Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ban the word 'Toff'

It might be hard to say this without sounding priggish or being accused of being rather more politically correct than is healthy, but here goes … We have to stop using the word "toff".

Would we get away with saying "faggot" on the BBC? No – there are very few circumstances where that would be acceptable. Would the Guardian print the word "pikey"? Well they have done five times this year (three times were earnest discussions about the word's racism, and the other two were, well, a bit racist). Can you use the word "gay" as a general derogative (as in "those trainers are really gay") on Radio 1? Well yes, it turns out that you can, according to the BBC Trust. Could we use the n-word in Total Politics? Well probably not, especially when making the point that there is rightly a hierarchy of offensiveness. Some uses of some words fall below the threshold of acceptability and some are definitely above it.

"Toff" is way above that threshold. It is deeply offensive to a largely voiceless group and – especially when used in normal working-class conversation or on national TV – it betrays a deep and revealing level of class hatred.

The phenomenon of the word has grown over the last five years. Initially it was purely a term of abuse. (You only have to visit the website to see this – have a look at it and be appalled). But more recently it has become rather more insidious than that because it is so much more widely used. We have heard it increasingly used in conversation over the last year, invariably to casually describe people "not like us" and very often used by people who are otherwise rather progressive in their politics. Witness Denis MacShane.

You cannot consider yourself of the right and use the word. It is sneering and patronising and – perhaps most dangerous – it is distancing, turning the "toff" into the kind of feral beast that exists only in tabloid headlines. It is worse than other forms of reverse snobbery because it so clearly links afluence and being upper class to criminality and fecklessness. The middle classes have always used language to distinguish themselves from those a few rungs below them on the ladder – we all know their old serviette/napkin, lounge/living room, settee/sofa tricks. But this is something new. This is middle class hatred of the snooty upper classes, pure and simple.

It is easy to dismiss this as "political correctness gone mad". But the words we use matter. The common use of the word toff creates a sense that this type of discrimination and stereotyping is acceptable and legitimate. Let's not replace the racist or bigoted language of the past with a new set of words that are just as hateful.

Part of the problem is about voice. When Little Britain, Graham Norton, and Jonathan Ross are given the BBC's green light to portray gay people in ways that many gay people are uncomfortable with, there is at least Stonewall to defend them (see their excellent Tuned Out

The BBC should specify the word in its guidelines for programme makers and take class discrimination seriously. The new Commission for Equality and Human Rights should show that they understand class discrimination is an issue that can have effects as detrimental as racial or gender bias.

But more importantly, we must stop using it ourselves. Laws and regulation are important ways to protect the vulnerable and can effect social change but often the most dramatic social change happens as people gradually convince each other their behaviour is wrong, or it becomes socially embarrassing. Drink driving used to be the norm despite the law, now most people would be ashamed to admit to their friends they had driven home at the end of a night in the pub. It's that same social pressure that meant there was uproar at language perceived as racist in the Celebrity Big Brother House – a sense that we just don't speak that way to each other. From now on – embarrassingly PC though it may seem – we shall audibly "tut tut" and wince whenever we hear the word toff used. You should too.
report from last year). But who does the white Upper class have? You might think they would at least have the progressive right, but it would seem not.

With more than a passing hattip to Tom Hampson and Jemima Olchawski from the Fabian Society.


Anonymous said...

you lost me when you, as evidence, tried to point to a website called - it doesn't exist, but instead goes to chavtown where people leave detailed descriptions of areas of poor people and laugh at them.

Not sure you can win an argument like that.

Iain Dale said...

For those who haven't quite got the joke, this is the article written by Fabian Society employees for Fabian Review and published by Guardian Online yesterday (follow the link at the bottom). I have reprinted the entire article replacing the word 'chav' with the word 'toff'. Just my little joke.

Anonymous said...

I was going to say as a working bloke how the hell do I order me faggots and peas if you banned the word.

Anonymous said...

memory, not entirely infalliable these days,recalls 'fabian of the yard' not the same fabian i imagine although the one from the yard also lived in a fictional world

Daily Referendum said...

Brilliant Iain,

I read it without realising what you had done and it sounded genuine.

Letters From A Tory said...

Ha, good one Iain.

By the way, is hilarious. I know I shouldn't laugh at it, but I do.

Anonymous said...

the link to the original article doesn't work

Anonymous said...

