Street of Shame: First candidates

Posted on Fri 12 Jul 2013 @ 6.48pm UTC


REGULAR readers will have noticed that we have a static page called Street of Shame. We think we now have debut candidates for entry.

Once upon a time (yesterday) it all started with one innocent Facebook status update:—

“How fast can you uncork a bottle with a handscrew?”

No sooner had this update been posted, we started getting brain-damaged queries from some people who are clearly suffering from The Eyes Wide Shut Syndrome.

Names and details of those people are withheld to protect your sanity (and ours) — for the time being.

The candidates for Street of Shame inclusion are:—


‘What does “uncork” mean? Is it a real word? Never heard of it before.’

[From a Hong Kong Chinese person, Facebook comment]

Just because you’ve never heard the word uncork doesn’t necessarily mean the word is non-existent. Just like you’ve never heard of unwell as well, probably.

It is amazing that a grown person who has had 10 to 15 years of essentially bilingual schooling in a place like Hong Kong could actually have never heard of such commonplace words as—

  • uncork,
  • undo,
  • unwell,
  • and similar other un- words.

Even more surprising is the near inability of such people to infer meanings from a word as obvious as uncork.


cork (n, adj)

Plenty of Corks 001

(via Wikimedia Commons)

A noun cork (1275–1325) is a piece of cork, rubber or some other material used as a stopper for a bottle or similar vessel. The noun also means the outer bark of the Mediterranean oak tree (Quercus suber) used for making stoppers for bottles, floats, etc.

The adjective cork means something made of or from cork a cork sculpture is a sculpture made of cork (although it could also mean one made up of corks/stoppers).


to uncork (vt)


Uncorking regular wine (left) vs. champagne
(via Your Dictionary and Good Housekeeping)

To uncork [1720–30] is a transitive verb (one that takes a direct object) and has two meanings.

The literal meaning (sense 1) of to uncork is to draw the cork from (to pull the cork out of) a bottle or some similar container, usually with a handtool (a corkscrew a.k.a. handscrew) designed for this purpose.

The colloquial and figurative meaning (sense 2) of to uncork is to let out, let loose, release or unleash something, as in: to uncork one’s pent-up feelings.

Bottles for champagne and other fizzy (‘sparkling’) wines use a different shape of cork. The nature of the uncorking (n: gerund) therefore will be different. The correct method to uncork a fizzy wine like champagne is to remove the ‘furniture’ housing the cork, then grip the cork and twist off. It is very bad form socially to remove the furniture and then use two thumbs to push off the cork, as Formula One racing drivers usually do.

Champagne style corks can KILL, especially if aimed at the eye or the base of the neck. The velocity of a flying champagne cork is around half that of a speeding bullet. Other than that, champagne can kill because of their high price.


corkage (n)

Closely related to uncork (sense 1) is the noun corkage [1830–40].

no corkage laiwahrestaurant

(via Lai Wah Restaurant)

Some restaurants allow customers to bring in their own wine, etc, instead of ordering from the inhouse drinks list. The noun corkage is the fee charged by the establishment for serving drinks that the patron brings in or bought off the premises.In short, the fee payable by the customer for serving self-bought drinks.

By the way, you don’t need to say “corkage fee” because corkage already means a fee.


‘What you you mean by “uncork a bottom” [sic]? What kind of bottom [sick]?’

[From a Hong Kong Chinese person, Facebook private message]

What kind of bottle/bottom do you think?! One that has a cork in it!

corkage torontolifecom

It’s a bottle, not a bottom
(via Toronto Life)

The last time we checked, the wine bottle still is the commonest liquid container that’s stopped with a cork.

Imagine this:—

You’re trying to find a clever line to cork others. Instead, you end up having a giant ‘thing’ corking up your anus. We can help uncork your butt on payment of corkage.


to cork (vt)

To cork [1275–1325] is a literal transitive verb meaning to provide or fit with a cork, as in:—

We supply various stoppers to cork wine bottles and other liquid containers.

The verb can be used figuratively to mean to blacken something or someone (to character assassinate), derived from when in the olden days to literally blacken barrels with burnt oak.

Use cork up (below) if you wish to say to shut and seal something or someone in a literal or figurative sense.


to cork up (vt)

To cork up is an idiomatic phrasal verb meaning to stop (‘to close and seal’) with a cork — in other words, to plug with something as if with a cork, as in:—

I think we should cork this up and save it for later.

Cork up the bottle for later.

If you can’t stop farting, we’ll have to cork up your anus with cotton wool.

Cork up your complaining! We’ve heard enough already!


cork high and bottle deep (idiom)

The idiom cork high and bottle deep is a rural English expression meaning very drunk, as in:—

By the time the party was over, he was cork high and bottle deep.

