"Tired and emotional" was a phrase used to describe 1960s Labour party cabinet minister and Deputy Leader George Brown, who had a drink problem. It first appeared in Private Eye in a parody memo supposedly informing civil servants how to describe Brown's conduct and state of mind. Due to the near-impossibility of proving intoxication without forensic evidence, journalists came to use the phrase as a way of describing drunkenness without inviting libel charges.
Lord Gnome is purported to be the proprietor of the magazine, and is an amalgam of various different media magnates. Originally modelled on figures including Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Thomson of Fleet, first appearing under the name "Aristides P. Gnome" in the early 1960s, Lord Gnome has since accumulated other characteristics to encompass the likes of Rupert Murdoch. He is portrayed in the magazine as a man of great wealth, greed, unscrupulousness and vulgarity. Lord Gnome rarely writes under his own name, but issues his proclamations, editorials and threats through a fictional underling named Emmanuel Strobes, with reference frequently made to his Lordship's "assistant", Miss Rita Chevrolet. Lord Gnome, as well as being a media magnate, is regularly referred to as having other business interests, frequently mentioned in his opening letter in each issue. Special offers from "Gnomemart" frequently appear in the magazine, which also carries an occasional column called "The Curse of Gnome", chronicling the subsequent misfortunes of those who have in the past taken legal action against the publication. In 1993, during the only televised ceremony for Private Eye's Bore of the Year Awards ("the Boftys"), Lord Gnome (played by Peter Cook) made a brief appearance on a satellite hook-up from his yacht, appearing to fall overboard during the broadcast, in a parody of Robert Maxwell's death.
In 1989, I conducted a negotiation with Robert Maxwell's firm, via his minion Jack Napier. Maxwell intervened at the last moment to try to cheat my company out of one million dollars. We told him to jump in the lake. That evening I went to see Tim Burton's Batman. Jack Nicholson's Joker character turned out to be named Jack Napier. About a year later, Maxwell fell off his yacht, just before his embezzlement of his employee's pension funds was revealed.
St Cake's School is an imaginary public school, run by Mr R.J. Kipling (BA, Leicester). ... The school's motto is Quis paget entrat (Who pays gets in), though variations on this arise from time to time, such as when the school decided to only admit the daughters of very rich Asian businessmen, and the motto became All praise to the prophet, and death to the infidel. ...
Neasden is a Greater London suburb which is the location of various parody institutions, and is often given as the origin of fictional letters. ... Stories from the world of football are satirised in "reports" by E.I. Addio (a reference to the football chant Ee Aye Addio) about the mythical and notoriously underperforming club Neasden F.C., with quotes from its manager "tight-lipped, ashen-faced supremo Ron Knee (59)" ... Neasden nearly always lose by a huge margin, often owing to own goals scored by veteran player "Baldy" Pevsner, who often score a consolation "one boot", and in spite of the efforts of their goalkeeper, "One-legged net-minder Wally Foot". Neasden is also the setting for the regular column Neasden Police Log, a fictional log-entry style police report that almost invariably depicts the police as racist, incompetent, and obsessed with observing politically-correct rules at the expense of maintaining law and order.
... Dave Spart was a parody of the stereotypical left-wing agitator who featured in editions of the 1970s and from time to time since (for example, after the street riots in England in 2011). Occasionally, his sister, Deidre Spart, has offered her views.
Piers Morgan is referred to as Piers Moron, sometimes Piers "Morgan" Moron
Capita, a long-term favourite target of Private Eye, is frequently called "Crapita" and "the world's worst outsourcing firm".
... The Guardian newspaper is generally referred to as "the grauniad", in reference to the paper's reputation for typographical errors and mistakes and its lower-case masthead logo. ...
The Department of Trade and Industry was often the "Department of Timidity and Inaction". ...
The Financial Services Authority is invariably referred to as "The Fundamentally Supine Authority" in reference to its reluctance to act and its seemingly close relationship with the industry it is supposed to regulate,...
At one point the magazine printed many letters from a reader named "Ena B Maxwell", of "Headington Hall, Oxfordshire", the real-life address of Robert Maxwell. The letters were written by the Private Eye editorial team, and the pseudonym was attached to suggest that he was writing to the magazine under an assumed identity. The letters were careful not to make any legally actionable claims, instead containing material that was impertinent or absurd in order to ridicule Maxwell.
Mary Ann Bighead, a parody of journalist Mary Ann Sieghart, often writes columns trumpeting her own brilliance and that of her daughters Brainella and Intelligencia.
"(Shome mishtake, shurely? Ed)" is supposedly a blue pencil by the editor, who is slurring a little after lunch. It may have allusions to the late Bill Deedes (Lord Deedes), who did slur that way. Bill Deedes, The late Lord Deedes, was also the eponymous Dear Bill that the fictional Mr Thatcher was forever writing to while his wife was in government. These articles were actually written by John Wells.
Deedes accompanied Evelyn Waugh to Ethiopia in the 1930s and was more or less the model for the hero of Scoop, Boot of The Beast. He died in 2007.
Towards the end of each issue, the magazine contains increasingly surreal jokes, references and parodies. Many of these have developed over time, and are thus now very familiar to long-term readers.
The Sizzler – an alleged fried breakfast for sale at extortionate prices on any train journey mentioned. At the first mention of the Sizzler, the article in which it appeared would be sidelined into a recital of the item's deliciousness.
... The number 94 is used as a generic large number, to indicate that something is lengthy and boring. This originated with some articles ending mid-sentence with "(continued page 94)" - a page which does not exist, as Private Eye is much shorter than that. This has since been extended to anything else involving a number, e.g. "the awards ceremony, in its 94th year", or spoof transcripts of radio broadcasts which end with "(continued 94 MHz)".
Phil Space is a fictional journalist. He 'writes' articles mainly to fill space on the page, hence his name (and similarly Phil Pages, Phil Airtime (a radio news correspondent) and Philippa Column). The articles are rarely informative or useful and are often completely irrelevant. A supposed continental counterpart, Monsieur Phil Espace, is sometimes mentioned when the story has an international background.