decoding hugh


Hugh is talking about AA Gill, a British restaurant critic and writer, who passed away today at age 62. He had only recently revealed that he was suffering from cancer. 

Gill’s reviews in the Sunday Times and other media were very eloquent, funny, provocative and, at times, scathing. He was both revered and feared and had, reportedly, been thrown out of one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants by the chef himself. This piece in the Guardian gives a glimpse of the man. 


Hugh is talking about the illegal trade in rhinoceros horns in Asia, and the resulting poaching in Africa created by high demand for the horns, which are an ingredient in herbal combinations treating everything from hangovers to cancer. The BBC news story on this subject may be found here.

Rhinoceros horns are composed of keratin, as are the hair or wool, claws, beaks, horns and hooves, scales, shells, feathers, and quills of both mammals and reptiles. Human hair and nails are also made of keratin. 


Hugh and the band have arrived in San Francisco. And, not quite unexpectedly, the city triggers thoughts of a certain movie with him.

Hugh’s first tweet is a riff on Clint Eastwood’s famous lines in ’Dirty Harry’: “I know what you’re thinkin’. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?”

There are definitely a lot of lucky punks in the area over the next few days as Hugh and the band have three shows lined up in Napa, Saratoga and San Francisco itself. 

Addendum: The Eastwood theme was started a day ago by Hugh tweeting ’Pale Rider’ and a photo of a bottle of Macallan whiskey.  


We couldn’t believe our eyes today - Decoding Hugh now has 100 followers! When we started out with this we just flew by the seats of our pants. All we knew was that Hugh’s tweets raised some questions for many people - What is he referring to? Who is he talking about? I don’t understand cricket! were just some reactions popping up on Twitter.

Someone jokingly said that it takes a village to ‘decode’ Hugh’s tweets sometimes and that sealed it. A Decoder was required. A few research geeks thought they’d go out and collect the background information, so their friends wouldn’t have to wonder and guess. Decoding Hugh was born.

We never expected to have followers other than the people we knew anyway, in real life or on Twitter. It is only down to Hugh’s wide appeal, fierce intelligence and wit that this tumblr blog has become so popular. 

So, a big, big Thank You to all our followers, old and new - and here’s to many more tweets from @HughLaurie so we can keep doing something we enjoy so much.

(Special mention and Thank You to survivachick for her fantastic gifs!)

Late night filming really takes it out of you… (contains spoilers for ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’)

First, finding blood on his feet after taking off his ‘fancy costume shoes’, Hugh compares himself to Ginger Rogers, the American actress, dancer and singer, and probably most famous for her on-screen partnership with Fred Astaire. Rogers is rumoured to have turned a pair of white dancing shoes red with blood after she had to redo a dancing scene over and over again. We’re also reminded of a famous quote made by Bob Thaves (the creator of the American comic strip, Frank and Ernest): “Sure, [Fred Astaire] was great, but don’t forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards…and in high heels!” , 

Then, Hugh draws on the saying that there is always one ‘idiot’ in a group and if you can’t spot him it must be you. He uses the very British word ‘git’ here, a mild profanity, more severe than idiot, and used for someone incompetent or stupid. 

This leads straight into a comparison with Roger Ackroyd, a character from Agatha Christie’s ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’. Unfortunately, Hugh gets his reference wrong, as he meant to compare himself to the narrator of the story, Dr. Sheppard, who (in a remarkable plot twist) turns out to be the murderer. 

Slightly embarrassed about getting his reference wrong, he says he now feels like he has ‘stripped lead off the roof of St Agatha’s’, i.e. he has defiled a national ‘monument/institution’ like Agatha Christie - an act of vandalism. 

Postscript: We know Hugh is supposed to be filming ‘Tomorrowland’, but hearing about his bloody feet we were beginning to wonder whether he is not secretly working on something else entirely. It is, after all, coming up to Christmas and that means – Panto time! Pantomimes, or Panto for short, are a musical comedy stage production with a long tradition in Britain and other countries, especially during Christmas time. Usually based on a fairy tale, modern Panto includes song, slapstick and cross-dressing actors. Looking back at Hugh’s past successes, it is not impossible this year’s Panto of choice could be Cinderella.


Hugh seems to have discovered TwitterBots as he’s noticed there is (at least) one person who retweets every one of his tweets. Plotting how to throw a spanner in the works, he references a line from the 1983 film ’War Games’. A nice clip can be found here. ‘Professor Falken’ is the systems designer who programmed the super computer the main character David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) accesses by mistake - unwittingly starting a nuclear war simulation. 

This morning, Hugh quotes from ‘Invictus’ by English poet William Ernest Henley, a poem Nelson Mandela used to recite to fellow prisoners at Robben Island, where he was held for eighteen years.

'Invictus’ is Latin for 'undefeated’. 

This is the full poem:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The poem “Invictus” appears also in the movie of the same name, directed by Clint Eastwood, in 2009. The movie talks about the relationship between Nelson Mandela and the captain of the South Africa Rugby Team, Francois Pienaar, during the 1995 Rugby World Cup of South Africa. Nelson Mandela was played brilliantly by Morgan Freeman.


As he told us yesterday, Hugh is off to Paris - presumably for some L'Oreal related work. Getting up before 7am, he is initially surprised to find people lining up to get into a Night Club, until he realises that it is the weekend after all. "You owe it to yourself to live a little, Harry", is a quote from the 1972 film ’Dirty Harry’ with Clint Eastwood

We hope work in Paris is less dangerous than Harry Callahan’s job. 

