Archive for February, 2018

The literary canvas of the works of P G Wodehouse is vast, drawing upon the works of several other literary figures we admire.

Here is a blog post from Plumtopia which connects our favourite author’s work to the narratives dished out by Jane Austen.



“Bertie, it is imperative that you marry.”

“But, dash it all…”

“Yes! You should be breeding children to…”

“No, really, I say, please!” I said, blushing richly. Aunt Agatha belongs to two or three of these women’s clubs, and she keeps forgetting she isn’t in the smoking-room.”

The Inimitable Jeeves

Once again, Plumtopia is celebrating the romances of P.G. Wodehouse to commemorate the anniversary of his death on St Valentine’s Day 1975.

This year’s topic is the romances of Bertie Wooster. It’s a potentially controversial subject because Bertie is best known — celebrated even– as one of literature’s bachelors. Despite numerous engagements and entanglements, he always manages to slip the wedding knot.

Bertie’s romances, if we can call them that, are mostly unwanted entanglements brought about by Aunt Agatha’s efforts to marry him off, and his own chivalric code.

In Right Ho, Jeeves, Bertie makes it clear that…

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Those who happen to be offering medical succour in the private mode at Pondicherry are always a delighted lot. The city and its environs enable a steady supply of patients to them at all times of the year.

Absence of adequate parks and public spaces discourages long brisk walks. Ready availability of tissue restoratives of an alcoholic nature further compounds the problem. Pleasures of the table often override other considerations.

An early onset of diabetes sets in, leaving the few cardiac specialists, endocrinologists and diabetologists in the pink of financial health. Those practicing general medicine and dentistry can be found twiddling their thumbs, trying to manage the crowds of eager patients rushing to their doorsteps. Ophthalmologists, nephrologists and urologists also have no reason to complain of any slackness in business.

Couples in the reproductive age group do not shy away from their bounden duty to keep the species of Homo sapiens alive and kicking. This explains the overflowing waiting rooms in the clinics of those who specialize in obstetrics and gynaecology. It follows that practicing pediatricians are never short of customers willing to top up their coffers.

The wide range of cuisine that is on offer is exotic indeed. Owners of eateries, roadside stalls and lavishly furnished dining halls of jazzy restaurants and hotels can be found laughing all the way to their banks. But Pondicherry’s gifts to our gastric juices also end up enriching another tribe – that of gastroenterologists.

The municipal authorities ensure that pavements in key shopping areas of Pondicherry either remain cluttered with start-ups of all kinds peddling their wares or are in a perennial state of disrepair. The primary benefit of these uneven pavements reaches the limited number of orthopedic doctors and clinics in the town.

Add to this the singular reluctance of two-wheeler drivers to wear helmets, and one realizes why the hapless neurosurgeons also wear a constipated look and have dark circles below their eyes most of the times.

The per capita availability of educational seats and the corresponding jobs available to the youth of Pondicherry continue to be inversely related. Frustration builds up early. Understandably, the place gets labeled as the suicide capital of India. But practicing psychiatrists could be seen pulling their own hair out in their tax consultant’s offices year after year, trying to minimize their tax payouts.

Trying to make a career choice these days? Consider the option of becoming a doctor and setting up shop in Pondicherry. You shall be handsomely rewarded.

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The romantic saga of Ginger and Sally has many dimensions. Here is the second in a series of three blog posts courtesy Jon Brierly, reblogged by Honoria Plum.


(Related Post:


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Why do we hold leadership to be something which is fascinating? Perhaps we do so because of the inherent complexity it represents.

One, it is the outcome of a delicate chemistry between an individual and his/her environment. All individuals have personality traits. Some of these come to the fore under some special circumstances. Take away those circumstances, and the trait may continue to remain dormant for a long time.

It follows that there is as much probability at work here as, say, in the tossing of a coin or in a game of chance. In the realm of human resources, we see examples of dullards becoming heroes in a given situation. In case of brands and organizations, we come across several cases where some which were ‘nothing’, when assiduously worked upon and when the market conditions were right, evolved into ‘everything’ and started enjoying commendable market equity.

Two, experts have always been at pains to distinguish it from management. To the initiated, if management is all about people and processes which enable an organization to run smoothly, leadership is all about disruptive vision which could spur innovation and end up transforming the way the organization works and responds.

If one were to draw a parallel from the vast pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses, one could perhaps say that if management is represented by someone like Lord Vishnu, leadership could be held to be portrayed better by someone like Lord Shiva. One is said to be maintaining and running the universe, while the other is the disruptive force which creates things anew.

