Sunday 31 October 2010

Yet More Good New Metaphors

OK, so they're not all metaphors. Take a rest from whingeing about people who use "action" as a verb and enjoy some good new writing. More here, here, here and here.

mystic barmpottery @zzzooey on Steiner/Waldorf schools

“the curse of the Booker prize” hangs over DBC Pierre like a raincloud, said Arifa Akbar in The Independent. (paraphrase)

Birdshit architects Those who are “planning from high above and dropping their things down.” Jan Gehl

brochure banter (Neil Oliver)

nonchalant irreality Capturing the Atom Bomb on Film [NYT]: image 21, especially, captures the nonchalant irreality of the nuclear age. @ballardian

Dalek shoulders (Will Wiles)

deeply sharing (the latest SATC movie)

Kumbaya atmosphere It was not,” Katy Perry told Rolling Stone, “a Kumbaya atmosphere. I knew about Hell from the moment I understood a sentence. I had fuzzy-felt boards with Satan and people gnashing their teeth.”

Bill Viola backdrops to Tristan are “like a New Age greetings card

meaning creep

oversharing Guardian blog on food writers who bang on about their own lives

Recently botoxed person “looks like someone peering through the eyes of a painting in a haunted house.” Julia Raeside, Guardian 26 Oct 10

Something else about this recent species of London business hotel: the furniture appears to all have been designed in Second Life. William Gibson via Twitter

The garden is rapidly turning into Sherwood Forest. Martin Roberts on Homes under the Hammer

wearee Recipient of the hand-crocheted granny square top

We employ the Socratic method, known in modern circles as a FAQ. Uncle Cecil, the Straight Dope

Saturday 30 October 2010

Whatever Happened To...? 6

baked apples
blue green algae, green lipped mussel (they were good for you somehow)
cappuccino machines
fancy vodka flavoured with buffalo grass etc

happy murals
(sunflowers, children from several ethnic groups) on the sides of libraries. They failed to change the world, were kitsch, sentimental and inept, and have been whitewashed over.

Kekulé’s ring
(very fashionable in the 80s because it proved inspiration is better than rational thought)

Long personal phone calls at work.
Learning all about someone else’s life by earwigging their long personal phone calls at work. Long conversations at work about everybody’s personal life.

oval fingernails

palm-tops and PDAs (that you operated with a little toothpick type thing)
psychedelic singles with camp British vocals and brass bands (60s)
Tibetan singing bowls
wedge-heeled espadrilles (utterly 80s)

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Styles and Genres 2

Decor and architecture

New Age rococo
On Skye, I'm staying in a cottage whose design can only be described as new age rococo. Stags, swags, wind chimes. Love it. @tomdyckhoff

mod lodge What do you get when you mix modern wood panelling, stone fireplaces, mountain views, and the occasional resin deerhead? The "mod lodge" look — it's a blend of old-school Alpine and sixties mod style — knotty pine meets Knoll.

fruit-salad civic Jonathan Foyle, BBC4 Sept 12 10

advertisers’ nostalgia How could anyone who had read the book and who had any respect for literature… turn this story of glum penny-pinched '30s London into 1990s-style standard advertiser's jolly-jumpered "Heritage" golden nostalgia? (imdb on Keep the Aspidistra Flying)

hard-core suburban Fanny Cradock “had hard-core suburban taste” Paul Levy Indy June 10

scando-simple Alone in this clinically faux-funky space (Scando-simple wooden furniture, facetious lamps, abstracts with blue splodges apparently styled after cancer cells), Matthew Norman 29 may 10

I think I like symphonic metal. If you know what any of these are, or would like to add some, please comment.

acid techno
Balkan turbo folk
dark electronic dance
epic a.m.m.
folk metal
French-Pop/NuChanson/Electro-Chanson (Zofka)
funeral doom
funk psych
fuzz wah-wah
garage psych
hard rock
melodic chilled electro
metal Industrial
no wave
Rock In Opposition
symphonic metal (and all the billions of others)
visual kei


kitchen-sink drama
horse opera
meller (short for melodrama)
oater (Western)
pill opera (daytime hospital saga)
slasher/splatter/slice ‘n’ dice movie
space opera
sword and sandals
sword and sorcery
thatawayer (oater)
torn porn (tornado porn)
yawner zzzzz
Political types

revanchist “A usually political policy, as of a nation or an ethnic group, intended to regain lost territory or standing.”

“One who advocates the recovery of territory culturally or historically related to one's nation but now subject to a foreign government.”

Pierre Poujade was a French populist politician after whom the Poujadist movement was named. Poujadism flourished most vigorously in the last years of the French Fourth Republic, and articulated the economic interests and grievances of shopkeepers and other proprietor-managers of small businesses facing economic and social change. The movement's ideological issues were: lower taxes, corporatism, and the denouncing of politicians and media; later, the movement grew increasingly nationalist, antisemitic, xenophobic, and critical of parliamentary institutions.

petainiste Petain was head of Vichy France

Christian types

high up the candle
smells and bells
pongs and gongs
happy clappy
tin tabernacle

Monday 25 October 2010

Quotable Quotes

Then I realised how utterly extraordinary my childhood was. writer John Le Carré

What if we continued to assert that the world would be the best place possible if straight people would take lessons from us, rather than us begging them to admit us into their dysfunctional institutions? @defiler

All you need is empowerment, self-esteem, confidence – funny how people don’t apply that approach to bike maintenance. George Spelvin

It is possible to amble aimfully through life under the illusion that you are
someone other than the person who (as others perceive it) you are. Kate Flett Observer Aug 23 09

Know when to
give up. Don’t fight a “losing duel with reality”. Paul Hayward, Guardian Oct. 09

Human nature is much the same everywhere. Miss Marple

Best to have a script, to think it through.

More here and here and here.

Saturday 23 October 2010

Buzz Words for Autumn 2010

life-changing Aug 10

game changing/er July 28 10

question for wonder or ask (Questioning is something different: “I question your judgement.”)

dramatically for drastically very popular

toddler belly (ugh!)

face palm

lots of people being “lifted out of poverty” week of 24 Aug 10

romantical – is this a trend?

As “shell suit” now means track suit, and “staycation” means holidaying in Britain (rather than at home), so “lap dancer” now means stripper, exotic dancer, pole dancer.
emotional intelligence popular Sept 10

speak out September 11, 2010 v popular for something like “saying the unsayable”, telling truth to power (Pope to “speak out” on abuse. If he just “spoke” on it he might be exonerating everybody.)

“rowing back” on things popular week ending Sept 12. Pope wanting to row back from Vatican II.

cosplay ball (either a new kind of Indian club or kettle bell, or a dance for people who like to dress up as characters from anime)

Week of Oct 11 Lot of “in excelsis” in place of “to the max”

People using “minted” to mean “rich”, suddenly. Isn’t it young person’s slang for “lucky”? Or something you do to potatoes?

crushed potatoes

Buzz Words of 2011 here and here.
Complete Buzz Words of 2010 here.
Buzz Words of 2009 here.
Buzz Words of 2009 Part Two here.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Is There a Difference?

Those keen on their pet pedantries love to claim there is a difference in meaning between pairs of words. Sometimes they're right (can you tell forgo from forego?), but sometimes... Is there a difference between:

different from/to
due to/owing to/because of
homogenous, homogeneous
instinctive, instinctual
judgement/judgment (everyday use/legal use)
on either side/on each side
single and double quotes
within, in

Friday 15 October 2010


Boo words. They're those words that subtly sneer.

In the obituaries for Tony Curtis, there was some odd snidery about the way he spoke. The writers endlessly recycled that "yonda is the castle of my fodda" line. Was it from The Black Shield of Falworth? Son of Sinbad? Weirdly, English writers were particularly fond of it, throwing in extra jibes about his "thick Bronx accent" and even "the stench of the Bronx".

Thick? Stench? Isn't that a bit harsh? Would any of us know a Bronx accent if we fell over it in the dark? Presumably it would be like casting Chris Packham as Brutus, Matt Baker as Hamlet or Neil Oliver as Prospero. And why not?

Here are some more boo words for the way people speak (other general boo words here):

flat Accents you disapprove of are always ‘flat’. You can’t say you don’t like the South African/ Birmingham/Liverpool/Ulster accent because you think it’s common, so you say it’s “flat”. Apparently in South Africa they say Zimbabweans have “flat” voices and vice versa.

guttural Ugly and probably German.

Americans use for any language or accent other than their own

modulated American for speaking in a low, gentle voice, not yelling out of the window. They think all English people speak like this.

plummy voice posh voice Nigella Lawson’s voice is described as “plummy” but actually it is light and unresonant. The Guardian May 9, 2006 even has Kirstie Alsopp working for a couple of “plummy magazines”. If you have a plummy voice, you sound as if you have a plum in your mouth, it’s not like a plum job.

sloppy, slovenly Accent we don't approve of.

twang Accent you don't approve of.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Found Poetry

Found poetry made from genuine iambic pentameters.

Agatha Christie
We rang the bell at No. 88 –
Harrison did not reply at once.
A native dagger driven through her heart,
Eliza Dunn seemed very much surprised.
“The King of Clubs is missing from the pack!”
Poirot waved a deprecating hand.
“Nothing!” I lied, and lit another pipe.

The Web
You have no items in your shopping cart!
You do not follow Tasty_Recipes!
Just tell me if my Facebook page looks nice.
Apple’s weakest link is at its core.

Random Sources
I really think tuition fees are wrong.
The witchcraft act of 1542
When cosseted at 23 degrees…
A pair of porcelain elephants from Japan
are shoehorned in to fit a given theme
They thought they’d solved a problem for the king.
A pair of porcelain elephants from Japan
should board this train and change at Edgware Road
Perhaps I’ll go tomorrow afternoon.

More found poetry here.

Tuesday 12 October 2010


Don't try too hard

When people try to pronounce or spell a foreign word they often go a bit over the top.

a point of entrée New York Times Nov 09 (entry will do)
Anay Anay for Anaïs Anaïs
brushetta for bruschetta
carte de visité for carte de visite (it's vizeet, not vizitay)
chaise long for chaise longue (with a G)
chiqué for chic
creton (rhyming with Breton) covers for cretonne
entreco steak for entrecote
Epernay for épergne
etoi for etui
kletsmer for klezmer (A friend writes: And then there are those people who try to hypercorrect, incorrectly, and say "klezmeer", with the accent on the ultimate syllable, even!)
lowzhear for loggia (or log ear from To Buy or Not to Buy)
makismo for machismo
margarine with a hard G
menazherie for menagerie
mersli for muesli (that would be meusli, but only in French)
neesh for niche
oxymoron pronounced “agzimmaron”
Pinot Greeeezheeeo for Pinot Grigio
pouffé for pouffe
repartay for repartee
The Tweeeries Gardens four the Tuileries in Paris (assuming the French don’t pronounce their Ls at all)
tripteesh for triptych (triptick)
unairing for unerring
vinagray for vinaigrette

Grammar: Pedantry

Here are some examples of acute pedantry. Is there a cure? More pedantry here.

A kid is a baby goat. Young people are children.

She’s Gillian – if we wanted to call her Jill we’d have christened her Jill.

a handsaw is a corruption of hansa or heron, so when Hamlet said "I can tell a hawk from a handsaw" he was really making sense.

among, between – between refers to two people or things; for any more you have to use "among"

a spiral staircase is really helical

Audrey Hepburn is pronounced Hebburn
Barbara Stanwyck is pronounced Stannick
cinema is pronounced keye-NEE-mar (or perhaps it's Italian and should be CHEE-ne-ma)
clapboard is pronounced clabberd
patent is pronounced pattent not paytent

it’s a facsimile machine not a fax
it’s a rule not a ruler (a ruler is a king)
it’s a telephone not a 'phone
it’s an omnibus not a 'bus
it’s irREFutable not irreFUtable
it’s really “vicious cycle”, not “circle”.

kamilos was Greek for rope (it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven)
the Eye of the Needle was a narrow gate in Jerusalem (camel, eye, needle, rich man) ( says no such gate ever. Both Jesus and Hamlet were using hyperbole.)

They’re not bread rolls but rolls.
They’re not seagulls but gulls.

too, too solid flesh is really “this too, too sullied flesh”

You can’t say “due to” for “because of” because you can only use it to mean “praise is due” or “thanks are due”. (If you can substitute "caused by", due to is correct; if you can substitute "because of", owing to is correct.)
You can’t say “thanks to” for “because of” because you aren’t sincerely thanking somebody.
You can’t saying “owing to” for because of because you can only use it for money that’s owing to the tax man.
(And if the difference between "due to" and "owing to" is so hard to explain, is it really worth keeping?)

You can't say "over 100", you must say "more than", for some reason I can't fathom.

Latest here.

More here. And here.

Monday 4 October 2010

Autumn TV from The Guardian

The Mast
Sarah Dempster
Guardian October 4 2010

Sadly not on the Grauny's site.

One mammal expo to rule them all

Jonathan Foyle on Henry VIII: Patron or Plunderer?
Forsooth, my liege, with thy titular conundrum and agreeable jawline thou dost toy with our affections.

The Apprentice
All business propositions are equal, but some business propositions are more equal than others.

Wedding House
Fashioned entirely from taffeta and stupefaction. Come friendly bombs etc.

Eddie Stobart: Trucks and Trailers
Ashen endomorphs steer recalcitrant "rigs" across series hewn from yawns and free advertising

Rude Tube
Alex Zane shakes internet until footage of bums fall out. Insert own hell/handcart "observation" here.

Ed Miliband's "New Generation"

Hugo Rifkind in The Times
October 2 2010

Frankly, political demographics should be easier than this to lampoon. David Cameron’s people lust for a fuel-guzzling Aga and an eco-electric scooter. Tony Blair’s people wanted to be filthy rich, but still socialists.

But who are Ed Miliband’s New Generation? How can we ridicule them? Part of the problem is that they are not all the same generation. “The new generation is not simply defined by age,” said Miliband, “but by attitudes and ideals.” Bit vague, Ed. Maybe New Generation membership is something you can have, but never know about. Like chlamydia.

Although maybe there’s more to it. The New Generation might not all be 19, but they all think the things that 19-year-olds think. Perhaps just what they thought when they were 19 themselves. Are you one of them? Did you have kids, but not necessarily get married? Did you pick a career that won’t fund the lifestyle you want? Are you bright and well-meaning, but stressed, broke, and exhausted?

Well, then. Join the club.

Your home

You know that really nice area? With the elegant houses and the chic little shops? Well, you don’t live there. You live in that other, grubbier area quite near by, without any trees. You bought the biggest place you could afford, and then you painted it white inside and filled it with all the stuff you could find in Ikea which looked like it came from somewhere else. Your shelves strain under the weight of Booker Prize-nominated novels by J. M. Coetzee and Ian McEwan which you bought in 3-for-2 deals at the W H Smith at the airport, but never read. You probably have too many plants.

Your friends

You’ve got loads but tend to mainly speak to them on Twitter. “That was a great night!” you’ll tweet at each other, after the rare occasions you actually meet up. Although it never really is a great night, because you both spent it sitting in silence, on your phones, competitively sucking up to @eddieizzard.

