Read this article. Go on, read it. Oh come on, how many times do I have to ask you? Just read it for goodness sake. Oh, never mind, I'll read it myself. JO HAYWOOD goes on and on and on about nagging.

North Yorkshire women have been asked by police to nag their motorcycle-loving menfolk to ride with more restraint on the county's roads. But does nagging actually work? Let's look at the evidence. In George & Mildred, starring the forceful Yootha Joyce and the feckless Brian Murphy, Mildred nagged George to within an inch of his life, and he didn't change a bit. He resolutely remained the same smelly, nose-picking, vest-sniffing buffoon she married.

It's the same story with Coronation Street's Jack and Vera Duckworth. She reigns supreme as the all-conquering Nag of the North, but has she actually managed to change him for the better over the years? Nope. Forget about changing his personality, she still struggles to get him to change his socks.

What if you do manage to change your man or woman's ways (there's no actual law to say a nag has to be female). Is that always such a good thing?

After all, Anne Boleyn nagged Henry VIII to get her own way and just look what happened to her.

According to Lindsay Smith, a counsellor and counselling trainer in York, these questions are academic.

"You can never make someone else do what you want them to do," she says. "They have to take responsibility for their own actions.

"And you have to take responsibility for your own feelings. Talk about how their behaviour impacts on you and the kids, if you have any. It's about communicating with the other person, not nagging them."

She thinks men are now generally more willing to see things from their partner's point of view than in previous generations. There is also more opportunity for frank and open discussion in a modern relationship, so nagging is no longer necessary

"It's a question of ownership," says Lindsay. "You have to say 'when you do this, it makes me feel this'. You can also ask the kids to say how it makes them feel. You can give your partner the information, what they do with it is up to them."

Okay, so nagging is counter-productive, divisive and often downright annoying. But that doesn't mean that some women don't enjoy it.

Maxine Collinge, who runs the Maltings in Tanners Moat, York, with her husband Shaun, is a big fan of nagging. So proud is she of her prowess as a master nagger that the pub kitchen, in which she conjures up all manner of culinary treats for the punters, has been renamed The Dragon's Pantry.

"I love nagging, and I'm good at it," she says, while every man within hearing distance vigorously nodded in agreement. "Women nag because we have to. Things have changed: we have full-time jobs, kids and more responsibilities than ever before, while men still just do their job then come home and expect their tea on the table. If we didn't nag, nothing would get done.

"I don't like the word nag because it makes you think of an old woman, someone older than 60 at least.

"But I don't care if someone calls me a nag. I know what I am and they don't know what they are talking about."

Maxine's main bugbear with her big bear of a husband is his lack of time for the family. "He's a workaholic," she says. "He never stops, no matter how much I nag him about spending time with me and the girls."

So what happens when the nagging doesn't work? Maxine's second weapon of choice in her well-stocked armoury is reverse psychology.

"If I want something, I just keep saying that I don't want it," she explains. "It's the same if I want him to do something. If I tell him enough times that I don't want something, I always get it. I don't know how it works really, but it's how I got the boob job for my birthday!"

Maxine believes teenage girls have lost the skill needed to successfully practice the ancient art of nagging, opting for a good old sulk instead.

"I think it's a shame," she says, as her nagged husband made an appearance. "They don't know what they're missing. And, whether they realise it now or not, nagging is the only thing that works with some men. Doesn't it Shaun?"

"Yes dear."

What you have to say about nagging

Wayne Baxter, 34, lives with his girlfriend. She nags him about his prowess as a cleaner - but she, he is quick to point out, is also on the receiving end of his nags too.

"Men and women have different standards when it comes to cleaning," he says. "Men clean the bits that can be seen. Anything more than that is unnecessary.

"I do my fair share of nagging too though. She's so untidy. She's like a hurricane when she comes in. Her bag gets thrown here, her keys there, her shoes get kicked off over there. It drives me mad.

"Nagging doesn't really work, but it can make you feel better. And if there is something that's really getting to you, something serious, you can always sit down, talk about it and sort it out."

Keri Grinham and Laura Pallier, are both 18 and both admit to nagging their boyfriends - but don't dare call them nags.

"It's really offensive," says Laura. "Particularly because it's always the woman who gets labelled and not the man. I might do a bit of nagging, but I'm not a nag."

Keri says: "Men and women nag about different things. Women are quite specific. There's usually something we want them to do and we go on until they do it. Men just nag generally all the time, about what you're wearing, where you're going, who you are going with."

"Nagging certainly works," adds Laura. "But if you really want to get something done, and get it done right..."

" it yourself," chimes in Keri.

Michele and Nathan Barnes have been together for 11 years. They take it in turns to nag.

"I nag him about the home and he nags me to stay in," said Michele. "We both work from home, so we see each other a lot. He likes to stay at home and I like to go out, a fact that sometimes leads to nagging.

"We are both equally forceful in our own ways and I think we both do our equal share of nagging."

"You learn a lot about each other over the years," says Nathan. "You learn what works, what will actually get things done.

"I just provide her with tea and hope for the best."

To get results compromise and set realistic targets

Chris Powell, head of the Tuke Centre and of out-patients at The Retreat, believes nagging can actually exacerbate a problem rather than solve it.

Instead, he advises using a system of rewards for good behaviour - tried and tested on many a fractious toddler. "I am sure wives and girlfriends can think of some incentive to get men to modify their behaviour," he says.

"No cooking, sewing or sex for a week would probably do the trick. Or no house-keeping if they are the one out earning all the money." He believes the key to solving a problem is talking - not nagging - and setting practical, realistic boundaries.

"You have to try to understand why the other person is doing what they are doing," he says. "Compromise and set boundaries they actually have a chance of meeting.

"Don't nag if you can help it. If anything, nagging will make them want to do whatever it is even more."

Just going on and on about nagging...

- The word nag comes from the Norse "nagga", which means to rub, grumble or quarrel. Whereas nag, as in an old, clapped-out horse, comes from the Middle English word "nagge".

- Edith Summerskill, a Labour politician making a speech to the Married Women's Association in the House of Commons in 1960, said: "Nagging is the repetition of unpalatable truths."

- India's Supreme Court allowed a woman to divorce her husband last year on the grounds of his constant nagging. In its ruling the court said the husband's behaviour towards his wife constituted mental cruelty under Indian matrimonial law. They had been married for 30 years.

- If you are tired of being nagged and fancy a laugh, you can find a titter-worthy collection of cartoons on the subject of nagging at

- When only 4,000 England supporters applied for official tickets to the World Cup 2002 in Japan and South Korea, FA spokesman Nick Barron said the lack of demand was mainly due to "nagging wife syndrome".

Updated: 08:53 Tuesday, June 15, 2004