Three, the term leadership itself leads us to another pertinent question – that of people being led. Just who are these followers? What are their characteristics? What are their aspirations? It is regrettable that while much research has been done on leadership, the followers – who make a leader what he/she is – have got a short shrift. The traits of this multitude of humanity have never been directly addressed; these are merely covered elsewhere, under the guise of subjects like motivation, communication, delegation, and the like.

Be that as it may, the charisma which a leader is said to possess remains a subject of relentless enquiry. This is yet another reason as to why leadership is fascinating. The inherent difficulty in defining the aura of a leader perhaps makes the phenomenon called leadership an enigma. Anything which is not readily grasped by the human mind invites even more attention. Such are indeed its ways. However, if one were to speak to one’s heart, the mystery unfolds. Human values, compassion and empathy come into play. The cumulative effort of a leader to connect with his/her followers goes a long way in creating the larger-than-life charismatic image of a leader.

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P G Wodehouse handed in his dinner pail on the 14th of February, 1975. While delving into any of his narratives, one is not likely to find a single character which comes under the clutches of one of the much-despised inevitable occurrences in life – Death (the other one being Taxation, which does get commented upon once in a while).

In the narratives dished out by him, Death figures only somewhere in the background. It does not depress. Nor does it make the spirits sag. Instead, it finds mention in a positive vein. It confers wealth, castles and titles upon the unsuspecting heirs and wards, paving their way for a smoother life, thereby spreading joy and sunshine all around.

The closest one gets to morbid thoughts is when a character is fed up with facing the harsh slings and arrows of Fate and contemplates an act of suicide, which, rather understandably, never happens.

When husbands kick the bucket

Former husbands do find honourable mentions in some of his narratives. Hot Water scores on this front. So does Ring for Jeeves, where one runs into rich husbands of Mrs Spottsworth who have already kicked their respective buckets, leaving behind sackfuls of the green stuff.

Born Rosalinda Banks, of the Chilicothe, Ohio, Bankses, with no assets beyond a lovely face, a superb figure and a mild talent for vers libre, she had come to Greenwich Village to seek her fortune and had found it first crack out of the box. At a studio party in Macdougall Alley she had met and fascinated Clifton Bessemer, the Pulp Paper Magnate, and in almost no time at all had become his wife.

Widowed owing to Clifton Bessemer trying to drive his car one night through a truck instead of round it, and two years later meeting in Paris and marrying the millionaire sportsman and big game hunter, A. B. Spottsworth, she was almost immediately widowed again.

It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn’t. The result being that when he placed his foot on the animal’s neck preparatory to being photographed by Captain Biggar, the White Hunter accompanying the expedition, a rather unpleasant brawl had ensued, and owing to Captain Biggar having to drop the camera and spend several vital moments looking about for his rifle, his bullet, though unerring, had come too late to be of practical assistance. There was nothing to be done but pick up the pieces and transfer the millionaire sportsman’s vast fortune to his widow, adding it to the sixteen million or so which she had inherited from Clifton Bessemer.”

When the cup that cheers causes death

In Summer Lightning, Galahad is seen advising his niece about the dangers of drinking tea (instead of whisky) and recalling the death of poor old Buffy Struggles.

“’You be careful,’ urged the Hon. Galahad, who was fond of his niece and did not like to see her falling into bad habits. ‘You be very careful how you fool about with that stuff. Did I ever tell you about poor Buffy Struggles back in ‘ninety-three? Some misguided person lured poor old Buffy into one of those temperance lectures illustrated with coloured slides, and he called on me the next day ashen, poor old chap – ashen.

“Gally,” he said. “What would you say the procedure was when a fellow wants to buy tea? How would a fellow set about it?”

“Tea?” I said. “What do you want tea for?”

“To drink,” said Buffy. “Pull yourself together, dear boy,” I said.

“You’re talking wildly. You can’t drink tea. Have a brandy-and-soda.”

“No more alcohol for me,” said Buffy. “Look what it does to the common earthworm.”

“But you’re not a common earthworm,” I said, putting my finger on the flaw in his argument right away.

“I dashed soon shall be if I go on drinking alcohol,” said Buffy.

Well, I begged him with tears in my eyes not to do anything rash, but I couldn’t move him. He ordered in ten pounds of the much and was dead inside the year.’

‘Good heavens! Really?’

