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Laterally SpeakingWords Fail Me by Humphrey Walwyn

Words Fail Me by Humphrey Walwyn

Like many of us, I expect you may be suffering from the symptoms of ‘Rio-Drawal’. No more glorious daily avalanche of medals, no more newspapers full of smiling union jack anointed Brits and no more getting up at 1.30 in the morning to watch the Ladies’ Beach Volleyball matches. I shall certainly miss the latter since I discovered that live broadcasts of shrieking young ladies desperately flinging themselves all over the place can be strangely irresistible.

The sheer amount of Olympic stuff on the telly at all times of day and night ensured we were both deafened by the excitement and blinded by the huge diversity of Olympian activity. The result of all this was I developed an almost unhealthy interest in sports that I would otherwise have ignored like Keirin Cycling, Handball or Greco-Roman Wrestling. I used to think that Men’s Pommel Horse might be a rather nasty neurological disease of the spine, but now I know it’s a UK gymnastic gold medal won by Max Whitlock from Hemel Hempstead. A few years ago, my sporting ignorance was such that I thought Taekwondo was a mouth-watering Asian dish featuring prawns, chilli and noodles, but now I know better since Jade Jones from Denbighshire in Wales won a second gold medal in it.

So, for the foreseeable future, there will be no more Super Saturdays, Special Sundays, Marvellous Mondays or Terrific Tuesdays. You can put away the horses, bicycles, rowing boats and sailing dinghies into their boxes for the next four years while we slump back into boring Nine To Five and good old British post Brexit politics and drizzly weather. It’s really quite a relief to get back to normal activity. Some of our BBC commentators definitely need time to gargle their sore throats and get their voices back.

It was all such a rush (literally)—such a Team Pursuit, such a Trott, such a Bolt—that we’ve run out of words to describe what went on. I counted up those that were used the most and the winning word by far was ‘Unbelievable’ (over 100 times every day) followed at some distance by ‘Amazing’ and ‘Overwhelming’. Literally every athlete interviewed after winning a medal of any colour used the word ‘Unbelievable’ at least twice. It almost became an Olympic cliché—a word used so often that it eventually destroyed its own meaning and became ‘Believable’. I can also now add another word to this list—‘Exhausting’—after so many nights spent listening to the radio as various athletes ran faster, threw things further or danced more artistically than anyone else. We will need to invent a new word to describe a multitude of gold medals. Is it a Glut of Gold? Or perhaps a Shower, a Heavy Thud (gold is very heavy) or even a GB of Gold (also short for Gold Bar). My favourite word for this is short and simple—a ‘Mo of Gold’.

The English language is constantly changing, so we need new words for a new world in 2016. If Windows 10 and my Android phone system keep asking me to download new updates, so too should my English dictionary. Here are some topical suggestions from the Olympics:


a Rio of colour, noise and excitement;

an If-Only of silver medals;

a Kleenex of fourth placed athletes and

an Unbelievableness of interviews.
and just to show that there really is life even after Rio, here are some non-Olympian suggestions:
a Chesil Beach of Dorset knobs;

a Trump of spoken gaffs and lunatic speeches;

a Corbyn of confusion—or of clarity—depending upon your political point of view and whether you read this before or after the Labour Leader election result on 24th September;

a Bottle Inn of stinging nettles;

a Heads-Down of smartphone users on a train;

a Drain of iPhone batteries;

a Self Promotion of selfies;

an AZ6D!39P78N? of internet users’ passwords

an Apocalypse of seagulls;

and my current favourite—a Fridge of magnets.

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