Beheading to Death as a Past Time

(~5 minutes to read)

News item: “Saudi Arabia is to behead a… man to death…”
News item: “Shopping is one of our most traditional past times”

I spotted both the above two editing fails on the same day. At the time, I thought of ranting about poor editorial standards, but thought better of it.

I think the following script, which was inspired by my love for the TV show, “Blackadder”, is a much better vehicle for extracting the humour from these gaffes. Enjoy!

“So, Cauldron, here we are, installed as his Grace’s official executioners. If we can’t find creative ways to make a ton of cash on this, then my name isn’t Lord Elrick Ratstrangler.”

“No, my lord,” replied Cauldron, Ratstrangler’s trusty but tatty manservant. He was known as a manservant because he served what was anatomically a man, although in his dealings with the rest of the human race, Ratstrangler showed himself to be more serpentine than human. Cauldron was therefore referred to by his peers as a snakeservant.

“What do you mean, ‘No my lord’?” demanded Ratstrangler. “Are you saying I don’t know my own name? Do you doubt my ability to extract money from the condemned and their kin?”

“I’m sorry my lord,” returned Cauldron. “I meant, ‘yes, my lord. This should make us both wealthy men, my lord.’”

“Well I suppose I could throw the odd penny your way, now and then,” said Ratstrangler.

“O thank you, my lord! Wealth beyond my wildest dreams! May the blessings of a thousand angels rain upon your sweet head and grant you eternal bliss!”

“What a load of cobblers!” exclaimed Ratstrangler.

“But my lord, to dismiss such a blessing is blasphemy, surely!”

“If King ‘Gout’ can sack the Pope and set himself up as head of the most lucrative commercial enterprise in the country, I’m sure your god will forgive me for not wanting to have a thousand angels divebombing me. Now, who’ve we got lined up?”

“Tomorrow, my lord, we have Sir Sirus Loinchop, who refused to recognize his Grace as head of the Church in England. He’s down for an HD&Q.”

“HD&Q, Cauldron?”

“Executioners’ jargon for ‘hang, draw and quarter’, my lord. Then on Friday, it’s Lord Lionel Ottertoucher’s turn.”

“And what did he do to deserve a tour of our facilities?”

“He referred to the King as ‘that limping vat of syphilitic hypocrisy,’ my lord. His Grace personally dictated his death warrant.

“Oh yes? And what did His Gross choose for an execution method?”

“He said that he should be ‘beheaded to death’ my lord.”


“To death.

“Good gravy, Cauldron… You know what that means, don’t you?”

“My lord?”

“It means we don’t know if Loinchop has to be HD&Q’d to death as well, or not. I mean, if the King merely wants him roughed up a bit, we’re going to have to take it easy with the drawing and quartering. If we go too far, and Loinchop dies, it might be us next.”

“That does make the job a little more difficult, my lord. Perhaps we should practise on a few peasants first.”

“Good idea Cauldron. You could call in a few family favours. That uncle of yours has got too many children, for starters.”

“That’s true, my lord, so it won’t matter if we accidentally draw them to death. And if Uncle Sewer gets lonely, he can always beget a few more children.”

“That’s the spirit, Cauldron.”

“I was thinking, my lord; this job isn’t likely to be a full-time one, so we might have time to indulge in some of our past times.”

“Past times, Cauldron?”

“Yes, my lord. You know—hobbies and past times—like cup-and-ball, or croquet, or that new-fangled game that his Grace plays—uhm… what’s it called? Oh… ‘dennis’.”

“Do you mean ‘tennis’ Cauldron?”

“My mistake, my lord. All this talk of uncles and cousins made me think of my Auntie Dennis.”

“Having a conversation with you, Cauldron, is like entering the Hampton Court maze and wondering if we’ll ever get to Windsor. Firstly, about your Auntie Dennis. I hate to break this to you, but she is a he. He didn’t want to be pressed into service aboard a ship, so he adopted the guise of an old washerwoman.”

“Ah. That explains the moustache, my lord.”

“No, it doesn’t, Cauldron. All old washerwomen have moustaches; it’s a mandatory requirement. And it doesn’t explain the lack of… bosom, for the same reason.”

“Then how do you know, my lord?”

“Because he and your Auntie Sarah are married, and women won’t be able to marry women for another five hundred years.”

“Who gave birth to the babies then—Auntie Dennis or Auntie Sarah?”

“Babies are found under gooseberry bushes, Cauldron. And speaking of gooseberries, your brain resembles one—small, green, and tart.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

“Before you have any other thoughts, let us extricate ourselves from the labyrinthian mess of your recent utterances. You said that we’d have time for hobbies and past times…”

“Yes my lord…”

“The word is ‘pastimes’, Cauldron.”

“My lord?”

“’Pastime’, not ‘past time’. Good grief—if we indulged in past times, we’d have to have this conversation all over again. It’s pastime, pastime, pastime!”

“Very well, my lord. Then you won’t mind me saying that it’s pastime we visited Loinchop and told him he’s for the… chop… my lord…”

“Cauldron—do you work very hard at annoying me?”

“No, my lord; it’s no effort at all.”

“Well, get your hangman’s noose tied and up on the gibbet ready for Loinchop. And if you’re not done in ten minutes, you’ll be hanging out with him tomorrow.”

“Yes, my lord. Thank you my lord. Hmmm… hanging out all day with a knight. Mother will be so proud.”

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