Monday 1 February 2016

Received Ideas in Quotes

Bored of idea that anything that creates a sense of wonder or delight at existence is "exactly the same as religion & so counts as that". (Robin Ince)

Blacked up Morris dancers reference C16th beggars who used soot to mask their shame. (James O’Brien)

Initially [teacups] were the delicate, handle-less, Chinese porcelain containers known as ‘dishes’, imported from the Orient merely as a sideshow to the business of transporting tea leaves: the crates of china acted as ballast in the tea clippers.

The action of removing the dirty plates from the tables was in French called the desert, the creation of an absence (the same word used for the Sahara). This act of ‘deserting’ the table gave its name to the dessert or sweet course served elsewhere while the entertainers were setting up.

There’s no evidence that spices were used to ‘disguise’ the flavour of bad meat, as you might often read. It seems that people simply liked the taste.

‘Trenchers’ were slices of old bread which acted as throwaway plates. They were formed from the burned and blackened bottoms of loaves. The more desirable top crust was eaten at once by the master and guests, hence the enduring term ‘upper crust’ for something posh.

Like conservative commentators in all periods, he was bemoaning the fact that Englishmen had turned into softies.

In common with their predecessors and successors in practically all other periods, commentators writing during the First World War thought that the morals of young people were in rapid and dangerous decline.
(If Walls Could Talk: An intimate history of the home, Lucy Worsley)

The world's undergone a nice alteration since my time, certainly. (Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge)

Absolutely flat shoes do not give the foot sufficient support. (Betty Cornell, Teen-Age Popularity Guide)

[Tudor ceramic] moneyboxes were sometimes used in theatres to collect coins as the audience entered and then stored in a box until they were full, in a room that became known as the Box Office. (

Peace must be alive; a vital, intricate, intense, difficult thing. No negation: not the absence of war. (Non-combatants and Others, Rose Macaulay, written during WWI. Peaceniks may have had to choose their words carefully.)

The Avant Garde’s Decline and Fall in the 20th Century (title of Radio4 programme, 2014-08-31. But the avant garde was going to precede us into the future for ever!)

It does remind me of story, famous in Southport, that its arcades inspired Napoleon III in rebuilding of Paris. (@DerekJohnBryant)

So glad I paid my taxes so I can watch food stampers drive away in BMW while I struggle to put food on my table. #MiddleClassProblem (@TallJohnSilver Apr 15 2014 It used to be a “Cadillac” that beggars are spotted “driving away” in. Just don’t forget to mention the make of car.)

Columbusing: A word for when white people claim to discover things. (

Even the sainted Orwell's rules are a bit rubbish: the final one is, "Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous", which means his advice is really just "Don't write barbarically". (the usually sensible Oliver Burkemann, Guardian June 2014)

"This country is in deadly peril." In 1943, J. Edgar Hoover warned of a new threat — teenagers.

More here, and links to the rest.


  1. Re upper crust - what about the trenchers? Good trencher men meaning good eaters - that must be connected?

    And I'm still longing to know who said I'll try anything except incest and Morris dancing.

  2. Trencher from tranche (slice) of bread sounds convincing. The slices developed into a wooden version (like the current fashion for eating off a plank), and then a plate. The upper crust - well, it's at the top? And the bottom crust might be a bit dirty.

    Sir Thomas Beecham - allegedly!

  3. The trouble is, the true stories behind words and phrases always sound just as unconvincing and lame as the made-up ones that pop up so much../

  4. I find that the made-up ones often just don't add up!