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Prince Charles Down Under
(as the actress said to the bishop)

Charles, Prince of Wales, the soon-to-be married (again) heir to the British throne, who may or may not become King of Australia one day, made headlines around the world when he said in Melbourne on March 3, "Gradually, as the actress said to the bishop, it all became too big for me."

"The language was fruitier and the jokes a little more risqué" Caroline Davies reported in London's Daily Telegraph.

In the United States, CNN.com said "Charting the growth of his own project, Charles - perhaps appealing to Aussie humor - told guests: 'Gradually, as the actress said to the bishop, it all got too big for me.' The remark prompted a roar of laughter from the crowd."

New Zealand's Sunday Star-Times published a hilarious account by that country's renowned humourist Steve Brounias. You would enjoy reading the complete story by following the link below. Here's an extract:

I spent quality time with Prince Charles on Thursday, in Melbourne. Actually, it was quantity time, nine hours straight from 12 noon in the shadow of a 56-year-old man who has perfected the staid art of walking very slowly with his hands clasped behind his back. The sun on a cloudless, glaring afternoon turned his cheeks, and the bald oval on the back of his head, a cheerful shade of pink. He wore a royal flush. It suited his holiday mood.

He has always had a droll wit about him. This remains evident in the flashes of merriment that light the damp cellar of his eyes, and in the wryness of his smile. In fact, the line of his lips may well be his most revealing feature. There is something furtive about his mouth; it hints at sensual and lascivious intent. He wants to have fun. But is it allowed?

After praising the quality of beetroots and olives, the Prince was ushered into a very ugly building to sip San Pellegrino mineral water and launch a business and community project which aims to address Melbourne's social ills. He referred to a similar scheme that he had once supported. "Until gradually," he added, his mouth twitching with an irresistible impulse, "as the actress said to the bishop, it became too big for me."

It went down somewhere in the order of a lead balloon.

Few readers under 50 would have a clue as to the meaning of the once commonplace phrase "as the actress said to the bishop." Regular readers of this e-book may remember that we wrote about it last year, after receiving successive emails from an actress and a bishop.

You rarely hear it used these days. The Dictionary of Slang says it's "a jocular catch phrase that draws attention to an otherwise innocent statement by imbuing sexual innuendo."

A few weeks ago, icWales, "the national website of Wales" (the country of which Charles is Prince) displayed a story from the Western Mail in which Tryst Williams offered an example of the phrase: "OO-ER vicar, that's a lovely pair of creamy buns you've got there."

Tryst (another appropriate name) added: "This, no doubt, is the kind of saucy remark the majority of people raised on a steady stream of 'wink wink nudge nudge' jokes and innuendo-filled Carry On films would expect when the Western Mail put two actresses, a vicar and a trainee vicar in a room together for an hour...

"Oh, and while we're on the subject of stereotype-busting, who do you think it was more difficult to get hold of when explaining the latest barmy newsdesk plan of trying to get vicars and actresses together for the sole purposes of using the headline As the actress said to the bishop? Actresses, not normally known to eschew a bit of free publicity, or those retiring, conservative types - vicars? Let's just say it came as a surprise to me."

Leslie Charteris (born Leslie Charles Bowyer Yin), author of best-selling books about The Saint in the 1930s, was fond of the phrase. In nearly all his adventure stories, the hero, Simon Templar, a Robin Hood/James Bond type, quoted it to hint at possible double entendres.

On the internet, Google offers more than 600 citations, many of them too risqué for family reading.

In a web discussion about UK theme parks. Punk Rock Princess 631 wrote: "Have returned to TP [Thorpe Park] twice since initial report and while still not freaked out by Nemesis Inferno, am getting to enjoy the ride more and more. I really think that the more often you do it, the better it gets - as the actress said to the bishop!"

 
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Story first posted April 2005

Copyright © 2005

Eric Shackle

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