Visual Delights & Spike Milligan

<![CDATA[I am a big time fan of Spike Milligan, who has nothing whatsoever to do with foreign language teaching or foreign language teacher education but who has given me hours of great delight and, at times, inspiration for materials or activity design.

In 1985, he brought out a book called “Further Transports of Delight” with a selection of photographs for which he wrote the captions. All the photographs involve some means of transportation (hence the title) and Spike Milligan’s comical captions.

This was spot on what I am interested in, developing creative thinking skills, and one way of doing this is by using ambiguous pictures for interpretation. It seemed to me that there was great potential there for language work where students have to think ‘outside the box’ and the activity described below is a sample.

But first, to get an idea of the type of captions in his book, here is a photograph from the book:


Image capture from Milligan, S. 1974, Further Transports of Delight, Penguin Books; New Ed edition (1986)

Now, what caption might you think about for this photograph? Have a think before you scroll down to the end of this post to see the actual caption in the book.

Suggested Classroom Activity

AIM: Creative writing, motivation, fun, laughter

  1. Students are shown this or other photograph with a mad caption.
  2. Groups, or pairs of students are given a collection of photographs to select from or they are asked to search for likely photographs on the web
  3. In their groupings, students are asked to collaborate and attempt to write the silliest, nuttiest, funniest caption they can think of. The teacher supplies help with vocabulary, grammar, ideas, etc.
  4. Each group displays their photograph and caption on the wall of the classroom (or a class blog, or other) for other students to visit and evaluate
  5. If students viewing picture and caption displays ‘live’ (!) in class, a winner can be declared by measuring laughing time in front of each one! If on web or school bulletin’ board display, some other way of commenting or giving each one stars can be used.

Our students love this activity and so do the teachers. It’s a lovely filler and can be even used topically by giving students pictures related to  a topic or theme they have been working on.

Well, here is Spike Milligan’s own caption:


Image capture from Milligan, S. 1974, Further Transports of Delight, Penguin Books; New Ed edition (1986)

I originally thought of calling this post “The Irish Hydrobike” but for fear of incurring the wrath of all Irish people in my PLN, I haven’t… Although I still think it would have been more fitting…

I have more activities with a high focus on nonsense. Let me know if you would like a few more as I specialize in this field!!!]]>

11 replies

  1. Hey, you specialize in the nonsensical field, do you?? of COURSE I would like to hear more! this is really GREAT! and I love photography and any activity liked to it is a joy! merci Marisa! you made my rainy monday!

  2. I am a great fan of Spike Milligan too. I have several of his books and as as schoolboy I listened to every broadcast of The Goon Show. Many of his jokes hinge on language, e.g.

    Commentator on The Goon Show,”He walked out of the darkness into the light”.
    Sound effect: Loud metallic clang.

    On one occasion Spike had decided to go and live in Australia. A TV interviewer asked him, “Do you intend to live in Australia for ever?” “No one lives anywhere for ever”, Spike replied.

    Some nice quotations here:


  3. Hi Alice and milles merci for sweet comment!!! I will try to live up to your high expectations for nonsense!!!!

    Graham, welcome to another fan and thanks for His Funniness’ lovely link of quotations.

  4. Thanks, Marisa.

    I’ve not had much exposure to Spike Milligan before. Having read your blog and the quotes via Graham, I will make sure to make up for the loss.
    I’m always up for a bit more nonsense.


  5. A baby sardine saw his first submarine,
    He was scared so looked through a peephole.
    “Oh come, come, come”, said the sardine’s mum,
    “It’s only a tin full of people”!

    Spike Milligan 🙂

  6. Alice,

    You can translate the whole activity if you like for French teachers and link it back here! I thought the title in French was ever so much funnier than mine!


    We can all do with a bit more nonsense… Silly stuff makes language more memorable, I find.


    Here’s another one for you:

    Butler: I’ve brought your breakfast up, Sir
    Spike: Serves you right for eating it.


  7. What do you MEAN ‘Spike Milligan ‘has nothing whatsoever to do with foreign language teaching’. ANYONE who plays with words the way Milligan does is a MUST-READ-WHEN-I’M-READY source of wonderful material.

    Policeman to suspect: “Are you going to come quietly, or do I have to use earplugs?”

    I absolutely concur that interested learners should go to

    Next time you are in London, Marisa, I will intro you to Spike’s brilliant daughter Jane, who tweets as @goonchild4.

  8. Ha ha … he does have a lot to do with being creative with language, I grant you!!! Right!!! And he is indeed the source of wonderful material and inspiration for writing materials!

    Next time I am in London, you not only will introduce me to this wonderful man’s brilliant daughter, but don’t forget you have to feed both me and Carol Goodey, together or separately, but feed me you must!!!!

    Thanks for popping in!!!

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