Stanley Unwin (comedian)

Stanley Unwin (7 June 1911 Pretoria, South Africa12 January 2002 Danetre Hospital, Daventry, Northamptonshire ), born in Pretoria, South Africa, sometimes billed as Professor Stanley Unwin, was a British comedian and comic writer, and the inventor of his own language, "Unwinese," referred to in the film Carry On Regardless as "gobbledegook".

His parents emigrated from the United Kingdom to South Africa in the early 1900s. Stanley was born in Pretoria in 1911. His father died in 1914, and his mother arranged for the family to return to the United Kingdom. By 1919, he had been sent to the National Children's Home at Congleton in Cheshire.

In the 1930s, he married Frances and they had two daughters and a son over the next few years (Unwin later stated that Unwinese had its roots in enlivening the bedtime stories which he told his children). In 1940 Stanley got a job at the BBC working on transmitters and was stationed at the Borough Hill transmitting station in Daventry,England. Stanley, Frances and nine month old daughter Marion, moved to Long Buckby in Northamptonshire, where Stanley lived for the rest of his life.

His early career and training introduced him to wireless and radio communication, and this, coupled with work in the BBC's War Reporting Unit from about 1944 was ultimately to prove to be a conduit into the media.

It was whilst based in Birmingham, between 1947 and 1951, that Unwin got his first accidental broadcast. Whilst testing equipment, Stanley handed the microphone to broadcaster F.R. "Buck" Buckley who ad-libbed a spoof commentary about an imaginary sport called "Fasche". Buckley then encouraged Unwin to join in and introduced him as "Codlington Corthusite", handing back the microphone - he continued in Unwinese.

The recording was played back to two BBC producers, who added some sound effects. The recording was eventually aired on Pat Dixon's "Mirror of the Month" programme and after getting a good response led to another sketch in which Stanley was interviewed as a man from Atlantis being asked about life in the sunken city. The broadcast produced Unwin's first fan mail, from a lady who had been impressed by his performance - Joyce Grenfell. Since Grenfell was Stanley's heroine, the encouragement gave Stanley a tremendous boost and he was inspired to break into show business.

After the war, but still with the BBC, whilst in Egypt and recording a series of shows by Frankie Howerd, the star was taken ill at the last minute and Stanley was pushed onto the stage and told to "do a turn".

Back in the UK Unwin began to do more on the performing side of the microphone. His next major breakthrough came when producer Roy Speer introduced him to leading comic Ted Ray. Once Ray had heard Unwin talking he said simply: "I want him in the series." The series was "The spice of life" which also featured June Whitfield and Kenneth Connor. During the mid 1950s Unwin did about a dozen of these shows and in the process met agent Johnnie Riscoe and daughter Patsy who were to become his managers for the rest of his career. By the end of the fifties Unwin had ventured into the film industry winning a part in the 1956 Cardew Robinson film "Fun at St Fanny's".

Stanley Unwin died in 2002 in Daventry. He is buried in the churchyard at Long Buckby, with Frances, who pre-deceased him. Their gravestone has the epitaph, "Reunitey in the heavenly-bode - Deep Joy".

His work is thought to have been a significant influence on the two books written by John Lennon in 1964/5 – John Lennon In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works.


Unwinese, also known as "Basic Engly Twentyfido" - probably a reference to Charles Kay Ogden's 1930 work "Basic English", which strips the language down to 8509 words, was a special, ornamented and mangled form of English in which many of the words were corrupted in a playful and humorous way. Unwin’s performances could be hilarious yet disorienting although the meaning and context were always conveyed in a disguised and picturesque style.

Unwinese was very poetic in the way it alluded to its subject – e.g. Elvis Presley and his contemporaries are described as having ‘wasp-waist and swivel-hippy’ – and it was often punctuated with moments of clarity and directness to accentuate the ‘nonsense’ – e.g. ‘Deep joy!’ ‘Oh yes’.

