Friday, 7 December 2012

Michael O’Leary, twat or cunt? A philological con-undrum

I quote Carole Cadwallar from her piece on the latest piece of ridiculous flim-flammery to emerge from the mouth of Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary. 

Customers had complained about having to pay £60 if they’d forgotten to print their own ticket. What did O’Leary have to say to them? ‘We say quite politely to those passengers, bugger off.’

And so, in The Observer, Carole Cadwallar used similarly base language to describe the Ryanair boss. ‘Michael O’Leary is a twat . . . He is . . . And Ryanair . . . is a twattish airline.’

Ah now, Carole, I beg to question. Is it fair to call O’Leary a twat? Is it an accurate characterisation? Is it reasonable to compare him — and his airline — to a piece of female genitalia? And then there is the most vital question of all: if Michael O’Leary is a vagina, is twat the best word in the context?

Some possible alternatives can be easily dismissed. He is clearly no pussy — there is nothing meek about him (or his airline). Nor is he a fanny — certainly there’s no fannying about in the Ryanair universe.

No, there are only two possible vagina words for the airline boss: twat or cunt. And I’d challenge Cadwaller’s choice of twat. I think most people would agree that it’s the weaker word and that a twat’s twattishness is the result of stupidity or, even more likely, laziness. A twat is an English equivalent of a French con — foolish rather than malevolent. The French play and film, Le Diner Des Cons

Le Dîner de cons 

was translated Dinner for Schmucks. Not for cunts. Though when they showed it in France, it was translated - confusingly, I would have thought - back to the same title as the original French film

When children’s author Jacqueline Wilson called someone a twat in her 2008 book, My Sister Jodie, that is surely the sense she was after. Someone that is useless, a drain on humanity but, really, they don’t do it on purpose. Someone doing something stupid like, say, using the word ‘twat’ in a book for children.

A cunt, though, knows what they are doing. And I find it hard to believe that O’Leary doesn’t know what he’s doing. In fact, I’m sure that his consciously obstructive rules for his airline are, more than anything, a way of getting free publicity. If I told people they couldn’t come in my house without a pre-printed ticket, then tried to charge them for printing it, I would, I reckon, be called a cunt for doing it. So O’Leary is clearly more cunt than twat. I quote myself, from my book Filthy English.

‘Cunt has only recently been used as an insult - since the late 19th century roughly. In that time, though, it has acquired unparalleled potency and pungency. I'd say there was an implication - an accusation, probably - of active malevolence in calling someone a cunt. Which is, to my mind, the reason it's seen as such a terrible word. Not because it represents vaginas and not just because it represents real hatred but because it represents real hatred allied to vaginas. So it's a violent repudiation of all our origins.’

PS1 All things considered, though, I don’t think O’Leary really is a cunt. He’s not nasty enough for that. (Nasty being another vagina word, of course.) Matter of fact, I’d use a native Irish phrase for him. I’d say he was a cute hoor. And if you want to know more about cute hoors, you’ll have to buy my book — now available, and selling well, as an eBook.

PS2 You don’t have to go via the satanic Amazon either. Both paperback and eBook are available via,,, . . . and any good online bookstore.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Greatest song in the world ever . . .  today

Number 2 

The Champion Part 1 Willie Mitchell
Things don’t come much more stupid than repetitive instrumentals. A riff is rapped out. A groove is found. And then it’s repeated and repeated and repeated till . . . well, classically, till there is no more space left for any more grooves on one side of a vinyl 45.

Things don’t come much smarter than these ‘songs’, either. Dance instrumentals really can be a matter of making bricks out of straw, something from virtually nothing. Something a corpse could dance to. On The Champion Part 1, this means . . .

* two-fisted drums, right on the beat, not even any symbols — yes, that is what I typed — I did, of course, mean cymbals but I’m not sure I wasn’t right (or, at least, righter) first time

* occasional filigreed guitar figures which sound like they might be by that king of Memphis, Steve Cropper, or perhaps one of its princes, Teeny Hodges

* simple, simple organ notes, one-fingered, maybe less

* an overblown horn section

* and, of course, handclaps — pretty much like the ones on the Bar-Kays’ Soul Finger which I learned to dance to (and love) at all-night beach discos on the Costa Brava when I was . . . well, much younger

A classic soul-stomper, The Champion was on Hi records, known in the 1960s as the ‘house of instrumentals’. Willie Mitchell was another Memphis king. Classically trained, he had a Brazilian of a moustache and played trumpet on early BB King records. He was also the man who made both Al Green and Ann Peebles.

Way back when, this was a Northern soul floor-filler. I assume it’s a 1960s side but the only copy I can find is what I assume is on the English label, London American, a reissue from November 1976. Yes, pretty much the same week as the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen. 


That was when the Northern Soul thing was at its most intense. I guess that a few months later its scene-makers have been leather-jacketed and gobbing. But for that moment, they were out on the floor at the Wigan Casino etc, dancing that simple, simple, skipping step-dance they all did. I love the fact that someone has YouTube edited it to Fred Astaire but, really, Northern Soul dancing was never that sophisticated. Unlike The Champion which is the essence of supersmart stupidity. Even I can dance to it.

The Champion Part 2? Don’t bother. It’s more varied, the band swing better but it’s not a champion. Let alone, as they’d put it up Northern Soul way, champion.