Everyone has got their favourite Wodehouseism
Once you start talking about Wodehouse, the urge to
quote him becomes almost unstoppable.
  By Terry Wogan 7:00PM BST 02 Jul 2011
Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry in Jeeves and Wooster Photo: PA

At the moment, I'm up to my shoulder pads in a documentary for BBC Two on one of my literary idols, P G Wodehouse. Better men than me have idolised the great Plum, among them George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh and Hilaire Belloc, who thought Wodehouse "the best writer of English now alive". One of the best ever, I'd say, and anybody who loves the English language would have a hard time disagreeing.

However, the problem with a concentrated dose of the great man's writings is the marked tendency that goes with it of boring family, friends and passing strangers with P G's brilliant turn of phrase, blinding similes, not to mention the classical and scriptural allusions. I find that once I start, everyone else has got their favourite Wodehouseism as well.
Stephen Fry, who played Jeeves to Hugh Laurie's Bertie Wooster in that marvellous television series of a few years ago, quotes the old boy brilliantly. One of his favourites is the description of a would-be dictator as having "the sort of eye that can open an oyster at 60 paces". I have a fondness for: "He looked like a Bishop who has just discovered Schism and Doubt among the minor clergy."
But don't get me started. I wouldn't have mentioned it at all, except for a nugget I turned up in a popular daily the other day. The same newspaper that keeps me abreast of the latest "miracle" fruit or vegetable that will keep all of us alive forever, as if the NHS wasn't in enough trouble, and vital information on pain-free body waxing, as well as the boon to your sex life that chocolate-covered strawberries can bring.
This particular newsworthy nosegay was on the subject of names, and how we all enjoy endless hours of innocent pleasure from jeering the ridiculous first names with which celebrity chefs, film stars and pop idols lumber their children, thereby ensuring that the unfortunate kids are marked for life by the sneering and bullying they have to endure in their schooldays. It turns out that irresponsible naming of offspring by besotted parents is nothing new. Victorians and Edwardians sprayed foolish names about like Christmas Day at the Workhouse: Koko, for instance. And Egremont, Arcissadella and Eustacia.
In the Ireland of my youth, there was a tendency among the more pious to name the little ones after obscure saints. I knew an Athanasius and a Berchmans. Although I'm not sure if the current fashion for the secular is an improvement. Kylie, Elvis, Madonna and Clint don't sit any more easily on Irish surnames…
As I say, it would have passed me by as the idle wind, if it hadn't put me in mind of perhaps my all-time favourite Wodehouse bon mot: "There's some raw work done at the baptismal font, Jeeves."
The article is available at: