Wednesday 26 August 2009


Lost for an insult? Can't quite classify someone? Perhaps they're just a suit. And if you're tired of your job or your role in life, why not pick from this list?

affable B-player (who may be more useful to your team than too many A-players), all fur coat and no knickers, all mouth and trousers, alpha male, also-ran, anorak, apple-polisher, armchair critic

back number,
backstabber, back-to-the-land intellectual, bad lot, bean counter, bearleader, big cheese, blood-sucker, braggart, buffoon, bullshit artist

(see cookie pusher), camp follower, card, carrot cruncher, celebrity dimwit, chancer, change junkie, charlatan, class clown, colourful character (a pathetic "colourful character" act - The Skeptic), Congressional ribbon-cutter

cookie pusher:
an effete young curate who passes round plates of pastries at vicarage tea parties; a gigolo who does the at fashionable salons; someone who hands out cookies (or flattery) in order to get ahead in life

corner boy, court jester, courtier, crab, creep

deadbeat, designated buffoon, designated victim, desk jockey, digital immigrant, digital native

do-gooder: "a family of dogged do-gooders and culture vultures", Pete Clark, Evening Standard July 2007

dogsbody, doomsayer, dork, drone, dupe, dweeb

egg-head, empty suit, evangelist

fashion leader, fat cat, firefighter, flatterer, flunkey, follower, freeloader, fruit loop

gang boss, gang leader, gannet, geek, good sport, goofball, gooseberry, gopher, grass, grockle, grouch

hair band (early 80s group with big hair), haircut (someone who's only a trendy hairdo), hanger-on, has been, hayseed, hick, hotshot, hurricane head (storm chaser)

jellyfish, jobsworth, joe cool, just plain folks

kibitzer, killjoy, lackey, lamb dressed as mutton, leader, leech, licensed buffoon, licensed fool, loon,

loser, lost ball in the high weeds (clueless character), lovable rogue, lowlife

mari du saison (temporary boyfriend), middleman, minion, monstress, moonbat

mouton enragé: A normally calm, easily led person who becomes suddenly enraged or violent - Oxford English Dictionary

naysayer, ne'er-do-well, neverwas, new best friend, nine-days' wonder (famous for 15 minutes), no-hoper

odd fish, oddball, ordinary working stiff, parasite, party pooper, passenger, patsy, prankster, prima donna, punter, queen bee

rabbit at bay (Margery Allingham)

saloon-bar philosopher, satellite, scrounger, sherpa, show-off, slacker, snake-oil salesman, snob, spoilsport, sponger, square, stock character, stooge, stoolpigeon, straight friend, stuffed shirt, sultress, sycophant

toady, tourist, travelling knife and fork (someone who'll do anything for a good dinner), trendsetter

underdog, underling, user (of other people)

Vicar of Bray (who changed his politics and theology according to who was in power)

wag, wannabe, water carrier, wet blanket, yes-man, yesterday's papers

Thursday 20 August 2009

I Say, Old Bean!

Are your catch phrases a blast from the past? When did people stop saying...

Any joy? Any more for any more?

as thick as two short planks, aware, away with the fairies, between the devil and the deep blue sea

bubbling under, bumping along the bottom, butterflies in the stomach

airhead, boo-boo, chivvy, clapped out, clobber, controversial, crucial, dishy, ditsy, doobry, effectively, escalate

deconstruct, deeply meaningful, designer (stubble etc.), domino effect

Diddums! Do me a favour! Do what? E I addio, echt, ecky thump (Why did they?)

don’t strain yourself (when someone expresses slightly forced excitement, or faint praise; or offers help too late and without enthusiasm)

doom and gloom (in the 70s meant strikes and oil crisis)

fashion plate, feelgood factor, fickle, fringe medicine

for some unknown reason, for your information

glam for glamorous, go spare for go mad, gogglebox for TV

Great minds think alike. Great stuff!

grit your teeth (probably around 1890)

Half a jiff! Hard cheese! Having fun?

heart-stopping, het up, humungous

Holy mackerel! I could murder some chips. I don’t go a bundle on that. I must have been out of my tiny mind.

I’ll drink to that. I’m only here for the beer.

ideologically sound/unsound

in a very real sense, in cahoots, in this day and age

It drives me up the wall. It won’t get you arrested. It’s all gone horribly wrong.

It’s no joke. It’s the way to go. It'll be all right on the night.

jamboree, jammy bastard

less of it

Little things please little minds.

main claim to fame, male chauvinist pig

logjam, lover-boy, luncheon, manky, mass media, meaningful relationship, mega

mind games, mind-bending, motto

No offence meant - and none taken I hope. No shit, Sherlock.

Not one whit! Not to worry! Now you tell me. Oh, what?

on Cloud Nine, oojamaflip, off-hand

pillock, prat, put the mockers on, quick as a flash!

rant and rave, rave from the grave, rebarbative, right on, rustle up

same difference, same to you with knobs on, screaming blue murder

She's got the brains of a prawn.

short, sharp shock, slimeball, snazzy, suss out

spend a penny, square-eyed (for people who watched too much telly)

Stroll on! Suit yourself! So you say.

Temper, temper! That would be you. There you go.

the appropriately named... the likes of...

throw a wobbly/wobbler, to a T

understatement of the year, unreconstructed

wannabe, WC, value judgement, yonks, zilch

What am I like? What was that supposed to be? What’s that when it’s at home? Very droll! What’s the damage?

when push comes to shove, when you get down to brass tacks

Who’d have thunk it? Yah boo! Yer wot?

wierdie beardie, wild and woolly, women’s libber

You go, girl! You look like a dying duck in a thunderstorm. You’ve got another think coming. You’ve said a mouthful.

