Oh John, You're Such A Wag!
Isn't 'chortle' a quintessentially John Major word?
He was interviewed on the Today programme this morning and told an anecdote about Ted Heath. But, being John Major, he omitted to tell us what Heath had actually said, only that it was rather rude. "Then Ted replenished the glasses with Scotch and chortled" said Major.
Gosh, how the nation must have roared over the breakfast table at this reminiscence from which the punch line had been removed.
One of the mysteries of the age is how this boy from Brixton managed to transform himself into a genial old buffer who speaks in a language that, if it was ever used outside the pages of fiction, can be carbon-dated to around 1928.
It reminds me of that Nazi spy who had learned about Britain from the pages of PG Wodehouse and parachuted into Britain wearing spats.
I knew someone who had met one of John Major's first employers, hiring him soon after Major had left school. This man described the young Major, rather unkindly, as a 'little guttersnipe' who spoke with a strong Cockney accent.
The Pygmalion-type transformation of Major is more intriguing than that of other Tory leaders like Thatcher because Major appears to have been tutored by someone who was secretly taking the piss and teaching him a style of speech that was at least 50 years out of date.
Of course, as with so much about Major, the curious linguistic style was probably more image than reality. We now know that this decent, respectable cove was clandestinely shagging Edwina Currie. We also know from anecdotal evidence that, when Major read the papers, the air was thick with 'Fucking bastards!', not 'I say, some of these chaps are being perfectly beastly about me!'
My title, by the way, is a paraphrase of what Major said to Kelvin Mackenzie, Editor of The Sun, after the latter said 'Tomorrow I'm going to pour a bucket of shit over you and your Government'. Kelvin, of course, wasn't being a wag, just the shit that he's always been.
(I think I may have covered this topic previously. If so, as with an elderly relative, just murmur politely and get on with your crosswords. Anyway, there are lots of new readers who won't notice that it's what broadcasters call a 'revised repeat').