Thursday, 19 October 2017

Styles and Genres 5

Chicago bungalow (Ornate, with features from many periods and countries. Let’s build lots.)
cheap clumsy reproduction (What you get after a Georgian terrace is demolished.)
cinematic expressionism – towers and irregular arcades (Martin Lampprecht)
contemporary funky polite (Adam Nathaniel Furman)
cosy modern a la Indian YMCA (ANF)
developer’s quayside tat (Gareth Hughes)
Essex barn vernacular
1950s spindly fusspot architecture (Hugh Pearman)
funny shape-ist (for houses, HP)
pastry-cook’s Gothic (early 19th cent)
Polish cathedral (Over-the-top, with domes and a westwork.)

Po-Tech: An early classic from the period when Po Mo met High Tech resulting in a sort of camp modernism or a less historicist Post Modernism depending on your point of view. (Charles Holland on Terry Farrell's Water Treatment Centre in Reading)

Rubik’s Snake: looks like half-unfolded origami
Tesco pomo (ANF)
Victorian picturesque thrusting classical pomposity (Rohan Storey)

80s Chinese restaurant (mint wallpaper and ornate silk paintings)
luxury avant-garde 
American post-war corporate (Douglas Murphy)
faux bois: rustic log and twig garden furniture
industrial scrape’n’reveal vibe (HP)
witch kitsch

cocktail lounge jazz 
landfill indie bands of the early Noughties (Paul Whitelaw)
Tawdry 80s visions of the good life: I’m driving away from home, 30 miles or more. Love is a stranger in an open car.

Vaguely soulful pop fodder that’s clogged up the charts recently: a touch of gospel aligned to modern digital production, words on thwarted love, and a singalong chorus that’s perfect for an X Factor hopeful to give their all to while their relatives burst into tears at the side of the stage. It’s resolutely unremarkable. (Will Hodgkinson)


Daily Telegraph alternative Turner prize: paintings of café terraces and bougainvillea with too much ultramarine
high concept: The kind of art project that involves finding 50 people called Dominique Lambert, getting them to fill in a questionnaire describing themselves, giving the questionnaires to an artist who draws a picture based on their answers, giving the pictures to a police artist who turns them into efits and... I can’t remember what they did with the efits because I’d lost the will to live.

amateur choreographer, teaching assistant with a dark past (Eva Wiseman)
Heroin chic (90s) Fashion spreads in empty rooms in run-down hotels with dralon sofas and peeling, awful wallpaper.

normcore: dull food from the early 90s. May be ethnic, but in a safe and not very tasty way.)
snackwave: junk food
What to call the ramen burrito? Normcore fusion?

Watched the Titans movie. It's a classical mash-up. A bit 'tell Perseus that Helen's cyclops is riding a Minotaur in a trireme.' (Dan Snow)

The decade was finally starting to show the growth of the Post War economy and shine, so were the Movies, even the Noirs and it was the beginning of the end for the Genre. The look was not the only thing that started to "lighten up", the Characters were becoming less cynical, more perky, and frankly more boring. This can be exemplified by the Roommates here that are so spunky and aloof that they seem to glide and float through this Mystery/Thriller. Lowbrow Blues and Jazz was replaced with the nonthreatening Pop softness of Nat King Cole. (Anonymous imdb commenter on Blue Gardenia)

The "for people who hate forrin muck films" breed of lazy remake.

Upmarket Romance - girl gets the guy, but, boy, does it take time. (@JonnyGeller)

amazing dreck (Dan Auty in the late 70s when rep cinemas screened old scifi and you could even see it on telly sometimes.)

berserk pensioner
chase-a-minute action romp (Spooks)
desert road trip movie (popular in 70s)
doll horror
fashion horror
(The Eyes of Laura Mars)
found footage
French-window froth (imdb)
inspiration porn: films about cute brainboxes
low-tech Steampunk Victoriana (Greg Jenner on Dr Who)
mama drama
pig opera (Babe, Private Function/Betty Blue Eyes)

bonnet book
bus shelter poetry (Paul Whitelaw)
cat mystery: all characters are cats
clogs and shawls: romantic novel genre

country mystery:
  even broader than “country house mystery”, takes in any story not set in a big city
cozy mystery: There’s a murder, some suspects and a detective, but the whole thing is set in a country village and deliberately smothered in quilts, chutney, ponies and kittens. (No, I haven’t read any.)

creative writing class prose: present continuous, banal detail

ghostwriter’s prose: "
It was a lovely hotel… suddenly a man in a Stetson hat appeared…" On top of page after page of this mind-numbingly boring and irrelevant filler, the paint-by-numbers ghostwriter's prose is also dull and grating - "correct" in construction but utterly void of any creativity, style or interest. (Amazon review. Ghostwriters also tend to say “he was my rock” and “his smile lit up the room”.)

London cabbie humour
slum porn


Within general fiction we have subdivisions, from the university satire to the coming-of-age novel, but within genres there are even more, with Steampunk, Hard SF, Alternative History, time travel and Space Opera in SF and Cosy, Procedural, Psychological, Legal, Period and Serial Killer in Crime.  (Christopher Fowler)

Or make up your own: medieval self-help, Ice Age family saga etc

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Pedantry 4

We must have [grammar rule] because in [unlikely scenario], if we ignore the rule the sentence might be ambiguous.

And we're all going to hell in a handcart because people are ignorant of the following: 

Christmas news bulletins sent to your friends are not round robins, they are circular letters.

"I and the staff would like to wish you a Happy New Year" – well why don’t you, ha ha?

Different to, different from, different than have different meanings and one of them is not “grammar”.

The programme should be spelled Desert Island Disks because “disk is original”.

Cooking instructions are a “receipt”, not a “recipe” – "recipe" is French.

Tube trains run through a tunnel, underground trains run through a covered trench.

The earth isn’t round, it’s spherical.

There's a distinction between complementary and complimentary.

Using “etc” is sloppy.

They’re herring gulls, not seagulls.

"Owing to" refers to a verb, "due to" refers to a noun. You can only say "thanks to" if you're thanking somebody. So what can we say? "On account of"? But that's American. So we may have to state directly that A caused B, and B happened as a result of A. But we can't do that, we're British!

Anticipate means “be prepared” not “expect”.

You’re wounded on a battlefield but injured in a car accident. (Times style guide)

It’s thank you, not thankyou. “Thankyou” is not a word. (See NGram – use of “thankyou” has risen sharply since 1972, while “thank you” has declined and then risen slightly since 1900.)

It's an historical, an halal, an herbivore.

It’s not “this year”, it’s “the current year”. (And as for this week, next week, brought forward, put back... etc.)

There’s a difference in meaning between ’til and till.

You must use Oxford commas either all the time, or never. (NGram shows a steep rise for "Oxford comma" from 1985. It depends on context. Sometimes you need a comma before and, and sometimes you don’t.)

These are brackets [ ]
These are parentheses ( ) 
These are braces { }
Homophobia means fear of the same, or fear of yourself. (It may not be the best term for intolerance of gay people, but it’s the one we’ve got.)

Enormity means “outside the norm” (and egregious means outside the flock). Its meaning changed to "nastiness", and then to “unusually large size”.

“Ironic” doesn't simply mean "paradoxical".

It’s “an aught” not “a nought”.

Till should be spelled 'til, as it’s short for until. (Same goes for 'phone and 'bus – telephone and omnibus.)

Though I admit I flinch when people say “etch” when they mean “engrave”.

Singular 'they' never went away; it has been in steady use for centuries: Wikipedia quotes Chaucer, Shakespeare, Chesterfield, Ruskin, Byron, Austen, Defoe, Thackeray and Shaw. Some 19th century grammarians promoted a gender-neutral 'he', but the former remained widespread. (AG)

Merriam-Webster, which calls the usage 'entirely standard', notes that "hopefully" has been used to start sentences since the early 1700s, and other sentence adverbs for a century longer still. It's interesting that, according to an American Heritage Dictionary usage panel, approval of 'hopefully' as a sentence adverb dropped from 44% in 1969 to 27% in 1988. Also, if you disapprove of it, do you also disapprove of 'accordingly', 'seriously', 'understandably', 'amazingly', 'frankly', and 'honestly'?  We all seem quite happy to use those in the same way. (AG)

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Neologisms 18

People come up with new figures of speech every week – fortunately. They're far more fun than dialect words for long-forgotten agricultural tools.

