Stanley Unwin (7 June 1911 Pretoria, South Africa – 12 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".
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.
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.