The Hon. Galahad nodded impressively. ‘Dead as a door-nail. Got run over by a hansom cab, poor dear old chap, as he was crossing Piccadilly. You’ll find the story in my book.’”

Tea lovers would surely get offended by the sentiments expressed herein above. But Plum had a knack of making even Death amusing.

Being mentioned in passing

Elsewhere, one finds Clarence and Gally having a conversation of this nature:
“I wish I could consult Wolff-Lehmann”
“Why can’t you?”
“He’s dead.”

In Adventures of Sally, the main protagonist writes to Ginger:

“If Gerald had died and I had lost him that way, I know quite well I shouldn’t be feeling as I do now. I should have been broken-hearted, but it wouldn’t have been the same. It’s my pride that is hurt.”

In Something Fresh, we find Ashe Marson suffering from a writer’s block. He looks blankly for half an hour in front of a sheet of paper bearing the words: “The Adventure of the Wand of Death,” and tries to decide what a wand of death might be. Joan Valentine walks in and demystifies it thus:

“Why, of course; it’s the sacred ebony stick stolen from the Indian temple, which is supposed to bring death to whoever possesses it. The hero gets hold of it, and the priests dog him and send him threatening messages.
What else could it be?”

When Uncles call it a day

Many of us successfully take off the negative emotions associated  with death by using such clichés as “kicked the bucket,” and “cashed in his chips.” In a common Wodehouse usage, an uncle generally “hands in his dinner pail.”

“I’m taking my spade and bucket and going home” is a pout spoken by a child playing at the seashore who feels he or she is no longer wanted. Instead, like in Fixing it for Freddie, he uses the term “buckets and spades.”

When suicidal tendencies evaporate

In the short story Sea of Troubles, we get to meet Mr Meggs who happens to be a martyr to indigestion. Leading a sedentary life for over twenty years, and given to the pleasures of the table, he has no hope for the future.

After much thought, he has decided to commit suicide. The knife, the pistol and the rope do not charm him. Nor do the options of either drowning or jumping from a height. The idea of consuming poison alone appeals to him.

He has encashed his assets and decided to gift the same to six of his well-deserving pals. He has prepared letters enclosing neat wads of cash to all the six. He has even thought of his Miss Pellinger, his secretary, and gifts a sum of five hundred pounds to her by way of a parting gift. After handing over the letters to her, asking her to post the same, he hands over the money. Emotionally moved, he even plants a kiss.

But Miss Pillenger is a wary spinster of austere views, uncertain age, and a deep-rooted suspicion of men. She is always ready to swing her clenched fist on any male who might cross the limits of civil behaviour.

She takes the gesture amiss and runs off from the house, startling and shocking Mr Meggs who just cannot comprehend her act of perceived insult. So much so that he scratches the idea of gifting any of his money to some similarly ungrateful friends of his.

He starts chasing his secretary so as to be able to stop her from posting the six letters he has entrusted to her. The latter, thinking he is following him for some amorous reason, creates a scene on the street. A huffing and puffing Mr Meggs, red in the face with the exertion, explains his conduct to a rozzer who has descended on the scene and retrieves the letters.

Back home, he suddenly realizes that the infernal pain in his stomach has ebbed away. He finds hope in brisk walks and decides to cancel his suicide mission.

The Making of Mac’s is another story which also appears in The Man with Two Left Feet.

Katie is in love with Andy who is ambivalent towards her. She aspires to be a first-rate dancer but damages her ankle at one of the rehearsals. This crushes her ambition. Life turns hopeless.

This is how she expresses herself:

Darling Uncle Bill, 

Don’t be too sorry when you read this. It is nobody’s fault, but I am just tired of everything, and I want to end it all. You have been such a dear to me always that I want you to be good to me now. I should not like Andy to know the truth, so I want you to make it seem as if it had happened naturally.

You will do this for me, won’t you? It will be quite easy. By the time you get this, it will be one, and it will all be over, and you can just come up and open the window and let the gas out and then everyone will think I just died naturally. It will be quite easy. I am leaving the door unlocked so that you can get in. I am in the room just above yours. I took it yesterday, so as to be near you.

Good-bye, Uncle Bill.

You will do it for me, won’t you? I don’t want Andy to know what it really was.”

Uncle Bill butts in at the last minute, consoles her, and rushes off to show the letter to Andy. Moved by the letter, Andy does not lose time and rushes to meet her. The affair ends on a positive note.

