World’s oldest joke book
A Cambridge academic has uncovered what is believed to be the world’s oldest joke book.
The third century book of gags from the Roman Empire is written in Greek and entitled Philogelos, which translates as Laughter Lover.
Professor Mary Beard says it debunks the popular myth that the Romans were ‘pompous, toga-wearing bridge builders’.
“A lot of the books written during the Roman Empire were written in Greek and although they might not be side-splittingly funny, they do give us a fascinating insight,” she told the Daily Telegraph.
Prof Beard, who came across it while researching ancient humour for a book, said the jokes were categorised into themes including ‘the absentminded professor’ and ‘the charlatan prophet’.
“One of my favourite jokes from the book, and probably one of the longest, is about a barber, a professor and a bald man,” she added.
Another dating back to 248AD when Rome held what was billed as the ‘Millennium Games’ – tells the story of a distraught athlete: “Never mind,” says a spectator. “You can always try again at the next Millennium Games.”
There is also an ancient version of the Monty Python dead parrot sketch.
It reads: “A man buys a slave, who dies soon after. When he complains, the slave seller replies, “Well, he didn’t die when I owned him”.”
Chocolate-powered racing car
The world’s first environmentally-friendly racing car, made of vegetables and powered by chocolate, will be launched next month.
The 145mph ecoF3 has a steering wheel made of carrots, a body made of potatoes and a seat made of soybeans.
It is the first Formula 3 racing car designed and made from sustainable and renewable materials, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Designers hope the technology used in their car will be adopted by Formula 1 teams such as McLaren and Ferrari.
It uses plant-oil based lubricants and a biodiesel engine capable of running on chocolate and vegetable oil.
Vegetable fibres are mixed with resins to produce the car parts and the oils in the chocolate are refined to produce fuel.
The WorldFirst team, from Warwick University, hope racing chiefs will change the rules so they can compete in races next season.
The engine fails to meet current regulations because of its unusual fuel.
A team spokesman said: “We hope the Formula 1 teams will see that an environmentally friendly car is not necessarily a slow car.
“We expect our new materials to be used by the Formula 1 cars of the future.”
‘My interests include cooking dogs’
A survey of CV blunders reveals that job applicants are blowing their chances with gaffes such as listing their interests as “cooking dogs”.
Experts found that 94% of job hunters risked missing out on vacancies through CV blunders such as poor spelling, grammar or presentation on their CVs.
Failure to use the comma led to embarrassing disclosures such as: “My interests include cooking dogs and interesting people.”
In some cases, applicants’ attempts to impress potential employers failed through the odd missed word, with phrases such as: “I was responsible for dissatisfied customers.”
For others, the omission of a single letter consigned their CV to the dustbin: “I am a pubic relations officer.”
From a sample of 450 CVs, researchers found that 81% were laden with spelling and grammatical errors, while nearly half were poorly laid out.
A mere six per cent were error-free, the study by career advisers Personal Career Management (PCM) concluded.
Mistakes were not confined to applicants for menial roles either – many of the CVs riddled with errors were drafted by CEOs, professionals and recent graduates, researchers said.
Corinne Mills, managing director of PCM, said: “Many of the people whose CVs end up in the waste paper bin are perfectly capable of doing the job. However, a poor CV means they will not get the opportunity to prove it.
“Why would anyone want to employ a lawyer or a secretary who makes spelling mistakes or errors? If they can’t pay attention to their own CV, why would you trust them to work on any of your documents?”
PM’s make-up routine left in cab
Confidential notes detailing how Gordon Brown should apply his make-up were left in a taxi.
The file containing Mr Brown’s toilette routine was inside an aide’s rucksack found in the back of a black cab at King’s Cross station in London.
The confidential documents, handed to The Sun by the cab driver, also contained notes on how to tackle the expenses controversy and a schedule for Mr Brown’s visit to Yorkshire.
The make-up instructions were as follows:
1. Transparent Brush. Foam all over.
2. Small pot under eyes, dimple, creases, blend in.
3. Clinique. Super balanced make-up. All over again, like painting a wall, and ears. Shut eyes over lids then with make-up pad smooth over liquid.
4. Powder (dark brush) terracotta Guerlain, all over.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The bag was left by a junior member of staff and was returned.”
Laughing man prompts rescue bid
A helicopter rescue team was scrambled after screams were heard in a German forest – only to find a man laughing his head off at a new book.
