Barlow's Beef: Let's kick some donkey's bottom


As a lifelong student of the English language I'm always intrigued by the introduction of new words and phrases into the lexicon. Americans are brilliantly inventive: heads-up, chick-flick, hanging-out etc all born in the USA. In America there is no verb that cannot be attached to the rear end of a donkey. You can haul it, chase it or kiss it, the choice is yours. Quite how this beast of burden became so grammatically enmeshed in American vernacular I know not.

We British are not quite so imaginative having failed to find a consistent animal on which to base our locution we flit between species horsing around, henpecked and dog-tired. Occasionally we over-indulge ourselves adopting some strange aphorism involving a newt.

If only we had one universally recognised mammal we could rely upon to underpin our maxims we could surely kick the American donkey's bottom.

Newly minted British phrases always sound so wimpish by comparison. Brexit is a perfect example. The most dramatic referendum we've held in our entire history was made to sound like a breakfast cereal.

We do however have one grand font of creativity that surpasses all others to wit: The House of Commons. Nowhere else on earth is there such extraordinary flair with the English language.

So prolific are its members more established words must be abandoned in order to accommodate the flood of newly created idioms. Hence the verb to lie has been replaced by economical with the truth. A Byzantine expression that conveniently avoids branding the subject a liar.

Some expressions emanating from the House of Commons come to light only under intense scrutiny. Until the MP's expense scandal of 2009 the verb to flip was largely associated with acrobats and pancakes In Parliament, however, MP's had used for decades to describe a method by which they avoided paying tax on selling their second houses.

Amazingly from a UK population of almost 65 Million there existed only 649 souls who truly understood the meaning of 'flipping.' All were ensconced in Westminster.

The progressive Mr Cameron adopted a rapping style where words convey the very opposite of their intended meaning e.g. bad becomes good, wicked means great etc.

Hence his infamous: all in this together rap the real meaning of which was you are on your own.

Today the latest word emanating from The House is a work of sheer brilliance. In normal life having resigned from one's post any attempt to ask for one's job back is met with scorn and rejection.

Not so in Westminster where shadow minister Sarah Champion publicly resigned only to unresign at a later date.

Mr Corbyn's advisers were apparently overjoyed to see Ms Champion retake her job (only surpassed by the Parachute Regiment retaking Goose Green).

One can but wonder if Ms Champion is to be awarded a medal for courage in the face of (her own) defection?

If you too have favourite words or phrases created by politicians do let me know.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of

Barlow's Beef, Vic Barlow


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Roger Bagguley
Thursday 4th August 2016 at 6:25 am
As Vic points out there is so much language used that is only meaningful to those who are employed to sell something to us. Cheshire East Council people are masters of the art.

"Residents First:" An invitation that falls on deaf ears.
Simon Worthington
Thursday 4th August 2016 at 1:57 pm
Flipper is a Yanquee term for someone who buy a repossessed house from a bank on the cheap, does some cosmetic improvement and then sells it on; and a part of a seal.