For economy of language, it would be hard to beat a market trader in Beirut trying to sell me a briefcase with the words, "It's an open-and-shut case, Effendi." Without further ado, he demonstrated that it was indeed capable of performing both functions. Perhaps he felt that mentioning the fake gold hinges and faux-leather handle might detract from the allure of its company logo - Gucci spelled with one 'c'.
"Does it play a tune when you open it?" I thought of asking, but I knew the answer to that already, and one never likes to make fun of anyone in Lebanon. "Gunfire is Lebanese for 'please queue up,' wrote the humorist P.J. O'Rourke, or at least I think he was joking; that quote comes from a book called Holidays in Hell.
Everyone likes a bargain, except perhaps the person who is offering it. I remember an old jingle to the effect that "everyone loves a sale except a sailor, who has often set sail before the sale begins." In my yearly letter to Santa I have often suggested postponing Xmas for a few days to take advantage of the January sales, but he was evidently too busy to reply.
I am as keen to strike a good deal as the next man, especially if the next man is J. Paul Getty, who used to charge visitors for phone calls made in his mansion. I could never imagine being so mean -- indeed, I offer my house guests rooms at reduced rates during the low season, assuming they are close friends. The writer Martin Amis went one better than a bargain, when he made a wager with the owner of an Indian restaurant, telling him, "If you can make a curry that is so hot I can't eat it, I'll pay for it." As far as I know, steam is still coming out of his ears, but his wallet remains unaffected.
I am frequently offended by the false bargains offered by modern advertising, you know the sort I mean. "Save 400 euros by buying this new phone for 2,000 euros." Arithmetic was never my strong point, but after spending 2,000 euros, I would no longer have any savings left in my piggy bank, never mind the 400 I was promised. Can I sue for false advertising? I think we both know the answer to that: I couldn't afford it.
I'm fairly sure that in the wake of our costly pandemic there won't be many inexpensive bargains to be had. Covid-19 will be an all-purpose excuse for making people's lives even more impoverished. I once saw the Canadian comedian Rich Little on BBC television proving that he could do 'bargain basement' impressions of famous people using only a single word. Gary Cooper was a laconic 'Yep' (or 'Nope') and Clark Gable a growled 'Scarlett.'
As single-word utterances for the present day, I think my choice is 'vaccination.' Now that's what I would call a bargain. Better even than my Guci briefcase, not that I still have it. The handle fell off.