Word games are a big turn-on for Alex

PUBLISHED: 13:18 22 June 2007 | UPDATED: 14:34 07 September 2010

Launch of

Launch of "Balderdash & Piffle" @ Daunt Books South End Green. Author Alex Games with Victoria Coren

Pic by Nigel Sutton 17 Redington Rd,London,NW37QX. Phone 020 7794 3008. email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Alex Games is proud to be part of the BBC series Balderdash & Piffle, he tells Matt Eley A FRIEND once described a novel that Alex Games was attempting to write as the most put downable thing he had ever read. Such comments are hardly music to the ea

Alex Games is proud to be part of the BBC series Balderdash & Piffle, he tells Matt Eley

A FRIEND once described a novel that Alex Games was attempting to write as the most "put downable" thing he had ever read. Such comments are hardly music to the ears of aspiring authors. But the former UCS pupil has used it to his advantage with the second Balderdash & Piffle book in the BBC series.

Speaking with the unhurried wit that is evident throughout One Sandwich Short Of A Dog's Dinner, he says: "That was just about the worse thing that somebody could have said.

"So with this, the idea is that you can put it down quite easily. I hope it finds a home in as many toilets as possible."

The book is the companion to the TV show where word sleuths look at language and how specific terms have evolved over the years.

It is only in its second series but it has already led to about 40 rewrites in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Mr Games is clearly proud to be associated with any updates and alterations in what he describes as "the greatest of all books," before eloquently adding, "It was as much a product of Victorian engineering as railways or sewers - it was a massive, massive intellectual love-in."

Word orgies aside, thanks to the show and the book, we now know that the chattering classes have been around since the term was first coined in 1980. That Mackems, used affectionately to described people from Sunderland, was first uttered by a Geordie, and that mingers have been about since 1992.

One Sandwich Short carries on the work by focusing on the lighter side of language and researching the derivation of everyday phrases such as hooligans, hoodies, kicking the bucket and being a bit kinky.

For Games, 44, writing the book was a labour of love. He has been into etymology since his days studying at the Frognal school. "Every word has its own DNA and its own life and I think that makes for a rather interesting story. It just never ceases to amaze me that words have this incredible history."

So when the Hampstead-based Takeaway Media got in touch, the former Cambridge classics student, who now lives in Maida Vale, was more than happy to help out.

"They wanted somebody who could wear their learning lightly and I said, 'You've come to the right man.'

"I think the book is the bottom end of highbrow or the high-end of lowbrow, depending on how you look at it."

Either way it is a fascinating and fun way for anybody to learn about language and social history without having to plough through a dry academic text.

Next up for Games, who has written biographies on Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett, is another attempt at writing fiction. Let's just hope his friend finds this one a little more pick-upable.

Balderdash & Piffle, One Sandwich Short Of A Dog's Dinner by Alex Games is published by BBC Books

priced £9.99.

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