Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Feghoots and Shaggy Dogs

I know what you're thinking: 'What the feg is a feghoot?'

A lengthy comment appeared on my Burns Night post which I (erroneously) described as a 'shaggy dog story'. But it turns out is was a feghoot. In fact, the vast majority of tales I've attributed to shaggy dogs turn out to be nothing of the sort.

shaggy dog story

"an extremely long-winded tale featuring extensive narration of typically irrelevant incidents, usually resulting in a pointless or absurd punchline". The classic example would be a tale going on at length about how shaggy a dog's coat is, but when it is eventually being judged at Crufts the judge says: 'It isn't very shaggy.' Not funny? Nope - doesn't do anything for me either.


"a humorous short story or vignette ending in an atrocious pun (typically a play on a well-known phrase) where the story contains sufficient context to recognize the punning humor".

An example: A young boy called Gervaise starts work as a waiter in a Paris fish restaurant. He's doing quite well, and makes friends with the other staff - especially the Swedish dish-washer, Hans. The only part of the job he doesn't like is when customers pick living seafood from the tank and he has to take it away to be cooked.

One day a wealthy banker, to impress his friends, points to the most expensive item in the tank - the very rare Hairy-lip Squid. Gervaise wrestles the luminous beast out of the tank and takes it through to the kitchen. The chef is very busy and tells Gervaise to kill it and chop all the legs off. He's about to do this when he makes eye contact with the creature. There's an almost-human look of pleading in its eyes, a sort of gentleness. 'Don't kill me!' it seems to implore.

Gervaise throws the knife down. He can't do it! He goes to the back kitchen where Hans is up to his elbows in dirty plates. 'You've been around a bit. You're tough,' he says. 'Can you kill this squid for me?'

'Of course!' says Hans, who follows him into the kitchen. But just as he's about to bring the sharpened knife down onto the animal, he, too sees the kind expression, the quivering of the squid's little hairy lip. He can't kill it either.

So the chef comes in and says: 'I can't believe it! Hans who does dishes is as soft as Gervaise with a mild, green hairy-lip squid.'**

* Named after a series of short science fiction pieces: "Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot", published in various magazines over several decades, which always ended with a deliberately terrible pun based on a well-known title or catch-phrase.

** You probably need to be British and over 30 to get this, but it relates to this advert. I'm told this joke features in one of Ian Rankin's Rebus books: Mortal Causes


  1. I think I need a lie down now.

  2. Sir Richard Attenborough once recalled how, when researching for his epic film biography 'Gandhi,' he found just how narrow his knowledge was of the great Indian nationalist.

    "I was humbled by his willingness to shed the material comforts of a westernized Oriental gentleman," Sir Richard said in an interview with The Times shortly after the film's release. "He made a leap of faith by abandoning an Edwardian-colonial outlook that embraced him with material comforts while subjugating his own personal outlook to that of the British Empire. He entered a world which increased his loneliness in the Empire, depending only on the conviction that the Hindu way was the spiritual path to freedom and inner peace for his people."

    Attenborough said he was impressed with Gandhi's decision to adapt the lifestyle and privations of the poorest of India.

    "He endured the physical wear and tear from labor, and the traditional diet and lifestyle of the rural Indian certainly removed Gandhi from the cologne-scented, well-fed, physically-fit life of a barrister," Sir Richard observed. "He truly was a super-calloused fragile mystic blessed with halitosis."

  3. Jinksy - that's a compliment where I come from - it's a shame I left!

    Martin - Indeed... you'll need your strength when you read the other comments!

    Frontiereditor - Brilliant! Love it!

    A man goes into a pet shop and buys a hamster. He comes back a few days later: 'The hamster's dead.' The salesman persuades him to buy another one, but the same thing happens again. The man comes back with the two dead hamsters but the salesman persuades him to buy a couple more. They die too.
    'I don't think hamsters are your thing,' says the salesman. The man agrees: 'But what am I supposed to do with all these dead hamsters?' He asks. The salesman suggests he mashes them up and uses them to fertilise his garden. 'Lots of nutrients.' He explains.
    In the spring, the man is back in the shop. 'Great advice about the mashed hamster fertiliser!' He says. 'Some lovely daffodils have come up where I spread it.'
    'That's funny,' says the salesman. 'You usually get Tulips from hamster jam.'

    I thank you!

  4. I once made up a feghoot (though ignorant of the correct term!) that ended "Abcess makes the heart go fondue," but it's too awful to repeat here.

  5. A purely coincidental one . . .

    Robert and Lorraine were passionately in love and couldn't bear the slightest separation whether in good times or bad. Robert's faithfulness to Lorraine was unshakeable.

    Until the day he met Claire Lee.

    Robert found himself first infatuated with Claire Lee, and then aching as the young lady embedded herself as deeply in his heart as did Lorraine. Being an honorable soul, Robert dared not make his feelings known to Claire, and still felt as deeply attached to Lorraine as ever, albeit with an ember of guilt.

    One day Robert and Lorraine went to the river for a picnic. After spreading their blanket and placing their basket, the couple walked down the riverbank and, suddenly, the earth crumbled and Lorraine fell into the deep, swiftly-moving water.

    Robert frantically tried to save Lorraine, at a fallen branch, he tried to reach her to no avail. Yelling for help, he dived into the water and swam after her. But the current dragged her further away and Robert barely made it back to the bank.

    As a small crowd surrounded Robert, he weeped uncontrollably and then began to smile and laugh. One of the onlookers, horrified, said "My word, why are you laughing after your love was just swept to her doom?"

    "Well," Robert said happily, "I can see
    Claire Lee now Lorraine is gone ."