Slaying Death with his pen

Fans of P G Wodehouse are well aware that his world has different kind of challenges: Obdurate girl friends whose ambitions to either enforce dietary controls upon the parties of the other part, or uplift and refine their intellect, need to be kept on a tight leash; sartorial choices which unwilling masters bow to after having been saved from an impending disaster by their man servants; management of aunts who, when one’s Guardian Angels are busy elsewhere, are not gentlemen; tackling of stingy uncles who refuse to part with the green stuff for loftier goals in life; pigs which decide to register a protest by deciding to go in for unplanned dietary regimen; the art and science of pinching umbrellas and policemen’s helmets, and the like.

Death is on the other side of the spectrum and finds no place in his narratives, except when rich husbands or uncles decide to kick the bucket and leave a pile of money or real estate for their spouses or heirs. The D word, even if it makes a brief appearance, merely indicates a celebration of life.

A spiritual import

Incidentally, by treating Death as a celebration of life, Plum adds a deeper spiritual layer to his narratives.

In his epic poem Savitri, Sri Aurobindo, the renowned Indian seer, presents the end of a person’s life as a transformative event, a passage or a door through which one passes towards a greater life. Essentially, the poem recounts the saga of human victory over ignorance and conquest of death.

Thus, on the racing tracks of Life, Death is but a pit stop. One gives up one’s creaking old jalopy. In exchange, one gets a shimmering new vehicle. One then zooms off to a newer horizon, the engine firing on all six cylinders. With each pit stop, one evolves further.

All works of Wodehouse carry his trademark bright humour and sparkling wit. But hidden beneath the layers of his uplifting narratives are several gems of wisdom – material as well as spiritual.

He continues to live amongst us through his works. In his hands, even Death meets its own death.

(Inputs from the following fans of P G Wodehouse are gratefully acknowledged:

John Dawson, Lars Walker, Louise Culmer, Lucy Smink, Midge Coates, Murray Harper, Narayan Arvind, Pranava Singhal, Satish Pande, Subrata Sarkar and Sughosh Vardarajan.)


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adventures-of-sallyEvery February Plumtopia celebrates the romances, great and small, in the work of P.G. Wodehouse, to mark the anniversary of his death on St Valentine’s Day, 1975. Guest contributions are warmly welcomed, and this year I’m thrilled to share a series by guest author Jon Brierley on the 1921 Wodehouse novel, The Adventures of Sally.

Jon is sound on Wodehouse and has written wonderfully in the Wodehouse style at his blog, Sloopjonb: Writing Wibble(try his Jeeves’ Christmas Carol). Jon is currently putting the finishing touches on his first novel and would love feedback from beta readers. Please do visit his blog to find out more.

The Adventures of Sally

A Romance

 “Chumps always make the best husbands. If you marry, Sally, grab a chump. Tap his forehead first and, if it rings solid, don’t hesitate. All the unhappy marriages come from the husbands having brains. What…

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Other than the topsy-turvy romances of younger couples, P G Wodehouse also regales us with romantic affairs of those who are advanced in age and young at heart. An affection which was discernible in a couple’s younger days – whether declared or otherwise – survives the harsh slings and arrows of life. A chance meeting unearths and rekindles the deep buried embers of love. A well seasoned romance bears fruit. The Valentine Spirit prevails.PGW Man with two left feet

One such couple we get to meet is that of Joe Danby and Aunt Julia, who make an appearance in the story entitled ‘Extricating Young Gussie’ (The Man with two Left Feet). This is how the narrative unfolds.

An inconsiderate Aunt Agatha drags Bertie out of bed ‘in the small hours’ (perhaps around half past eleven in the morning!), much before he has finished his dreamless and sipped his first cup of tea. She is…

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Fans of P G Wodehouse are of various kinds.

There are those who enjoy an occasional saunter down some of Plumsville’s streets which boast of trees laden with luscious low hanging fruits of sublime humour.

There are also those who decide to spend some time on the banks of Plumsville’s merry rivulets and experience their gentle murmur while delving into one of Plum’s juicy narratives.

Then there are fans who happen to be intellectual coves. They believe that such sunlit humour deserves to be subjected to a pitiless analysis. One cannot rest content with merely basking in it, soaking in the unique warmth it offers, and moving on. One needs to delve deeper, discover the gems of wisdom hidden therein, and share the same with unsuspecting fans.

John Dawson happens to be one of them. His name needs no introduction. Erudite scholarship at its very best. Madam Eulalie, of which he is one of the Principals, is a website which strives to deliver deeper satisfaction to Plum’s ardent fans.

