Linguist discovers 'perfect' photo caption - Mustard comedy magazine
Linguist discovers 'perfect' photo caption

Linguist discovers 'perfect' photo caption

Schoolbook caption hailed as 'lexical Holy Grail'

Flipping through one of his old school yearbooks, something caught the eye of Professor Wilf Cuthbertson: a photo of a pupil doing the long jump above the ineffectually humorous caption, 'Oh no, what a time to get diarrhoea!'

"At first I just snorted derisively at how unfunny the caption was," said Cuthbertson. "However, there was something oddly intriguing about it, and I found I couldn't get the phrase out of my head."

Sitting at his writing desk and ruminating over a glass of port, he began absent-mindedly scribbling the caption beneath other photos, first those in the yearbook, then those in the copy of the Telegraph balanced on his knee.

"It was a most peculiar thing," continued Cuthbertson. "Whatever photo you wrote it under, the caption never got more or less funny. It was universally applicable – it was, in a strictly linguistic sense, perfect."

Anxious to confirm his discovery, he spent a sleepless night scrabbling through old newspapers and magazines and pulling illustrated books from his shelves Ripping out the photos and drawings, he pinned them to his wall and taped the same caption beneath each one.

A photo of the moon landing: 'Oh no, what a time to get diarrhoea!', movie stills from Casablanca and Teenwolf: 'Oh no, what a time to get diarrhoea!', the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing Brahms Symphony No 3: 'Oh no, what a time to get diarrhoea!' Each time it had the same effect.

First thing next morning, he shared his discovery with a colleague: "It was clearly a semantic phenomenon," said Don Hinson. "A lexical Holy Grail, if you will."

Cuthbertson went on to deliver his findings at the Annual Grammarian Conference, in what was hailed as a triumphant keynote speech. Although he did have to run out half way through to use the toilet.

~ A.M.

Illo: S.C.


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