A woman dialled 999 after she thought she could hear someone being tortured at the woodland near Elmstein, western Germany.
But ‘victim’ Roland Hofmann was astonished when armed police surrounded his car which he had driven into the forest and ordered him to give himself up and release his hostage.
He told police he had gone to the forest to read “in peace and quiet”.
“We realise that people think the sound of Germans laughing is unusual, but we’re sure the caller meant well,” said one officer.
TV licence demand sent to 16th century mathematician
“We received a letter saying To Mr Adam Ries on it, with the request to pay his television and radio fees,” said Annegret Muench, who now heads a club honouring the mathematician, which uses the house as its HQ.
Miss Muench returned the letter to the GEZ with a note explaining the request had come too late, as Ries had died in 1559. But she still received a reminder a few weeks later.
Cod save the Queen?
An Australian showing of the Oscar-winning film The Queen was turned into a farce by inept subtitles.
It turned the movie, being shown to an audience of deaf people in Sydney, into a comedy of errors.
“Buckingham Palace” appeared on screen as “Burking in Paris” while the question “did you vote?” flashed up as “dead in a boat”.
When a character spoke about former prime minister Tony Blair being “educated at Fettes”, it appeared on screen as “educated the fattest”.
And the observation that “every newspaper proprietor has blood on his hands today” became “every newspaper proprietor has blown in his hands today”.
The film chronicles the royal family’s struggle to meet public expectations in reacting to the death of Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris in 1997.
The outdoor screening of the film was organised by Ryde Council whose spokesman Derek McCarthy conceded the captions were bizarre.
“The copy shown did have some spelling mistakes and interpretations of the script which affected the experience for the deaf community present,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Pensioner’s radio sparks call to police
A bad-tempered German pensioner could be charged with wasting police time after complaining about loud music – from her own radio.
Elsie Weiss, 71, from Mulheim called police late at night to complain she couldn’t sleep because of the noise.
But police who turned up to investigate found the music was coming from the pensioner’s own radio that she had left on full volume in the back garden earlier in the day.
A police spokesman said they were considering sending her a bill for the time spent on the call and said:
“She had taken the radio outside and left it switched on full volume when she went inside,” said a police spokesperson.
A neighbour said: “She always plays her music really loud – for once she gave herself a taste of her own medicine.”
BBC gardening team advise cannabis caller
Police are investigating after BBC gardening experts gave a man advice when he asked about growing cannabis.
Jim McColl and his team on Radio Scotlands Beech Grove Potting Shed misheard the caller and thought he asked about cabbage.
Experts spent more than three minutes telling him which compost to use and how to feed and water, says the Daily Record.
Then the host of the show, Frieda Morrison, told him: “OK, much success then. Keep going.”
Morrison said they thought they were giving advice on growing cabbage because the caller spoke about a strain called Northern Lights – the name of a cabbage but also a variety of cannabis.
The weekly Radio Scotland phone-in invites listeners to “come in from the garden, take off your wellies and relax for an hour every Sunday”.
Strathclyde Police said they were looking into the incident and had contacted Radio Scotland. They are involved because the phone-in was broadcast from Glasgow. Tayside Police were also planning to investigate, because the caller said he came from Perth.
Truancy officers blitz town when schools are shut
A blitz on children playing truant from school went wrong when it turned out that hundreds of pupils were on a day off.
Council officials have apologised for the blunder in which education officers and police hit the streets of North Tyneside to crack down on classroom absenteeism.
They were taking part in a regular one-day patrol targeting shopping centres and Metro stations to ensure that attendance was maintained.
But they were surprised to find that more than 1,400 pupils had good reason to be away from their classes – their schools were shut. They included youngsters from George Stephenson Community High School in Killingworth and Wallsend’s Western Community High School.
A spokesman for North Tyneside Council said: “Unfortunately on this occasion something went slightly astray.” He defended the truancy patrols saying: “They are very successful and we have done dozens of such projects over the years. They are well appreciated by parents and we certainly have better attendance records than in most comparable areas. They are usually well co-ordinated but on this occasion there appears to have been a slip-up. We apologise for that but in no way does it interfere with our determination to ensure that children are in school when they are supposed to be.”
The spokesman would not comment on how many council or police officers were involved in last Thursday’s operation.
Nightclub flirt loses dentures down woman’s cleavage
A man who tried to chat up a woman in a German nightclub dropped his false teeth down her cleavage.
Shop assistant Tina Lange, 37, who met the man in a disco in Mannheim, said: “I wasn’t very interested in him but when I was leaving he whispered in my ear: ‘I hope we’ll see each other again.’
“He then dropped something down my cleavage, which I thought was his phone number.”
But when she later went to fish it from between her breasts, she found it was a plate of three false teeth.
She said: “If he wants his teeth back, he’ll have to ring me.”
Computer error means £2.3 trillion electricity bill
A man has received a bill from British Gas for £2.3 trillion after a computer mix-up.
Brian Law got an initial bill for £59 last November, but when he forgot to pay it, they sent him a final demand.
The demand for £2,320,333,681,613 was supposed to be for electricity supplied to Mr Law’s new home at Fartown, Huddersfield.
The company warned they would take him to court if he didn’t pay the bill in full immediately, reports the Yorkshire Post.
But Mr Law said he made numerous efforts to have the matter sorted out, but British Gas failed to return phone calls having left his number with representatives.
He said: “Eventually, I decided the only way I was going to sort it out was to go to court and offer a penny a week.”
But after local media intervened, British Gas said there had been mistake with a computer mixing up the reference number for the property.
“We have agreed that I owe £59 and I will set up a direct debit for the future,” said Mr Law.
A British Gas spokeswoman said Mr Law was told the bill was a “simple clerical mistake.
Police red-faced after hailing major cocaine coup
Police in Italy have released eight men after the haul of “cocaine” they were seized with turned out to be athletes foot powder.
Officers had announced to news organisations that they had busted a major international drugs ring after the men were arrested with a kilo of what they said was cocaine.
They were held in custody overnight while officers celebrated their “spectacular coup” at Modena in northern Italy.
But there were embarrassed faces all round when the lab report came back and confirmed the “cocaine” was in fact athletes foot powder.
The men were immediately released.
One said:”We tried to tell the police when they arrested us but they wouldn’t listen. They just smiled at each other as they put the handcuffs on us and said ‘Yeah, yeah lads good one’.”
City council hopefuls in US misspell party names
Some candidates in city elections in Charleston, West Virginia have managed to misspell their party names on official forms.
Four Democrats misspelled their party name either as “Democart” or “Democrate.”
Two Republican members changed their party name to “Repbulican” and “Repucican.”
“I was kind of rushed,” said Al Carey, a Republican challenger, who spelled his party “Repbulican.”
Democrat Dana Griffith attributed his mistake to a tight time frame and a dash of carelessness.
Misspelling hasn’t yet proved to be a candidate’s political undoing. Four years ago, Fred Pettry spelled his party name “Democart,” and went on to win a seat on the city council.
He repeated his gaffe this year.
106 year-old offered free bus rides to school
A 106-year-old Norwegian woman received an offer from local authorities for free bus rides to the school where she is supposed to attend next autumn.
Ingeborg Thuen, born in 1897 when the Klondyke gold rush was going strong, actually started school just before she turned six in 1903.
Computers in the Os township near Bergen read the ’97 of her birth year as 1997, meaning she would be starting the first grade the next autumn.
She welcomed the free ride, saying that the last time she started school, she had to walk for an hour every morning.
The letter from the township also encouraged Ingeborg’s parents to list the children she would like to have in her class.
“Since I can already read, maybe I should skip a couple grades,” she joked.
BBC apologises for gobbledegook subtitles
The BBC today apologised to deaf football fans after its World Cup subtitle service turned live text commentary on screen into gobbledegook during a group stage game.
Viewers who followed the subtitles on Ceefax during Portugals clash with Poland found the East European country renamed Holland while the ball became a boule.
Scottish referee Hugh Dallas was christened Huge Dallas, while the Portuguese striker Jao Pinto played as So Pointed and Liverpool and Poland keeper Jerzey Dudek was billed as Dudeback.
A BBC spokesman blamed the fault during Mondays group D game on the speech recognition machine, which is programmed to turn the voice of a commentator into text within seconds.
The machine confused words it was not used to, particularly foreign names, with other names and words.
The spokesman said: Some machines have mistaken the odd word and this caused a few problems during the Portugal-Poland match.
We apologise to any viewers who experienced any difficulty reading the text. However, we still believe this is the quickest way of providing a subtitle service. The alternative, which is having people listen and type out the text, would be far too slow for something like a football game.
The spokesman said he did not anticipate the speech recognition machine encountering problems with England team names should the squad progress through the knock-out stages of the tournament.