It's a crime! (Or a mystery…)

This Septic Isle by Mike Barfield: one to watch?

TSIMB My humour was percolated earlier today when reading an extract in the Daily Mail from Mike Barfield's This Septic Isle.  Barfield, a cartoonist for Private Eye magazine in the UK has sought to re-define some words in the English dictionary for our modern British world and our language in This Septic Isle.  (See it at Amazon, at that link.)

I say "some words" because at 288 pages he's not re-defining the whole of the English language, just the pertinent words.  And boy, is it fun!  I want to read this as I had so much of a laugh reading the extract.

Here are my highlights, with added comments from me in italics, where relevant (to crime fiction and blogging associates):

Valentine’s Day – Occasion each year when men send their loved ones flowers – and sometimes their wives get them too.

Amalgamation – A gathering of dentists.  (That’s one for Norm!)

Baby monitor – The modern child’s introduction to surveillance society.

Cash – Outmoded currency kept alive solely for the convenience of builders.

Call-out charge – Money paid to plumber for privilege of offering him work.

Cod – Fish that has had its chips.

Creche – A bump to the car in Belgravia.

Eighteen certificate – Film that minors are unable to watch at the cinema, so they watch it at home on DVD instead.  (Ian Rankin is on record, more than once, where he said there were films he wanted to watch when growing up, but he couldn’t due to his age.  However, he discovered that whatever his youthful age and appearance, he could get the books out of the library and read them.  Oh, how times have changed!)

European Union – The only union the Government still has to listen to.

Gigolo – Like a pedalo, but costlier to hire and potentially more exhausting.

Liposuction – Costly technique allowing cosmetic surgeons to live off the fat of the land.

Obsolete – Any still perfectly good device for which a more expensive and temperamental replacement has been developed.

Pessimist – Optimist who learns from experience.

Pill, the – Great way of teaching teenage girls the days of the week.

Quadrangle – Minor scuffle between academics. (We have Colin Dexter and Morse to thank for that revision, surely?)

Rail – To complain loudly and angrily, hence the association with train travel.

Scrotum – The only must-have bag for men.

Summing up – Period at end of a court case when lawyers total up their bills.  (If it’s a divorce case, don’t forget the penultimate period of dousing opposing lawyer with water, as per the recent Mills/McCartney divorce case.  A waterlogged lawyer will have a claim to add to costs on that one, so it's best to be prepared…)

Top secret – Legend stamped on Government documents to ensure their speedy return from phoneboxes, cafes, bus shelters, etc.  (Yeah, right!)

University challenge – Getting Britons to study science subjects.  (That’s one for Maxine and Clare!)

Wheelie-bin – Rodent meals on wheels.


Barfield hits the nail on the head with an accurate reflection of today's British society – tongue in very, very cheek, or less so, on times.  It's £6.99 on Amazon for a hard cover.  I will be ordering as soon as this post is complete.  I really want to read the rest and need even more laughs!  And to me, at my stage of life, call it the embryonic phase of "grumpy old woman" if you wish, This Septic Isle is the perfect title to reflect where we are today and seems to be the perfect intro to life as we now have to bear it, here in the UK.  Above all, I need to laugh about it and Barfield provides that outlet.


6 comments on “This Septic Isle by Mike Barfield: one to watch?

  1. Norm
    September 7, 2008

    Absolutely superb stuff. I loved some of the others:
    refrigerator: device for keeping salad and vegetables chilled before throwing them away unused.
    Part Time Employee: Full time employee with a smoking habit

  2. Martin Edwards
    September 9, 2008

    Excellent! Especially ‘obsolete’ and ‘pessimist’

  3. Mike Barfield
    September 14, 2008

    Thanks for the comments. It’s always a boost when people like your stuff. If you go to the Random House mini-website you should be able to download a free bookplate to paste inside your book.

  4. crimeficreader
    September 14, 2008

    Thanks Mike. I bought the book and I am now reading “D”. Never before have I read a dictionary from A-Z, let alone a dictionary per se. But it’s a great vision on our times and a great twist, where the twist is appropriate.
    Great cartoons too!
    I can’t believe I won’t be back with more snippets from this book. But to enjoy it as a whole you need to read it. It is so funny and so “our world today”.
    While I am reeling with laughter, you may be doing a google search. Oh come on, get a grip, try it out here.

  5. Debi
    September 23, 2008

    Ha! Have you seen the post I did (with some superb additional suggestions in the comments) recently?

  6. Carol Ali
    March 2, 2009

    I have only recently started reading This Septic Isle and from the very first page of the ‘A’s’ I was finding myself laughing out loud! What a tonic! Thanks, Mike.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on September 6, 2008 by in Book News, Humour.