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For God's sake don't say 'rabbit'

Curse of the Were-Underground-Mutton hits Portland screens

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A nice bit of Friday silliness: the BBC reports that posters for the forthcoming Wallace and Gromit spectacular The Curse of the Were-Rabbit on the south-coast island of Portland will not contain the word "rabbit" out of respect for local tradition which has it that the mere utterance of the word causes quarries to collapse entombing local workers forever in killer cement.

As the BBC explains: "Because burrowing can cause landslips in quarries, residents of Portland, Dorset, instead call the creatures underground mutton or furry things." Accordingly, the W&G publicity will carry the alternative slogan "Something bunny is going on".

Weymouth and Portland mayor Les Ames illuminates: "If the word rabbit is used in company in Portland there is generally a bit of a hush. In the olden days when quarrying was done by hand, if one of these animals was seen in the area, the quarryman would pack up and go home for the day - until the safety of the area had been reconnoitred. It is an unwritten rule in Portland that you do not use the word rabbit."

This correspondent seems to recall that Orcadian and Western Isles fishermen also have an aversion to the word "rabbit", and also to "swan", among others, although this is unlikely to be landslide-related. As for Portland, they are indeed a superstitious bunch. God alone knows how they would react to posters for a film adaptation of Macbeth, but we suspect it would involve downing tools and pushing off to the mainland for three months casting much salt over their shoulders. ®

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