Here is a guest post from him, which carries a small slice of annotations of ‘Laughing Gas.’




requiring careful treatment; awkwardly difficult or unfortunate, unpleasant, nasty [1910-15]

P.E.N. Club

association of writers in founded London in 1921 to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers; “Poets, Essayists and Novelists;” Its first members included Joseph Conrad, George Bernard Shaw, and H.G. Wells. Not to be confused with PGW’s fictional Pen and Ink Club of London, to which his female novelists Julia Ukridge, Leila Yorke, and Rosie M. Banks belonged.

Bicarbonate of soda

sodium bicarbonate; used as an antacid [1880-85]


to appraise, verify, or check for accuracy [1860-65]


(d) to bungle or play clumsily [1825-35]

(my) tee shot

opening drive in golf

Anecdote about Scotsmen, Irishmen and Jews

Nineteenth and early twentieth century ethnic humor generally depicted Scotsmen as stubborn, Irishmen as drunks, and Jews as cheap; In a typical joke, two or three of them would be faced with a common situation and react according to stereotype. In Right Ho, Jeeves from 1934, Bertie relates a similar experience: I remember once detaining a dentist with the drill at one of my lower bicuspids and holding him up for nearly ten minutes with a story about a Scotchman, an Irishman, and a Jew.

Drones (Club)

PGW’s fictional young gentlemen’s club in Dover Street, Mayfair, which Wodehouse based on Buck’s Club at 18 Clifford Street in London; the origin of the name lies in a speech made by Joseph Chamberlain in the 1880s. Chamberlain, a renowned orator, in attacking the House of Lords, declared them to be ‘drones of the hive.” The phrase stuck in the public and (Wodehouse’s) consciousness. [NM] Geoffrey Jaggard estimates 173 Drones Club members, of which fifty-three are named in the course of the books and stories, including its most prominent member, Bertie Wooster

smoking room

a room set apart for smoking in a hotel or clubhouse [1680-90]


persons who have superior knowledge and understanding of a particular field, esp. in fine arts, literature, and fashion; from Lt. conoscere, to know [1770-80]

Right ho

Br. used to express understanding or assent [1895-1900]


Br. slang, Odd, peculiar; also rum [1820-30] Swift speaks of ‘a rabble of tenants and rusty dull rums’ (country parsons). As these “rusty dull rums” were old-fashioned and quaint, a “rum fellow” came to signify one as odd as a “rusty dull rum.”

National Geographic Magazine

illustrated monthly journal of the National Geographic Society, begun in 1888 and known for its colorful photojournalism

Bilge (water)

Foolish, worthless or offensive talk or ideas; nonsense [1700-10]


a morally reprehensible person; a bounder Br. Au. Slang; an annoying person, esp. a naughty child Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher? Code of the Woosters, 1938


Located in the northwestern part of Los Angeles, center of the American motion picture industry:

Joey Cooley

Wodehouse liked retaining the initial letters and rhythm of original names for his fictional characters; Norman Murphy writes that Joey is based on Jackie Coogan (1914-84) who became world-famous at the age of six when he played opposite Charlie Chaplin in The Kid (1920). But in 1934-35, when PGW wrote the prototype novelette for Laughing Gas, Coogan was no longer a child star — indeed, in 1937, her married Betty Grable. I think Joey is actually based on Jackie Cooper, born in 1922, who appeared in the early “Our Gang” shorts and emerged as a major child star in 1931 with “Skippy.” Wodehouse named the character Joey Cooley, but in the 1935 novelette of the same title, he’s Tommy Flower.

Idol of American Motherhood

PGW’s take on the sobriquets assigned by studios and fan magazines to movie stars; In Wodehouse’s short story The Nodder from 1933, child star Little Johnny Bingley — actually a 40-year old midget – is referred to as “The Idol of American Motherhood” and “The Child With the Tear Behind the Smile.”

