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A nose for the truly cutting remark

I'M disappointed in Aberdeen Councillor Willie Young, I really am.

He has been cleared of breaching the Councillors' Code of Conduct after tweeting, in respect of a political opponent: "Which village has lost its idiot because you need help." Poor show, sir. Tsk, tsk.

It's not the councillor's shoddy punctuation I'm objecting to, or even the fact that the word "because" doesn't adequately link the two clauses. It's the lack of orginality in the insult. Heck, that some-village-has-lost-its-idiot gag is so hoary, even Mark Lawrenson spouted it during the BBC's coverage of the World Cup Final. That's the dictionary definition of a chestnut.

To my mind, for an insult to be truly effective, it has to contain the element of surprise. This can often be a matter of timing; sometimes it can be the manner of delivery; sometimes it can be because the source is unexpected.

I was once the victim of a triple whammy, combining all three of these preconditions. It was many years ago, when my face was not adorned by the lush sproutage you observe in the byline picture, but by a simple moustache, playing solo. I rather fancied, then, that it made me look like Clark Gable (unlike today, sadly, when I resemble a gable end).

I was at a disco - yes, it was that long ago - and had managed to persuade a young lady to stop dancing round her handbag, and shimmy with me instead (to be fair, she got a raw deal; the handbag was a better mover).

Halfway through the track, she gave up the ghost. She stopped, looked me in the eye and said: "You know, if I had a nose like yours, I wouldn't underline it."

Three decades and more have now passed, and I wish I could meet her again. I'd probably be able to throw it right back at her.

Of course, I wouldn't. It still doesn't seem right to insult one of the gentler sex. Unless, mind you, she had piled on the pounds, in which case I might be tempted to paraphrase a neat line from PG Wodehouse, who memorably described a generously-proportioned female thus: "She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say 'when'."

Perhaps forget Wodehouse? Maybe I should be cool and insouciant, like Bogart in Casablanca: "You despise me, don't you?" "If I gave you any thought I probably would."

Nah, come to think of it, I'd happily go back to my Clark Gable persona. I'd fix her with a steely eye, and say, simply: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." But I'd make sure I'd shaved off the moustache first.

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