A Mug’s Game

A Mug’s Game

We had a good chuckle recently when it was Hubert’s birthday. One of his presents was a mug, and on it were the words ‘YOU DON’T SCARE ME, I’VE GOT TWO DAUGHTERS’. It may be, like us, you have an assorted collection of mugs accumulated over the years and at least some of them will have words on them. In fact, early on in their courtship our older daughter’s husband brought me a mug on one celebratory occasion and on it was the picture of an elephant together with the words ‘Old Muggins Will Do It’. Very perceptive he is!

In the way that the English language likes to baffle and confuse those who try to learn it, the word ‘mug’ has more than one meaning although it is always spelt the same. It can mean, as above, a container to drink out of – bigger than a cup and without a saucer, or it may be used to refer to somebody’s face. A example of this underpins the use of the word ‘mugshot’ when talking about the photo of a criminal taken by the police or sometimes by the media. A third way of using it is a casual description of a person who has behaved stupidly or who has been taken in or fooled by a third party. Another usage has just occurred to me and that is of my grandmother using the word ‘thunder-mug’ to describe a receptacle kept under the bed – I think I will leave that one there and leave you to work it out for yourself!

Apparently the first recorded use of the word was in 1664 meaning a vessel with high sides for drinking from but since then it has been appropriated in various ways as described above.

A few weeks ago the guest in Countdown’s Dictionary Corner was Colin Murray and he told this true story. It involves a man visiting a casino in Monte Carlo and in the casino that night was another man renown for his ability as a poker player. He was a World Champion playing professionally and making a very good living doing so. The first man watches for a while and then takes a turn in playing against the Champion. He plays him for 20 minutes and at the end of this time he has won a thousand pounds. He cannot believe his luck and exclaims to those around him that he has actually won and taken a thousand pounds of a world champion. The champion smiles and comments that he might have played him for twenty minutes and won a thousand pounds but if they were to play for a few hours he would take his house off him! The moral that Colin was highlighting was the way in which something may seem brilliant in the first instance or in the short term but in the long run can lead to ruin. He finished his telling of the story by commenting how it could be a mug’s game.

There are so many examples of the way short term pleasure or gain can turn sour; a little drinking, a little gambling and so forth. Even a little chocolate or cheesecake is a lovely thing but starting to eat it in excessive amounts and serious health problems might arise. So in short, don’t be a mug.


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