Your clothes

There was a time, not that long ago, when you were really quite trendy. But then you got that job which meant you had to wear that suit, even though you swore you always wouldn’t. If you’re a man, your suits are from M&S but don’t look it, honestly, particularly when you wear them with one of those relatively expensive ties. If you’re a woman, you reckon labels are for idiots but you might change your mind when you get that promotion.

Your free time

You are incapable of saying the word “gastropub” without putting on a funny voice. Actually, you eat in them quite a lot. You consider yourself quite fond of nightclubs, but haven’t set foot in one for at least a decade. You probably wouldn’t even know which drugs to buy any more. Your favourite TV programme is Peep Show. Sometimes, you forget that David Mitchell isn’t actually a friend. Lately, you’ve been listening to Vampire Weekend a lot on Spotify. You also used to like cycling, but now you worry about the connotations.

Your beliefs

You’ve got quite a lot of these. Bankers and lawyers are bad, although the ones you know from university are all quite pleasant. Tony Blair was bad, although you voted for him ceaselessly, and Gordon Brown was worse, but he probably meant well. The Iraq war was bad, Israel is bad and big cars are also bad, which is just as well because you can’t afford one. Organic food used to be good, but since David Cameron started going on about it it’s probably become bad and elitist, too.

Your holidays

Three weeks before your annual leave is due to expire, you realise you have a fortnight left. It’s too late to book, so you get a last-minute flight to the capital of a faintly romantic sounding Third World or former Eastern Bloc nation. You have an innate horror of being seen as a tourist, so you spend most of your time on slow yet terrifying local buses. Then you come home with dysentery. This happens every year.

Your age

Probably somewhere between 25 and 40. But that’s entirely coincidental.

Saturday 2 October 2010


Beauty comes from within

There are some things people say because they know the truth is the direct opposite. Why do they do that? Zippy the Pinhead once dissed them all as "cold comfort for life's losers". Or is there a more sinister social engineering agenda?

A large nose never spoilt a pretty face.
A soft answer turneth away wrath.
Beauty comes from within (says Zsa Zsa Gabor and a zillion other plastic surgery veterans).
Beauty is not a natural gift.
Children are resilient.
Confidence comes from within, not without.
Crime doesn’t pay.
Don’t worry about fashion, follow your own personal style and wear what makes you feel comfortable.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
First impressions are always wrong/right.
Genius is 90% persp, 10% insp.
God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.
If you love yourself, people will love you.
It is more blessed to give than to receive.
It’s not the winning but the taking part.
It's never too late.
It's the little people who are really important.
It's the little things that really matter.
It's what you think of yourself that counts, not what other people think of you.
Just be yourself and everything will be all right.
Live in the moment, not in the future!
Men have died, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.
Men prefer intelligent women.
Men's egos are really very fragile.
Nothing's either good or bad but thinking makes it so.
Nudity is totally unerotic (no one says this any more).
People take you at your own valuation.
People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.
Personality is more important than looks.
Practical jokes are played for fun, not spite.
Process is more important than product.
Rape is about power, not sex.
Revenge achieves nothing.
Riches don't bring happiness.
Sex is a spiritual experience and should be a beautiful work of art.
Sex isn't that important. (People don’t say this any more, either.)
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.
Suffering improves the character.
The darkest hour comes before the dawn. (Apparently the darkest hour is the midpoint between dusk and dawn – no, duh?)
The journey, not the arrival, matters.
The Lord will provide.
The meek shall inherit the earth.
The most important sex organ in the human body is the brain.
The truth is mighty and shall prevail.
The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
There are no social rules any more.
There's some good in everything.
There's some truth in every statement.
There's someone for everyone.
They only have themselves to blame.
Those that humble themselves shall be exalted.
Time heals all wounds.
To know all is to forgive all.
To travel hopefully is better than to arrive.
What's the use of worrying? It never was worth while.
When God shuts a door, he opens a window.
Women are the tough sex.
You can't have your cake and eat it.
You get out of life what you put in.
You'll enjoy it when you get there.
You've got to be cruel to be kind. (This one's gone out - I hope.)