Reggie Havershot

Outside of the physical description, background, and presence of Jeeves, Wodehouse has entirely appropriated his Bertie Wooster character to use as Reggie. There are dozens of points of similarity, from the way Reggie thinks and talks (in the otherwise-rare first person) to his quotations, his fractured and inane metaphors and similes, his self-deprecation/braggadocio, his appropriation of Bertie’s signature Gothic-Victorian musings: Hideous privations – A sort of hideous tenseness – Sheer horror – I reeled again – Hideous errand – I stood aghast – my blood froze – my soul recoiled in horror – Icy horror – hideous truth — a cold hand seemed to clutch my vitals – A fate. . . worse than death, and so on. Those familiar with the Bertie/Jeeves books and stories will immediately see that Reggie is cloned from Bertie — in a way that may be discomfiting to fans. In my opinion, Wodehouse, in adapting and expanding the original novelette, had to add material and more “personality” to Reggie, and chose Bertie as a convenient source. At any rate, almost the entirety of Reggie’s sentences and thoughts could be interpolated into a Bertie/Jeeves story and be entirely congruent to the Wooster character. If one had never read the Wooster/Jeeves output, Reggie would be an original, charming character — but since Wodehousians know and love Bertie, his appearance in someone else’s skin may leave some fans discombobulated.

Hark(ing) back

return to a previous subject or point; foxhunting, to return to a course for the hounds to regain the scent [1175-1225]

buckling down

setting to work with vigor and concentration [1300-1350]

Third Earl of Havershot

An Earl is a member of the British peerage, ranking below a marquess and above a viscount; an Earl has the title “Earl of” when the title originates from a place name; Havershot is fictional; but given Wodehouse’s propensity for using bits and pieces of real English towns for his own fictional names and places, it may be likely a compound of Havant (next door to Emsworth) and Aldershot, where public schools boxing competitions were held.


to catch, nab; to steal or filch; [1695-1705] the

. . . title

the Earldom

Hundred-to-eight shot

Gambling term indicating a chance of eight in one hundred to win; a long shot

Field was full of seasoned performers

Refers to other family members higher in succession order to the title; seasoned performer is usually used to describe a mature actor, actress, or athlete or someone who has long experience in his or her chosen field

Who could give me a couple of stone

boxing, refers to a heavier, larger opponent who would ostensibly be favored in a match. A stone is equivalent to fourteen pounds or 6.4 kg.

Uncles call it a day and hand in their spades and buckets

We try to take off the tension of death with a lighter cliché: “kicked the bucket,” “cashed in his chips,” and in a common Wodehouse usage, “handed in his dinner pail.” “I’m taking my spade and bucket and going home” is a pout spoken by a child playing at the seashore who feels he or she is no longer wanted. Although today the word order is usually reversed to “buckets and spades,” Wodehouse’s use was common in the late nineteenth century. He had used it in the 1928 story Fixing it for Freddie

Boxing Blue at Cambridge

A competitor who has represented Cambridge is permitted to wear a light blue blazer and an Oxford athlete a dark blue one. To earn a Blue, one has to have participated in an Oxford vs. Cambridge Varsity match. To be a boxing blue for either of these universities is a great honor.



Bill(s) of replevin

a court order for the purpose of recovering property in the wrongful possession of others

Give(ing) (me) the eye

To look fixedly at

(Isn’t it a) scream

something that is hilariously funny [1905-10]

Noblesse oblige

Lt., Nobility obliges; the moral obligation of those of high birth or powerful social position to act with honor, kindness, generosity, etc. “Nobility has its obligations” [1830-40]


The act of asking someone for money as a loan or gift

Collateral branches

Relatives descended from the same stock, but in a different line; not lineal; cousins, in-laws, etc

dip into the till

to help oneself to cash from a drawer, box or the like, as in a shop or bank, in which money or valuables are kept [1425-75]

Notice of Distraint

a legal filing to be served upon one in possession of assets belonging to a third party; a “padlock” or retainer action.

Tut-tut (ed)

Be still; hush; an exclamation used for checking or rebuking.

Tut, never fear me: I am as vigilant as a cat to steal cream; Tut, tut, thou art all ice, thy kindness freezeth


Grew to Man’s estate

attained majority; reached a required age to inherit property and assume legal responsibilities

When I am grown to man’s estate, I shall be very proud and great, And tell the other girls and boys Not to meddle with my toys.

