My book, Clichés: A Dictionary of Received Ideas, is now available as a paperback from Amazon here. Here are some extra, free urban legends, What to Say About, and factoids Everybody Knows:
19th CENTURY NOVELS Dated. Irrelevant to modern life. You can still recognise modern society, despite the many changes – that’s why they’re called “classics”. They’re “timeless” after all!
ACORNS The buttons on the end of blind cords are carved in the shape of acorns to protect your house from lightning.
ACTING “Just say the lines and don’t bump into the furniture,” said Roger Moore, Spencer Tracy, Noel Coward, Henry Irving, Mrs Siddons...
ACTING Actors declaimed Shakespeare stiffly until Garrick/Kean/Irving/Olivier came along.
ACTORS All rich and posh (“luvvies”), especially once they’ve acted in Shakespeare. Have booming voices, and like all posh people, constantly say things like “don’t you know, my dear”. Are not allowed to have political opinions, or sympathise with the poor.
AGATHA CHRISTIE Her habit of repeating words wasn’t an oversight but a clever use of neurolinguistic programming techniques to subliminally hypnotise the reader. (Once she became successful, she forbade her publishers to change a word. She used a dictaphone and was careless at times.)
AGATHA CHRISTIE II When talking about the Golden Age mystery writer, always mention “chintz”. (See Miss Marple and tweed, and nuns and wimples.)
AGE OF CONSENT Used to be 21 because that was the age a young man could stand up in a suit of full armour.
AGRICULTURE Agricultural societies settle and become civilised (build cities). Hunters, gatherers and herders should be moved off the (valuable) land.
ANKLES Crossing your ankles confuses the brain.
APOSTROPHES We all go purple-faced with rage over a misplaced apostrophe, don’t we? Why don’t children learn grammar these days? Work isn’t marked for spelling, punctuation and grammar any more! (Grammar and punctuation may have gone out of fashion for a time, but are back in force in most schools.)
ART, ARCHITECTURE Practically any feature was “designed to show how rich you were”.
ARTISTS Create because they are inspired, not for the money.
ATHEISTS It makes no sense to define people on the basis of what they don’t believe in. It’s a logical impossibility for an atheist to exist. Worship nothing. What do they say when they want to say OMG?
ATMs If you’re being pressured to give someone money at an ATM, enter your PIN in reverse. You’ll still get the money, but the police will be alerted and will arrive in a few minutes. (Don’t try it!)
AUBERGINES Never taste as good as they look. (This must date from the days when they were quite rare, nobody knew what to do with them and were convinced they had to be salted to “remove the bitterness”.)
More to come.
More here, and links to the rest.