:

JFK - Lancer (Jackie was Lace)
LBJ - Volunteer (Lady Bird was Victoria)
Richard Nixon - Searchlight
Gerald Ford - Pass Key (Betty was Pinafore)
Jimmy Carter - Lock Master / Deacon (Rosalynn was Dancer)
Ronald Reagan - Rawhide (Nancy was Rainbow)
George Bush - Timberwolf (Barbara was Snowbank or Tranquility)
Bill Clinton - Eagle (Hillary was Evergreen and Chelsea Energy)
George W Bush - Tumbler / Trailblazer

Other code names have included:

Queen Elizabeth II - Kittyhawk
Prince Charles - Unicorn / Daily
Frank Sinatra - Napoleon
Henry Kissinger - Woodcutter
Pope John Paul II - Halo

Source: various

10 common annoying questions asked of sound engineers by fans during concerts:

1 How did you get this job?
2 Do you really know what all those knobs do?
3 How many "amps" do those speakers put out?
4 Are you the DJ?
5 How many knobs are there?
6 Hey, does it really have to be this loud?
7 I can't hear my boyfriend "the drummer" sing.
8 Do you do this for a living?
9 Hey, doesn't this thing get any louder?
10 Are they gonna play (insert name of hit song)?

Source: from
~ Monday, October 20, 2003

12 songs chosen by the BBC to represent famous books:

1 I Am the Resurrection - Stone Roses (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
2 Stupid Cupid - Connie Francis (Emma)
3 Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division (Captain Corelli's Mandolin)
4 Money's Too Tight to Mention - Simply Red (A Christmas Carol)
5 The Beautiful Ones - Suede (Brideshead Revisited)
6 Bad Girls - Donna Summer (Tess of the D'Urbervilles)
7 Uptown Girl - Billy Joel (Great Expectations)
8 Young Americans - David Bowie (The Great Gatsby)
9 House of Fun - Madness (Pride and Prejudice)
10 The Beautiful People - Marilyn Manson (Wuthering Heights)
11 Oh Happy Day! - Edwin Hawkins Singers (To Kill a Mockingbird)
12 Stuck In the Middle With You - Stealer's Wheel (Catch 22)

Source: background music from 'The Big Read' TV programme listing 'Britain's favourite novels'

24 nicknames for certain professions:

1 psychiatrist - shrink
2 author - scribbler
3 electrician - sparky
4 police officer - cop
5 office worker - pen-pusher
6 carpenter - chippy
7 dancer - hoofer
8 air steward - trolley dolly
9 doctor - quack
10 boxer - pug
11 sailor - tar
12 journalist - hack
13 pharmacist - pill-pusher
14 detective - gumshoe
15 artist - dauber
16 judge - wig
17 actor - luvvie
18 prison officer - screw
19 taxi driver - cabbie
20 doorman - bouncer
21 scientist - boffin
22 bus conductor - clippie
23 soldier - squaddie
24 magistrate - beak

In Scotland, we also have howdie (midwife), scaffie (dustman) and dominie (schoolmaster).
~ Sunday, October 19, 2003

Some unusually named fish found in the seas, rivers and lakes of the USA:

sarcastic fringehead / burrito grunt / chilipepper / spiny lumpsucker / frecklebelly madtom / warmouth / quillback carpsucker / shy filefish / johnny darter / convict tang / fat snook / tinsel squirrelfish / saucereye porgy / white crappie / high-hat / ballyhoo / smooth dreamer / hornyhead chub / puddingwife / river redhorse / lovely hatchetfish / northern hogsucker / pugjaw wormfish / horned whiff / butter hamlet / mimic shiner / pumpkinseed / brown Irish lord / Gosline's fangblenny / chocolate dip damselfish / penpoint gunnel / slippery dick / javelin spookfish / decorated warbonnet / Simony's frostfish / windowpane / fluffy sculpin / spinycheek sleeper / hogchoker / shovelnose guitarfish / California sheephead / tiger musky / sailor's choice / monkeyface prickleback

Source: various
~ Saturday, October 18, 2003

Some fictional UK / Irish villages from literature, films, TV:

1 Tannochbrae (TV's Dr Finlay's Casebook)
2 Highbury (Emma)
3 Manteg (Caradoc Evans' My People stories)
4 Glendarroch (soap Take the High Road)
5 Ballykissangel (the light drama series)
6 Ulverton (Adam Thorpe's novel)
7 Walmington-on-Sea (Dad's Army)
8 King's Oak (soap Crossroads)
9 Darrowby (All Creatures Great and Small books and TV series)
10 Ballybeg (the plays of Brian Friel)
11 Royston Vasey (TV comedy The League of Gentlemen)
12 Tickle-on-the-Tum (toddlers' TV series)
13 Dibley (sitcom The Vicar of Dibley)
14 Llareggub (Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood)
15 Grimpen (The Hound of the Baskervilles)
16 Ambridge (radio soap The Archers)
17 Greendale (home of Postman Pat)
18 Midsomer Worthy (TV's Midsomer Murders)
19 Some Tame Gazelle (oddly named village in Barbara Pym saga)
20 Furness (film Local Hero)
21 St Mary Mead (Miss Marple mysteries)
22 Puckoon (Spike Milligan's comic novel)
23 Cardale (TV doctors show Peak Practice)
24 Lochdubh (TV series Hamish Macbeth)
25 East Proctor (An American Werewolf in London)
26 Pontypandy (Fireman Sam)
27 Beckindale (soap Emmerdale)
28 Cong (The Quiet Man)
29 Kirrary (Ryan's Daughter)
30 Barbie (The House with the Green Shutters)
31 Raveloe (Silas Marner)
32 Lambton (Pride and Prejudice)
33 Chigley / Trumpton / Camberwick Green (related kids' TV shows)
34 Sweet Auburn (Goldsmith's The Haunted Village)
35 Abbot's Cernel (novels by Thomas Hardy)
36 Styles St Mary (Agatha Christie's Poirot books)
37 Kinraddie (Lewis Grassic Gibbon's Sunset Song)
38 Cwmderi (Welsh soap Pobol y Cwm)
39 Aidensfield (TV's Heartbeat)
40 Ottery St Catchpole / Little Whinging (Harry Potter books)

And a few from overseas:

1 Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables)
2 Amity (Jaws)
3 Lansquenet (Chocolat)
4 Schabbach (Heimat)
5 Macondo (100 Years of Solitude)
6 Whoville (Dr Seuss)
7 Cicely (Northern Exposure)
8 Anatevka (Fiddler on the Roof)
9 Cabot Cove (Murder She Wrote)
10 Ramelle (Saving Private Ryan)
11 Lake Wobegon (tales by Garrison Keillor)
12 Dorfli (Heidi)
13 Spoon River (E L Masters' pithy poems)

Source: various
~ Tuesday, October 14, 2003

A dozen nicknames for a moustache:

1 lip tickler
2 soup strainer
3 'stache
4 lip spinach
5 cookie duster
6 muzzy
7 upper lip plumage
8 misplaced eyebrow
9 dot and dash
10 mouser
11 tash
12 face fungus

And a dozen types:

1 the bandit
2 the Hitler
3 the Scouser
4 the handlebar
5 the Chaplin
6 the horseshoe
7 the Zapata
8 the Selleck
9 the pencil
10 the toothbrush
11 the bum-fluff
12 the walrus

Source: various

Our monthly comments on unusual search engine requests which have ended up here:

1 dodgeball teenage bloomers
2 gutter muffin
3 little miss boa
4 scottish pig guts
5 ovine party sauce*
6 Lance Percival beetroot song**
7 watermelon and puppies and elephants and nougat
8 mad wet hornet
9 what is Vitamin Q***
10 origin phrase shotgun shack****
11 finlay quade + songs*****
12 trivia bible questions for teen sleepover******

*I can't even begin to guess what that might be...
**can't believe I missed this out of my 'definitive' list of songs about pickle (see archive).
***if you don't know me by now...
****okay - it's said that a shotgun shack is a house so small that the one main room contains both front and back door, so you could fire a shot straight through it. The phrase may also be influenced by the idea of coercion involved in 'shotgun wedding', ie it's somwhere you have to live, ain't got no choice, boy.
*****that would be Finlay Quaye, Scottish reggae star who dedicated his first LP to, wait for it, Hibernian FC and Rolf Harris!
******I'm the eighth biggest resource for this sort of material, according to yahoo. Laugh or cry, which is it to be?

