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the James Allen phrase book

Here at dotdotdotcomma we love F1. Most of the time. At least, we love it when there's some real competition, when you can't be almost certain which team - and probably which driver - is going to win the next race. Come to think of it, we can't stand F1 but what makes it even harder to watch is the fact that someone somewhere in power at ITV believes that our viewing experience is enhanced by having James Allen yell his imbecilic rantings at us.

We're not talking about his only too evident infatuation with Ferrari and Schumacher Snr but rather his insistence on saying (or, more frequently, shouting) things that are clearly intended to impress with their supposed laddiness but in fact just sound like he was up late in his hotel room the night before, making them up:

"Right, if someone cuts across the chicane, I'll say, 'Woah, Martin! He really jockstrapped that chicane,' or, if things are getting heated, 'Wow! He anchored far too late and clenched both front wheels as he lobstered into that chicaneaway.'"


So, whereas the Murrayismogram on our F1 pages is an affectionate celebration of Murray's endearing gaffes over the years, what follows is a collection of some of the more impenetrable words and phrases James Allen has used, together with an explanation of what we think he meant, where possible. And affection doesn't enter into it.

ambush (verb)
to beat, get the better of; a perfectly valid phrase for describing the common situation where the two Ferrari drivers, escaping the lenses of the two dozen TV cameras around the track, hide out on the circuit and then suddenly burst into view to claim first and second on the grid.; e.g. "They [Ferrari] were able to ambush McLaren yesterday in qualifying.", Monaco 2008
animal (transitive verb)
to deal with aggressively; e.g. "Montoya animalled the last chicane.", Canada 2002
ask (noun)
"Ask? As a noun?" we hear you, er, inquire. Afraid so. Where the rest of us might use "job", "task" or "challenge", Allen feels the need to requisition a word that's not even the correct part of speech; e.g. "It's a big ask to split the two Ferraris at Monza.", Monza 2004

babe (transitive verb)
to treat gently; to drive slowly; most common in the form "So-and-so is babeing it"; first recorded use San Marino 2003
baby (transitive verb)
synonym for babe (q.v.); e.g. "Ferrari wins and wins big but perhaps not with as big a margin as it might have been if Schumacher hadn't babied the car in the last three laps.", Australia 2004
backpace (noun)
rear-end, back of the car; an oddly coy word that is perhaps Allen's attempt to help counter the corrupting of young minds caused by all the swearing you hear on the team radios; e.g. "Sato rammed him [Michael Schumacher] up the backpace under braking for the La Source hairpin.", Belgium 2005
banana, full (noun)
We're not entirely sure how to define this, although cf. bananas, maximum; e.g. "Look at that - almost 19,000 RPM: the full banana on this Ferrari engine.", Bahrain 2004, or "They [Honda]'ll probably run the engine at full bananas.", Canada 2005
bananas, maximum (plural noun)
full throttle, highest possible acceleration; e.g. "Giving that Honda maximum bananas down the main straight.", france 2004, or "He [Button]'ll be able to give it maximum boost bananas throughout the Grand Prix.", Japan 2005
barbecue, to go on a (verbal phrase)
to explode in flames; e.g. "Webber is in the spare car with the original race engine that went on a barbecue on Thursday.", Monaco 2004
big up
(verb) to promote; (noun) kudos; respec'; some phrase Jimbo heard on a street somewhere and resolved to use in a laughably ill-conceived attempt to connect with the massive; e.g. "Big up for Fisichella, eh, Martin?", to which Martin Brundle responded with a dignified, if stunned, silence, San Marino 2003
blow someone/something into the weeds (transitive verb)
to out-perform someone/something emphatically; first recorded use Austria 2003; e.g. "This is the greatest sporting farce since the Grand National that never got started. In fact, it blows that into the weeds.", USA 2005
booked (adjective)
in the bag, bought and paid for (q.v.); you can see where Allen was going here, using the concept of booking something to imply that there seems to be no-one to challenge a grid position, but it still made him sound like an arse.; e.g. "Heidfeld looks to have fifth place booked here.", Turkey 2007
bought and paid for (adjectival phrase)
leaving aside the inherent tautology, this does not mean, as you might think, behaving as if one owns the place; Allen uses this phrase to convey the concept of supreme confidence and self-assurance; as far as is known, he has only ever applied the expression to Ferrari and Michael Schumacher; e.g. "Certainly when we arrived here yesterday, he [Michael Schumacher, of course] looked like he had the place bought and paid for.", Bahrain 2004
bouncy (adjective)
oddly, this seems to mean fast, although quite how the two concepts are linked, even in Allen's strange mind, is difficult to see; e.g. "This is a quick car this weekend, Martin. Button's been really bouncy.", france 2006
box seats, in the (adjectival phrase)
in the pound seats (q.v.); e.g. "He [Michael Schumacher]'s certainly in the box seats at the moment.", Belgium 2004
bubble, on the (adjectival phrase)
We think this means unhappy, in trouble, unsettled or somethng along those lines; e.g. "He's [Jacques Villeneuve] really on the bubble now." or "Jacques Villeneuve clearly on the bubble at Sauber.", both Malaysia 2005
bus, to run for the (verbal phrase)
to be off the pace; an unlikely scenario in real life and a very odd image for the concept he's trying to get across; can't somebody stop him please?; e.g. "He's running for the bus at the moment, Alonso.", Bahrain 2007