A good point cleverly made.

Consider the reaction if Conservatives used phrases such as "Labour oik" as regularly as Labour politicians use the words "Tory toff". Of course to Tories it's all water off a duck's back (as the "toffs" aren't the people with the sacks of chips on their shoulders), but it reveals the Left's inherrent class hatred.

conscious robot said...

It genuinely took me five minutes to realise you weren't serious.

But I don't think the Fabian Society are particularly worried by the use of the word chav I think they are just pointing out that the people who fancy themselves as the elite are doing a whole lot of sneering at the masses through snide name calling.

If your gonna mock the masses at least have the balls to do it properly. Strike a beggar with your cane; fire your man for being educated at a grammar school; run your car off perfectly good vino just because you can...

BrianSJ said...

Very good. It had me.
What I took from it was that class hatred is as bad as any other form of hatred, and that in its core it is de-humanising.

So, when ZaNuLabour start to detox, will their Cameron equivalent have to talk about 'hug a huntmaster'?

Anonymous said...

You know how you read one word and 'see' another. In your post I just read "Witness Denis MacShane" as "Witless Denis MacShane", and realised belatedly that I hadn't read it wrong, at all. It was simply your misprint.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this Iain, you should do more articles like this (except maybe riff on them a little more rather than just replacing a specific word).

Aside from the ridiculousness of the Fabians' main argument (presumably they just wanted some free publicity) my first thought on reading the original article was that while 'faggot' may be an insult in the USA I can't say I've ever heard an Englishman use it in anything but its real context; and it falls a long way short of being offensive. As with any words it's all down to context; but in the media (outside of the BBC) I fail to see why causing offence should be anything other than a commercial consideration.

@molesworth_1 said...

I am so releived that this post was high-end satire.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and surely the serviette/napkin, loo/lavatory 'tricks' were actually devices of the upper class, even if they are differentiations that sections of the middle classes have in turn appropriated.

Old BE said...

Anyone who didn't "get" the (excellent) post should consider themselves officially chavved up.

Billy Wallace said...

"Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you". (sorry mum but that doesn't work now)
"Have respect son and you will always get on in life" ( sorry mum but that don't work either nowa days) 1964.........

"Knives and guns will kill you son, so keep your head down" (okay dad)
"What ever it takes son do it, but don't get caught" (okay dad) 2008.........

Anonymous said...

Oh come off it Iain, rich people are a "voiceless group"? I don't think so.

Are any of the landed gentry in this country still a "voiceless group"? Is the Duke of Devonshire "voiceless"? Are the bankers and speculators that brought the global financial system to the edge of ruin a "voiceless group"? Is Brian Souter, a wealthy and baleful homophobe, "voiceless"?

The reason you can't say the n-word or call someone a faggot is because black men and women and gays have historically suffered oppression and marginalisation at the hands of the privileged. They have every right not to suffer the indignity of having labels of past oppression rubbed in their faces like so much dirt.

"Toffs" ARE the privileged. They have to want for nothing. They have to fight for nothing. Many of them will never have to work or struggle for anything. Many will have their lives handed to them on a plate.

They are fair game.

They need thicker hides.

Anonymous said...

speedbird's got a point. toffs have a voice alright. they run the tory party, and the labour party, and the lib dems. chavs - or poor people lacking in the ability to defer certain pleasures - have plrnty of tv channels run for them but nothing run by them.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

This is the sort of thing I might have written.

That ought to give you pause!

Helen said...

Nice one, Iain. I thought everyone would understand what you were doing but judging by some of the comments you should have put up IRONY in capital letters.

David Boothroyd said...

'as regularly as Labour politicians use the words "Tory toff".' - that would be only in a couple of leaflets in a single byelection then?

Blackacre said...

Good satire and it almost got me.

However, it did make me read the Fabian article and I am not sure that your reaction to it is right. It does not seem to say that the word chav should be banned but that we should stop using it as it is offensive. I am not sure there is any truth in that , but it seems a worthwhile debate as with some of the other examples they have given. Toff is not (yet) offensive in the same way, but as and when it becomes so, maybe we should have that debate about that one too?

Anonymous said...

Does this mean the focus groups are telling Dave it's really going to start hurting his image.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I read your comment, Iain, before posting what I'd written!

Very amusing.

Anonymous said...

