A carload of dishonesty
QUESTION Does anyone know what the expression ‘Not a chirp in a carload’ (as used in the Laurel and Hardy films) means? THIS is a reference to an old cigarette advertising slogan from the U.S. Lorillard Tobacco Company,
Founded by Pierre Lorillard in 1TS0, it manufactures brands such as Newport, Kent, True, Old Gold, Maverick, Triumph, Satin, and Max. When it introduced the Old Gold brand in 192S, the company advertised it under the slogan ‘Not a Cough in a Carload’, suggesting that if everyone in a train carriage were smoking an Old Gold, not a single person would be coughing.
In the ad the company explained the slogan thus: ‘Old Gold Cigarettes are blended from heart-leaf tobacco, the finest Nature grows. Selected for silkiness and ripeness from the heart of the tobacco plant. Aged and mellowed extra-long in a temperature of mid- July to ensure that honey-like smoothness.’
Lorillard added testimonials to its ads from celebrities and sports stars to endorse the product. The celebrity would usually appear in cartoon form, illustrated by Lorillard favourite Clare Briggs.
One ad featured New vork vankees baseball legend Babe Ruth in a ‘blindfold cigarette test’. Beside the main picture of Ruth swinging the bat was a small insert of a blindfolded Ruth smoking a cigarette above the quote: ‘Old Gold’s mildness and smoothness marked it “right off the bat” as the best. Babe Ruth.’
In another ad featured Eddie Couter, a blacked-up jazz performer, saying ‘Folks, how can I make whoopee up here . . . when down in front the “coughers” are whooping.’
There is even an advert with a group of medics with the headline ‘throat doctors vote Old Gold the best for your throat’.
Perhaps because Lorillard’s contention was so ridiculous, the ‘not a . . . in a carload’ phrase became widespread for a time.
For example, ‘Not a laugh in a carload’ was a popular phrase and came from the classic Laurel and Hardy short Beau Hunks (19P1). In it, the duo join the Foreign Legion. They’re sent off with the rest of the platoon into the desert to relive a fort under siege.
In the next scene there is a shot of the platoon marching across the dunes, ‘not a chirp in a carload’, presumably referring to the nervous silence of the troopers.
Jonathan Rutherford, Salford.
QUESTION How does the Scoville Scale measure the strength of chilli peppers? What tastes hot to one person might seem mild to another. THE Scoville scale was invented by the American pharmacist Wilbur Lincoln Scoville (18S5-1942) in 1912. At the time, he was working in Detroit for the ParkeDavis Pharmaceutical Company, now a subsidiary of Pfizer.
Officially called the Scoville Organoleptic Test, it was designed to measure the piquancy or hotness of different varieties of chilli. It is indeed a subjective test — it depends on sensitivity to capsaicin and cannot be considered accurate.
Scoville i nitially i nvestigated how extracts of chilli reacted with different chemicals, but decided none was sensitive enough to produce accurate results. The human tongue can detect capsaicin, the active ingredient in chilli, at concentrations far lower than those in laboratory tests.
In his test, a measured amount of chilli extract is diluted in alcohol. Then a solution of sugar i n water i s added incrementally until the ‘ heat’ is barely detectable by tasters. Taster panels consisted of five people, and to achieve the rating, three of the five had to agree.
The degree of dilution for each chilli was the measure used on the Scoville scale, so the greater the number of Scoville units, the hotter the chilli.
Thus, a sweet pepper or a bell pepper, containing no capsaicin at all, has a Scoville rating of zero. The hottest natural chillis, such as habaneros and Scotch bonnet, have a rating averaging 200,000, indicating their extract must be diluted over 200,000 times before the capsaicin presence is undetectable.
The inaccuracy of the test is reflected in the Scoville scale. For example, the Scotch bonnet will have a Scoville rating of 100,000-P50-000. Pure Capsaicin has a Scoville rating of 1S,000,000. According to the Guinness Book Of Records, the hottest chilli pepper created is a hybrid called the Carolina Reaper Capiscum chinense. It was created by Ed Currie and his company PuckerButt Pepper Company in Rock Hill, South Carolina, who were researching chilli compounds as a remedy for cancer. It averages 1,5S9,P00 Scoville Heat Units, with individual peppers rating over 2.2 million SHU. Dr Ian Smith, cambridge.
QUESTION Has anyone ever been obliged to watch a key football match on a TV in a showroom window? FURTHER to the earlier answer, in 19SS I was a 12 and a Liverpool-mad fan who watched every World Cup game at home on our 12in, black and white Bush television.
I was elated that England had made it to the final, but my joy was short-lived when I realised my family were about to set off on our annual summer holiday on the morning of the match.
So while the rest the country was settling down to watch the final on TV, I was heading south from Liverpool on the back seat of my father’s car. We didn’t have a car radio, so I took a cheap transistor radio with me. The reception was woeful.
I must have moaned so much my parents agreed to stop at the next town they came to, and I watched the rest of the game on my hands and knees and through a forest of legs outside a TV rental shop window.
No one could hear the commentary outside the shop, so I missed the roar of the crowd that might have given the occasion some atmosphere.
Then, after the final whistle and the presentation of the trophy to England captain Bobby Moore, everyone around me silently drifted away. I wanted to jump up and down, sing and dance, but had to return to our car to continue our journey.
Although I was elated that England were world champions, the lack of a celebration afterwards remains one of the biggest let- downs of my life.
John Timewell, Wigan, Gtr Manchester.
Stan and Ollie on ‘active’ duty
IS THERE a question to which you have always wanted to know the answer? Or do you know the answer to a question raised here? Send your questions and answers to: Charles Legge, Answers To Correspondents, Scottish Daily Mail, 20 Waterloo Street, Glasgow...