Strangely likeable hormonal drunkards

<i>The Inbetweeners Movie</i> is here.

So, what's a girl to do when the National Theatre Live screening of One Man Two Guvnors is fully booked down the local multiplex? Why, she opts to see The Inbetweeners Movie instead, of course!

Those unfamiliar with the slanguage of teens should look away now; this is a film of sexonyms on the beach, it's a vaginal thesaurus-on-sea. Neil, Jay, Simon and Will, freshly familiar from their TV series (The Inbetweeners, E4), are uploaded in full widescreen puerility and Dolby surround rudery, to the party resort of Malia, Crete. Sporting "Pussay Patrol" T-shirts and looking like "the world's shittest boy band", they travel hopefully in pursuit of getting laid. It'll be like "shooting clunge in a barrel, " swears Jay.

The Brits-abroad, Club 18-30 (or IQ 18-30) scenario is a familiar one. That cocktail of alcohol, sex, clubbing, drugs and sunburn; the sea of party boats bobbing on a fishy undertow of violence. There are gags (and gagging) galore, and the best-worst dance moves I've seen in a long, long while. Move over Ricky Gervais, and not before time.

The joke is so often on the boys that it's impossible not to warm to them, even as you wince. They are such wholesale losers that even the hateful synecdochic habit of referring to women by their constituent parts (one constituent part in particular) starts to look innocuous. They are welcomed to their filthy hostel by the sight of the proprietor fishing a dead dog out of a well. They are regularly cozened out of their clothing. Neil takes a dump in "the child's toilet" in their continental bathroom. An erect leaking phallus is sun-lasered onto Will's back after Simon doodles its shape in sunscreen. You can smell the failure on them, as sharp as Lynx.

Though the talk is all of sex, the real pull is between the unlikely lads themselves. There's an elegiac and liminal feel as these man-children bid farewell to schooldays and perhaps to each other (partly, surely, because the actors are starting to get wrinkly.) Time is about to be called on the cretins on Crete. The holiday bromance has to end.

And what of the "tail" end of the cocktail? Well, at least the girls are given credit for some proactivity- the boys are not the only ones with sex on their minds. Both genders are out on it, for lots of it. The redemptive totties that the not-so-fab four meet are relatively smart and savvy (apart from Neil's mate who is his perfect match in dimness: like Mrs to Mr Potato Head, she is his adoring reflection.) It's the boys who blub like babies when the girls take their flight home.

But The Inbetweeners behave like morons and the intelligent, beautiful "pussay" waits for them patiently. You can act, apparently, like a tool: get lagered up and off-your-face on fishbowls, fall asleep in an ant's nest and comprehensively insult your girl (in Jay's case) and she will still be there to offer to pleasure you- a case of better fellate than never, I guess. Like the old-school Cretan clunge, Ariadne, the laydeez are left hanging around in the Aegean, waiting for the boys to grow up. Who's the joke really on?

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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