"It does not seem to say that the word chav should be banned but that we should stop using it as it is offensive."


Anonymous said...

Apostrophe Police notes that "Affluence" is spelled with two Fs.

Anonymous said...

nice one Iain.

But I agree with the Fabian Society, we should stop using the word 'chav.' It sounds harsh and vulgar and is nasty. And 'peasant' is a much better insult.

Tapestry said...

If someone toffs, they are a trot.

Anonymous said...

Helen - you don't understand the meaning of the word 'irony'. Perhaps you meant satire?

I didn't find the post funny or clever. My memory may serve me poorly, but have you not played this hilarious 'replace one word with another word' game before, in a different context?

Stick to spotting politicans eating food. Your journalistic skills don't stretch any further.

Tapestry said...

Toffs can be defended as good people, who don't waste public money, and build strong and secure institutions and establishments.

Trots are the opposite. They throw all our money away, are corrupt and destroy the societies they achieve power over. Gordon Brown and New Labour are a good example.

If I had to choose (and according to some I do) I'd prefer a good Toff to a lousy Trot any day.

(Chavs are people who think that buying brand names makes them posh, avoiding any mention of education).

My 16 year old nephew thinks all these words should be banned, as terms which encourage prejudice.

DiscoveredJoys said...

Thanks Iain, I enjoyed the spoof.

I do wonder about words that are (deemed to be) offensive though. In America 'offensive' speech is protected by the First Ammendment. Perhaps we should move from concerns about 'hate speech' to allowing free (offensive) speech?

After all Call Me Dave wants us to not duck assigning responsibility to individuals, and direct speech is a necessary element of this if we want society to change.

It comes back to an old debate - how prevalent does bad behaviour in an identifiable group of people have to become before 'predjudice' becomes 'common sense'?

Anonymous said...

what a lot of utter balls. really. for goodness sake. voiceless group? do me a favour. the whole point is that it refers to a group with too loud a voice. that's what it means.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure this can really be classed as 'high end satire'- the trick with satire is to know...funny. Im not by the way trying to say it was offensive- it was just a bit of a crap idea...stick to the politics Iain...I think Private Eye, the Onion et al can rest easy knowing there jobs are safe from you...

Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope you e-mailed a copy to the Fabian society.

Anonymous said...

Joking aside, we do need a word or phrase to describe those on the political left. I favour the phrase used by Dennis Thatcher in his 'Dear Bill' letters: 'Smelly socks'.

Croydonian said...

Note also the connotations of the words 'middle class' or still more so, 'bourgeois' in the mouths of certain commentators.

Anonymous said...

***Just my little joke.***

Little being the operative word.

Have you ever considered the option of, if you have nothing to say, saying nothing?

Does your blog exist for any other purpose than to exist, Iain? It's becoming ever more filled with ill-thought-out musings that you seem to have dashed off at speed - the aim being not to enlighten or to inform but to say something (anything) ASAP before other blogs do.

The case of the MP writing a rude reply to a constituent was a case in point. A long piece from you on how constituents have no right to be rude to MPs and MPs have the right to hit back. When even a few seconds of research via the weblink you gave us would have shown that the letter from the constituent wasn't rude at all.

Take greater pains.

Anonymous said...

This is juft toffiftry.

Anonymous said...

>>They have every right not to suffer the indignity of having labels of past oppression rubbed in their faces like so much dirt.

If I were black or a homosexual I wouldn't much enjoy being denoted to "they" for the white middle class to flail about in their crusade to ban the dictionary.

Nothing quite as humerous as a bunch of middle-aged, white men confronted by their redundancy in the world attempting a cheap publicity stunt for shocks. Unfortunately modern Britain's reached the point where shock is mostly met with sighs.

Anonymous said...

" lost me when you, as evidence, tried to point to a website called - it doesn't exist..."

You know people claim that inclusion in mainstream schooling of those with learning disabilities doesn't work?

Can we please agree that including them on the Internet isn't working too well either? ;)

Anonymous said...

Quite brilliant Iain. Not so much voiceless as chinless.

Poor old "speedbird" doesn't seem to have got it half way down the thread. The stupid peasant.

Catosays said...

My first visit to this blog..Guido pointed me here.
Delicious take off. Much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I am beginning to despair. The Equitable Life issue is a very serious affair which has caused financial hardship; more than half a million people lost up to half their life savings.

You have had less than 10 postings on Equitable Life yet over 30 on the "Chav" non-issue. Does anyone care what term is used?

This is as bad as the BBC which after a brief mention of Equitable Life on the Breakfast News has now relegated it to concentrate on the burning issue of what to call chavs - oh, and the fact that, according to the Government, crime has fallen and we are all less likely to be a victim (unless we have a policy with Equitable Life that is).

I'm sorry. I thought this was a political discussion board.

Anonymous said...

The word "Toff" generally refers to people of privilege and high birth, who receive top class education at mummy and daddy's expense and leap frog their peers of humbler origin.

To be honest Iain, I think they're fair game!

PhilC said...

keep running this stuff Iain, it reminds everyone that the Tory frontbench is stuffed with Old Etonians who only connect with working-class people when their BMWs run them over. The Tories have just lost their only genuine working-class frontbencher(DD).
The point about chav is that it is directed at a group of people who rarely get to speak up for themselves. Such debates about words are important. So, more of this 'satire' please - it's still the nasty party.

Anonymous said...

But that would leave two of your blogroll - Dizzy and Norfolk Blogger - just 'ees'.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

also satire has to work...this doesn't actually make sense when you substitute the word toff so it's a failure of its form.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if your article was a satire or serious but anyway it raises a good point.

The word "toff" is being used in the media a lot more and it seems to be since Cameron became leader of the Tory party.

In part, it is being used because the middle class suddenly feel a lot poorer compared to people they feel have undeserved riches and privellege now that their house price is falling. Repeating the word "toff" is a slightly different version of the class war tactic that was used by left wing politicians to snare the working class. It is now being used in an attempt to snare the middle class. They are not listening though as they know it is a cheap shot - and meaningless in modern society.

Anonymous said...


I doubt that diversity demigod Trevor Phillips will be re-directing any of his multi million pound taxpayer funded budget to support this one anytime soon.

Righty Right Wing (Mrs)

Anonymous said...

I would rather ban Dennis MacShane than the word toff.

Anonymous said...

I despair Iain, not only did many of your readers miss the point, in their comments they betrayed their ignorance by not even being able to spell! (there instead of their etc.......)

Anonymous said...

Very witty.

As Iain implies the problem is not offensive words but the seemingly endless capacity of people to engage in lazy thinking whereby a person is judged on the basis of a stereotype rather than as an individual.

We can criminalise the work n------ but that will do fuck all to decrease racism. But then what would I know, I'm a Honkey Toff...

Anonymous said...

is using the word chav anything to do with class warfare though? most working class people aren't chavs. being working class doesn't equal being scum.

Anonymous said...

Oh God, Iain! You make a joke and they take it seriously. They even have the impertinence to reprimand you.

Is it no longer politically correct to make jokes about political correctness? Like it was a religion, or something? (Which I suppose it is.)

Anonymous said...

Is this humour not a bit level 1 for modern conservatives? I thought social inclusion was now a source of deep concern, not humour.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte Corday @ 2.12

Well, yebbut, the Equitable Life business is so obviously wrong. There is no question that it was, and remains, a scandal. The only question is how the government will manage to dig itself even further into the mud, by continuing to mishandle and delay, just as it has until now as it waits cynically for the EL pensioners to die and let it off the hook. Furthermore, it just isn't funny.

The chav/toff question, by contrast, isn't so obvious and provides ample opportunity for freelance humour at the expense of the hypocritical, self-righteous prigs of the world. Please remember that Thackeray said: "A woman without a laugh in her is the greatest bore in existence."

Anonymous said...

The point about chav is that it is directed at a group of people who rarely get to speak up for themselves.

why would they bother when the whinging pundits at the BBC and the Guardian, nearly all of whom seem to have either inherited their jobs or been privately educated, are falling over themselves to do it for them.

It's not the toffs who hate the chavs, they don't have to live anywhere near them.

Praguetory said...

Nice article, Iain.

I remember taking issue with a Leftie journalist who used the word Toff to describe Cameron. His initial response was to reaffirm that he thought Cameron was a toff, but his resolve seemed to weaken once I suggested I would start calling him a tramp.

scott redding said...

Really, does a "toff" member of the House of Lords have equal power in society to a "chav" on a housing estate in suburban England?

