SOMETIMES things become cliches because they are true, such as ''truth is stranger than fiction''. Yesterday, we suggested that switched-on brokers should copy credit card companies and give away air miles to customers who place orders. It was proposed in a spirit of good-natured fun at the expense of a few equity sales teams. Guess what? AMR Investment Services, a US brokerage, already has a frequent-flier air miles programme in place. ''I read about it in USA Today recently,'' Chuck Moore of Tai Tam told us. ''Knowing the way my brain operates, it can't have been much before the end of last week.'' AMR gives away air miles to investors in any of three money-market and US Treasury funds at a rate of one mile for every US$10 invested, with a minimum investment of $10,000. Company president William Quinn said the scheme was targeted at people with bigger-than-average account sizes, and the idea came about because the company had noted the financial fitness of frequent fliers. Another factor may have been that parent company AMR Corp owns American Airlines. Before all of you side-lined investors go crazy and start swapping out of the Japan and East Asia Kamikaze Triple-Leveraged Warrants and Dog Races Fund, it should be borne in mind that the US Money Market Fund is returning about 3.15 per cent. Still, that seems better than what's achievable here right now. Cake mix-up ONE expatriate we know is modestly committed, but highly enthusiastically involved in the horse racing scene. Recently, he decided to take the step of importing an Irish horse to Macau and, despite the bureaucracy that can tangle such arrangements, all went smoothly. The horse was named Forest in Ireland, and the proud owner asked the Macau authorities if the name could be kept. ''No problem,'' came the reply, and the paperwork proceeded. When the forms came back, the owner was intrigued by the Chinese characters entered against the slot for the horse's name, so he called the official responsible. ''Excuse me for asking, but what did you translate the name of my horse into Chinese as?'' he asked. ''Black Forest,'' came the reply. ''But what does a horse have to do with cake?'' he asked. ''Cake? Cake? Black Forest has nothing to do with cake,'' said the official. We can't possibly print the explanation the official gave for the name, except to say that it is Cantonese slang for something the Japanese airbrush out of ''artistic'' pictures of ladies. Discusting HENRY Umney of Mid-Levels wasn't in the market for any fitness equipment before he saw this in an advert for some tummy-trimming gear. Now he definitely isn't. ''Funny shape for a man,'' he said. ''But I did see it in an Australian magazine.'' That explains everything. Once bitten . . . IT'S Singapore that is the nanny state, isn't it? We only ask because the island's Recreation and Culture Branch sent a colleague some advice on swimming safety, with special emphasis on how to avoid shark attacks. ''If a large fish is seen, leave the water as quickly and calmly as possible,'' it says. Anyone who needs the government to tell them that is probably too stupid to swim anyway. Dope test THE following conversation was overheard outside Joe Bananas, the nightspot with the strict dress code which has proved so successful in preventing trouble. Bouncer: You can't come in here wearing shorts. Prospective punter: These aren't shorts, it's just my legs are very long. Bouncer: Uhh . . . A bit fishy ONE from the department of things-which-mean-different-things-in-different-languages. Beijing Development (Hong Kong) says in its annual report that it is diversifying from its core business by opening a chain of abalone restaurants in China. But its core business is yarn-spinning so we're not sure we believe it. Space ships YESTERDAY, we warned of the aliens which are multiplying in our midst by masquerading as estate agents. We gave strong evidence to support our theory, but some of you may not yet be convinced. So get this: According to principal marine officer Barrie Hird, who works in the Government Marine Department port services division, it is a curious fact that every year the number of ships and river vessels entering Hong Kong is never the same as the number that leave. Anyone who tries to give you a banal post hoc explanation based on boats staying over the end of the year is almost certainly a cunning alien. Further proof of aquatic alien activity is to be found simply by looking into the harbour. Looks as if the water is full of plastic bags? Wrong, these are the discarded pods of alien hatchlings.