R L Stevenson in “A Child’s Garden of Verses”

London W. 1

London’s most fashionable district, encompassing Mayfair


drunkard [1915-20]

Bull-dog spirit

Stubborn and persistent; tenacious, ready to fight for one’s beliefs or wants [1490-1500]

If therefore that it is possible that the abolition of prize fighting may be prejudicial to that sort of bull-dog spirit of an Englishman, which is to be found in no other nation, we should pause before we attempt to effect it

Sporting Magazine, London 1823

Boat Race night

Gentlemen. If you ever find yourself in England on Boat Race night there are some things which it is absolutely necessary that you understand, if you mean to survive. Boat Race night is that night of nights when Oxford rows against Cambridge. What is important is the adherence to certain cultural protocols. For example, you must be well dressed. If your tailor is anything other than special you may as well not annoy the ancient day with your presence. Once you have succeeded in adding to the beauty of the landscape, you must find yourself a couple of equally well dressed chaps and plunge out in search of one of those most blessed merchants who deal strictly in the wines and spirits. You must be merry. However, there is a line you must not cross. Yes, you must be somewhat floating in potent fluid, but you cannot impair your mental or physical abilities. You need to be able to walk, and more importantly . . . run. Now remember, this is still before the actual race. You will have ample time to imbibe after the race as well, so pace yourselves. If you drink too much before, then you will have to turn down drinks afterward. I recommend drinking to that perfect equilibrium, where one decides to eschew the consequences and knuckle down to spreading sweetness and light. You now attend the race. Yell and holler until your throat needs a second moistening, and then unaware of the victor, return to the beverages. It is important that you have removed all means of identification from your person before this phase. It is also crucial that you not be arrested for disturbing the peace just yet, as you will be called upon by others to enact the most ancient and honored tradition the island kingdom has to offer. You will be told to pinch a policeman’s helmet. Now some might have ethical qualms about such a deed. Put these aside, if the alcohol has not already done it for you, and move on like a man. If policemen didn’t want their helmets stolen, then why, I ask you, would they wear them on Boat Race night? Approach the policeman from the rear. You will of course have to rob whatever policeman the boys have selected but remember that the bigger he is the slower he probably is. The smallish ones can be a bit tricky because they are generally able to run one down after the removal of the helmet. Do your best to disappear. This of course means that you must stop laughing. After assuming a position to the rear of your quarry,, remember above all things not to simply grab the helmet and pull straight back. In such a case the policeman comes with it. One must always pinch the helmet and never the policeman. As for the helmet, when successfully purloined, it will be an heirloom of your family’s for generations to come. So remember, thrust forward on the helmet first, for this disengages the strap from the chin, and then pull back. At this point you run away. But as is normally the case, you will more likely find yourself in a cell for the rest of the night and standing before the local magistrate in the morning. When in the courtroom remember what name you gave the constable when you checked into the facilities the night before. I suggest that you have a name in readiness before the day begins so you are less likely to make one up off the cuff and forget it in the morning. You must now plead guilty as charged and settle for whatever the magistrate imposes. Some will settle for a mere reprimand which is quite reasonable for a night’s entertainment, accommodation, and breakfast in the morning. A most unreasonable fellow will send you up the river for three days, or soak you for five pounds. Upon exiting the courtroom, you are a free man. You may return from whence you came with one Boat Race beneath your belt. Stand tall.

Nathan Wilson

Bonneting (policemen)

To pull or crush a person’s hat over their eyes, thus temporarily blinding them [1900-30’s]

Throwing soft-boiled eggs at the electric fan

Sport engaged in by the more inebriated Drones Club members and others on celebratory occasions; I believe the first appearance to be in Wodehouse’s 1916 Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest.

I have one friend, a most intelligent chap that writes sober, scientific books, and he’s always aching to throw an egg into an electric fan to see what will happen.

Jack London, The Valley of the Moon 1917

Harley Street

Just north of Oxford Street, the home of London’s most prestigious doctors for over a century [NM] home to Sir Roderick Glossop in Thank You, Jeeves, and to E. Jimpson Murgatroyd in Full Moon and Aunt’s Aren’t Gentlemen


Chiefly Br. Wireless telegraphy [1890-95]

Drinking like the stag at eve

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) The Lady of the Lake: The stag at eve had drunk his fill, etc. Wodehouse uses it in The Story of Webster and The Old Reliable, among others


(s) something or someone wonderful; an excellent or remarkable thing; Br. slang Used to describe an exceptionally attractive young woman.


Br. slang; a person, usually one who is odd or has some peculiarity


Chiefly Br. Euphemism for damned [1790-1800] arose from the printers’ convention of rendering “damned” with dashes as “d—d”


causing great horror; repugnant; distressing; reverence: a feeling attitude of deep respect tinged with awe

High priest sicking the young chief

misprint/error for “siccing.” Probably inspired by a boy’s adventure story Wodehouse read at school. I haven’t been able to find an exact attribution. Ancient Aztec and Indian literature both could be sources as well, but more likely Wodehouse remembered the Kiplingesque adventure tales from his youth.