If not, the insults of "toff" and "chav" aren't equal.

"Trots are the opposite. They throw all our money away, are corrupt and destroy the societies they achieve power over. Gordon Brown and New Labour are a good example."

(roll eyes)

You're on one of these Doctor Who alternate realities if you think Gordon Brown is a Trot.

Brian said...

Any chance banning the ugly word "Brit"? This was originally used by fenian terrorists and their sympathisers.

Dr Blue said...

"When an Englishman opens his mouth he causes half his audience to hate him immediately" (I think that was how George Bernard Shaw summed up class and accent in Pygmalion...or was is Oscar Wilde)

As far as class goes I'd like to say that I'm a well balanced sort of chap- chips on both shoulders.

Well done for spoofing up the Fabian idiocy. Remember Newspeak, and its aim to reduce the number of words available, and so the number of ideas expressible steadily over time.

I think political correctness is the deceitful name given to cover this process.

Anonymous said...

The Fabian society are just looking for free publicity. I read somewhere that they are after some money from the government - would it be the guy who airbrushed himself into the photo? The guy who is MP for Leigh and who thinks that being born in Liverpool makes him local?

Sorry you guys for twice using the word 'guy', err that would be 3 times or hmm actually 4.

Anonymous said...

Dear Albert M. Bankment.

In case the last line of your piece was directed at me, may I say that I have been known to have a sense of humour and for nearly a decade I was a gag writer for "News Huddlines" and "Week Ending".

However, inside my cynical exterior there are some issues that deeply affect me. Equitable Life is one.

I consider the whole issue a major scandal and I am appalled at the way it has been under reported.

G.K. Chesterton said it is possible to be humorous and yet care deeply about things. (I consider myself to be in this category) Chesterton also claimed it is possible to be humorless and superficial. He placed a lot of politicians in this latter category.

Anonymous said...

Iain, I started off thinking that this was a pretty difficult argument to win. By the end of the post, I agree with you.

Who would have thunk it?

Anonymous said...

Charlotte Corday @ 7.55

Hah. I am many wonderful things, including extremely modest, but I am not psychic. I'll forgive you 'The News Huddlines' for your association with the often-sublime 'Week Ending'.

I think that Equitable Life has been handled responsibly in today's Press. It is a gigantic custard-pie, waiting to be thrust into Gordy Broon's sanctimonious face. There is no need to say more, as the ammunition is gathered and the points are sharpened for the Government's inevitably mealy-mouthed and Presbyterian response to a catastrophe of its own construction. This is, to mix metaphors, a time-bomb due to explode properly in the autumn.

I had a small business destroyed by the utter blithering ineptitude of the financial regulators, with absolutely no legal recourse for me or my staff because the SFA then basked in the inviolable comfort of Crown Immunity. They lied. We were destroyed. Everyone - directors, staff, customers, minority shareholders - was damaged. I will probably *never* recover. I am delighted that the sheer weight of numbers involved means that their incompetence has been highlighted in the EL affair.

I was looking in my commonplace book for something apposite by the mighty Chesterton, but all I could find in short order was:
"The relations of the sexes are mystical, are and ought to be irrational. Every gentleman should take off his head to a lady." I take off my head to you!

Anonymous said...

A good point, cleverly made. I to, like some of the previous commenters, hadn't realised the 'switch' until I came to this comments section.

It seems that some prejudices are more socially acceptable than others, even if they are equally unfair and unpleasant.

I think there is a direct correlation between the rising popularity and confidence in the Conservative party and the increased and casual use of the 'Toff' label. It is the last (and sometimes the first) resort of the angry left whenever they lose the argument or, as is the case now, they realise that the political tide is turning against them.

PhilC said...

Re: anonymous at 4.29pm
You've made my point for me. Having someone talk on your behalf isn't the same as being able to express yourself and make your own demands. That's the fundamental difference. Toffs can access different medium to make their points and assert their rights. Chavs (let's be serious, it is shorthand for white working class man and women aged 18-35) generally do not. Not seen many accessing this blog to refute the labels you wish to pin on them.
In a decent and inclusive society shouldn't all sections of society be able to put their own case and get a fair hearing? I repeat, having others put it for you isn't the same thing.
This thread has been depressingly spiteful.

Anonymous said...

This is great news.

So we can look forward to no ID cards. No extra authoritarian confusing and highly selectively implemented new laws, NOT.

However whether reported crime is down or not means in reality so close to nothing it does indeed mean less then nothing.

The reality is this.

The police are no longer employed to protect life, liberty and property, if indeed they ever were.

However we are paying an ever increasing amount for our police and judicial, so called services.

Has anyone reading this tried reporting any type of serious crime anytime over the last 20 or so years. I have and it is NO JOKE.

It is not only not funny it is more then enough to stop you ever bothering again, especially if your life has been threatened.

ALL you will receive at best is a sympathetic police officer telling you how BRAVE you are. Also how they can 'under certain circumstances' and 'only during working hours' protect the 'LIVES' of your wife and children, should you 'VERY BRAVELY' take it to court.

Banksters run our government and their brother Gangsters run our streets. It has been so long before the Cray Twins and will carry on being so a long time after my grandchildren start pushing up the daisies.

Only if you put a small well known to the police and courts minority of serious criminals in stir FOREVER will anything constructively good take place.

This can not happen while our media are only interested in giving us establishment instructed Hegalian propaganda 24/7.

A warning

Always, repeat always be as careful of asking the establishment, as you should be asking your god, for something. Because you can bet your liberty that the powers that be will give it to you. A bet you are 100% certain to lose, whatever that actually turns out to be.

Iain you so rightly explain, that even if statistics claim a reduction in crime a specific government policy is very likely to have nothing to do with it.

It is like Clement Atlee claiming that since his government came to power their had been a reduction in the deaths of British service men.

Or even more unbelievably. Gordon Brown stating that the government policies had created a past booming economy, but at the same time not having anything whatsoever to do with our currently rapidly and very seriously busting one.

Without our current establishment controlled media this government would now be the most unfunny joke in the entire recorded history of extremely unfunny jokes.

As it is we are still being encouraged to believe that there is a single member of the Labour cabinet that has even a slightly positive vision of the future, and the slightest idea how to implement such a thing.

Agendas come from the top. As the BBC know full well, but will NEVER tell you

That top is now so far over Gordon Browns head it can crap a gallon of shit on him without him having a clue where the bloody Eagle came from, still less where it is going.

Anonymous said...

Well I was taken in though I was a little puzzled in sections. The truth is the word "toff" does display ignorance and hatred. I would say that after them the Socialists will come for the rest of us but they already have, haven't they? It is shocking they way the state is used to reward certain groups and punish others, who are not merely considered less deserving but not of any worth at all. This is "fairness" and "equality". Behind its idealistic rhetoric Labour rewards and bribes those its views as its supporters in a sectional way. No one minds as long as it is "them" who are on the receiving end but often eventually they find they are the "them".

Anonymous said...

What a laugh, Iain. You made it seem so effortless. Very toff of you.

Anonymous said...

isnt it attitudes not words we need to change,the word is just the vocalisation of the thought.
Many of these words are also the products of our comedians and celebs; ipressionable youngsters and those who need to be up there copy these people. Sort it out at that stage.
The media should have far more command of teh English dictionary and the fantastic choice of words it offers,sad they too stoop to conquer

Anonymous said...

I have no time for upper class bashing but several weeks ago I found myself on a train containing 3 or 4 drunken, loud...well...toffs! It was the first time I'd ever thought of using the word in the negative sense. So if it's just applied to the upper classes behaving inconsiderately then fine. Unfortunately it tends to be more widely used.

Rachel Joyce said...

They really don't get it do they? Socialist bloggers just don't get your satire - as evidenced on recess monkey today.

What is really bizarre is that my Conservative blog has a comment today from "dirty european socialist" who is running a campaign for the boycotting of reading Conservative blogs. If this is his wish, why is he reading my blog?? Orwellian..


Chris Whiteside said...

Very clever take-off Iain. Whenm I read it I was almost certain that you were being ironic, but there was a smidgeon of doubt until I went to the comments section and read your explanation.

I'm stunned by the number of comments from people from Speedbird onwards who appeared to think that the original post was meant to be read at face value even after you had explained the joke.

Most gormless of the lot was the anonymous twit who told Helen that she didn't understand the meaning of the word irony and thereby proved that he or she either didn't understand it himself/herself or wouldn't recognise irony if it was lit up in six foot tall flashing neon letters.