Source: tracker

At last, some severed hand trivia:

1 A Hand of Glory was a device often used by burglars as recently as 200 years ago. Made from the severed hand of a hanged man, it was used as a holder for a candle made from a magic recipé including human fat and spices. It was said to open doors and ensure that householders fell into a deep sleep.

2 Around 1900, W W Jacobs' wrote 'The Monkey's Paw' (probably adapting an earlier folk tale) which tells of a cursed, embalmed paw which gives the owner three (dangerous) wishes.

3 A film from Michael Caine's quiet years, The Hand (1981) tells of an artist who loses his hand in a crash, only to discover it is following him and committing terrible crimes.

4 The third act of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus may be the goriest in any play. One of the many difficulties in staging it is producing a realistic spectacle of Titus' hand being lopped off.

5 The cover photo of my second collection of poetry had to be in black and white, otherwise the entangled fingers looked more like a pile of severed hands.

6 Even within the last decade, the embalmed severed hand of John Kemble (a Catholic martyr later made a saint) has been removed from a coffin in Hereford and used to 'cure' priests with terminal illnesses.

7 A game played last century by girls in boarding school dorms was to pass round - bed to bed, in the dark - a 'dead man's eye' (a peeled grape) and a 'dead man's hand' (a rubber glove filled with water).

8 A similar glove is sometimes frozen in the US at Hallowe'en, the iced 'severed hand' being daubed with fake gore and served with blood-red fruit punch.

9 The Belgian city of Antwerp may derive its name from a word meaning 'throwing hands' after the legend of a giant who cut off the hands of those who refused to pay a toll over the river, until a Roman soldier bested him and cut his off, throwing it into the water. A huge fountain in the city depicts the scene.

10 The 'Red Hand of Ulster' supposedly derives from a race between invaders to claim land. The chief who was losing cut off his hand and threw it ashore, thereby gaining rights on the area.

Source: various

Catachresis is the term for when a word is used for something else it resembles metaphorically. Here are some examples:

1 The French word for mackerel is also used to mean pimp
2 In Vietnam, the words for the number 35 are also used to mean a 'dirty old man'
3 In Spanish, the word for the bill, or check, in a restaurant is doloroso, meaning sorrowful
4 The Spanish verb desmajolar means to pull up plants by the roots, or to untie shoelaces
5 The Greek word for dragon also means an unchristened baby
6 In Japan, chichi can mean both breasts or a nurse
7 Nabo, the Spanish word for turnip, is commonly used to mean penis
8 In French, a bandaged finger is known as a 'doll'
9 Also in France, mollusque (mollusc) is used for a lazy person
10 We call a shy person at a dance a wallflower; in German they are Schimmel (mould)

Source: these are all from Nigel Lewis' excellent The Book of Babel (Viking 1994)
~ Saturday, October 11, 2003

Some unusual town and city nicknames from the US:

1 Horseradish Capital of the World (Tulelake CA)
2 City of Fries (Salem OH)
3 The Shake Rag (Mineral Point WI)
4 Confection of the Fairies (Cashmere WA)
5 The City By Accident (Yoakum TX)
6 Hey City (Port Townsend WA)
7 Queen City of the Gas Belt (Marion IN)
8 Arrowhead Egg Basket (Barnum MN)
9 The Midget City (Colby WI)
10 The Cradle of Square Riggers (Mystic CT)
11 The Lonesomest Town in the World (Jordan MT)
12 Home of the Contented Cows (Carnation WA)
13 The City Care Forgot (New Orleans LA)
14 Frog Market of the Nation (Rayne LA)
15 Celery City (Sanford FL)
16 Shampoo Banana (Champaign-Urbana IL)
17 The Hairy City (Elkland PA)
18 Barbed Wire Capital of the World (La Crosse KA)
19 The Slaughter House (Auburn WA)
20 The Rollicking Hilarious Tent and Shack City (Lawton OK)
21 The Town Too Tough to Die (Tombstone AZ)
22 Hogopolis (Chicago IL)
23 The Town Without a Toothache (Hereford TX)

Source: various (some explanations to follow...)
~ Thursday, October 09, 2003

In the book The Meaning of Liff (Pan 1983), John Lloyd and the late, lamented Douglas Adams used place names to give words to the 'many hundreds of common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects which we all know and recognize, but for which no words exist'. Here at VitQ, with a tip of the hat to Lloyd and Adams, I decided to contrive new Liff-style definitions, so here are some more to add to those last month:

BAGBY - a frightening and unwieldy bra which more resembles an instrument of torture

BALMULLO (n) - an awkward sensation caused by knowing something unpleasant (someone being sacked, a boil being lanced) is happening right now in the next room

BOATH (vb) - to steel oneself eg for an injection or a washing machine repair man's estimate

CHETTLE (vb) - to stand there wondering why a fly flies round and round the light fitting

CRIEFF (n) - a specialised type of fine, statically-charged dust which attaches itself to a television screen

FOBBING (participial vb) - running one's thumb-nail round a roll of sticky tape, searching ever more desperately for the cut end

FOOLOW (vb) - to not know the words of a song but to mumble along to it nevertheless

FOXUP (n) - a loud and lengthy argument about hunting between two people with exactly the same views on the subject but who don't want to let that interfere with the pleasure of arguing

GREAT WITLEY (n) - a hilarious joke which somehow isn't hilarious when you try to tell it

GRIMINISH (n) - a rarefied and confusing form of the English language in which computer error messages are composed

GRITLEY (n) - a specific mixture of anxiety and territorial indignation experienced only by the elderly and brought on by having booked train seats

HIDCOTE BOYCE (n) - the modern female social faux pas of not showing one's underwear in public

JOHNBY (n) - the special wave given to one another by bus drivers

KELTY (n) - a piece of clothing which no longer fits or suits you but which you keep due to its part in a memory of a notable bedroom encounter

LEUCHARS (pl n) - the tiny, white congealed pieces which swirl in coffee when the milk has turned

LITTLE PETHERICK (n) - A small measure. One little petherick is the tiny discrepancy between wanting to join a political protest and not wanting to be seen with the sort of people who protest, which keeps you at home listening to the radio

LUCKETT (vb) - to sound like Coldplay yet still sell like hot cakes

LUXULYAN (n) - a pink, tooth-rotting chemical liquid being marketed as a 'juice drink sensation'

MALCOLM'S POINT (n, math.) - This mathematical theorem describes the relationship between the space given to an ingredient on packaging and the actual amount in the food within eg the delicious picture of chunks of gammon and the large word HAM on a 'Cheese and Ham Slice' and the tiny words 'ham (4%) on the ingredients list

MENABILLY (n rare) - a short-lived musical genre (circa 1973-4), a cross between rockabilly and Welsh male voice choir singing, the best remembered example being Valley Cat by The Teds of Tredegar

MIDDLEZOY (n dial.) - Yorkshire term for a middle child, one who can lay no claim to the winsome terms 'our eldest' and 'the babby of t' family'

PLAXTOL (adj, vb) - jaunty; to jauntily drum along with music (derived from the technical percussion term for the clappy bit in the Friends theme tune)

PLUMSTEAD (n) - the sort of pompous middle aged man who shows himself a fool by declaring that he 'doesn't suffer fools gladly'

RAGNALL (n) - the one tattered magazine used as bait by a bogus Big Issue seller

SKIPWITH (n) - a recent form of frothy repetitive jazz music invented solely for use in the dull bits of DIY and antiques programmes

SLAD (vb) - to be wilfully obese

TRISLAIG (n) - the trinity of wide-brimmed hat, salt-and-pepper beard and checked cream shirt worn at jazz gigs and weekend parties by newly-retired, middle class men
~ Wednesday, October 08, 2003

10 descriptions of famous faces:

1 Gene Hackman* (face like a mug with handles)
2 Miranda Richardson (face like an English sky)
3 Charles Bronson*# (face like a rock quarry that somebody has dynamited)
4 W H Auden* (face like a wedding cake left out in the rain)
5 Abraham Lincoln (face like a title page of anxiety and distress)
6 Sylvia Plath* (face like a dry, chalky mask)
7 Colin Montgomerie (face like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle**)
8 Meryl Streep (face like a medieval Madonna and that sexy blonde at the next table)
9 Richard Harris* (face like five miles of bad country road)
10 J B Priestley (face like a glowering pudding)

** this has been used for several men, mostly sports stars
#was also described as having 'a face like a crushed beercan' and as having 'the death mask of Genghis Khan'

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