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About A Week: Ouistiti

Want to look happy when someone is taking a photo of your face. Just say OUISTITI, Peter Hinchliffe advises.

Let’s face it, cheese isn’t good enough. A mere six-letter word can’t put a smile on a face and keep it pinned there until the camera goes click.

“Say cheese,’’ my wife advises as she prepares to take one more holiday snap.

“Cheese,’’ say I, as ever camera shy.

“Sorry,’’ says Joyce. “Forgot to wind the film on. Here we go again’’

“Cheese.’’ But the word has hissed to a stop before Joyce presses the button.

The picture, when we eventually collect it from Boots, shows not a happy Hinchy but a chap displaying more of a grimace than a grin. The sort of expression which freezes on your features when the dentist announces “These three need to be crowned.’’

French photographers use a far more effective word to encourage smiles to appear. Their “victims’’ are encouraged to say ouistiti. All right, it has only two more letters than cheese, but it is more successful at producing the required effect.

Go on, try it for yourself. Stand in front of a mirror and say OUISTITI. Your mouth, cheeks, the crinkles round your eyes, they can’t avoid shaping themselves into a broad smile.

I am indebted to my linguistic neighbour Dr George Redmonds who rooted out the meaning of this magical word. A ouistiti is a marmoset. Cute little creatures, marmosets. Lively enough to soften the features of the grimmest stone-faced Scrooge.

Ouistiti has another meaning. It’s a burglar’s jemmy - but for photographic purposes we’ll forget that definition.

The other day I was reading some advice to photographers on how to encourage a natural smile.

* Conduct yourself professionally. Gain your subject’s confidence.

* Choose topics of conversation that are up-beat. Allow them to focus on things other than their own self-consciousness.

* Make your subjects feel good about themselves.

Grief! Sounds as though photographers need a degree in psychology to be effective. Or perhaps a stock of good jokes would suffice.

Which remind me, did you hear about the couple in Minneapolis, USA, who decided to go to Florida for a long weekend during a particularly icy winter?

They both had jobs and were not able to travel together. The husband flew down first and checked into a hotel. His wife was to travel on the following day.

The husband sent an e-mail to Minneapolis. However, he left a letter out of his wife’s address and the message went in error to a widow in Houston. This lady had just returned from the funeral of her husband, a minister of many years who had been called to glory following a heart attack.

She opened up her e-mail expecting sympathetic messages but fainted after reading:

To my loving wife. I’ve arrived and have been checked in. Everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forwards to seeing you then. Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine.

PS Sure is hot down here!

My thanks to Sheila McLeod for that story. Sheila, a Huddersfield lass and sister of Peggy MacKay of Linthwaite, has lived in the US for many years.


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