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World Celebrations: Gurning Man

wm-gurning.jpg
Wikimedia Commons

With many sports, you face the real possibility of ending up toothless, but there is one sport where a gummy smile is definitely to your advantage--gurning. Dedicated practitioners of gurning have actually had dental extractions to help them in this rural English—I hesitate to say—sport, but that is how participants view it. This is also an activity where an aged, saggy and lined face is a decided advantage.

The word “gurning” can mean something different, depending on where you are in the United Kingdom. In Northern Ireland, children are constantly berated for gurning, which is a decidedly irksome sustained, whining cry. In Scotland, gurners are complainers, but in England, gurners contort their faces into a most displeasing visage. And at the annual Egremont Crab Fair in Cumbria, the uglier the better. The fair dates back to 1267 but the competition is relatively recent, beginning in 1852. The reigning world champion is Tommy Mattison, a consistent winner and of such renowned fame, that even the Queen of England was introduced to him. So the next time you notice someone pulling faces, encourage them, they too might be destined for great fame, if not fortune.

You can hear about this and other festivals happening around the world on World Music with Deirdre Saravia, Saturday nights at 8:00 on KSTX 89.1 FM.

Deirdre as born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and her first paid work was at the age of 10 with the BBC as an actress on "Children's Hour." She continued to perform regularly on radio and stage for the next eight years, at which point she was informed by her parents that theater was not an option and she needed "real" work.