Hugh’s musings turn to driving this morning (around 2am in Vancouver), or more specifically bad driving. Whether those thoughts were sparked off by actor Paul Walker dying as a result of a car crash yesterday, is anyone’s guess.

Our man wonders how it is that we all complain about bad drivers, yet nobody ever seems to be aware that their own driving may not be up to scratch. If there are so many bad drivers out there, some of us must be part of that group, surely?  

He then floats the idea that we’re actually all bad drivers and that it’s the ‘not knowing’ that makes us bad. Of course, this is a circular argument - if not knowing makes us bad at something, then how can we change it if we don’t know? It would also mean we’re bad at everything we don’t know - which would be an awful lot for most of us. 

Finally, he starts off the 'support group session’ by introducing himself and admitting that he is a bad driver, thereby hinting that we might take a look at ourselves before we pass judgment on others. After all, in an interview in 2011 he did admit that he has driven on the wrong side of the road on both sides of the Atlantic. (Credit for this last tidbit goes to our friend Falfans.)

Hugh draws a (virtual) line under the previous conversation about music and ‘boolayfooshes’; a line in pretty colours – or ‘colors’, as he has decided to use the American spelling. Poking fun at himself, he confirms in the following tweet that he is indeed dropping the U, just as he had earlier used the ‘non-U spelling’ in ‘humor’ (see our earlier post and Hugh’s tweets). U and Non-U refer to Upper and Non-Upper Class use of English. Perhaps Hugh has decided to forego the upper-class habit of using a u, or maybe his time in America has broken the habit and he’s gone native. Or maybe it’s for Twitter convenience–one less character taking up space. We’ll let you decide.

Saying he wants to ‘move on to those broad, sunlit uplands I keep hearing so much about’ he refers to Winston Churchill who used this line in his speech to the House of Commons on June 18th, 1940. This speech, commonly entitled ‘Their finest hour’, was delivered after France had sought an armistice just two days earlier, and Churchill was expecting the Battle of Britain to begin soon. Saying that if the British can stand up to Hitler, ‘all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands’, he indicates that a bright future for Europe is possible.

It’s Sunday, and that can mean only one thing - The Night Manager is on tonight (BBC One, 9 pm). Fittingly, Hugh is quoting from Revelations today, the King James version. The full verse is:

8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Maybe last night’s beer was slightly dodgy or the bad cricket news has given Hugh nightmares - either way, that’s some weird dream, man! 

Paul Dacre is a journalist and editor of the British newspaper The Daily Mail. He is also editor-in-chief of dmg media which publishes not only the Daily Mail but several other newspapers and tabloids in the UK. Dacre has recently been in the news for a controversial article about Ralph Miliband, father of Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party in Britain. 

We’ll let you decide whether Hugh is a fan of the Daily Mail and other similar publications or not. Feel free to google more. 

As for what Hugh was doing that he knows Paul Dacre has soft skin, your guess is as good as ours! 

Decoding Hugh turned 1 today! It’s amazing how time flies–it seems like just yesterday we began to decode our man’s tweets just for the fun of it, and suddenly here we are a year later, and still having a great time figuring out Hugh’s more cryptic statements :) We hope you enjoy our posts, both now and in the future. 

Many thanks to everyone who’s followed us here and on Twitter, and our eternal gratitude to those who have added information and offered corrections.  And most especially, thank you Hugh Laurie for the decision to join Twitter and share your thoughts and comments with us. Thank you all! We look forward to more chances to decode in the next year! 


The Decoders must admit that the game of cricket, and in particular how it is played, still remains mostly a mystery, despite rigorous study (and watching live games online). However, we can say with some certainty that ‘dropped one’ probably refers to a dropped catch; 'caught one’ may refer to one of the ways a batsman may be out; and 'hammered a rousing, spectacular, axis-shifting 7’ means Hugh’s team won the game (as he points out).

You can find a good overview of cricket and its complexities here. This video also offers the basics.

Edited to add: one of our Decoders-on-retainer (who knows far more about cricket than the rest of us) sent in this comment, which we felt was worthy of inclusion in the post:

'At the risk of getting it all wrong: I assume that Hugh Laurie played with friends (there doesn’t seem to have been a fixture of note on August 3 and the picture seems to indicate a local pitch) and is talking about his own contribution to the game. In that case ‘Dropped one’ and ‘caught one’ mean that while he was fielding he dropped a catch, but caught one batsman out. ‘Hammered a rousing, spectacular, axis-shifting 7’ is probably his ironic way of saying that he batted lousily. In cricket, seven runs isn’t exactly spectacular and there’s no way his team could have won if that was the sum total of all the players’ runs. I think it’s safe to say that the core of the message is that his team won despite his mediocre contribution.’


Apparently Hugh is learning a new skill. Either that or he is pulling our collective legs. 

A blowpipe or blowgun is a simple weapon for firing darts or other projectiles. Mostly regarded as a traditional weapon of peoples in South East Asia and some regions in South America, there is also a sports use for this kind of weapon. Fukiya is a Japanese blowgun which is being used in competitive settings. 

We’re not sure quite how ambitious Hugh is but with 18 inches being less than half a meter, it seems that Hugh has only just started practicing. He really needs to develop greater lung volume. Maybe some breathing exercises would help.


The Daily Mail, a British tabloid with a vast circulation and a reputation for tawdry journalism, is one of Hugh’s pet peeves and a frequent target of his (and Stephen Fry’s) comedy/satire. Here’s one example. And another (at 4:30 and 5:06). Piers Morgan used to be the editor. Apparently the online version has an even worse reputation than the print edition.

As for what Daily Mail writers dream of and whether they can achieve absolution - that’s not for us to decide.