A modest proposal: we need Enemybook

Don't be tricked into electronic friendship.

If you're off it, people will reasonably assume that you have contracted a disease. No, not medicine- Facebook: the free medium of self-promotion. Go to mine and you'll see that I speak 5 languages (Russian, Gaeilge, Clackamas, Dompo and Yawdanch) and have 60,000 friends. Self-promotion it certainly is. I once spoke to another person with close to 60,000 friends; we had an interesting conversation in which he pointed to miscellaneous household objects, labelling them all in Japanese.

But Facebook also tricks us in another way. Have you ever sat and looked through a few hundred photographs of Dave's party, wondering why you weren't invited and brazenly insulting the "terribly dressed and really annoying" people grinning at your screen-blazed eyes? I know you have. A key reason behind Facebook's success is its understanding of, and enhancement of, the negative side of human nature: envy, nosiness and an affinity for insults (can be good). This is all fair enough, my complaint is that Facebook is providing an outlet for this human behaviour under the guise of friendship; Dave's party-goers aren't your friends! Stop shimmying around a land of anonymous mates amiably poking you and embrace cruel (social-networking) human nature. It is time for Enemybook.

Keep enemies close to by staying up-to-date on their family holidays and favourite pastimes. Is Jane Eyre their new favourite book? Maybe you should write as your status that you hate it. Instead of a poke, why not gouge? Electronically vomit on people's walls, view enemy pages adorned with pictures of "Your Worst Moment Together" - the potential of this ingenious idea is endless. So someone make it and send me the money - I just need to go and laugh at the annoying guy from the café's new profile picture.

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Why do the words “soup, swoop, loop de loop” come to mind every time I lift a spoon to my lips?

It’s all thanks to Barry and Anita.

A while ago I was lending a friend the keys to our house. We keep spare keys in a ceramic pot I was given years ago by someone who made it while on an art-school pottery course. “That’s er . . . quite challenging,” the friend said of the pot.

“Is it?” I replied. “I’d stopped noticing how ugly it is.”

“Then it’s a grunty,” she said.

“A what?” I asked.

“A grunty. It’s something you have in your house that’s hideous and useless but you’ve stopped noticing it completely, so it’s effectively invisible.”

I was much taken with this idea and realised that as well as “grunties” there are also “gruntyisms”: things you say or do, though the reason why you say or do them has long since been forgotten. For example, every time we drink soup my wife and I say the same thing, uttered in a strange monotone: we say, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop.” How we came to say “soup, swoop, loop de loop” came about like this.

For a married couple, the years between your mid-thirties and your late forties might be seen as the decade of the bad dinner party. You’re no longer looking for a partner, so the hormonal urge to visit crowded bars has receded, but you are still full of energy so you don’t want to stay in at night, either. Instead, you go to dinner parties attended by other couples you don’t necessarily like that much.

One such couple were called Barry and Anita. Every time we ate at their house Barry would make soup, and when serving it he would invariably say, “There we are: soup, swoop, loop de loop.” After the dinner party, as soon as we were in the minicab going home, me and Linda would start drunkenly talking about what an arse Barry was, saying to each other, in a high-pitched, mocking imitation of his voice: “Please do have some more of this delicious soup, swoop, loop de loop.” Then we’d collapse against each other laughing, convincing the Algerian or Bengali taxi driver once again of the impenetrability and corruption of Western society.

Pretty soon whenever we had soup at home, Linda and I would say to each other, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop,” at first still ridiculing Barry, but eventually we forgot why we were saying it and it became part of the private language every couple develop, employed long after we’d gratefully ceased having soupy dinners with Barry and Anita.

In the early Nineties we had an exchange student staying with us for a year, a Maori girl from the Cook Islands in the southern Pacific. When she returned home she took the expression “soup, swoop, loop de loop” with her and spread it among her extended family, until finally the phrase appeared in an anthropological dissertation: “ ‘Soup swoop, loop de loop.’ Shamanistic Incantations in Rarotongan Food Preparation Rituals” – University of Topeka, 2001. 

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt