Stanley Unwin (comedian)

Missing image
Cover from Rock-a-bye Babel by Stanley Unwin and Roy Dewar.

Stanley Unwin (June 7 1911- January 12 2002), sometimes billed as Professor Stanley Unwin, was more than just a British comedian and comic writer. He was an inventor of his own language, "Unwinese," referred to in the film Carry On Regardless as "gobbledegook".

Born in Pretoria, South Africa, his "Unwinese" was a special and mangled form of English in which only a few words were intelligible; this was enough to make the listener think he was being talked to - but without actually allowing him to understand the sentence concerned, the effect of which was make the listener feel deaf or daft.

On a more serious front, as well as being useful for entertainment purposes, Unwin's use of language also gives us an insight into the way our minds understand words.

Some appearances and works

In the ensuing years, Unwin made the following:

  • 1958 Unwin made a cameo appearance in the first episode of the radio series Beyond Our Ken
  • 1960 he recorded an LP of gobbledegook entitled Rotatey Diskers with Unwin. This has since been reissued on CD.
  • 1961 Unwin collaborated with artist Roy Dewar on The Miscillian Manuscript, a kind of Unwinese travelogue with cartoons and collages by Dewar.
  • 1962 Unwin and Dewar produced House & Garbidge, a spoof of home and lifestyle magazines.
  • 1966 Unwin and Dewar produced Rock-a-bye Babel and Two Fairly Tales, a selection of spoof nursery rhymes and fairy tales in which Unwinese surrealism almost reaches Joycean levels.
  • 1967 he recorded narration for "Happiness Stan" on side 2 of The Small Faces' LP Ogden's Nut Gone Flake.
  • 1968 he had a small role, and a few lines of gobbledegook, in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as the Chancellor of Vulgaria.
  • 1969 his voice and likeness were used in Gerry Anderson's puppet series The Secret Service, in which he (or rather, his puppet double) played Father Unwin. Each episode contained a scene where he would try to confuse people with his gobbledegook. Unfortunately as soon as Anderson's boss Lew Grade heard Unwin's character speaking gobbledegook he cancelled the show on the grounds that people wouldn't understand it - despite the fact that they weren't meant to.
  • 1980s Unwin appeared in a tyre advert on television, using the slogan 'Outstandifold in the wetty grippers'.

Unwin was less active in later decades, but still made occasional appearances. In the 1970s he appeared in The Max Bygraves Show on ITV, sometimes speaking normally and sometimes in gobbledegook. In the final episode Max tried out some gobbledegook phrases on Unwin, who claimed he couldn't understand them.

Here are some phrases from Unwinese:

Deep joy: Pleasing.
Goodlilode: Good or excellent.
Nockers (as in I did nockers): Not.
Terribold: Terrible.
Remarkibold: Remarkable.
Horribold: Horrible

Unwin's advice for those who have overeaten at Christmas dinner:

"If you've done an overstuffy in the tumloader, finisht the job with a ladleho of brandy butter, then pukeit all the way to the toileybox."

Stanley Unwin died in 2002 in Daventry, England, UK.

Not to be confused with

Stanley Unwin (publisher)

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