Saturday, 17 June 2017


Zaprut is the oldest city of which we have any record.  Only its name survives, for the city was overtaken by a calamity so sudden, and so total, that none survived to say what befell it.

The name became synonymous with disaster, and in Roman times, hearing of some military debacle, senators would angrily declare, “Sic Zaprut!” — “thus was Zaprut!” fearing that Rome itself might pass the same way.

And that is why, nowadays, when a footballer wishes to express the depth of his emotion when his team loses a match, he will profess to being “sick as a parrot.”

Wednesday, 14 June 2017


I used to work for the Oxford English Dictionary. I got the very first word to define. It’s not just the indefinite article, it has seventy-one distinguishable uses, spread over twelve centuries. “A-gnostic”, “a-new”, “a-bed”, “a-rise”, “a-down-a-down-day”...

You know how, if you say word over and over, the sense goes out of it? After year of research, condensed into four pages of intense scholarship, I couldn’t bear seeing it.

When I retired, they gave me present, old book, “The Perfection of Wisdom In One Letter”. And the letter?  “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!”

So I emigrated to Russia. They don’t have word for it.

Monday, 12 June 2017


The three orcs sat round the fire, gnawing on the bones of an elf.

“You ever wonder,” began Hrakht.

“Wonderin’s for elves an’ yoomns,” grunted Gnurgle.

“I thought...” said Hrakht.

“Ooh, thinkin’ now, izzee?” jeered Rabjagh.

“You know Hrakht ’ere’s only half an orc?” said Gnurgle. “Yoomn mother. Must have scared her when he came out!”

Hrakht remained silent. How could he tell them that he didn’t feel like an orc at all? That he dreamed of belonging to one of the fair races, like the one they had just eaten.

In his dreams, he—no, she—called herself “Jill.”

This story previously appeared on Crap Mariner’s 100 Word Challenge