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If You Get My Drift

Yesterday's post has prompted avid regular Ronald "Dave" Clarke-Phyve to get in touch. Here he tells us of an unpleasant recent experience.

Born in 1959, Ronald - known to his friends as "Dave" - was a child of the 1960s coming into his full rebellious pomp in 1965. A fashionable [indeed fashion-conscious] "mod", he wore all of the latest gear and developed a strong interest in the popular groups of the time. He was, he says, more than happy to be labelled - in the phraseology of the era - "a real swinger". Later in life, a lingering nostalgia for the period, allied to an obsessive interest in collecting ["the wife lost interest fairly early on"] led to him to assemble a significant collection of period items: flared trousers, psychedelic shirts, Norfolk jackets, cuban-heels, fur-lined parkas and limited-edition Manfred Mann EPs - an enviable trove to which he was always eager to add. Dave himself now takes up the story...

An unexpected find. Ronald "Dave" Clarke-Phyve was hoping for less than he got when he responded to a an advertisement in his local paper.

"Perusing the specialist press one day, I came across an advertisement for Swyre Vintage Swingers Monthly which naturally piqued my interest since I don't come across many similarly-inclined locals on a casual basis. So I duly sent off for a copy and awaited its arrival with eager anticipation. Your readers will readily imagine the shock, horror and astonishment I experienced on opening the plain brown envelope which dropped through my letter box; for the Magazine contained not stories and photographs from the beat-clubs of the 1960s, or the expected advertisements for sales and auctions of UnitFour+2 memorabilia, but instead explicit photographs of middle-aged ladies and gentlemen [who in my opinion were neither ladies nor gentlemen] engaged in unspeakable acts and often in groups of more than two. I was so disgusted I felt obliged to read the Magazine a number of times just to make sure I wasn't imagining it all. Thereafter, I thought it wise to secrete the whole horror-show in a drawer but not before I had responded to a couple whose sitting room furniture was definitely of the G-Plan variety and who had extended an open invitation to anyone to call round and explore mutual interests. Something of a 1960s furniture buff*, I am going round on Tuesday, so we will see".

* the UADE definition [see below] suggests "a person who knows a lot about and is very interested in a particular subject". This is almost certainly not the sense in which the adventurous couple mentioned by Mr Clarke-Phyve intend the term to be understood. That said, they clearly do "know a lot about and are very interested in a particular subject", though not, perhaps, the one Mr Clarke-Phyve is expecting [Ed].

Here at we have come to realise that situations similar to the one in which Mr Clarke-Phyve found himself are not uncommon, so we asked the University of Afpuddle's UADE [University of Adpuddle Dictionary of English] Editor-in-Chief Dr Lexi Kogge-Raffer to explain how mix-ups of this kind can arise:

She writes:

Your readers may well be surprised to know that mix-ups, misunderstandings and even general confusion can often arise in situations where one individual mis-reads or misconstrues the meaning of a word which may have several different and quite distinct connotations. Mr Clarke-Phyve's unhappy experience seems to be one such case. If we consult the UADE we discover that in the plural of the noun “swingers” has at least four common uses:


noun · old-fashioned slang

UK /ˈswɪŋ.ər/ US /ˈswɪŋ.ɚ/

  1. An object (typically suspended vertically) capable of moving from side to side as in the case of a pendulum or (less commonly) from front to back (as in a child seated on a platform suspended from a generic playground structure)

  2. A hip or fashionable popular music fan in the 1960s often associated with a particular sartorial style or "in” mode of fashion wear

  3. Men or, more unusually women, condemned to death by hanging (colloquial)

  4. An individual or couple given to sharing sexual favours with other individuals or couples either via informal networks or through organised clubs

It is clear to me that Mr Clarke-Phyve's purchase was made on the basis of an assumption invoking meaning 2, whereas, in their advertisement, his respondent had intended to convey meaning 4. It is, as I have noted, a common and quite easily-made mistake. The solution - for those seeking one - is to be more explicit and less ambiguous It may also help - as most academics have discovered - to use twenty-seven words where one will do. A further advantage of deploying more words [though some might consider it a "risk"] is that they can have the opposite effect, which is to say that verbosity can obscure or obfuscate meaning rather than clarify it. This too is all part of an academic's "tool-kit" - something a life spent in a University environment encourages one to assemble and deploy.


An example of the kind of esoteric magazine and stickers to which our colleague refers when recording his disappointment at receiving so much less than he had expected,

In the meantime, Mr Clarke-Phyve's reported experience has prompted recollection a similar memory in one of our long-serving office clerks Sylvester who writes ...

"I well remember - it must have been 1960 or perhaps 1961 - I responded to an advertisement in the Sunday classifieds offering a pack of 10 porn stars at what I thought was a very reasonable price. I duly sent off my Postal Order and SAE and awaited its arrival with considerable enthusiasm. Imagine then my intense disappointment when I received not 10 glossy photographs of busty babes but rather 10 adhesive stickers of the kind which magazine proprietors of the day were obliged to apply to cover over the naughty bits depicted in the racier imported foreign magazines. It was an expensive mistake, but a lesson well learned."

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