Butt(ing) in

to meddle in the affairs of others

Put a stopper on

finish up, cause to end; as in corking a bottle


Fr. love affair

Live and let live

to tolerate other people’s actions and expect them to tolerate one’s own; “They thought differently about most things but worked together on a principle of live and let live” Dutch proverb, one of many versions of the theme


joined together or united [1515-25]. Br. slang, Married

Twentieth Century Limited

express passenger train operated by the New York Central Railroad 1902-1967, it became one of the most famous trains in the world; Known for its style as well as for its speed, passengers walked to and from the train on a plush, crimson carpet which was rolled out in New York and Chicago, thus the “red carpet treatment” was born.

Heavyweight championship of the world

Coincidentally, on June 22, 1937, Joe Louis defeated James J. Braddock in Chicago to win the heavyweight championship. In Over Seventy Wodehouse wrote: This yearning I had to visit America. . . was due principally, I think, to the fact that I was an enthusiastic amateur boxer in those days and had a boyish reverence for America’s pugilists — James J. Corbett, James J. Jeffries, Tom Sharkey, Kid McCoy and the rest of them. I particularly wanted to meet Corbett and shake the hand that had kayoed John L. Sullivan.”


An accompaniment or garnish to the main dish [1510-1520] Reggie is referring to the money and property he inherited

Easy Street

A state of wealth, financial independence, or ease [1900-05]; also the title of a 1917 Charlie Chaplin movie

He determined to wait until the memory of his crime was forgotten, and then he would return, uncache his wealth, and live on Easy Street for the remainder of his days.

Bret Harte, Overland Monthly 1868

Application for soccage (socage) in fief

pro. SOAK-age; During the feudal period a person might hold land of a lord by knight service, which meant that he owed a certain number of days in service to his lord for the privilege of living on and cultivating it. But as the modern state arose, the concept of knight service waned and socage arose to fill in the gap. It entails the payment of a sort of annual tax to live on the land.

Heir apparent

an heir whose right is indefeasible provided he or she survives the ancestor [1325-75]

(Your) heart(s) rule your head(s)

To let impulse, esp. in romance, outweigh practicality. Origin unclear, very old.

“I suppose an affair of the heart to be such a situation of the feelings that the heart rules the head. The prime essence of love is that it should be complete, making no reservations and of allowing no checks from the reason.”

Doctor Claudius, 1883, Francis Marion Crawford.

Verbum sapienti satis

Lt. proverb “A word to the wise is sufficient.”


Legend has it that the detachable collar was invented in 1827 by a housewife who was having difficulties with her husband’s “ring-around-the-collar.” The most popular style of collar in 1900 was the “high-band,” a turndown collar with a height of from 2 to 3 inches that encased the whole neck in a smooth glossy cylinder of starched linen. Uncomfortable as these are, they made up over 60% of the collar trade in the summer of 1900. Hard collars continued to be popular through WW I, but the comfortable soft collared shirts worn in the trenches permanently impressed their wearers, so through the twenties the public slowly went back to spread collars, and discarded the detachables. By the 1930’s the hard collar was only the preserve of older men and conservative dressers, except for the wing collar for formal and evening wear.

Observation car

A railroad passenger car having a lounge or platform from which the passing scenery can be viewed. [1870-75]


Known as sixpence; American equivalent in 1936 would be about thirty cents.

(Permission to use this material is gratefully acknowledged.

In case you are tempted to savour more of such juicy stuff, please check out the Eulalie website: http://www.madameulalie.org/annots/pgwbooks/pgwlg1.html.)


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The management issues R K Laxman touches upon in his witty cartoons are wide-ranging. The messages are hard-hitting. For any manager who is trying to beat the blues, here is an effective anti-dote.

Driving the Boss Nuts

Cartoon Admitting Mistakes

The perils of over-committing oneself

Cartoon Flexibility in Jobs


Cartoon Punctuality

Caught reading naughty magazines in office?

Cartoon Taking Work Home

Simplifying systems and procedures

Cartoon Simplifying Procedures

A manager’s life never has a dull moment. His/her career is like driving a crazy car which is always going either too fast or too slow. From the time a manager enters the n-dimensional space of his/her career space, till the time the boots/sandals are hung right and proper, a roller-coaster ride with uncertain twists and turns is the only certainty.

To maintain one’s sanity, it helps to revisit the works of literary geniuses who have created an eternal world full of blooming flowers bathed in the soft glow of  humor. For those amongst us who are…

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