Saturday 31 December 2011

It's Not Rocket Science

Why oh why don't we...?

Give buildings more natural light with picture windows, internal doors with little glass panes, windows between rooms, skylights, light wells, mirrors.

Use the Post Office network to offer out-of-hours parcel pickup.

Create more parklets – little gardens in former car parks, vacant lots, waste bits between bits, alleys between houses.

Give civil partnership the same legal rights as marriage, and call it marriage; call register office marriage civil partnership. Let the religions do what they like. (The government may be doing this.)

Put power points at person height - no more tangle of wires gathering dust under your desk.

Why do Dutch drivers + cyclists have such respect for each other? They learn rules of road as kids in "traffic garden". @urbanphoto_blog

Use video/voice recording evidence in domestic violence and bullying cases. The Judge whose daughter released video of him beating her has been suspended. Nov 4 2011

If something’s a problem, make it impossible. Bullying at playtime? Don’t have playtime.
Americans murder/bury people in basements (and watch internet porn while pretending to be doing carpentry)? Build houses without basements. And don’t manufacture freezers big enough to contain a body.

Does homeopathy work? Is abortion moral? Debate these questions in a law-court setting. Opposing sides could object to logic tricks, irrelevance etc. ("Objection! Goal-post moving!" Might make a TV programme.)

Produce a toasted sandwich maker for flatbread (probably available on Amazon).

If I were king #234: a small red arrow pointing north will be painted on the ground in the center of every road intersection. @Jugbo

Friday 23 December 2011

Inspirational Quotes Part Nine

Beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction. Aristotle

"Friends talk," she says. "So especially among teenagers and college students, when everyone is trying to be the same, 'the same' is what you get."

People who live in society have learned how to see themselves in mirrors as they appear to their friends. Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

My teenage years were the hardest. All your friends pair off. Person of restricted growth, Guardian Dec 2011

Business success is all about arrogance and toadying to those above you. Hard work and focus comes after that. Pundit on bbc breakfast (paraphrased)

What makes people "click", and instantly become firm friends or lovers? And could you harness this "quick-set intimacy" in order to make your business run better? Yes, we are in the increasingly crowded territory of high-concept corporate flirting, where social-science research is repackaged in the hope of attracting lucrative consulting gigs. The danger of the genre is often that the material has to be twisted to fit the sales pitch. Here, the authors seem almost to be doing the opposite since their vivid slice-of-life case-studies and interviews – with a police hostage negotiator, a pair of physicists, a social butterfly and some basketball-playing roommates – don't really throw up any novel recommendations ("companies can look for ways to foster a sense of a framed community"; face-to-face "interactions" are important). Instead, they proceed quite amiably, inventing bits of vague jargon ("transformative presence") and telling lots of interesting stories about basically nice people. It made me want to kick something. Steven Poole, Guardian Aug 10 on Click by Ori and Rom Brafman

I know your social conditioning is telling you’re that you’re a unique snowflake and you should never copy anything. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Don’t make things harder than they need to be. Do it the easy way. Modelling a person who already has it figured out will give you a huge head start. tries to reconcile uplift with reality.

As the teacher at the centre of [the experiment], Ron Jones, says: Educational institutions weed out troublemakers and those who are difficult to teach, rewarding placid students who want to succeed at any cost and will accept authority. Kids aren't learning to ask questions. You create a population where freedom's just a spelling word.

If [he] wants to avoid an attack, he needs to avoid the things most people long for, including physical affection and giving and receiving love.

…it turns out that there is more than one kind of virginity to lose. We think of ourselves as entirely rational, independent beings with a fully raised consciousness and totally free will. It is sobering to realise that we are all just puppets, really. Puppets with unknown but formative childhood influences and outmoded but stubborn cultural cliches pulling the strings. Lucy Mangan on Nov 2011 on how she found herself trying to fulfil atavistic good wife stereotypes – until she thankfully worked through them.

