Thursday 24 September 2009

Ya dubber!

In a now familiar pattern, as they say, a young northern bottlenosed whale has spent the week hanging around the Clyde after losing its way while migrating, and is not long for this world.

The quality of newspaper wordplay has been as desperate as the puir wee beastie’s chances of survival: “Some-fin fishy doon the watter” (Evening Times) would require the animal to be way out in the Clyde estuary rather than in the heart of Glasgow, which was rather the point of the story — but you can’t not have a pun in a headline, can you? Also there’s complete disagreement about when the critter was first spotted or identified, the Herald and BBC reports contradicting themseves within a few lines. Situation normal basically.

A sort of tradition has grown up of giving names to these forlorn creatures, a symptom of the massive public sympathy they evoke. When the whale that came up the Thames in 2006 died, it was like the Blessed Diana of Harrods all over again. It had been variously named, sorry “dubbed” (which does make you wonder how the Queen got close enough with her sword, but it’s probably better than “christened” in the circumstances), Willy (Daily Mail), Wally (Sun), Whaley (Daily Mirror, or was it someone’s three-year-old?) and Gonzo “because it was a Bottle Nosed Whale and Gonzo is a Muppet with a large nose”.

It would be interesting to know the process behind this, especially when nothing particularly obvious or witty springs to anyone’s mind. Who does the dubbing? Do the newspapers each invent their own nickname and may the best one win?

A Risso’s dolphin that wandered into the Clyde last year was nicknamed Disco Dave “after a discarded packet of Discos crisps got caught on his fin”. There is indeed a certain tragic pathos to that image, the noble beast robbed of its dignity by a piece of squalid detritus (presumably an empty crisp packet rather than a packet of crisps as the Daily Record has it). Note: “his fin”, not “its fin”. I wonder what they would have said if it had been a shark.

In the case of the current Glasgow whale, the Evening Times and the Glaswegian agree on Bobby (why?), but I prefer, although I can’t remember where I saw it, Bucky the Bottlenose. It may be slightly Glaswegianist stereotyping but at least it makes sense — bottle, Buckfast, geddit? The Zeitgeist, in the form of Twitter, adds Whally (which seems like a blend of Whaley and the almost generic Wally), Bubba and (go figure) Timothy. Mind you it also contributes the following gem: “so sad a baby strayed from it’s parents, they say, or is it because we are overfishing ??”

I prefer the following comment on the Scotsman website, a brutal summary of Glasgow’s riverine socio-topography. “If it carries on upriver it’s kebab meat, if it hangs a left up the Kelvin it’s sushi.”

No comments:

Post a Comment