The Matt cartoon is the best, or possibly only, reason to look at the front page of the Daily Telegraph. Today’s offering shows one of the three wise men saying to his two companions: “I’m stockpiling myrrh in case there’s a do-deal Brexit.”
That was a good effort, but I was struck by a possible alternative. All you do is replace ‘myrrh’ with ‘mirth’. Well, we could do with stockpiling mirth, especially at a time when the country is led by a mirthless woman on a mirthless mission.
Over on Twitter, Susie Dent dips without comment into the back pages of her dictionary mind: “Niffle-naffling, fudgelling, and pingling: three old words for working feebly and ineffectually because you’d really rather be doing something else.”
Susie, who has 332,000 followers, describes herself in her Twitter handle simply as “That woman in Dictionary Corner.” She may be making an abstruse comment here about our government’s sclerotic Brexit waltz – one shuffle forward, twenty-two back – or perhaps she is just disinterring three good old words for feeble procrastination to be used in ordinary non-political life. I’ve been pingling about this afternoon before getting down to writing this blog.
Another good word was stirred up by Brexit the other day. This entertaining aside to the niffle-naffling main event arose when Jean Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, apparently accused Mrs Maybe of being vague.
According to lip-reading experts, an incandescent Mrs Maybe challenged Mr Juncker, saying: “What did you call me? You called me nebulous.” This sent everyone googling the word, to discover it meant hazy, with the following synonyms offered: indistinct, indefinite, unclear, vague, fuzzy, blurry – all words that stick to Theresa May like wet leaves on a windy day just before Christmas.
The need for a stockpile of mirth is certainly suggested by headlines this afternoon about 3,500 troops being put on stand-by in case of a no-deal Brexit. Troops on stand-by! What sort of a glorious future is that? What’s more this penny-pinching government is grubbing up £2 billion to spend on planning for no-deal. That’s two billion quid we allegedly don’t have to spend on something that almost everyone swears is a terrible idea.
Troops on standby, chaos in the wind – that all sounds a long way from trade secretary Liam Fox and his idiot bragging about how the post-Brexit trade deal would be “the easiest in human history”.
If you’d prefer a new bit of pro-Brexit twitspeech, how about this from arch-Leave Tory Penny Mordaunt describing no-deal as “a managed glide path”. That sounds to me like a pretentious way to say crash-landing.
Here’s the problem with Brexit, apart from the one about no one really wanting to talk about it anymore. Right from the start of this unproductive slinging-match, Brexit has been a blank, an aspiration, an idea; it’s been an empty speech bubble waiting to be filled in with angry words. The reason that Mrs Maybe is nebulous is probably just that the whole Brexit thing is nebulous, a dream, a notion, a feeling, all moth-eaten fur coat and no Union Jack knickers.
Europe doesn’t understand what we want because we don’t really know what we want, except that we don’t want what Theresa May petulantly insists is the only deal in town.
Over on the Guardian website, a headline asks readers: “How are you preparing for a no-deal Brexit?”
Well, I am burying my head in this here bucket of sand.