cane (transitive verb)
to accelerate hard; most common form: "So-and-so [usually Michael Schumacher] is really caning it."; first recorded use Canada 2003.
chug-a-chug (adjective)
This one's got us stumped. If anyone knows what it means, please contact the sub-editor at the address below; e.g. "Raikkonen goes much too deep into the chicane and loses so much momentum - you see it's almost chug-a-chug to get himself going again.", Belgium 2004
clean out (transitive verb)
to beat or dominate, cf. clean out; e.g. "He[Pedro de la Rosa]'s had some races where he's been totally cleaned out by Raikkonen. Beaten by 30, 40 seconds in the race by him.", Brazil 2006
clear out (transitive verb)
to beat or dominate, cf. clean out; e.g. "He [Nico Rosberg] got absolutely cleared out by Webber in that session.", Turkey 2006
cooked (adjective)
compromised or even ruined; possibly derived from the expression "to cook one's goose" but frankly who knows?; e.g. "He [Kimi]'s now sitting behind a car that is full of fuel and that is Raikkonen's race cooked.", Europe 2008

darty (adjective)
pointy, easy to make dart or, if you're technically inclined, more prone to oversteer than to understeer; e.g. "It's a very darty car, this.", Imola 2006
donkey (noun)
an engine, plain and simple; e.g. "Schumacher has more of a fresh donkey in the back.", Malaysia 2006
draft (noun)
slipstream; e.g. "He's right up in his draft.", Brazil 2004
drop-zone (noun)
during 2006-style qualifying, the group of the six slowest drivers in sessions one and two, who are excluded from the next session; it's easy to imagine Allen hearing or coming up with this phrase and realising that he could use it and make everyone think he was in the Paras; e.g. "in the drop zone", Bahrain 2006
duke out (transitive verb)
to fight for; frequently, but not always, appears in the form "duke it out"; e.g. "Barrichello, Raikkonen and Button duking out the podium places at the moment.", China 2004

fence, to throw it in the (verbal phrase)
to go off the track; drivers who inadvertently reach the edge of the circuit at speed usually end up in the tyre barrier or the wall and have to be travelling at altitude to hit the catch fence itself, which makes this phrase inaccurate and, if you'll permit us to be a little sniffy, in slightly poor taste too.; e.g. "They could so easily throw it in the fence on that dry tyre", Brazil 2008
fighty (adjective)
aggressive, forceful, feisty even - what was so wrong with "feisty"?; e.g. "Nick Heidfeld is having a really fighty afternoon here in the BMW.", Bahrain 2006
fillet (verb)
(transitive) to split or separate; e.g. "Here we go, riding on board with Alonso - fillets the two BARs.", Hungary 2004; (intransitive) to feed or fit; e.g. "He's going to fillet in right behind Sato.", Japan 2004
fireworks (adjective)
difficult to ascertain the exact meaning but something along the lines of quick, exciting or committed and nothing to do with exploding engines, as you may have suspected, especially since the following example concerns a Jordan; e.g. "Watch him [Karthikeyan] up through the fast chicanes. He is absolutely fireworks through there.", Imola 2005
flat-chat (adjective)
flat-out or full-chat (shades of Murray's own insistence on using either "Regenmaster" or "Rainmeister"); Allen's first use of "full-out" must be only a few races away; e.g. "The two Ferrari-powered Saubers, then, over a kilometer flat-chat - two hundred miles an hour.", China 2004
flick-flack (adjective)
back and forth, with the advantage alternating between two rivals; this is another in Allen's series of strange baby-talk, cf. chug-a-chug and splick-flack; e.g. "It's flick-flack between the two tyre companies.", france 2006

