|Buried in landfill|
Here's a sample from my mini ebook Clichés: A Dictionary of Received Ideas.
ACADEMICS People who live in ivory towers and speak a weird jargon only they can understand.
AVANT GARDE The avant garde get to the future before the rest of us. In 20 years we will all be doing what they are doing now. (70s. “The avant garde is now a period style.” Robert Hughes)
BEES Scent enrages them. They die once they have stung you. Do not attack unless provoked, unlike wasps. If you keep perfectly still they won’t sting you. Nobody knows how they can fly.
BEGGARS You should never give money to beggars, they make thousands as it is. Many beggars have dogs because they get extra benefits for their food. While taking a break from a Waiting for Godot dress rehearsal in Australia, actor Ian Mackellen was mistaken for a beggar – a passer-by put a dollar in his hat.
BRAIN We only use 10% of our brain. If only we could harness the rest!
BUSINESS IDEAS Of any area, say: “There used to be money in this game a few years ago, but not any more. It’s overcrowded.”
CAMELS Store water in their humps. Can go for weeks without drinking. The Arabs have 6,000 words for “camel”.
CANNES The domes of the Carlton Hotel, Cannes are modelled on the breasts of courtesan and gambler La Belle Otéro.
CINDERELLA’S SLIPPER Was vert (green), or made of vair (fur) not verre (glass). (Charles Perrault wrote “verre”; “vair” was a later suggestion by Balzac.)
DARWINISM We shouldn’t believe in it because it led to social Darwinism. “The survival of the fittest” is a tautology/no substitute for “love thy neighbour”; caused laissez faire capitalism; means that only the fittest ought to survive.
DUTCH The Dutch considered adopting English as their official language after a doctor discovered that speaking Dutch damaged the vocal cords.
EARLY CHRISTIANS Were the first true communists.
EXISTENTIALISM Consists of thinking you don’t exist. Is meaningless.
FAIRISLE JUMPERS The patterns were brought to the island by shipwrecked sailors from the Spanish Armada.
FOOD MILES Always mention “beans from Kenya”.
GAVELS Banged constantly by judges wearing long wigs. (British judges wear small wigs in court and tap a pencil for silence.)
HALLOWEEN An American import. Actually Scottish. Too commercialised. It’s real name is All Hallows’ Eve. People who leave out the apostrophe should be shot.
HUMOURISTS Don’t laugh at their own jokes. Cracker jokes are written by dreary men in suits.
ICELANDIC Has no word for “please”, and 45 words for “green”.
IRVING BERLIN Could only play on the white/black notes.
JANE AUSTEN A spinster obsessed with social niceties and marrying for money. Never wrote about sex or poor people. Her novels expose a snobbish, stratified society quite unlike our own.
JULIUS CAESAR The first person to be born by Caesarian section. The operation is named after him.
KAFKA Really a very funny writer.
KIRSTIE ALLSOPP She is “jolly hockeysticks”.
LEAF FROM 8TH CENTURY MISSAL, PRICELESS JAPANESE PRINT Always found in a grocer’s shop being used to wrap butter.
LYING Everybody tells ten lies a day.
MACBETH Said “Lead on, Macduff”. The “eye of newt” speech is an authentic witches’ curse, which is why all productions of “the Scottish play” are dogged with disaster.
MURANO To preserve trade secrets, the island’s famous glassblowers were executed if they tried to leave.
NAPOLEON His Russian campaign failed because the French soldiers’ tin buttons decayed in the extreme cold.
NEANDERTHALS Dim, brutal and primitive. Died out because they were stupider than us. We never interbred with them. OK, maybe once or twice. Ohhh… all the time. Right. They were much cleverer than previously thought, and wore necklaces and buried their dead.
OIL Made of dead dinosaurs, hence “fossil fuel”.
OPERA The plots are absurd and the acting is artificial; one only goes for the singing/music. The singing is frightful and the music dull; one only goes for the acting/drama/lavish production.
PALMISTRY Your heart rules your head, or vice versa.
PUNS There are no puns in French/German.
QUEEN’S HANDBAG What does Queen Elizabeth II carry in her handbag? If anyone finds out, they are never seen again. She uses the bag to signal discreetly to her ladies-in-waiting, and hangs it on a hook under the dinner-table.
RABBITS Owning a rabbit will teach your child responsibility.
RUSSIAN ARISTOCRATS Ended every toast (“Cheers!”) by throwing their wine glasses into the fire. Or was it the Scots?
SCHOOLS Standards are slipping! If only we could get back to the good old days of [insert date when you were 10].
STATELY HOME On a tour of a stately home, the guide opens a door to find a couple in flagrante. Sometimes he shuts the door quickly explaining that they are laying the carpet. If the Queen Mother is in the party, she murmurs “How nice!”.
TELLYTUBBIES Will prevent children learning to speak. (There is no sign of a blighted Tellytubby generation, and the middle classes have moved on to other scares.)
TEMPLE OF MITHRAS Was reconstructed the wrong way round.
UFOs The idea of little green men from outer space is absurd, of course, but people need a sense of mystery. (No longer so popular.) Scientists would refuse to believe in UFOs if one landed in their front garden.
VERBING NOUNS Weirds language! American. Utterly beyond the pale. Should be moth-balled.
WASHING In the olden days, people never washed. Queen Elizabeth I had a bath once a year.
WICKER MAN The original footage is buried in landfill under the M4 motorway.
Buy the book here for £1.50:
Clichés: A Dictionary of Received Ideas