Monday 10 August 2009

Monet to Corot

This free show is on at the National Gallery, London until Sept. 20. There are lots of small landscapes by minor artists of the early 19th century – such as Thomas Jones, whose well known Naples Wall is only about the size of a postcard. They set a fashion for sketching in oils in the open air, and the favourite location was Rome. They liked the way giant ruined buildings were added onto by the modern Romans and used as gardens, houses and cowsheds – the domestic meets the sublime. There's an air of melancholy and quiet. Traffic on the roads is usually one creaking ox-cart. Corot made a lot of sketches of French rivers and willows which he turned into his trademark silvery grey scenes. Eugene Boudin painted people on seaside holidays in the 1860s and 70s. They sat on chairs under parasols and wore an awful lot of clothes. His pictures are full of the light of a rather chilly day and convey the discomfort of sitting on a beach in a crinoline. Lovely show - see it while you can.

Saturday 8 August 2009

Perverted Proverbs

A bird in the hand is worth two in Shepherd's Bush.
A stitch in Time stops the pages falling out.
Ars longa, Vita Sackville West.
Crossmaglen and hope to die.
Henley Ness is next to Godley Ness.
I come to Bury St. Edmunds, not to praise him.
It's no use crying over Split milk.
Per ardua ad Aspreys.
Publish it not in Gath, you'll never collect a penny in royalties. (Kenneth Williams)
Sic transit Gloria Swanson.
Store up not treasure for yourself in Erith.
There’s no place like Hove.
I Wandle lonely as a cloud.
May the Forth go with you.

Thursday 6 August 2009


The BBC is very good at period drama but not very good at giant rats. (Tom Baker)
If atheism is a faith, then not playing chess is a hobby.
If we can’t play God, who can? (James Watson)
All the world’s a stage, and some of us are stagehands. (John Mortimer)
Life is not Hollywood, life is Cricklewood. (Alan Coren)
Circle dancing is line dancing for pretentious people.
I've been looking for a life, but they all seem to be taken. (Tudor Barker)
Life is cruel - but unjust. (Akki Kaurismaki)
Per ardua ad astra - but I’d rather go by spaceship. (Patrick McDonnell)
Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat. (David Lynch aged 16)
It’s not the despair I mind, it’s the hope. (John Cleese in Clockwise)
He who laughs last has only just got the joke.
Lead me not into temptation – I can find my own way.
Someday, we'll look back on this, laugh nervously and change the subject. (John O’Farrell)
The abuse of power should come as no surprise. (Jenny Holzer)
There are only so many sandwiches and microwaveable soups one can eat before being driven mad. (Leslie Costar)
Humans plan, Hashem ________ (fill in the blank) (Winston Weilheimer)

Wednesday 5 August 2009

More Fashion Crimes

The UK’s worst crimes against fashion
(from thelondonpaper, inspired by a poll sponsored by Lakeside shopping centre).

1. Showing off a flabby midriff
2. Shellsuit tucked into socks with trainers
3. Showing G-string above the jeans
4. Socks with sandals
5. Sporting a builder's bum
6. A muffin top over low-cut jeans
7. Head-to-toe animal print
8. A mullet haircut
9. Head-to-toe Burberry check
10. Wearing black shoes with white socks

And for men...
1. Shellsuits
2. Sequinned suits
3. Platform shoes
4. Hammer pants (that's MC Hammer)
5. Speedo trunks
6. Jesus sandals
7. Hawaiian shirts
8. Novelty ties
9. Luminous socks
10. Leather trousers

All-Time Worst
1. Puffball skirts
2. Shoulder pads
3. Flannel tracksuits (do they mean towelling?)
4. Bodysuits
5. White stilettos
6. Chaps
7. Clogs
8. Culottes
9. Leggings
10. Pop socks

Here's how to avoid dressing too old.
More fashion mistakes here.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Maybe Not

David Aaronovitch in the Times today attacks a Bishop for his fear of innovation (Facebook is rotting the morals of the young, or something). The Bish is not alone, or doing anything new. Philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) wrote a book about the flawed arguments used by parliamentarians to avoid doing anything new or practical (A Handbook of Political Fallacies, currently out of print). Wit Sydney Smith summarised it in one speech (The Noodle's Oration). It went something like this:

It never happened in the Good Old Days! They’re taking away Britain’s Ancient Freedoms! If this is such a good idea, why didn’t anybody think of it before? We need to prepare the ground carefully. We can’t just rush into things. We’ve got to wait until the time is right. I don’t think society is quite ready for this. It runs counter to the climate of opinion. We can’t make any sudden movements. It’s a mistake to make a complete break with the past. If we do this, society will be doomed and it'll mean anarchy, or at least an end to civilisation as we know it. There’s no point suggesting ideas that are just Utopian. It’ll never work in practice. You can’t change the world, but you can change yourself. Why not start there?

Monday 3 August 2009

Odd Film Titles

Well, I never thought it could. Don't they? Has it really? Is it? etc.

The Lion Has Wings
The Wind Cannot Read
Silence Has No Wings

The Damned Don’t Cry
Tigers Don’t Cry
Strangers Don’t Cry

The Glass Seagull
Wings of Glass

Too Late for Tears
Tears of the Sun
Tears of a Lotus
Tears Are Not Enough

Everything that Rises
From Here to Eternity
Though None Go With Me
Tomorrow Never Dies

...and Novel Titles

Ah, Wilderness!
A Moon for the Misbegotten
Cry, the Beloved Country
Far, Far, the Mountain Peak
Kingfishers Catch Fire
This Rough Magic
Too Late the Phalarope
What Mad Pursuit