garden path, to go down a (verbal phrase)
to follow the wrong route, usually with regard to car set-up; this undoubtedly has its origins in the phrase "to lead someone down (or up) the garden path", meaning to misdirect or deceive, but Allen has removed the other party from the transaction, leaving his expression meaning "to misdirect oneself"; e.g. "Yesterday they [Sauber] thought they were quite competitive here and they've obviously gone down a bit of a garden path in terms of what everyone else was doing.", Germany 2005
gardening (noun)
going onto the grass and, presumably, cutting it with the blades that are fitted to the underside of all F1 cars; e.g. "A bit of gardening there.", Australia 2006
gas (transitive verb)
to use the throttle (or, as our American cousins and Allen himself would have it, "gas") pedal; e.g. "As Martin said, the drivers just have to be patient really on the throttle, 'cause you can't gas it.", China 2004
gas it up (verbal phrase)
to fill the fuel tank; a quick tip for you, James: even the Americans say "fill it up with gas", not "gas it up", so just who are you trying to impress?; e.g. "If he [Massa] gasses it up, he could be going through to the finish.", Italy 2008
ginger (adjective)
cautious, careful; you can see where Allen was going with this, taking the common adverb gingerly and trying to turn it into an adjective, but there is no such word and the adjective he wanted was, in fact, just gingerly; in the process, of course, he managed to offend Anthony Davidson and probably about four percent of his audience; e.g. "It's pretty ginger driving for my money from Michael Schumacher on this first sector.", China 2006
grenade (verb)
(reflexive) to explode or catch fire, usually spectacularly; (transitive) to cause to explode or catch fire or otherwise destroy, usually spectacularly; to lunch (q.v.); e.g. an engine "grenaded itself", Canada 2002 or "He [Jenson Button] too has taken a fresh engine after grenading his engine within sight of the flag at the very end of the Grand Prix.", Imola 2006
groove, to have a good one on (verbal phrase)
to lap consistently and quickly; to be, as Martin Brundle would say, in the groove, which as least has the benefit of making some kind of sense; e.g. "He [Button]'s certainly got a really good groove on.", Turkey 2005
gun (verb)
to rain heavily; e.g. "It's absolutely gunning it down here.", USA 2003

Harry Flatters (adjective)
flat-chat (q.v.); e.g. "The pre-qualifying here was absolutely Harry Flatters - as quick as you could go in the wet.", Belgium 2004
home and hosed (adjectival phrase)
home and dry; leaving aside the rather obvious Freudian overtones of the expression, what's wrong with "home and dry"?; e.g. "Without that [a string of technical problems], he [Massa] would probably be home and hosed in this championship.", China 2008
hurrah (noun)
presumably just a session or period of time; e.g. "What about this new qualifying format then, Martin? Two twenty-lap [minute] hurrahs, all the cars on track at the same time.", Europe 2004
hurt box, to be in the (verbal phrase)
to find oneself disadvantaged; a strange concept, to say the least, and not one on which we'd like to dwell; we'll leave that particular duty to Allen's brain care specialist.; e.g. "BMW delayed announcing their drivers for next year because they wanted to be absolutely sure that he [Heidfeld]'d got over his problems and, well, he certainly seemed to have done but here he's back in the hurt box.", Japan 2008

jumpy (adjective)
nothing to do with being highly-strung or of a nervous disposition; instead, Allen seems to use it to mean sudden, abrupt, violent or not smooth, for which English already has a surfeit of words (sudden, abrupt, violent or not smooth, for instance) and doesn't need any more, thanks very much; e.g. "As the other Midland driver, Christijan Albers, makes his pit-stop. Very jumpy on the throttle.", Britain 2006

kitchen sink, to throw the (at something) (verbal phrase)
to do everything in your power;presumably this has its origins in the phrase "everything but the kitchen sink", although quite how that exclusive concept translates to Allen's inclusive one eludes us; e.g. "They're throwing the kitchen sink at this car to try and get it to go faster.", Malaysia 2005

lappery (noun)
the act of lapping a circuit; e.g. "The crowd here at Indianapolis being very patient. They've sat there for 17 minutes waiting to see a Formula One car come out and do some fast lappery.", USA 2002
line, to stick it on the (verbal phrase)
to stick the car on its nose (q.v.); e.g. "And Raikkonen is sticking it on the line here!", Britain 2005
locker, to have in one's (verbal phrase)
to have tools and/or abilities at one's disposal; another phrase that seems to originate in Allen's excessive enthusiasm for the macho surroundings of the men's changing room.; e.g. "Nelson Piquet doesn't have enough in his locker to get himself into the top ten.", China 2008
lunch (reflexive verb)
to grenade (q.v.); e.g. "The engine lunched itself.", Germany 2002