Centrepoint: mid-air concrete embroidery (Magdalene Logan‏ @MaariVekki) 

One of those days when you could sob a beck full of tears...
(@herdyshepherd1, May 23 2017)

A lot of what drew me to the novel and made it distinctive I felt was sanded off in adaption. (@jeannette_ng)

Just coined the word "sparsescapes", and I'll fight any editor that tries to cut it. (@mrdavidwhitley)

Blimey! When I lived in Glasgow, I wouldn't have known an avocado if I'd found one in my porridge, as we used to say, I think. (Alison Classe)

Casual, little Englander superior nostril flaring. (via FB)

Compared to the banquet Jeremy Corbyn is offering, that’s rather a dry biscuit. (Andrew Marr to Theresa May)

Every galah in the pet shop is now an energy expert. (

He had all the common sense of an igneous rock. (AJB)

I don’t want to throw myself a pity party here. (

If you don't want to cringe so hard you'll end up in another dimension, do not read Theresa May's interview with the Plymouth Herald. (Owen Jones)

This, from a self-identified right-libertarian, features more spectacular projection than the 3D IMAX. (John Band‏ @johnb78)

[Prime-ministerial hopeful] isn’t competent to run a bath. (@johnb78)

Rome didn't so much fall as slide around a bit. (David M. Perry‏)

There’s a warehouse full of myths and urban legends when it comes to Prince. (BBC Breakfast)

Visitors arriving by train are now greeted with a generic clone-town scene more like a suburban retail park than an illustrious seat of learning. (Olly Wainwright on Cambridge)

We’ve got a duvet of cloud. (BBC weatherman)

You don’t have to be Encyclopedia Brown to find out that they’re living a very different life than the one they project. (

Covent Garden street performer hell

edu-lingo (full of terms that refer to nothing)
lobotomised whelks (Michael Cashman on Sun journalists)
malignant dimwits (Simon Schama on Trump’s “kakistocracy”)
neoclassical mounds of bombastic gloop (Rowan Moore on neo-country houses)
Remainders for Remainers
rurban fringe, bastard countryside (edgelands)
stained-glass platitudes (JP on Rees-Mogg)

More here, and links to the rest.

Reasons To Be Cheerful 20

I remember when bar staff thought women shouldn’t order drinks at the bar, so if you tried, they would ignore you (circa 1970). The stigma against going on blind dates – you had to pretend you’d met through friends – really has disappeared. (There were endless articles claiming it had gone when it hadn’t.) Heatherwick buses now have windows (and they slide to open, actually letting in AIR). 
Over the last two centuries, poverty has fallen, education and literacy have risen, democracy has increased, more people are vaccinated, and child mortality has fallen. Smoking in pubs and offices is a distant memory. Aquariums like Sea World no longer exhibit performing whales. And we don’t kill people for fun in public arenas any more.

And when did the UK stop prosecuting “poachers” for shooting rabbits that nobody else wanted?
When did we cease whaling? Circa 1960, says Wikipedia. (Harpoon guns made whaling too efficient, and we ran out of whales.)

Since 1558 England has had a female head of state for 41% of the time. (Dan Snow)

1598 Edict of Nantes gives rights to French Protestants
1685 Edict of Nantes renounced, leading to persecution and flight, and depriving France of “many of its most skilled and industrious individuals” (Wikipedia)
1787 Rights restored
1797 Declaration of the Rights of Man ends religious discrimination in France

Poland banned corporal punishment in schools in 1783 (in their Constitution), and the Soviet Union in 1917. (UK 1986, some private UK schools 1998.)

Capital punishment was banned in West Germany in 1949. It continued in the DDR until 1987.

1782 The Spanish Inquisition abolished
1823 Slavery abolished in Chile
1851 Window Tax repealed in UK

1914 Defence of the Realm Act ("The trivial peacetime activities no longer permitted included flying kites, starting bonfires, buying binoculars, feeding wild animals bread, discussing naval and military matters or buying alcohol on public transport. Alcoholic beverages were watered down and pub opening times were restricted to noon–3pm and 6:30pm–9:30pm (the requirement for an afternoon gap in permitted hours lasted in England until the Licensing Act 1988). Wikipedia)

1917 Dangerous Drugs Act bans selling and possessing non-prescription narcotics
1917 Women are admitted to the armed forces
1917 House of Commons agrees to remove the grille from the Ladies’ Gallery

1917 Stoke Newington appoints first woman Councillor
1924 Stoke Newington appoints first woman Mayor

1960s Australia no longer classifies aborigines as animals under the Flora and Fauna Act
1962 Jamaica gains independence from UK
1965 Contraception legalised in US
1970 Royal Navy ends officially sanctioned daily rum ration for sailors, instituted 1665
1974 Roman Catholics can be appointed Lord Chancellor

1974 Women can get credit cards without a husband's approval
1982 El Vino’s lifts ban on women standing at the bar

1990 Native Americans allowed to practise their languages in schools.
1992 US ratifies Human Rights Covenant
2002 Keiko the orca from Free Willy was freed in Iceland and lived in the wild for five years.

2015 Malta becomes the first country to outlaw non-consensual medical interventions on intersex.

What a week! Greater abortion access for Northern Ireland women, same-sex marriages in Germany, huge faith school reforms in South Africa & Ireland. (@Humanists_UK)

Tunisia by law now nothing prevents Tunisian Muslim women from marrying non Muslim men & inheritance between men/women is now equal!

Massive collapse in number of Anglicans in Britain, survey shows. “Given the number of faith schools, something is wrong!”
(@WalkerMarcus, paraphrase)

Homeopathic products should not be sold in Australian pharmacies because they place consumers at “unacceptable risk”, an independent review of pharmacy regulation for the health department has found. (Guardian) The NHS is considering ceasing to fund homeopathy in London and the Southwest – why hasn’t this happened already?

The Tasmanian government apologises to people affected by laws against gay sex and cross-dressing, repealed in 1997.

Garden Bridge quashed.
Supreme Court ruling extends same-sex survivor benefits to pre-2005 accrual.
First same-sex wedding involving a Muslim in the UK.
Church of England priests can choose whether or not to wear vestments in services.
Baroness Hale becomes Britain’s top judge.
Jordan's parliament votes to abolish a law which allowed rapists to avoid jail by marrying their victim.
Nepal criminalises banishing menstruating women to huts.
The loos are free at Victoria Station.
First Pride march in Kosovo.
Kenya’s High Court rules that one-third of MPs must be women.
MTV scraps gender-specific categories for movie and TV awards.
Falkland Islands introduce marriage equality.
First US woman wins a college football scholarship.
Rola Sleiman becomes the first female pastor in the Arab Christian world.
Female Islamic clerics declare fatwa against child marriage.
Nevada bans gay “cure” therapy for kids, becoming the 10th jurisdiction to ban gay “cures”.
Taiwan’s top court rules same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.
Scottish Episcopal Church votes to allow same-sex marriage.
The King’s Troop is almost 50/50 men and women.
German government approves equal marriage.
Saudi women can drive. (It had something to do with the country's reputation in the rest of the world.)

1857 Taney's Dred Scott ruling declared that African Americans, whether free or enslaved, were not and could never be citizens of the U.S.

The Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. (Alexander Stephens, 1861)

The Great Reform Act of 1832 gave the franchise to about 17% of the adult male population. And even that change had been fought fiercely by many of the landed interest that dominated British politics… [The “reform” narrative] was a tale of doing just enough at the 11th hour to avert rebellion by the majority of Britons who made the wealth. (Times, Sept 2017)

If you are a same-sex married couple you cannot get divorced on the grounds of adultery – adultery being a biblical definition that relates to an extramarital affair between a man and a woman. In reality, a same-sex couple can get divorced on the grounds of “unreasonable behaviour”, which can cover infidelity, but in the interest of equality this should be changed. (For straight couples, if your husband is unfaithful with another man, that isn’t adultery. Independent)

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Overheards 11

At the Scythians exhibition:
For a nomadic people very sophisticated, very sophisticated.

At the road protest: 
Woman: We want to stay in a Pallahdian villa.
Man: We went to a chateau in the Dordogne.

