In these uncertain times, at least TV subtitles have a way of helping us to stay cheerful!

A debate on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show complained that media coyness on gynaecological issues put at risk women’s health.

Well, call me old-fashioned, as Dame Edna might say, but the debating panel should have consulted the programme subtitles, which avoided embarrassing words and spoke instead of “Ghana logical problems” and something called the “regina”.

And how about Keir Starmer as “kefir starter”? David Attenborough as “David Attaboy”? And “sight loss” as “people with sidelocks” during an RNIB appeal indicating it was a difficult time for people with sight loss?

There was, too, an unexpected pitch invasion in a recent online Commons when Mr Speaker called on Cristiano Ronaldo to ask Matt Hancock a question. At least that’s what appeared on Kirsten Oswald’s screen.

It was an own goal: the auto-caption function on the SNP MP’s computer had misheard and it was her views on testing that were being sought not, alas, the Portuguese footballer’s. Whatever would her computer call Jeremy Hunt?

And then, there are all the misunderstandings. “We’ve seen lots of doggers. Lots of…not doggers, of course. Lots of dog walkers and joggers” – as the BBC weather presenter Carol Kirkwood quickly corrected her unforgettable forecast from Greenwich Park.

In the last Irish general election campaign, Leo Varadkar, the Fine Gael leader, listed his local accomplishments in a leaflet, but some recipients found some words indecipherable. Asked as an experiment to read it aloud, one woman detected the words “burner and traitor”. In fact, the former taoiseach was referring to “buses and trains”.

Finally, in his infamous ‘Barnard Castle press conference’, Dominic Cummings claimed, had he stayed in London, he would have had to hire childcare – unfortunately subtitled as “higher childcare”. What? University-level childcare for his 4-year-old?  

Andrew Marr’s called it “Castle Barnard”, BBC announcers called it “Bernard’s Castle”, while BBC subtitles insisted it was “Castle Bar Not”. We should be thankful the Cummings family didn’t drive to Cockermouth. 

Nora Johnson’s psychological crime thrillers ‘No Safe Place’, ‘Betrayal’, ‘The Girl in the Woods’, ‘The Girl in the Red Dress’, ‘No Way Back’, ‘Landscape of Lies’, ‘Retribution’, ‘Soul Stealer’, ‘The De Clerambault Code’ ( available online as ebook (€0.99;£0.99), ibook, paperback & audiobook.All profits to Costa del Sol Cudeca cancer charity

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Nora Johnson

Novelist Nora Johnson offers insights on everything from current affairs to life in Spain, with humour and a keen eye for detail.


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