This rather rustic expression used to be well understood on both sides of the Atlantic. It is going extinct nowadays, like that idiom highfliers and deep swimmers. Cork high and bottle deep was last heard around 2003–2005 in an episode of Carnivàle, an American TV series set in the USA during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years:—

“Jesus, you almost broke your damn neck.”
“You are cork high and bottle deep.”
“That’s not fine and drunk, my friend.”
“You care to join me? As soon as l get started, you’re gonna have to race me to the bottom of that bottle.”
“The race is on.”


pop one’s cork (idiom)

The informal idiom pop one’s cork (sometimes blow one’s cork) means to lose one’s temper, but sometimes it means to release one’s emotion or physical tension. To pop your cork basically means you’ve snapped (another English idiom).

It’s completely different to the idiom pop your/someone’s cherry, which is when a girl loses her virginity when her hymen breaks during first-time sex.

Don’t get those two idioms mixed up, or you’ll get a fearsome slap in the face.


‘What’s a handscrew?’

[From a Hong Kong Chinese person, Facebook comment]


Corkscrews galore
[via Wikipedia (top left), Astronasty (top right),
Bon Appétit (lower left), Wikimedia (lower right)]

Corkscrew is the more common name. Handscrew is usually understood (mostly by native English speakers) to mean corkscrew too — particularly when a sentence is referencing the uncorking of a bottle.

Handscrew is also the name of various handtools used in carpentry, plumbing and general workshop tooling.

bar mounted corkscrew winecare-co-uk

A bar-mounted corkscrew for professional catering use

At your age AND after 10 or 15 years of schooling, you OUGHT to be able to infer (on your own or assisted by somebody) that handscrew — especially when used in that original question — most likely will mean that spirally looking thingy that people use to extract the cork from a bottle (or your head out of your anus, if that’s your case).


‘Your question is ambiguous. What do you mean by “how fast”? Do you mean “how soon”?’

[From a Chinese person, origin/location unknown, private email]

No, I actually mean how fast — how quickly — I’m asking how much time it takes you to do it.

(That person who wrote in, I don’t think he/she knows “how soon” isn’t what he/she thinks it means.)

Since that person seems to be Chinese, I’m asking how rapidly (如何快速) you can do it, not how soon (如何盡快) now or later.

carr how soon

‘How Soon?” sheet music by Walter Carr (1944)
(via Frankly Collectible)

A how fast question is about how quickly you can do something — the SPEED at which you can open a bottle. Ask how quickly or how fast if you want to know how much time is needed to do something.

A how soon question is about future time — the point in time WHEN you are going to start opening a bottle. Ask how soon if you want to know when somebody will start to do something, or when something will start to happen.

How FAST can you f@#k up?
Takes no more than a minute.

How SOON will you f@#k up next?
Set for F@#k-up Friday.

How FAST can you uncork your anus?
Very slowly, from the ankles up.

How SOON will you uncork it?
In 15 minutes’ time, probably, if all goes well.

How FAST can you cork up your mouth?
As quickly as a punch in the gob.

How SOON will you cork it up?
Right about now, my funk soul brother.

How FAST do dumb-arses die?
Far too slowly.

How SOON will they die?
Right about now, hopefully before the cows come home.

The fastest and the strongest at the soonest for the cheapest.
Or the soonest fastest for the cheapest strongest.

(By the author, ca. 1998 — but it’s not a poem or a rhyme)


butt plug

Not a cork … it’s a butt plug — but some people like you just SO need these


‘So how fast can you do it?’

[From an Australian, Facebook comment]

(This one IS NOT a candidate for Street of Shame, but included just for interest.)

Six bottles in 10 seconds is my uncorking record, if the race is on and a pool is going.

Otherwise, my normal dining-table speed is 6 seconds for one bottle. Six seconds is pretty fast uncorking even for someone from wine-drinking countries.

Drinking speed is 14.7 seconds a bottle of wine (standard size of 75 centilitres or 25 US fluid ounces), again if the race is on — pretty fast even for a habitual wine drinker.


coke uncapped

These you don’t uncork … you uncap them
(via Bride and Joy)

Remember that German fellow who lunged at and manhandled Leonardo DiCaprio’s reproductive organ in the movie The Beach?

My habit is to use my bare hands to slide off the metallic wrapper that seals the mouth of the bottom. Most people have to use a blade to cut it open.

That means my hands are powerful enough to wrest your dick clean off from your body should any of you ever ask any more stupid questions.


If you are sceptical…

You can check the meanings of the words above in these works:—

Collins English Dictionary, Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition (UK: William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, 1979, 1986; HarperCollins, 1998–2009).

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs (The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., 2002).

Random House Dictionary (Random House Inc., 1966, via Unabridged, 2013).

Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English, Third Collegiate Edition (New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1988).

(Or choose the references you like best…)


© Learn English or Starve, 2013. Featured image via Apartment Therapy. (B13235)

Updated 15 DEC 2013 (typo fixes)

Posted in: Street of Shame