In the café:
Specialist? He’s more of a specialised gobshite.
Donald Trump – is it a syrup?
You’ve got to have a few of those poncy cafés if you want your neighbourhood to improve.
Of course, he was still the head of the National Spiritualist Society.
It’s like the golden goose, innit.
For my birthday I want a tattoo of a paper aeroplane.
What was yours called, Scripture? I couldn’t get into the Bible.
I'm looking for a venue to do a conscious clubbing night. 
All songs are about infidelity or death. Usually both.
Right! Custard!

Got a lady with a fox in her kitchen. It came through the front door, sat down on the radiator and won't leave.

And 'es chasin’ Ted up the road, pullin’ 'is trousers down, and I thought “Nah! This isn’t my sort of christenin’.”

“The amount of Turkish weddings I went to – Greek christenings.” Woman reminiscing about working in a Top Shop factory and wearing the samples. “I was the best-dressed girl in the street!”

People get intimidated when someone's got a posh voice but they're just like anybody else, they have problems like anybody else. 

So the module’s entirely on vampires?
Obviously we’ll be studying Russian vampire legends, the 1931 film – it’s hilarious, Buffy. What are you studying?
An Old Norse version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Old posh lady to her companion in the Foyles café: "Kim? Oh Kim has gone to the daaaaahgs!" (@Andr6wMale)

Man in café: "It's one of those Northern working-class cities, isn't it?" He said "Northern working class cities" like it was some rare breed of goose.

In the park:Man to woman: I want you to go down on your knees and propose to me!

At the concert:
I am fortified by your falafel.

On the bus:
Two old ladies reading a cardboard sign BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD with utter incomprehension.

On the Thames foreshore: Oscar, could you put your rock down, please.

In the street:
Oh, if I could I wouldn’t, would you?
I think I probably would.

Woman: People have different points of view.
Man: Epping Forest!

Man on phone: So it only took you nine years to return my call, you prostitute!

Man to me: Don’t worry lady – write a novel!

In Notting Hill: She was working class, but not stupid!
He went back to the hospital because he wasn’t getting any joy and he saw the head honcho.
Elderly lady customer: "I've just been to Putney, for want of a better word". (@lucyfishwife)

In Fortnum’s: I was born in Lambeth Palace – no, Canterbury Palace.

In the market: There’s free energy, but they don’t tell you!

In the charity shop:
I don't go out much, I'm very naïve.

On the tube:
“The good thing is…”
“Is there a good thing?”
(Rhodri Marsden ‏@rhodri)

At work: Anyone who precedes 'cliché' with 'a hoary old' deserves a smacked wrist. (Andrew Brown ‏@seatrout)
It's very interesting, Nebraska's unicameral legislature. (Andrew Brown ‏@seatrout)

On the train:Absolutely hysterical guard on South West trains this morning who's just greeted us over the PA system with a Stephen Fry 'Good morning, good morning, good morning', given a fanfare of an announcement to say that 'an absolutely beautiful young man has just joined the train to push the refreshments trolley.' The guard then listed the products finishing off with a stress on 'PEANUTS', a request that we keep the aisle free for the beautiful young man, then offers his own help to passengers 'in any way, shape or form'. Passengers discuss and conclude that he's eaten the customer services memo for breakfast. (BG)

Our train driver as he announces our train terminates at this stop: "Its been a blast. It's been emotional. Peace." (@PhilWilliams)

Heading home from Harlech, train conductor just announced "Platform one for Aberystwyth, platform two for the Big Wide World". (@QuintinLake)

"Don't do that, you'll get stratospheric failure" said the man opposite me before hanging up. (Charles Holland ‏@ordinarycharles)

"As a Tory councillor from Surrey, I don't want affordable housing - it'll just create more Labour voters." Just heard this on the train!
Glorious conversation between teenage girls on my train about the pros and cons of mahogany in relationships. (@IsabelHardman)

Ascot to Waterloo: I’m a lady, but if you don’t effing treat me like one, I’ll act like a guy. 

Kids today:
Woman to child in the street, Brighton: 'Stop letting your happiness get in the way!' (@robertlcoupland)

Still thinking about the toddler I saw in Madison Square. She was waving a plastic sword, shouting “Be alive! Be alive! Be alive forever!” (‏@DrFidelius)

Nine year old to his mum,'Please can we have something a little less vegetarianly extreme tonight... I don't want tree roots!' (via Twitter)

Just overheard in W. London. Mum to little boy on scooter. "If you don't lose your attitude... I'll eat your brunch bar." (@Tony_Robinson)

Woman at Euston: 'When I found out Chester existed, it blew my mind. I thought they'd made it up for Hollyoaks'.  (Elliot ‏@helloitselliot)

A: Let's go to Oval. There's nothing there, right? It's just a space.
B: No. Obviously the Oval's there.
A: What's the Oval?

The evangelicals suckered me twice, once when I believed what they told me, once when I believed that they believed it too. (@rupertg)

Yeah, nice guy, but he kept pointing at Pret A Mangers, sayin' "There's another one!" (@Andr6wMale)
In the most exquisitely posh accent: "I don't know if you know what I mean by a 'Port A Cabin'." (Will Stevens‏ @teletextpage152)

A friend after going through the National Gallery: "Well, that's Western art for you. A thousand years of crucifixions, then stripes." (Sandra Newman‏ @sannewman)

It’s not a workshop, it’s a space.
 (Via JP.)

A Friend of my parents were in the main square in Brussels with its Grand  Palace, once, when American tourists were busy photographing everything. They overheard the conversation:
"It says here,  all of this is 1698."
"Wow!  What's that in Dollars ?" 

Actual comment at school today: "You've got all these playing fields but not enough parking to park next to the school!" (Simon H.‏ @Recursived)

And at the weekend it's up at the roof-garden with a Campari. Why would she not like that? (@Andr6wMale)

He had that house, 16th century. You lived there you'd do yer back in.  
I know him. Went off to do weights after that funeral.(@Andr6wMale)

And I was really nice to him. I was like 'Thanks very much, Julian' or whatever his effing name was. (@Andr6wMale)

Just overheard: 'Brits are eating FAR more sugar and it's giving us diabetes!!!'  Actually UK sugar consumption has been falling for decades. (James Wong ‏@Botanygeek)

"I don't know why there are so many people on this street, I doubt it even leads to anything," says an irritated North American, walking towards inner Soho. (@Furmadamadam)

I don't care about an attractive man who can't make a profiterole. (@JonnElledge)

"You are good at promo modelling. Can you get rich old men to invest in our hedge funds?" completely normal interview happening next to me. (Leslie Micek‏@lesmicek)

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Misunderstandings 6

The sentence “Seals in the ocean will sample but a soupcon of the stuff” should have been cut out, disembowelled and stuck on spikes as a warning to future science writers. (Oliver Moody, Times Sept 2017 Rejected prose, typed on paper, was stuck on a SPIKE on the editor’s desk. It was called a “spike file”, and did not resemble a bed of nails. You can still get them.)

George Orwell said that good writing is a window pane, an object of clarity and shining precision. (
Roger Lewis, Times Sept 2017 (In Why I Write, George Orwell wrote that “good prose is like a windowpane”. He meant it should be transparent, so that you can see the meaning through it, and that you shouldn’t dirty the glass with your own ego. )

Butter had been replaced by a repulsive whale-fat slime called Snoek. (Nicky Haslam, Redeeming Features. Snoek was whale meat. During the war butter was replaced by margarine. He also thinks “flak” (anti-aircraft fire) was metallic tinsel dropped to confuse German radar.)

Ripping up red tape: You can rip up regulations, they’re printed on paper, but legal red tape (which is actually pink) is woven and tough and you have to cut it.

The announcement that the Queen’s speech has to be printed on “goatskin parchment” led to stories on the BBC and in the Telegraph claiming that we had to wait while her speech was hand-written on a goatskin scroll. “Goatskin parchment” is the kind used in parchment craft, and is a kind of fine but robust paper. The UK’s laws are, however, handwritten on parchment scrolls made of calf or goatskin. It’s very durable, and the writing is not easily altered. The story rapidly involved a scapegoat... (Pictures and footage of the Queen reading her speech show her with a booklet, never a scroll.)

The table behind me has two women on it, one with a ridiculously loud, piercing, crystal-posh voice, that you just can't not hear, even with considerable effort. (AJB)

“Twitter — don’t really do it,” she says wearily, her home counties accent as sharp as mandolined celeriac. (Times May 2017 However sharp your mandoline – there are several kinds – sliced celeriac would not be very sharp. The cliché is “cut-glass tones”.)

Stepped wife for Stepford Wife (Stepford Wives was a film about a suburb, Stepford, in which all the wives were replaced by lifelike robots who never stepped out of line.)

Carol Midgley doesn’t want to go back to the 70s and have to wear those horrible hot, itchy “nylons” – she means tights. Nylons were nylon stockings: thin, fine and non-stretchy, and held up by a suspender belt.

What a trooper! (Surely it’s troupers – itinerant actors – who are prepared to endure any conditions and take on any role? Or are troopers meant – infantrymen – who get the short end of the stick and obey orders however misguided?)

Clare Adamson does a bit on Schrödinger's Cat: "The Brexit box is open, the cat's about to eat the poison. Get out of the box!" (Philip Sim @BBCPhilipSim Schrödinger's Cat was in a box with some radioactive material that might or might not kill it. Until you opened the box, it was both dead and alive. I think.)

She always put the emPHASis on the wrong syllABle.
The BBC's radio drama version of Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers is excellent, but the actors frequently get the emphasis wrong.

Two typists are having tea:If I give you a bob and you give me twopence and the waitress twopence and settle up at the desk, we shall be all square.

It should be: "If you give me twopence and the waitress twopence." Plus, the typists are posh and affected, whereas in the book they are lower down the social scale.

Lord Peter Wimsey asks: Is it possible – I fear it is – I think you must have encountered my unfortunate cousin Bredon.’ ‘That was the name –’ began Dian, uncertainly, and stopped. 

In the radio version, Dian says “That was the name…” instead of “That was the name…”, meaning she thinks she’s heard it somewhere.

‘Oh, do tell,’ urged Dian, her eyes dancing with excitement. ‘It sounds too terribly breath-taking.’
‘I suspect him,’ said Wimsey, in solemn and awful tones, ‘of having to do with – smug-druggling –
I mean, dash it all – drug-smuggling.’

In the radio version, “smug-druggling” is corrected to “drug-smuggling”, and the joke is lost.

David Thorpe reads Margery Allingham's Look to the Lady enjoyably, but talks about a horse called Bitter Aloes in her loose box. (It's a loose box, where the horse is not tied up, and you accent aloes on the first syllable.)

A Radio 3 announcer referred to the Land of Lost Content with the accent on the first syllable, as if it was Web-page content. (It's content, meaning contentment.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Racism and Logic

A recent survey shows that since 1970 Brits have accepted homosexuality, contraception, gender equality, premarital sex (remember that?). But sadly when it comes to racism we haven't moved on, and racists will justify their opinions any way they can. There's no such a thing as racism, and I'm not a racist, and you don't belong to a race and...

A drunk solicitor on train who told a woman she didn’t belong in first class – or this country, claims “I’m not a racist. Now she’s going to say I’ve insulted her.” Calls her “you and your f***ing son”. How can he think he’s not a racist? Because he genuinely thinks people like her “don’t belong in this country”. In his mind, he’s not a racist, he’s right.

The Irish were enslaved along with Africans? They were indentured servants, and 19th century Americans treated them as an underclass, but they were not slaves. The whole point of this distorted history is to justify prejudice against black people. Look, the Irish were slaves, and they don’t moan about it, therefore black lives DON’T matter.

Saying you’re English is racist, says Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen.

Racists lost the argument over immigration, which is why they always have to present current immigration as somehow new and unprecedented. eg: "Yes, but this time it's the numbers"; "Yes, but this time they've got the wrong religion"; "Yes, but these ones aren't rich enough". (Daniel Trilling)

Weird how racists try and pretend there is no such word as "racist". Like a burglar insisting "burglar" isn't a word. (J-P. Janson De Couët ‏@jpjanson)

How odd folks are: "I'm not a racist because, although I targeted you on the basis of your colouring/ethnicity, you're not a distinct race." (Alex Andreou ‏@sturdyAlex)

Some of the things racists say:
I’m not a racist because I’m not a bad person, some of my best friends are black, why are you so angry?, there’s no such thing as race, I’m colour-blind.

Historians want to deprive white Europeans of their home!

There were no black people in Europe until recently
, therefore there shouldn’t be any here now. They should all go away again. (A small number of people of African descent have lived here since the Romans.)

OK so there were black people in Roman Britain - but they were a tiny minority and therefore they don’t count!

I’m not going to stop having racist ideas or saying racist things or doing racist actions, but you can’t call me “racist” because it’s just as bad as racism.

It's racist to have a black presenter talking about lack of diversity on Radio 4.

There’s no such thing as a “race”, so I can’t be racist.

The term 'racism' has no power any more.

You don’t understand our French/Danish sense of humour. We make fun of everybody. We’re making fun of the racists, really.

Racist. So overused it has lost all meaning. (Katie Hopkins)

Freedom of movement causes xenophobia.

Britain is racist because of the immigrants.
(UKIP councillor Trevor Shonk)

Yes, I called Michelle Obama an ape in heels but that wasn’t racist.

The father of one of Stephen Lawrence’s killers is shown the video of his son making outrageously racist remarks. He continues saying “My son isn’t a racist. I know him better than you do. He wouldn’t say a thing like that.

You’re the racist for talking about race (or racism).

If we all stopped talking about racism it would go away (“Hopefully, this isn’t your approach to fixing a leaky roof, changing a flat tire, or working out relationship problems”, someone commented.)

Racism doesn't exist because it has never happened to me or anybody I know.

Anyone who objects to racism is a snob who doesn’t understand the working class.

My ancestors didn’t make their way to this great country to have immigrants come in and take their jobs.
(Donald Trump)

I’m not anti-Semitic, I'm anti Zionist; not racist but anti-immigration; not racist or misogynist but anti political correctness; not a racist but a proud nationalist.

There aren’t any anti-Semites.
 Saying and doing anti-Semitic things doesn’t make you an anti-Semite.

The Jews aren’t the only Semites, so I’m not an anti-Semite.

Anti-Semitism isn’t racism because Jews are white.

And if there IS such a thing as racism, white people are the real victims.

More illogic here.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Technophobia 5


When computers arrived in offices, some staff tapped keyboards as if under duress: hunched, peering, grim expression. And companies didn’t think you needed an expert on the premises – help desks were manned by one ignorant youngster. The unemployed were sent on inappropriate programming courses because those in charge thought you had to programme a computer in order to use it.

Them: Why would I want to send a file from one computer to another?
Me: So that you don’t have to retype it.
Them: But we have people to do that.

They moaned that they couldn't turn off spell checker, and the mouse was terribly slow. If you showed them how to fix it, they’d snap “But I don’t want to do that!” If you showed them how to do something the quick way, they whinged. They couldn’t see why they should want to do things faster. The way they first learned it WAS the way.

Me: If you open the menus, they’ll show you the keyboard shortcuts.
Third Party: Shut up! Shut up! She doesn’t need to know that!!!!!

Now they're complaining about Linked-In’s endless emails – which you can turn off. If you tell them that, they say “I quite like it really!” Do they mean “But I have to have something to complain about”? Or perhaps it’s OK to use computers and the internet as long as we moan about them the whole time.

Since computers entered our lives, non-geeks have become much better at following instructions. Back then, they’d never read a knitting pattern, followed a recipe, sewed a dress, knocked together a rabbit-hutch. And they were officer class. THEY gave the orders, and the geeks showing them how to use one of these newfangled computer thingies were way down the pecking order. And they couldn’t, as usual, show off their superior education and creativity. They had to do it the computer’s way or it wouldn’t work. They were quite resentful that they had to clear their OWN cache, tidy their OWN desktops and find their OWN files. “Housekeeping”? They’d always had people to do such tasks for them. Society has become less hierarchical since then, fortunately.

At parties in the late 80s:
Fellow guest: And what do you do?
Me: I work at a computer magazine.
Fellow guest: [terrified look] I’m afraid I know nothing about computers!
Me: Oh, I just put in the jokes!
Fellow guest: [puzzled expression] How can you make jokes about computers?

He said “these are your cursor buttons” and I didn’t know what a cursor was! (Did she ask? No!)

No-one ever worried about the poor old manual typist getting RSI. What happened to all that fuss over glare from VDU screens? Employers were supposed to supply non-reflective desks, and free eye tests, and special computer glasses... They installed blinds for windows, and in some cases these got stuck in the "down" position and were never raised again, because nobody knew how to work them.

Newbies all put up the "legs" on their keyboards, and rested their wrists on the desk, risking carpal tunnel syndrome. If the legs were necessary, why don’t laptop keyboards slope? (Because then you couldn’t shut the lid. Doesn’t seem to bother anybody.)

Some bright spark invented protective wear for pregnant computer users (a light chain-mail tabard).

But the RSI flap did some good – it hastened the provision of comfortable working conditions. Adjustable chairs (the technology improved), wrist wrests, enough desk space. Employers had got away with providing terrible conditions for years. Laptops seem a step backwards. People use them awkwardly, sitting on the wrong kind of chair, at the wrong kind of table. And NONE of them can touch-type properly!

If you want to review a book on Goodreads, you have to rate it first. As they don't tell you.

You can type your shopping list into your phone! As a memo! (Bins post-its.)

And for the last time: Edit/Preferences/Spelling and Grammar.

More here, and links to the rest.

Technophobia 4

It’s 2017 and 
Ian Hislop is still making jokes about Instagrams of food. Paul Merton doesn’t have a smartphone or use email. And I’m telling people how to link their tweets, and how to keep saving their work so that it doesn’t disappear when their laptop battery dies. People tweet that they have lost their laptop and it contains all their research for the past 18 months. (In the olden days we backed up on floppy disks, now it’s the Cloud.)

The NHS is still using the same system it installed in 2002, running on Windows XP (an outmoded OS). It got hit by a cyberattack. Amber Rudd says “I hope they backed up – they’re supposed to.” An NHS bod on BBC Breakfast says she’d visited the IT department and “It’s amazing how hard IT people work!” Sally Nugent added: “Some people didn’t know updates were available, or that backup was possible.”

If you use computers …you are going to turn into a computer. (Professor Susan Greenfield)

Went to the local Moorfields Eye Unit last week, which has finally stopped using paper files and turned on the PCs that were always on every desk. The consultant entered a few fields in a complex app, and out pops my copy of the review letter, addressed to my GP. He said it's all much better than when they dictated letters and sent them off to India for transcribing, then had to correct all the errors. (via

Staggered to learn that on receipt of an email my online bank prints it in Leeds, deletes it, then posts the print to Coventry to be scanned. (@SELondoner)

Spoke to primary school IT guy today who had parents refuse tech in school as they feared radiation from wifi. Complaints came in by email. (‏@DonaldClark #redtech)

My Dad went to his grave believing that computers in banking were an aberration that would eventually go away. Then we'd go back to real banking [leather bound ledgers, cosy chats with the Bank Manager (him)]. (KJ)

People who still leave two spaces after a full stop agree – one day the world will be in sync with them again. It used to be thought rude to type a personal letter. That changed.

It's OK if you're older and hate millennials that's fine but next time you can't figure out how to print a Word doc DONT ASK ME CAROL (loni del rey‏ @LoniBryantt)

Some still view Twitter in the same way as they viewed “surfing the net”, 20 years go. I mean, what’s it FOR? What’s the POINT? And you might get addicted! Socmed holdouts now think Facebook and Twitter are only about plugging your product.

What on earth possesses people to leave online reviews for things? Baffling behaviour. (@thhamilton)

I have officially entered the 21st century. I apologize in advance for my slow learning curve. I have yet to discern Twitter's purpose. (And we never heard from Helena Bonham Carter again.)

Twitter is 11 years old today. Five years ago I was advised that people in prominent positions don't use it. How the world changes. (@JonathanFoyle, 2017)

Facebook corrodes the bond between men and women. (Via Conservative Woman ‏@TheConWom)

My old boss famously announced 'we don't do Twitter'. Now has an official Twitter feed. (‏via Twitter)

Now it’s “I don’t do threading”. (And you only need to retweet the first tweet of a thread.) Some still think that if you join Twitter, you instantly see everything posted by everyone who’s on it. (You only see posts from people you follow, and you can unfollow or block them.)

Facebook users like to tell you that Twitter is populated by rightists/leftists, baby pictures and morons. Twitter users say the same about FB. Twitter has an update – and users wail that it’s “turning into Facebook”. (The update consisted of non-linear timelines based on an “algorithm” that decides it knows what you want to see – but when Twitter installs the feature it gives you the option to turn it off. Everybody hated it, and turned it off.)

The whole Facebook 'friends' and instant chat thing is so stifling. (via Twitter)
The casual ‘clicking’ and ‘liking’ of social media... (Ellen Turner)

Fads like chasing followers online are leaving us lonely and isolated. (Pope Francis, with 13.6m followers.)

If you want to write about socmed in the right-wing broadsheets, you have to add a bit of denigration, and use the word “like” somewhere. But the real downside is that every time you “like” something, the info goes to advertisers. FB and Twitter want to show advertising companies that they can predict what their users want to read about. The companies will then buy advertising space.

To some, I suspect, FB and Twitter ARE the internet, and they’re just “on your phone”.

A Facebook user has a historical question: “Don’t use Google or the net etc, but where was the place called…?”

And a friend’s mother has a query: “I don’t do Goodreads, but…”

“I've never really experimented with any of the shortening services”, says another, apologising for long URLs.

"My Facebook feed is full of...." Click on the faint grey down arrow, top right of the post, and select from the options to hide or unfollow. And you can put your family or friends in a group, and choose to see posts from that group only. Some users moan what a terrible thief of time it is. Try hiding all clickbait memes, and not passing them on. They’re designed to find out about your networks.

“I don’t want a smartphone because I don’t want to have Facebook on my phone." Get a smartphone, don’t put Facebook on it.

“You get news alerts coming up on your phone all the time”, says the editor of new paper-only daily.
According to Rachel Johnson in the Times (2016), one of the new status symbols is a mobile that isn’t a smartphone – because you don’t want to be “connected” all the time.

“This is why I refuse to install the Facebook app!” I don’t have FB on my phone either, but I didn’t “refuse to install it”. I installed it and then deleted it (I prefer to scroll FB on my desktop). You don’t just decline to join FB – you “are determined to have nothing to do with it”. And you don’t just join it – you “give in and join it”, or even “submit”.

Some people who have Twitter and FB accounts, write blogs, and chat to people in comments, are convinced that they “don’t use Social Media”. Reading Twitter ("for news and updates") without Tweeting isn’t “using” it.

But there’s really no need to read the comments under newspaper articles. And you don’t have to join Whatsapp, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr…

A prominent lawyer was laughed at when he said in 1996 that one day lawyers would communicate with clients via email.

The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.
(Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, Post Office, 1876)

Btw, remember when a couple of years ago everyone was convinced that "e-mail is dead"? Well, no. (M. v. Aufschnaiter ‏@mva_1000)

Companies flogging alternative “solutions” are attacking email, Aug 2014: “Imagine telling your team they never have to email each other again!”

The email era is over, says Carol Midgley (Times 2016). “Companies are realising that while email saves time and paper it also turns employees into drooling screen slaves. Wading through 100 messages a day about Ron’s lost coffee mug or how to enlarge your penis kills productivity so some firms are weaning their workforces off it.” How are they going to organise meetings without email? Typed memos taken round the office? Pigeonholes? Are they going to go back to time-wasting phone conversations? Which aren’t recorded, so you have to take notes, and then type them up? Solution: Set up a spam filter. Tell your staff to go easy on the trivia and not to “reply all”. Hire someone to read the emails, pick out the important messages and answer them. You could call them a “secretary”.

Email has made secretaries of us all. (Expert quoted in The Guardian, 2014)

Email would be much easier and quicker if everybody could touchtype. It would improve productivity, and we might all get richer.

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Outrageous Excuses 2017 (2)

A bison ate my homework

I still leave two spaces after a full stop because:

It’s what I was taught 30 years ago – I’d have been fired if I didn’t comply!
It’s a hard habit to break.
My mother told me to and I want to retain a link with a loved one.

Princess Margaret said that Boy George looked like an “over-made-up tart”. Her office explained that she said he was “commedia dell’arte”.

Jacob Rees Mogg says increased use of food banks is due to the previous Labour government not telling people they existed. He also says the phenomenon is "uplifting". (Sept 2017)

Poor people only go to food banks because they don’t know how to cook. (Baroness Jenkins)

Bannon trying to spin his departure as a good thing is like the guy who just got fired talking about how awesome his own business will be: “Now I don't have to come here every day I can devote all my time to working on my screenplay!” (Ian Rennie‏ @theangelremiel)

I accept theoretically we didn’t win. But in a way we won an awareness. We won the opportunity for our manifesto to be heard. If the timespan of the campaign was longer I think we would be in government now. It wasn’t because Theresa May won why she is still prime minister. It wasn’t because Jeremy lost. Jeremy, in a sense, didn’t lose, the Labour party didn’t lose. And the Conservatives didn’t win. (Claudia Webbe)

Gay Porn Star Turned German Spy Accused of Being Jihadi Mole Says He Planned Attack Online Because of Boredom (Newsweek)

Boots claim the morning after pill is so expensive to discourage ‘inappropriate’ use. (Metro)

Councillor Rosemary Carroll had claimed she had meant to delete a racist post but ended up publishing it by mistake.

Department for Communities and Local Government: "Translation undermines community cohesion by encouraging segregation" (Dec 2012)

Turkish schools will stop teaching evolution because: "We believe that these subjects are beyond students' comprehension."

A pub landlord who posted a message on Facebook calling for the deportation of everyone with the same name as the Manchester bomber says he doesn’t “understand how Facebook works”.

UKIP wants to ban the burka because it prevents absorption of Vitamin D.

A woman in the US tried to persuade other parents and children on a camping trip to act as if the Easter Bunny was real because her eight-year-old son still believed in it, and she wanted to “keep the magic alive”. (Via Mallory Ortberg,

Conspiracist Alex Jones of InfoWars is trying to get custody of his kids, but in court couldn’t answer questions about their lives. He blamed it on the “big bowl of chilli” he ate for lunch.
In the last year, two people have told me they're voting Tory because Britain can't deport Abu Hamza. Hamza was extradited to the US in 2012. (@flying_rodent)

Global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. (Donald Trump)

God doesn't send people to hell. He honours their decision to live without Him for eternity. (@ImSowFull)

Theresa May says she backs fox hunting because other methods of killing foxes are 'cruel' (Business Insider UK‏ @BIUK)

The Polish government wants to chop down a forest which is home to European bison in order to “protect it”.

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Hyperbole, Overstatement, Catastrophising 8

We have lost our connection to Nature!
(Because only old Asian ladies, and not Brits, are collecting chestnuts in Hyde Park. “Our ancestors” would have “harvested” them. From Twitter.)

Feminism poisons relations between men and women. (Belinda Brown. Here's another headline from her blog: "Teaching little girls about breastfeeding robs them of their childhood.")

The Ghostbusters reboot will ruin my childhood! (It has been remade with a cast of women.)

We can’t have women priests in the CoE, it would lead to a return of paganism! (Bishop of Exeter, 1974. Still waiting, 2017.)

Has the fact that we mourn more for Prince than 500 drowned refugees mean that we have lost all sense of proportion?

Bloke wails that London is now Muslim, in a year Buckingham Palace will be a “mosk” and the Queen will be forced to wear a “burker”. (May 8, 2016. Wish he had said, “Or I’ll eat my hat”, 2017.)

Likewise, man worried for his 7-month-old son because there are so many immigrants to the UK that white people will soon become an endangered species. (DM comments 2016)

And others saying that “London is now entirely Islamic”, “You have to go outside London to hear English spoken”, and "Come to Kings Cross – you'll be shocked!". 

Impactful... now there's a word that completely destroys the language. (That's also a self-denying statement.)

Saudis fear there'll be no more virgins and people will turn gay if female drive ban is lifted. (via Nevine Zaki December 2, 2011)

Letting women drive would increase prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce. (via Ian Shuttleworth)

Mike Stuchbery is destroying our past! (Translation: Mike Stuchbery is pointing to evidence that the history of the British Isles has not been a 2000-year history of white people.)

Once you end people's right to buy something and do as they please with it you have a police state. (Estate agent Trevor Abrahmsohn, Guardian June 2017)

Entitled millennials “are trying to destroy the United States”. (via Twitter)

All men are hated by females now. (Twitter)

We are in the dictatorship of the super intelligent. (FB comment on the female student who stabbed her boyfriend and got a suspended sentence because “she has a brilliant future ahead of her” – paraphrase.)

Guy sues date for texting during movie, calling it, "A threat to civilized society." (

Civilization is truly over: Harry Potter Creative Producer vacancy at the British Llibrary. (‏@sarah_shin_)

"White genocide!"
"All Muslims are rapists!"
"PC is destroying UK culture!"
"EU costs £350m a week!"
(Delicate Snowflake‏ @AndyBodle)

Tesco chairman, John Allan – one of nine white men who sit on the executive board – said that men have become an "endangered species" at the top of British business. (Grazia, March 2017)

The EU has destroyed every country in Europe!

Southern England is so flooded with immigrants that everyone in London speaks with an Indian accent!

Look at this picture of schoolchildren in the local paper, not a white face! So Bradford is now a no-go area for white people!

Headline: Germany: Nearly 40% of under fives now “migrant background”. 
Comment: Demographics at work. Germany is finished.

American cultural dominance! (One Macdonalds in Moscow.)

BBC ensuring 50% of all shows are about Gay relationships. First Holby, then Casualty & now Dr Who. Are there no heterosexual people left? (Matt @mtavp)

That student who burned a £20 in front of a homeless man – leave him alone! It was uncharacteristic! His life is ruined!
Same-sex marriage will “destroy the whole human race”, Australian parliament told. (Feb 2017)

One young woman this morning with such a passion for fruit that she piles her plate with melon, pineapple, grapes and kiwi fruit and fills her pockets with tangerines to the extent that in the process nature itself is demeaned. (Alan Bennett, LRB on hotel breakfast buffets.)

Pope Francis says capitalism is ‘terrorism against all of humanity’.

Gays don’t want marriage equality, they want homosexual supremacy!
Gun Control Efforts Are “Exactly How Satan Works”(Bryan Fischer)

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

My Novels

Stuck for something to read? Try these...

WITCH WAY NOW? is about a teenager called Anna in the Swinging Sixties who discovers she has some unusual powers. To start with, she uses them to make friends at her new school, and return a few favours, but then she comes to the notice of the local coven... Her parents have secrets they aren't sharing. Eventually she finds herself in London, which everyone says is "where it's at". Should she turn on, tune in and drop out? Her friends range from sensible secretaries to druggy boutique staff to... read it and find out. It's funny. You might like it.

And here's the sequel:


Anna never wanted to be a witch, but she has to protect herself from some old fiends, while wondering if there is more to life than being a temp secretary. She tries stints as a model, and mixes with college students while beating off hell-hounds and wizards.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Latin, French and English

The English language is full of synonyms (words that mean the same). The British Isles were invaded by the Anglo-Saxons, who brought their language. Then we were invaded by the Normans (pictured), and French was the official language until the year 1600. Educated people learned Latin and Ancient Greek so that they could read classical literature, and imported a lot of Latin and Greek into the language. That's why we often have a choice between a Latin, Greek or French word from the educated establishment, and an Anglo-Saxon word as used by the common people: between a word that sounds official and impressive, and one that sounds warm and everyday. Would you rather someone was amicable, or friendly?

Official words tend to have many syllables, with endings like "-atively" and "-ification". If you want to sound informed, domineering, impressive and pompous, and if you want to disguise your meaning, choose from the left-hand column. If you want to sound matey and get your meaning across, choose Anglo-Saxon words from the right.

arrive/turn up



incisive/cutting, biting

opposed to/against

previously, subsequently/earlier, later
prior to/before

relinquish/leave off
renounce/give up
replenish/stock up


More Latin here.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Euphemisms (in Quotes)

All these and more in my updated and revised book Boo & Hooray.

