This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Saturday Rave: Infamy! by Talbot Rothwell OBE

There are a hundred different answers to the question how did you find out you wanted to be a writer? but Talbot Rothwell's answer must be one of the most interesting.

As a young man Rothwell tried a variety of jobs. He was a town clerk, a police officer, and then a Royal Air Force pilot.

His career as a pilot ended when his plane was shot down over Norway in World War 2, and he was imprisoned in The Great Escape prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft Three. It was there that Rothwell started to write scripts for plays, partly as a means of passing the time, partly to keep up morale, and partly to disguise the sound of tunnelling.

After the war he carried on writing, most famously for the Carry On films. Carry On Cleo was made in 1964 using the costumes and sets originally intended for the Taylor and Burton Cleopatra before that production moved to Rome.

Carry On Cleo may not be the most sophisticated example cinematic art, but there's one line that has given joy ever since it was first uttered by Kenneth Williams playing Caesar.

Here it is. I think it's one of the finest puns ever perpetrated upon an unsuspecting audience.

Word To Use Today: infamy. This word comes from the Latin word infāmis, which means of evil repute.



  1. I am curious as to how the sound of writing a play could possibly disguise the sound of tunneling. I often write with a pen, but not once has anyone ever asked me to keep the noise down, or mistaken the sound of my nib for the earthy crunch of digging.

    1. I assumed it was the sound of the rehearsals that covered up the noise of the tunnelling, Eddie. But, hey, they were short of all sorts of things in those camps. Perhaps he was hammering his words into the legs of the bunk beds with the twisted remains of a Spitfire wing.

  2. Ha! I love it!
    Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!!
    Been years since I've seen the Carry On movies - reminds me how young I'm not any more! :)

    A good old scratchy nib can indeed make a lot of noise!
    A very annoying noise at that!
    I do lots of digging in the garden...I think I'm pretty quiet about it, and my dogs dig wherever they dang well please - and I never hear the blighters!
    Conclusion: digging is less noisy than a scratchy pen nib! :) :) :)

    1. Perhaps that's why I always write in private, Jingles, and not where any Tom, Dick or Harry can come along and disturb me.