On a more serious front, as well as being useful for entertainment purposes, Unwin's use of language also gives us an insight into the way our minds understand words.

Unwin claimed his gift came from his mother, who once told him that on the way home she had "falolloped over and grazed her kneeclabbers". This phrase eventually turned up in one of Unwin's monologues, Goldiloppers and the Three Bearloders.

Unwinese might also be traceable back to Lewis Carroll's 1871 poem, "Jabberwocky.

Some appearances and works

In the ensuing years, Unwin made the following:

  • 1956 Fun at St Fanny's a 1956 film vehicle for English comedian Cardew Robinson.
  • 1958 a cameo appearance in the first episode of the radio series Beyond Our Ken
  • 1959 A television commercial for Flowers IPA beer, with the slogan "For the best pickit in a brewflade, pick Flowers".
  • 1960 an LP of gobbledegook entitled Rotatey Diskers with Unwin. This has since been reissued on CD.
  • 1961 The Miscillian Manuscript, a collaboration with artist Roy Dewar; a kind of Unwinese travelogue with cartoons and collages by Dewar.
  • 1961 Carry On Regardless, Fifth Film of the series as "Landlord".
  • 1962 House & Garbidge, a spoof of home and lifestyle magazines, again with Dewar.
  • Some time in the 60s, there was an American who was campaigning against animal nudity, and came to Britain to further his cause. He was invited to appear on a current affairs programme Tonight(?), and was interviewed by Unwin. Unwin started off with intelligible English and gradually slid over into Unwinese.
  • 1966 Rock-a-bye Babel and Two Fairly Tales, a selection of spoof nursery rhymes and fairy tales in which Unwinese surrealism almost reaches Joycean levels; with Dewar. The film Press for Time starring Norman Wisdom.
  • 1967 narration for "Happiness Stan" on side two of The Small Faces' LP Ogden's Nut Gone Flake.
  • 1968 an appearance in a small role, and a few lines of gobbledegook, in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as the Chancellor of Vulgaria.
  • 1969 He appeared in Gerry Anderson's puppet series The Secret Service, a mixture of live and puppet action in which he and his puppet double played Father Unwin. Each episode contained a scene where he would try to confuse people with his gobbledegook. Unfortunately as soon as Anderson's boss Lew Grade heard Unwin's character speaking gobbledegook he cancelled the show on the grounds that people wouldn't understand it - despite the fact that they weren't meant to.
  • 1980s a press advertisement for IBM word processors with the prophetic 'throw away your old tripewriter'.
  • 1980s a tyre advert on television, using the slogan 'Outstandifold in the wetty grippers'.
  • 1987 a television advertisement for the Amstrad 9512 computer, with the slogan "it's word perfectilode".
  • 1987 appearing as Number Three in The Tube's parody of The Prisoner, The Laughing Prisoner.

Unwin was less active in later decades, but still made occasional appearances. In the 1970s he appeared in The Max Bygraves Show on ITV, sometimes speaking normally and sometimes in gobbledegook. In the final episode Max tried out some gobbledegook phrases on Unwin, who claimed he couldn't understand them.

In 1994 Unwin collaborated with British dance music act Wubble-U, on their single Petal. A 1998 re-release took the track to number 55 in the UK Chart.

In 1998, Unwin made a cameo appearance on the Aardman Animations series, Rex the Runt, as an accountant who spoke almost entirely in Unwinese.

Some phrases from Unwinese

Deep joy: Pleasing.
Goodlilode: Good or excellent.
Nockers (as in I did nockers): Not.
Terribold: Terrible.
Remarkibold: Remarkable.
Horribold: Horrible.
Falollop: Fall.
Once a polly tito: Once upon a time.
Thriftymost on your banky balancer: Very good value.
Goodlibilode: Goodbye.


  • Autobiography: 'Deep Joy: Master of the Sproken Word'

External links

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