Gadzooks! Millennials bereft of bonking and bamboozling is a jolly shame
They’re missing out on the fruity, retro expressions that many of us midlifers regard as sacrosanct
The first time I realised my favoured vocab made me seem like an escaped debutante from a Jilly Cooper novel was in 1998. A caustic young woman from Blackburn had just become my deputy editor on The Erotic Review magazine. Halfway through her first day she stopped me mid-sentence and said: “I’ve never heard anyone use the words ‘jolly’ or ‘splendid’ in everyday conversation before now. Were you put into cryogenic sleep in 1955?”
After that, she kept a log of every time I said “Crikey!” or thanked friends for being “bricks” and “good eggs”, or described an escapade as “high jinks”. Mind you, she enthusiastically embraced my favourite expression for sex: “rumpy pumpy.” Could any term be more evocative of two humans squelching around in rapture? We were both enthusiastic users of the sadly neglected phrase “they made the beast with two backs”, which has a pleasing whiff of Hammer Horror about it.
You won’t be surprised to learn my personal vernacular was honed on classic 1950s British comedies like Doctor in the House, Genevieve and The Belles of St Trinian’s. Theirs was a world of spivs, vamps, rogues and dolly birds - and all the more fun for it. I’d also taken inspiration from my parents’ bookshelves, which were lined with thrillers and spy novels by John Buchan, Ian Fleming and John le Carré. My publican dad had been born in 1910, fought in World War 2 and had spent 20 years as an expat (mostly in Greece and the Middle East) before he married Mum. There were rumours of long-deserted mistresses, other children and secretive work for the Americans. He seemed to embody a particularly British idea of a man with a shady past, like an anti-hero from a Graham Greene novel. Looking back, it’s no wonder my favourite expressions for dodgy men were Lothario, charlatan, cad and bounder. To detonate these terms with the full payload of toxic masculinity, you simply prefaced them with “out and out”, as in: “The late Alan Clark MP; an out and out bounder!”..