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Off the cuff.

Byline: By Jamie Diffley

Each year, according to the too-much-time-on-their-hands boffins who compile such lists, is summed up by a word.

Acid for 1966, for example, mobile for 1986 and botox for 1994. I think it said botox.

Last year it was chav. We in the North East probably know them better as charvas.

You know who they are ( shaven heads covered with Burberry baseball caps.

Sovereign-ringed knuckles dragging across the floor producing sparks on the pavements outside the chip shops where they congregate.

And then there are the males... (yak yak yak!)

Now I know it's only the first week of January, but I'm pre-empting the word for 2005.

And the word will be (drum roll) blip, as in when a football team can't win a game.

Initially it was just the excuses of the ruling teams. Your Manchester Uniteds, your Arsenals, your Chelseas. All those teams who are expected to do well but for some seemingly unknown reason, don't. A draw at Crystal Palace, a defeat to Portsmouth etc ( all put down to a blip.

But this season, more and more teams are getting in on the act.

Look at this quote from last month: "In the overall picture, it is a blip and we will get ready for the next one (match)."

Have a guess who that's from. Could it be the current champions Arsenal after failing to close the gap on runaway leaders Chelsea?

No. It's David Moyes after his Everton got beat 2-0 away at Charlton. The same Everton that finished fourth from bottom last season, avoiding relegation by six points.

And how about this one ( you'll never guess who said this: "My only hope is that it is just a temporary blip and that the race will be back on."

That wasn't Alex Ferguson ruing another dropped two points. That was 63-year-old Morpeth Harrier Jimmy Alder speaking in September when the cancellation of the annual Morpeth to Newcastle Road Race was announced.

Added to the definition of blip should be:

Noun: A convenient excuse which covers all bases.

Sport is full of cliches, but blip is quickly becoming the most overused one of them all.

Newcastle United have suffered more blips so far this season than a charva has had one-night stands.

Gary Speed called his former team's defeat to his current team Bolton "a minor blip". Sunderland's draw over Gillingham was called a blip and everyone is waiting for Chelsea to suffer their blip.

But while the word may currently be the prime use of the sporting world, it will most certainly start to spill over this year.

Already I've read a horoscope this year which mentioned the fact my health might "suffer a blip".

I say mine, it was actually for Aquarius (I'm Leo).

Reading other people's stars is the closest I get to being a voyeur without actually feeling soiled. Or doing anything illegal.

It won't be long before bosses are bearing over their already-beleaguered employees, chastising them about the blip they are going through.

And the day is not far off when said already-beleaguered employee phones in sick because they are indeed suffering a blip. "I'm not coming in today boss." "Nothing serious I hope Jenkins?" "No boss. Just a blip. I'll be reet the morrow."

The real danger, however, is only round the corner. When the defence solicitor stands up in the court to explain why his client removed the heads from each member of his family and replaced them with those of his pet chickens.

"My client completely regrets the incident your honour," says the solicitor.

"He is from good stock and has never been in trouble with the law before. It was just a blip."

Case dismissed.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 6, 2005
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