"Don't politicize this tragedy" is American for "Don't discuss the facts that would help prevent & prepare for future tragedies." (toscha‏ @poemless Aug 27 2017)

"I voted for change" is the new "I'm not racist, but..." (Dave Woollaston)

In my experience, when a Trump supporter calls you "disrespectful" they mean "Related provable facts without any equivocation." (Allan Mott ‏@HouseofGlib)

Disavow is their new dog whistle code word for publicly repudiating & wink wink supporting. Beware. (Aya B. Sqwirly™‏ @kwaptwap Aug 15)

#Resistance remember the term #IdentityPolitics was invented by the #AltRight & #GOP conservatives. It is just a sad #codeword for #RACISM. (Sorry Charlie‏ @chuckburke13 Aug 20)

Please stop telling people to respect others' opinions. That's for things like "I don't like coffee" not for "I don't like black people." (Xannie Woodard @XannieW)

Who exactly is 'our own people'? Why do such terms go unchallenged in the media? Is it a polite form of the nudge-nudge thing that racists do when they perceive someone like me as white and try to recruit me for a racist slur or sneer? (Michael Rosen)

Sanders is not a son of Vermont - he is not an inheritor of our values of inviolable liberty, sovereignty, justice, and law. (@ericgarland. Someone comments: Just say he’s a Jew, Eric, this is taking for ever.)

Stunning and iconic it may be, but is it vibrant enough? (Hugh Pearman on student developments)

Wake up Nimbys, the option is either Tory housebuilding or Marxist social engineering (Daily Telegraph 7 June 2017) Can they possibly mean “Look out, they’re going to plonk poor people next door to you?” Of course they can. “Planning would soon be completely centralised, with bureaucrats in Whitehall dictating everything to the smallest detail… Mass council-house building, including in leafy areas, run by Marxist ideologues, a giant social engineering programme directly aimed at growing the Labour base and killing off the home ownership dream?” The Tory alternative is new garden cities and suburbs, where poor people can be segregated and “home ownership culture” preserved. Because of course, apart from the annoyance of having poor people living next door, it would bring down the price of your house. (And when Tories say "garden cities" they mean "new towns".)

Ultra low energy house will echo a 19th century streetscape: Look nothing like.
Thamesmead is being reimagined by Peabody: Denatured, defaced, vandalized, ruined.

Technology always sells itself as 'freeing humans up to do the real value-added stuff' but companies buy it to reduce headcount. (@Schopflin)

How's this for obfuscating political euphemism: "efficiency dividends." It means: "cuts" (in this case, for universities). (@GaryNunn1)

Here is how the University of Manchester is justifying 171 redundancies: improving the student experience. (Richard Ashcroft @qmulbioethics)

"We'll pick students we don't think will need much help, sack old academics and replace them with fewer, cheaper, insecure young ones." (@PlashingVole)

These proposals will allow us to modernise our business as it adapts to the changing needs of our customers and the role that shops play in their lives. (Dino Rocos, John Lewis operations director. They’re redunding 400 people.)

The BBC is refreshing the line-ups on two of its long-running, most popular shows. (

Any question beginning "Do you honestly think ...?" can safely be answered with a no, because they'll go on to misrepresent your argument. (Virtue signal‏ @AndyBodle)

I question the tone of his discourse – too didactic and patrician: I disagree with him. (Via FB)

"I'm just trying to start a debate" often means "I want to say unpleasant things I know will offend but also retain the moral high ground". (Dean Burnett ‏@garwboy)

Most schools don't think about curriculum enough, and when they do, they actually mean qualifications or the timetable. (@StuartLock, headteacher)

In Tory speak, I know 'Let's be clear' means what follows is a lie. So how big a lie follows 'let's be very clear'? (TheOfficialAndyToal‏ @AndyToal)

Had enough of liberal smugness, Remoaner whining &  rampant Europhilia @TheEconomist & cancelled my subscription. UK patriots shd do similar. (Stewart Jackson MP @Stewart4Pboro)

Translated as 'can't bear reading opinions other than my own, and anyone who disagrees with me hates their country'. (
Cllr Lorna Dupré ‏@lornadupre 16 Oct 2016)

"Sales LJ says he has 'slightly lost the thread' of the arguments James Eadie is making for the government” That's judge-speak for "you've made a dog's breakfast of this aspect of your case, have another go or move on". (Alex Andreou ‏@sturdyAlex 17 Oct 2016)

"We are monitoring the situation closely" is cousin to "We have robust procedures in place". (‏‏@hughpearman 10 Mar 2016)

A new definition learnt from #GIDC . To "edit" a brief where "edit" = "largely ignore". (Real Lovejoy ‏@HeebyJeeby2000)

More here, and links to the rest.

Received Ideas (in Quotes) 6

All this and more in my revised and updated book, Clichés: A Dictionary of Received Ideas.

The Enlightenment myth of a 'middle age' of barbarism is, ironically, quite as wrong-headed as the most superstitious medieval superstition. (Historian Tom Holland)

About two centuries ago, it was a tradition for citizens in England to invite the entire village to their own house, to cook and drink together. That's the reason why a pub is still called a pub. A public house with open doors for everyone. (Germany’s Unbrexit pub)

Lobster was once considered trash here in N England — actual laws on how often lobster could be served to inmates before considered cruel. (Kassa‏ @ksax48 Sometimes "salmon", or "oysters".)

Most educated people in America think there is a crisis about native speakers using the language ungrammatically. (Geoff Pullum)

The reason why working-class people voted leave was because they see immigrants on a daily basis. You don’t get them in posh suburbs. (via Twitter)

The fact is, men are good at concentrating with extraordinary focus whereas women are better at seeing the broader picture. (Christopher Hart, Daily Mail, Aug 2017)

Women are not biologically suited to working with computers. (Google memo, 2017. Back in the mid-80s, we were told "Don't look at the manual, it'll only confuse you.")

Did you know that a cat wandered on stage during the Act 1 finale of the premiere of Barber of Seville in 1816? (English National Opera. It's usually a dog, which exits through the fireplace.)

Poi, which they will all be obliged to “try” to get a sense of “authentic” Hawaiian food, which, of course, must taste bad. ( Local "delicacies" are either bland or disgusting.)

NOBODY EVER TALKS ABOUT CLASS is up there with YOU CAN'T TALK ABOUT IMMIGRATION at the Least True Statements Awards. (@johnb78)

The Temple of the Muses, a bookstore in Finsbury Circus, boasted of having half a million volumes for sale & being so large a mail-coach was driven around the (circular) counter at its opening. Darran Anderson (The intrepid have driven a coach and horses round the top of a factory chimney, round a clifftop library in Northern Ireland, and through several caves.)

Science is sexist because it is not subjective, or it's racist and colonial because it's an artifact of Western modernity... (Via FB)

My parents were card-carrying communists. Dialectical materialism didn't prevent them believing they had souls. (RK)

It’s no wonder so many atheists are terribly depressed. (Christian Apologist @Lead1225)

Atheists are for the most part utterly unskeptical about their own beliefs. (@EveKeneinan)

Southern English was subject to influence by the huge population of former Africans that were speaking Southern English. The social history is complex, but it’s been argued that Southern English carries a lot of features of the native languages of the African slaves. In contrast, Midwest English was spoken by a bunch of Germanic immigrants; East Coast English, spoken by a bunch of Irish, then Italian, then Russian immigrants. (Metro. Stand down — they’re talking about America.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Latin Prefixes

Et tu, Boris?
Nobody speaks Latin any more, apart from a few Conservative politicians. But a little knowledge helps when it comes to distinguishing word pairs like affect and effect; emigrant and immigrant; accept and except. Here's a quick guide.

against (antipathy, antibiotic)
co: together (costar, co-operate)
contra: against (contradict, contraception)
de: away (defrost, debunk)
dis: not, none (disbelief, disabled)
equi: same, equivalent (equilibrium, equidistant)
extra: outside (extravagant, extramural)
inter: between, among (international, interfere, interweave)
non: not (nonviolence, nonstop)
per: through (permeate, pervasive)
post: after (postdate, postwar)
pre: before (prepay, predict)
pro: for (project, propose)
re: again, or backward (rearrange, rebuild, recall)
retro: backward (retrospectively)
sub: under (submarine, subway, substandard)
super: over, above (superfluous, supersonic)
trans: across, beyond, through (transatlantic, transalpine)

-ject: throw (reject, project)
-cept: taken (concept, inception)
-dict: say (contradict, dictate)
-duc: lead, bring, take (deduce, produce, reduce)
-gress: walk (digress, progress)
-ject: throw (eject, inject, project)
-pel: drive (compel, repel)
-pend: hang (depend, pendant)
-port: carry (transport, deport, export, import)
-scrib, -script: write (describe, prescribe)
-struct: build (construct, instruct)
-tract: pull, drag, draw (attract, contract, extract)
-vert: turn (convert, divert)

Or you can always pick an Anglo-Saxon twin.

predict: foretell
contradict: gainsay
reduce: shrink
deduce: work out
progress: growth, headway
dispel: scatter
attract: charm

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Clichés 4

Are anything other than marches ever "inexorable"?

