21 MARCH 1987, Page 45




In Competition No. 1463 you were asked for a dialogue between a speaker who uses only monosyllables and one who favours polysyllables and pedantry. I try to keep Dr Johnson out of Competi- tions but he keeps creeping back. It was reading about him that gave me this idea: a Miss Talbot, writing to a friend about 'the author of the Rambler', complained that in yesterday's paper we had "equiponder- ant" and another so hard I cannot remem- ber it' (the word was 'adscititious'). There were a lot of good entries, but many of them assumed that it was enough to present a pompous precisian platitudinous- ly pontificating to a terse, crude bloke who gave as good as he got. So it might have been in an average week, but the prizes go to those whose dialogues have a dramatic as well as a verbal interest. I was amused by several variations on the theme: Pip, Pip.' 'I reciprocate your valediction.' I liked a simple exchange provided by Alcuin Davies: 'You don't talk like what we do. Where are you from?' The Melane- sian archipelago.' And I enjoyed Roger Woddis's periphrasis: 'A slight inclination of the cranium is as informative as an optical spasm to an equine quadriped devoid of visionary capacity.'

The winners printed below get f18 each (bad luck, runners-up Frank Lanning and Ba Miller) and the bonus bottle of gin, the gift of Mr William Topham, goes to A. Harraden.

Childless host: I think your kid's wet his pants. Proud parent: Miscalculated micturations are an occupational inconvenience at this developmen- tal juncture. It's imperative not to appear judgmental.

cu: But he's left a damp patch on my rug!

PP: Surely such inconsequential considerations should be subordinated to the acquisition of unproblematical eliminatory attitudes?

Cu: Oh my God, what on earth is he doing to the cat?

PP: Uncontrollable aggression is an entirely explicable form of experimentation. My estima- tion, nevertheless, is that it is incumbent on you to intervene. The interaction will inevitably terminate in clamorous ululations.

Cu: Ouch! Why the hell did you kick me in the shin, you little sod! -

PP: The essential incompatibility between your endeavours at behaviour modification and his determination to continue disembowelling the animal necessitated decisive action. The imple- mentation may have been unacceptable, but the logic was unimpeachable.

CH: Right! Get out, and take the brat with you! PP: Such intemperate intolerance can only be counterproductive. Come, Montmorency.

(A. Harraden) 'Sebastian — or Victor Ludorum if I may apostrophise you thus — unreserved felicitations on an absolutely transcendental performance!'

`Thank you.'

`You must be utterly ecstatic at this un- doubted elevation to the pantheon of athletic notability.'

'I do feel good, yes, Ron.'

`To what, fundamentally, do you attribute your ascendancy today?'

'I got to the tape first.'

`Yes, I see, but could you expatiate on your strategy? You executed a perspicacious and profoundly considered race; was it premedi- tated?'

'I planned to run as fast as I could.'

`To the initiated observer you appeared to lull your adversary into a false sense of security, so that when the denouement came his resistance was hopelessly attenuated. Was it deliberate behavioural psychology?'

'No, Ron, he was flaked.'

`And you were evidently inspired by the vociferous encouragement of your assembled compatriots?'

'I can't say I heard them. I was flaked, too.' (Noel Petty) `Behold a pale horse, as the divine Revela- tionist enjoined us. Number nineteen.'

`Sounds like death.'

'But, Sir John, an indefectible facsimile of his prepotent maternal grandsire. The epitome of quality consistent with indestructibility.'

`Bites his crib.'

'Bites his . . .? Ah! A temperamental idiosyn- crasy endemic in that particular strain — of minimal significance. Since you introduce a behaviouristic note into our deliberations, I must emphasise . .

`Cow hocks.'

'An inelegant animadversion. There is a predisposition for those articulations to be irregular. Nonetheless the conformation of his hindquarters is immaculate.'

`Yes. Arse like a cook. What's his form?'

'I understand he manifests immeasurable scope for progressive improvement.'

'He needs to. The book says, "Tailed off last each race".'

`Alone and palely loitering, as it were. Dole- ful intelligence indeed.'

'You back that bay.'

Thy exquisite reason, dear knight?'

`She's fit, fast and fixed.'

`And the name of this equine prodigy?'

`Wind.' (Rodney Burke) `Have I got it, Doc?'

Indubitably, the pathological indications con- sequent on painstaking professional analysis of your multitudinous symptoms are unmistak- able.'

`Is it bad?'

`Notwithstanding my wide-ranging interdisci- plinary experience a more thorough-going ex- emplar has never manifested itself in my consulting-room.'

`How long have I got, then?'

'My preliminary and necessarily tentative prognosis indicates that an indefinite interval must elapse before mortification supervenes. Your constitutional debility and valetudinarian- ism, however, render a realistic computation completely impracticable.'

`Do you mean —?'

`Hypothetically speaking —' `Aaargh!' (Dies) `What inconsiderate impatience!'

(John Sweetman)