manners (plural noun)
aggressive driving or, in fact, a lack of manners; e.g. "We've had some real manners between the two McLaren drivers." or "Montoya is very hard to resist this afternoon. He really has been putting some manners on people.", both Australia 2006
monster (verb)
to badger, harry, pester, worry, harass, bother, hassle, place undue stress on or any number of other perfectly good expressions for adequately conveying the concept; numerous examples exist, such as:
"He didn't want to monster the tyres too much in the early stages.", Malaysia 2004
"Clearly on the race day, Coulthard not able to monster this car.", USA 2004
"Webber no longer monstering the back of Coulthard's car.", Hungary 2004
muller (verb)
to show scant respect; e.g. "He [Alonso] mullers the kerbs.", france 2005

nailed on (adjectival phrase)
certain to happen, inevitable; presumably this refers to an event that is more likely to happen than one which is merely glued-on, tied-on or sellotaped-on, hence when a driver is running in third place but doesn't have a comfortable lead over the driver in fourth, the situation may correctly be referred to as "looking like a blu-tacked-on podium".; e.g. "This looks like a nailed-on Raikkonen win.", Japan 2008
nose, to stick (a car) on its (verbal phrase)
to drive extremely quickly; to post a good lap time; e.g. "Alonso really sticking it on its nose in his lap.", Malaysia 2004

off-piste (adjective)
off the track; probably an unconscious expression of Allen's desire to be invited on one of the drivers' skiing trips.; e.g. "Rosberg right off-piste.", Bahrain 2007
out of bed (adjectival phrase)
out of sorts, out of whack; the deity of your choice knows how - or, more to the point, why - he thinks these up; maybe this one has its origins in the concept of putting something to bed, in the sense of finalising it but it's tenuous at best and inane, stupid and annoying at worst.; e.g. "That [a safety car] can throw your whole strategy out of bed.", Canada 2007
outpoint (transitive verb)
to outscore; this has the horrible feel to it of being popular in America, where they torture English to such an extent that Amnesty International are starting to become concerned; it also bears a similarity to athletics commentators' use of the word "medal" as a verb, which clearly isn't exactly as evil as premeditated murder but isn't a million miles away either.; e.g. "He[Felipe Massa]'s outpointed both Schumacher and Alonso in the last five Grands Prix.", Italy 2006

pain, give some (verbal phrase)
simply, to use or, slightly less simply and a lot less gramatically, to take some life out of from; e.g. "If you've gone out and you've already given some pain to a new set of tyres, that's a new set lost.", Spain 2006
porpoise (intransitive verb)
to bounce; e.g. "Look at the car bouncing - it's the only one that really does that under braking down there: like a real porpoising effect.", China 2004
pound seats, in the (adjectival phrase)
with a good view; in a good position, cf box seats, in the; e.g. "At the moment the man in the pound seats is Alonso.", Italy 2004
pull up trees (verb)
to travel extremely quickly; e.g. "His team-mate Mark Webber has been pulling up trees in the other car.", San Marino 2003

race face (noun)
to have one's race face on: to drive aggressively; e.g. "Well, he's certainly got his race face on, has Jenson Button.", Germany 2004
races, at the (adjectival phrase)
on the pace, showing good form; odd that it's "at the races", rather than "at the race".; e.g. "He [Kubica] is well and truly at the races today.", Spain 2008
racy (adjective)
quick, fast; as with many of Allen's unique turns of phrase, this word's use is unrelated to its conventional sense, in this case "saucy"; e.g. "Look at Juan Montoya - he's looking very racy indeed.", Brazil 2001
radar, to fly under the (verbal phrase)
to be off the pace; if nothing else, it's impressive just how many silly alternatives Allen can come up with for the same concept but then why would he want to say that someone's slow when he could make it sound like he's monitoring military air traffic?; e.g. "Raikkonen really has been flying under the radar all weekend.", Australia 2007
ramp up (verb)
to get faster and faster over the course of a session, apparently; e.g. "This race track is one that really does ramp up. As more rubber goes down, it gets faster and faster over the course of a session.", Canada 2005
read (noun)
understanding or appreciation of; e.g. "Pretty much everybody round here felt that they had a good read on the Silverstone circuit ahead of the British Grand Prix." or "What's your read on this weekend so far?", both Britain 2006
roadmap, to have the (verbal phrase)
to be quick (around a particular circuit); we're guessing that Allen was likely to have been influenced by all those American politicians talking about "roadmaps to peace" as euphemisms for "blow to pieces".; e.g. "He [Kimi] really does have the roadmap around here.", Belgium 2008