Climate change will stir “unimaginable” refugee crisis, says military. (Guardian Dec 2016, "cause")

I just lost my phone on a 253 bus in Hackney, if anyone wants to restore my faith in humanity.
(And his phone.)

blaming others for your own inadequacies (This 60s “joke” seems to be experiencing a revival, as is “bleeding heart” as an adjective.)

In motor racing, a driver doesn’t “win”, he “claims poll”. Or is it “pole”? Nobody knows what “pole position” means.

Today has so far been the kind of day whose news headline concludes "before turning the gun on herself" or "spree". (@lucyfishwife)

It's like a tic: anyone writing about @RichardDawkins has to call 'New Atheism' a 'fundamentalist sect'. So so dull. (‏@StuartJRitchie)

It’s OK to claim you or your company have won an award or prize, but avoid calling it “the prestigious Prix Femina” etc.

In dating profiles people claim to like “nights out, curling up on the sofa with Netflix, long walks on beaches”. (They used to claim to have a GSOH and like fine dining, concerts, the theatre and walks in the country.)

We think marketers should be able to target at a highly granular level, not simply in aggregate. (Turn Inc. ‏@TurnPlatform)

I don’t think it’s necessarily bad criticism but i lose interest SO FAST when a writer describes things as “utterly hateful”. (Jack ‏@notquitereal)

Scientists dim sunlight, suck up carbon dioxide to cool planet ( Try "extract".)

Priests are defrocked, lawyers disbarred, the titled are stripped of a knighthood, doctors are struck off, and kitchens are ripped out.

shark-infested waters
ravaged by drought 
In crime-ridden districts, local government is riddled with corruption.
Opera singers are “trained”, bureaucrats "faceless" and old movies "creaky".

For reasons nobody understands, terrorists in the Middle East are always killed by the dozen. (Karl Sharro ‏@KarlreMarks)

Menopausal women “suffer in silence” – or rather they’re always being told they “don’t have to suffer in silence any more”. (Any year for the past 30.)

convulsed by revelations
diffusing tension (Defuse, if you must.)
world-class university (Mary Beard asks "Can we retire this one?")
wading through treacle
Our staff has worked round the clock.
all the way back in 2006 (
thin veneer of civilization
One day buildings, parks etc will just be “restored”, instead of “restored to their former glory”.

 What people do as they perpetrate a cruel, unfunny practical joke.
grin: What people in books do instead of talking (“That’ll be the day!” he grinned.)
cackle: evil old women
guffaw: evil old men
snicker: the Eternal Butler holds your coat
snigger: laughing at something rude, or at somebody’s embarrassment
giggle: what girls do
Titter ye not, madam!

If you are looking for a celebrity to endorse a beauty product, they don’t come much bigger than Cleopatra (pictured, played by Caroline Mortimer). (NS July 2015, "more celebrated".)

Some of history’s biggest historians answer some of history’s biggest questions. (Dan Snow, "most important")

The largest burglary in British legal history/Britain’s biggest burglary (BBC)
The UK wants to "deepen" joint naval exercises with #AUS (increase, step up)
I'm for spending more on deeper affordability. (greater)

Thousands of documents were put in the post run yesterday as part of the deepening battle against plans for the state to offer more electronic benefits through banks. (Belfast Telegraph, "escalating, worsening")

Noah Horowitz... has been appointed director of the Americas for Art Basel. It’s a new role largely aimed at “deepening” the fair’s network of museum directors, biennial curators and private collectors across the US and Latin America, according to [Art Basel's director]. (Art Newspaper)

Can China fix its mammoth water crisis before it’s too late? (serious, acute)

a major step (large)

The author of Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World, says that the ailments treated with bubbling spring waters constituted a “ludicrously big list”. (
The list of suspects is large. (long)

After three years of painstaking work with historians and curators from English Heritage, a virtual reality model of significant parts of the Abbey has been created. (

They clamber through muddy fields to find churches, take rural buses to remote farming towns, stand outside houses they’ve never seen before but have sought out with years of painstaking research. (Atlas Obscura)

They have a pompous language all their own, full of banalities and contorted proverbs. Hunting creatures “fill their bellies”, all kinds of things “are beginning to stir”, and the turtle is “a prized delicacy for the cooking pot”. 

The language is overcooked: "elemental forces", "time of plenty", "spectacle", “formidable”, the monsoon has reached the “peak of its power”, the “mighty Amazon river” – you get the picture. (Times)

held at bay
reaping the rewards
escape unscathed
Deer roam the streets looking for succulent grass.
A single strong gust has proved an ill wind for Daisy.
All kinds of places are a “natural amphitheatre”.

Wolves slink, but puppies scamper, lambs gambol and bees blunder.

Daniel Finkelstein points out that the Camerons “swept” out of Downing Street, “swept” to Buckingham Palace, “swept” out again, while Theresa May is “sweeping” into No. 10 etc etc.

Police scoured the countryside for clues.

In books they always talk of “braving” a journey, as inevitably as they speak of the “good ship Twaddle ploughing the main”.
 (Mr Bazalgette's Agent, Leonard Merrick)

A mansion sits in ruins in Virginia (Lies in ruins. Before that, it stood on the banks of the river X/in acres of parkland etc.)
This abandoned Antarctic base sits nearly unchanged since it was forsaken in the 1950s. (remains)

The lost mushroom masterpiece unearthed in a dusty drawer. (Atlas Obscura)

The world's oldest-known formula for toothpaste... has been discovered on a piece of dusty papyrus in the basement of a Viennese museum. (Daily Telegraph)

Why is the press obsessed with presaging all museum news with 'It was hidden away in a cupboard for years'? Drives me loopy. That dusty stores thing drives me nuts - do they know how hard we work to keep the dust at bay? (Catriona ‏@catrionacurator)

BUILDINGSDon’t call your project Somethingland (it will end up as a few walls in a jungle covered in creepers). Same for utopian community Somebodyville. And don’t tempt fate by calling your nation-state the United Anything.

I'm at a symposium of architects: so far we've had a few "specificities", several "interrogates" and lots of "engages".

Curves are neither feminine nor masculine, skyscrapers are not phallic, and art with right angles isn’t 'architectural'. (AdamNathanielFurman ‏@Furmadamadam Planting tall green things isn’t “architectural” either.)

The proposals for Thamesmead are very very standard: 'sense of place', 'active frontages', 'residential mix', 'affordable', lots of brick… 'human scale', 'civic', 'streets and squares', 'high quality public realm' blah blah blah, oh, and Crossrail is coming so prices will [rocket]. (Douglas Murphy ‏@entschwindet)

The first phase of controversial architect Will Alsop’s plan to transform Barnsley into a Tuscan hill town has collapsed, it emerged today. (Guardian Sept 2015)

We wanted to create a family environment with a bit of a wow factor. (Homes under the Hammer It means open-plan, with down-lighters and granite counter-tops.)

Walking from one side to the other is like tackling a red-brick maze. “You can see why we call it Alcatraz,” says a local councillor. (All brutalist estates end up being called Alcatraz, says architecture writer Owen Hatherley.)

Don't want to read a novel that's zany, magical, lyrical, heartbreaking, fun, masterly, accomplished, bravura, hip, streetwise or humane. (Andrew Male ‏@Andr6wMale)

"Lyrical" is always the biggest turn-off for me. It means there'll be lots of descriptions of fruit and nothing will happen. (‏@Lord_Steerforth)

What is it with 'mediated' and 'contingent' cropping up all over MA and PhD writing? (‏@Amanda_Vickery)
Also lots of 'mapping onto' and looking at things 'through the prism of'. (Corrina Connor ‏@corrinacellist)
Top 3 UCAS Personal Statement words of the day: zeal, relished, and using inept instead of adept. (‏@adamcreen)

The Romance Writers’ Phrase Book may be responsible for a lot. (She replied with complacent buoyancy, her body ached for his touch etc. "The authors seem fond of the word 'tapered'. Everything 'tapers' in this book: fingers, hair, shoulders, legs, waists... taperitis", says a reviewer.)

The end, when it came, was swift.

More here, and links to the rest.