Ah, Cheryl. Our Cheryl. By now, depending on your level of interest in transatlantic showbiz stories, you will either be sick of tales of Ms Cole's dumping, or have no idea what I'm talking about. For those in the second camp: Cheryl Cole, cliché - sorry, sweetheart - of the nation, has been cut adrift from her "exciting" and "amazing" new job as a host of the American X Factor and has left the fickle shores of Los Angeles. We must turn to such oracles as Piers Morgan for the appropriate response: "Wow."

In many ways, this is the 21st-century equivalent of excommunication. The shame! The humiliation! The difficulty of holding one's head up in polite
society, especially under the weight of all that hair! The question hangs on many collagen-injected lips: is Cheryl the L'Oréal ambassador (we hardly dare say it) no longer worth it?

Apparently, one reason for her dismissal by faceless producers was her accent.

At this point, I will switch from mockery to all-out indignation. We had to listen to George Bush for eight years. Also: Sarah Palin. Those two aren't just incomprehensible - it's physically painful to listen to them speak. Palin's screwdriver screech has been known to induce epilepsy (a lie). Surely the Americans can handle a Geordie lilt in return? Cheryl had allegedly been receiving elocution lessons to make herself understood. The woman has an accent. She's not talking Klingon.

It's hard not to have an unreasonable affection for the Geordie voice. Byker Grove did it: PJ and Duncan (oh, Ant and Dec, it was your finest hour) and the gang hanging out at the youth club under the bearded watch of Geoff. But the dialect goes back further than a mid-Nineties television show - it descends from the language of 5th-century Anglo-Saxon settlers.

The very word Geordie has a nice, if uncertain past. For a time, George was the most popular name to give your eldest son in the north-east. Another explanation suggests that it comes from the support in the region for the Hanoverian George II during the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. And yet another is that local miners used "Geordie" safety lamps. You see? The term has history. Beat that, Hollywood.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 06 June 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Are we all doomed?

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The Bloody Mary is dead: all hail the Bloody Caesar

This Canadian version of an old standard is a good substitute for dinner.

It is not anti-Catholic bias that makes me dislike the Bloody Mary, that lumpish combination of tomato juice and vodka named after a 16th-century English queen who, despite the immense reach of her royal powers, found burning Protestants alive the most effective display of majesty.

My prejudice is against its contents: the pulverised tomatoes that look like run-off from a Tudor torture chamber. A whole tomato is a source of joy and, occasionally, wonder (I remember learning that the Farsi for tomato is gojeh farangi, which translates literally as “foreign plum”) – and I am as fond of pizza as anyone. Most accessories to the Bloody Mary are fine with me: Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, celery, black pepper, even sherry or oysters. But generally I share the curmudgeon Bernard DeVoto’s mistrust of fruit juice in my spirits: “all pestilential, all gangrenous, all vile” was the great man’s verdict. His main objection was sweetness but I will include the admittedly savoury tomato in my ban. At the cocktail hour, I have been known to crave all kinds of odd concoctions but none has included pulp.

To many, the whole point of a Bloody Mary is that you don’t wait until the cocktail hour. This seems to entail a certain shying away from unpleasant realities. I know perfectly well the reaction I would get if I were to ask for a grilled tomato and a chilled Martini at brunch: my friends would start likening me to F Scott Fitzgerald and they wouldn’t be referring to my writing talent. Despite its remarkably similar contents, a Bloody Mary is a perfectly acceptable midday, middle-class beverage. If the original Mary were here to witness such hypocrisy, she would surely tut and reach for her firelighters.

Yet, like the good Catholic I certainly am not, I must confess, for I have seen the error of my ways. In July, on Vancouver Island, I tried a Bloody Caesar – Canada’s spirited response to England’s favourite breakfast tipple (“I’ll see your Tudor queen, you bunch of retrograde royalists, and raise you a Roman emperor”). The main difference is a weird yet oddly palatable concoction called Clamato: tomato juice thinned and refined by clam juice. Replace your standard slop with this stuff, which has all the tang of tomato yet flows like a veritable Niagara, and you will have a drink far stranger yet more delicious than the traditional version.

Apparently, the Caesar was invented by an Italian restaurateur in Calgary, Alberta, who wanted a liquid version of his favourite dish from the old country: spaghetti alle vongole in rosso (clam and tomato spaghetti). He got it – and, more importantly, the rest of us got something we can drink not at breakfast but instead of dinner. Find a really interesting garnish – pickled bull kelp or spicy pickled celery, say – and you can even claim to have eaten your greens.

I’m sure that dedicated fans of the Bloody Mary will consider this entire column heretical, which seems appropriate: that’s the side I was born on, being Jewish, and I like to hope I wouldn’t switch even under extreme forms of persuasion. But this cocktail is in any case a broad church: few cocktails come in so many different incarnations.

The original was invented, according to him, by Fernand Petiot, who was a French barman in New York during Prohibition (and so must have known a thing or two about hypocrisy). It includes lemon juice and a “layer” of Worcestershire sauce and the tomato juice is strained; it may also actually have been named after a barmaid.

All of which proves only that dogma has no place at the bar. Variety is the spice of life, which makes it ironic that the world’s spiciest cocktail bestows a frivolous immortality on a woman who believed all choice to be the work of the devil.

Next week John Burnside on nature

Nina Caplan is the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year and 2014 Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year for her columns on drink in the New Statesman. She tweets as @NinaCaplan.

This article first appeared in the 08 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin vs Isis