Toast the host… Stand up, speak up and sit down. If you are being honored, don't touch your glass or drink to yourself. @DianeGottsman

This was ostensibly an examination of Jackson's career... risible piece of hagiography… a chance for acolytes – who somehow managed to be dead-eyed yet fervent at the same time – to compete in a platitude-off. "She would talk about things that really hurt her. Poverty. Racism," said one of her choreographers, in breathless admiration, "She shared that side of herself in Rhythm Nation … She was just, like, 'Back off – I'm gonna be who I am and I'm gonna speak loudly for myself!' Which was at the same time speaking loudly for women. So she really became an icon of that whole kind of feminist movement." Songwriter notices aspects of the human condition and writes about them. Woman gets older and becomes more sure of herself. What insight, what unprecedented illumination of the creative process. On and on it rolled, therapy-speak and corporate PR-speak. No wonder so many celebrities go mad. it was never long before we cut back to talking heads marking supposedly seminal songs with observations such as: "It was Janet, evolving into another Janet" and "These were her moments of absolute self-definition." Lucy Mangan 19 November 2011 on Janet Jackson: Taking Control (BBC4)

I’ve had it out with one or two friends whose absence I felt especially keenly. (writer’s son has Down’s Syndrome Times Nov 14 2011) Interestingly, old friends deal with it less well than new friends. I suppose more established friendships resist adjustment because of the weight of baggage and history they bear. Old friends can feel more resentment at having the quality of their friendship questioned or being given directions regarding what is (or is not) required of them in a crisis.) I can feel some friends’ grips tighten around their perception of me. They are unwilling to let my function in their lives change…

You’ve got to start smiling at the f***ers and pretend you like them. Advice to Margaret Thatcher

But always be yourself and be spontaneous! And it's fine to be single in the 19th/20th/21st century!

Inspirational Quotes Part Eight
More here and here and here. And here. And here too. Yet more here.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Neologisms 3

New ways of saying things (thankyou, Twitterfriends).

baked in the cake (things you can’t change)

a Rada-approved Mad Stare Libby Purves Oct 22 2011 Times

Blairism = 21st century pseudomodernism @entschwindet Nov 2011

bubblegum Hysterical attempts to bubblegum the whole thing together. Boris Johnson on the euro

CGI garbage Nicholas Lezard on Tintin, Guardian October 19, 2011

Drive is like a big Levi’s advert starring Ryan Gosling (says a colleague).

gyfterie (Edward Burra)

heritage makeover Porthgain's rough beauty has survived both industrial collapse and a heritage makeover. Architecture Today Oct 2011


is X Factor for posh people @christopherexpo (and circle dancing is line dancing for pretentious people)

nodding dogs The whitewashing of the behaviour of the bank’s all-powerful, bullying former chief executive and its weak-minded board of nodding dogs. Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail on RBS

PLONKITECTURE A building placed on its site with no consideration for its setting. @cowanrob Rob Cowan

PLOP ART A pejorative term for a work of public art placed with little consideration of its setting. @cowanrob Rob Cowan

razor-blade strategy Eastman's razor-blade strategy of selling cameras cheaply and reaping lavish margins from consumables — film, chemicals and paper. dec 2011

Rocky Horror Show is "boil in the bag perversion for sexually repressed accountants" Simon Pegg in Spaced

side chick = the Other Woman

sub-Alcoholics Anonymous self-empowerment rubbish about breaking through walls and finding your true self (Nicholas Lezard on Tintin Guardian October 19, 2011)

The rainforest mezzanine
– a vital layer of fallen leaves held aloft by fungal nets @edyong209 Ed Yong

They are burning holes in our industrial structure as we speak, Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout warned. Nov 2011

whipsaw In recent years, people have been whipsawed by conflicting studies about the risks posed by low levels of radiation given off by cell phones. 20 Oct 2011

More good new coinages here, here, here and here. And here.

Friday 16 December 2011

Mixed Metaphors Part Five

Watch out for garbled images like these:

bow-tie lips
Lionel Shriver Times October 29, 2011 The blue-eyed English rose with the china-white skin and cupid lips Daily Telegraph on Susannah York, 2011 That’s “cupid’s bow” lips.

Berlusconi “forged his road to power” (roads are usually paved)

But America’s Puritanical past casts a strong shadow to this day… A long shadow – all the way from the 17th century to now.

cool as a cucumber, ripped as celery Catherine Shoard in the Guardian on Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible

David Mellor’s cabinet career unravelled under a barrage of allegations. David Mitchell, Obs Aug 14 11

FTSE directors receiving nearly 50% annual increases in their remuneration packages is, in the long term, a rotten nail in the coffin of future corporate UK. Letter to Times, Oct 2011 (nail in the coffin? Something rotten in the state of Denmark? rotten apple?)