seat, to stand up in one's/the (verbal phrase)
to excel oneself; to drive beyond the car's limits without driving beyond one's own, which is where Felipe Massa usually goes wrong; e.g. "Let's see what Webber can do, standing up in his seat.", Imola 2005
shut it out (verbal phrase)
to win something, claim it as one's own, rebuff all comers; yes, it's an innocuous little phrase and yes, it's a silly thing to get worked up about but this is exactly the kind of thing that makes otherwise non-violent types want to visit all sorts of physical discomforts on Allen, the infuriating, vacuous excressence.; e.g. "Clearly, they're going to shut it [the constructors' title] out here this afternoon.", Brazil 2008
slap (noun)
an amount; this is such an odd phrase that it's tempting to regard it as a slip of the tongue but even if we assume that's the case, we're still very much in the dark as to what Allen was reaching for when he picked this up instead.; e.g. "He wasn't particularly fast here last year. He got a podium but he was a good slap slower than team-mate Michael Schumacher.", Europe 2007
slewy (adjective)
sideways; e.g. "Look at Barichello! He goes very slewy through turn ten.", Bahrain 2005
snorter (noun)
a prime example; right out of the top drawer; e.g. "And that's a snorter of a lap by Takuma Sato.", Australia 2004
God only knows what this means; possibly it's some sort of cross between "lickety-split" and "flick-flack" but we can't even guess at the concept Allen was attempting to convey; e.g. "He hit the bump, the car went splick-flack out into the barriers.", Brazil 2004
straightaway (noun)
quite simply, a straight; this is not original Allen but merely an appropriated Americanism, although why anyone would favour this term over the shorter, more easily enunciated and just plain clearer "straight" is a question that we look forward to asking the supreme being, should we ever meet her.
stretch, to put a bit of one on somebody (verbal phrase)
to increase one's lead; e.g. "Alonso leads and he's put a bit of a stretch on Trulli in that last lap.", Bahrain 2005
swirly (adjective)
sliding, slipping, letting the tail step out, without actually spinning, which the term might lead you to understand; e.g. "A very swirly exit from the final chicane puts him ahead of Raikkonen but behind Alonso.", france 2005
sword, to look at the (verbal phrase)
to face disappointment; from the single example of this we have, it sounds as if Allen made it up on the spot, so let's not try to find any logic in it.; e.g. "Last year, Martin, it was Massa who had a technical glitch that ruined his qualifying and his race; this year Raikkonen is, er, looking at the sword.", Australia 2008

tank-slapper (noun)
losing control of a motorcycle and swerving rapidly from side to side in an attempt to bring the damned thing back under your control; the phrase makes perfect sense when talking about motorcycles - because of the relative positions of their fuel tanks and handlebars - but, as Allen so often manages to do, the phrase is rendered unintelligible in its application to four-wheeled transport and is clearly just another phrase that he heard somewhere and parroted in an attempt to make him sound like one of the lads, without the slightest comprehension of its derivation; first recorded use Canada 2002, when it was used after Jarno Trulli had done well to avoid hitting the wall after sustaining a puncture.
throw (transitive verb)
to deploy or bring out; seemingly only used about either the safety car or a flag; presumably Allen was thinking of the concept as in "throwing a switch" but the idea does not translate well to flags or cars; e.g. "And once again race director Charlie Whiting has thrown the red flag.", Australia 2006
tippy-toes (adverb)
cautiously; with care; first recorded use Europe 2003: "very tippy-toes"
tripe, to run one's out (verbal phrase)
we can only guess but it would appear to be along the lines of pushing hard; cynical observers may choose to find irony in Allen's apparent invention of this phrase, given his own performance every other Sunday; e.g. "Seven times a world champion, 83 Grand Prix victories and he's still running his tripe out to try and get an extra point in Monte Carlo on the final lap.", Europe 2005 [Yes, we know he was talking about Monaco but he said it during the Europe coverage. Honest.]

water, to carry the (verbal phrase)
to shoulder the burden, to pull one's weight; possibly an allusion to Aquarius but, given who's saying it, more likely to be a reference to that dreadful Adam Sandler film, if that isn't tautological.; e.g. "It's been Trulli who's the one who's been carrying the water in this team.", Germany 2008
who dares wins pill, to take a (verbal phrase)
to show some bravery; here Allen has added the SAS to his repertoire of macho boys' clubs to which he'd like to belong; it's his children we feel sorry for.; e.g. "He [Kubica]'s taken a who dares wins pill.", Brazil 2008
wings, to get (verbal phrase)
to prove enduring; e.g. "Certainly that suggestion of Brawn's has attracted a lot of attention, so we'll see if that one gets wings.", Hungary 2004

Have we missed something?
Should you have any examples we're lacking, tyre-smoke them over to subeditor@dotdotdotcomma.com and we'll handbrake them onto the list.

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