Interview: Alex Horne

Abigail SaltmarshLooking for something to spend your hard-earned honk on? How about booking to see Alex Horne? ABIGAIL SALTMARSH asked the comedian about watching his words during his new show.Read more about Alex HorneRead more about Alex HorneAbigail Saltmarsh

Looking for something to spend your hard-earned honk on? How about booking to see Alex Horne? ABIGAIL SALTMARSH asked the comedian about watching his words during his new show.

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Last year was a busy for comedian Alex Horne. Since he was here in Norwich last, he has become a father for the first time, seen his BBC4 show We Need Answers become increasingly successful - oh, and has attempted to expand the English language.

Yes, Alex, who was here in the city with his Birdwatching tour last year, is now back to do a spot of 'Wordwatching'. Along with having recently published a book with the same title, he has put together a show that explores his quest to invent new words and see them published in the dictionary.

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'This is something I have been doing for some time now and the show is really an update on my progress,' he explains. 'To get a word into the dictionary you have to present a body of evidence to show that people have been using it - print evidence and people using it on television etc.

'For the first few years I was very secretive, trying to drop the words into conversations - when I was being interviewed, for example - but now I have realised that I need to get as many people as possible using them.'

The list of words that Alex and a group of his friends put together include the likes of 'honk' - meaning 'cash' - and 'pratdigger' - meaning 'a friend who always turns up with someone you don't want to spend time with'.

'I love the word 'pratdigger' particularly,' he said. 'I feel there is a real gap in the English language here!'

Alex's show talks about his successes in using the various terms and will feature clips of him trying to sneak them in.

So far, his new words have appeared in nearly all the national newspapers, on Sky News, and even in an interview with George Alagiah, which was witnessed by 250 million people on BBC World.

'I also managed to use 'pratdigger' on the Daily Politics Show on BBC2!' he said.

It was while he was studying Latin, Greek and Linguistics at university, that Alex discovered a love of language. He then went on to investigate the possibility of inventing his own words. Alex's research found that in 1791, Dublin theatre owner James Daly had proved it was possible.

When a colleague wagered he couldn't come up with a word that would catch on by the end of the weekend, Daly hired a group of street urchins to write 'quiz' - a previously unknown sequence of letters - on the walls around the Irish city.

Within 24 hours the word was common currency. People didn't know what it meant so presumed it was some sort of test.

'The show is really a collection of jokes with a story underneath about me doing all of this,' he explained. 'I also ask the audience to write down words they have invented themselves. Most groups of friends or families have their own words that they use.'

And he added: 'In fact, I'm thinking of creating a dictionary that brings all of these together.'

The comedian, who was a Perrier Best Newcomer Award nominee in 2003 and won the Chortle Award in 2004 for Best Breakthrough Act, is now also appearing in the second series of his quiz show We Need Answers.

Co-created by comedians Tim Key and Mark Watson, it runs until March but there are hopes of follow-up series.

'It is great fun,' Alex admitted. 'BBC4 is a bit like a little cupboard. We are tucked away and are allowed to do what we want really. It doesn't feel like work - yet we get paid!'

Alex, whose son Tom was born last year, is currently touring with Wordwatching, and is particularly looking forward to his gig at the Norwich Arts Centre on Tuesday.

'I will be bringing Tom up to Norwich with me. His great-grandparents live in Trowse so it is nice have the chance to go and visit them as well as to perform,' he said.

Meantime, Alex has also embarked upon another quest. As well as trying to nudge a few words into the English language he also wants to see if he can spread a rumour.

'I've been going round telling everyone that Natash Kaplinsky is 6ft 2ins tall,' he said. 'I'm not sure whether it will work but I am interested to see just how far it will go!'

t Alex Horne Wordwatching, Norwich Arts Centre, January 26, ��10 (�8 cons), 01603 660352,

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