Harold Pinter wrote that "the mistake they make, most of them, is to attempt to determine and calculate the source of the wound. They seek out the gaps between the apparent and the void that hinges on it with all due tautness."

Isn’t that the dance with the devil you have to play? (Hugh Grant’s informant)

mired in intrigue, self-congratulation (Try “full of” or “awash with”.)

Russell Grant is camper than a row of tent pegs – Bruce Forsyth on STCD. That’s “camp as a row of tents”. Tents are in rows in army camps.

simmering tensions erupted into war

the company wants to ascend from the bargain basement and soar with the premium brands – this car is their first stake in the ground. DT Sept 2011, paraphrase

the original price tag has ballooned (the original price has risen)

The Prince of Wales… wrote in glowing terms to the former Libyan dictator, calling for wider ties between the two nations. G Oct 11 (Wider ties were last fashionable in the 70s.)

They have pinned their colours to this dreadful document… G September 14, 2011 (you nail your colours (flag) to the mast (of your ship), you pin your hopes on someone or thing)

the spotlight is a mixed bag Metro Nov 2 11

the thrust of sanitisation creeping into the Premier League product

This is not going to shed me in a good light

Weaving a terrifying thread of sex and violence, this is brilliant thriller. Val McDermid

What’s driving this dramatic spike?

Who’ll be crowned cream of the baking crop? BBC headline

Yesterday was a momentous day for British journalism and of course the PR industry. We are now sitting on the edge of the biggest scandal ever seen in the media. The ripples will swamp other newspapers. The world's biggest English speaking Sunday tabloid newspaper is dead. Rupert Murdoch's action to try and halt the hurricane sweeping through his empire by taking a butcher's cleaver to his own corporate flesh was a deliberate act of filicide. The outcome is a clear sign that huge tectonic plates are shifting in British newspapers. Murdoch in effect has cut off a financial pit prop to his empire. The News of the World's closure is the equivalent of amputating a gangrenous limb - it saves the BSkyB deal and even the Sun so it's not hyperbole to describe it as the greatest publicity stunt of a generation. Huffington Post July 8, 2011

More mixed metaphors and garbled cliches here, here, here and here.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

More Travel Writing Cliches

Tourists come in hordes.

Or else they're "chattering trippers": All the action is in the restaurant, which is packed out with chattering trippers. John Walsh Indy 23 July 2011 (We are such an elite that there aren’t enough of us to pack anywhere out. And if we do gather together, we don’t “chatter”, we converse.)

Hens, when not being carried in baskets on buses, “scratch” around people’s front doors.

Scenery is lush, snow-capped or rolling.

Yet more travel writing clichés here.

On water, people ply routes, oars etc

Houses huddle, especially when they have slate roofs: Port Isaac with its huddle of slate houses/ little lanes of picturesque fishermen's cottages which huddle side-on/ The village huddles over the rushing stream amongst shady trees./ Its old village huddles around a substantial medieval fortress/ A small village huddles around a ruined castle in Provence etc, etc, etc

Forbidden Words for 2011

There are some words and phrases that should be retired, because I'm tired of reading them.

deep pockets = fat wallet, healthy bank balance (do you keep your money loose in your pockets?)

You collect a pension POT. The government keeps its money in COFFERS, or the public PURSE. You hit people in the WALLET, especially if they have deep POCKETS. (Replace with piggy bank, treasure chest, bank account, cash box at random.)

for severe, extreme, top etc.
Afghanistan is the world’s biggest recipient of aid (gets the most aid… it’s the amount of aid that’s the biggest, not the country)
hugely limited = severely restricted
big mileages = high mileages
one of the biggest victims = one of the worst-hit victims

blow = setback

break into Why is it publishing that people have to “break” into? (Tip: Don't start your application letter "I am determined to break into publishing".)

hotly You always dispute things hotly.

BRUTAL for very, extremely It still feels brutally humid and oppressive (Ed Smith, Times Oct 2011)/ The world's newest nation, South Sudan, is brutally impoverished, but it just announced plans to build new capital from scratch @urbanphoto_blog

disgruntled Sacked ex-employees who hack company websites/make nuisance calls to clients are always “disgruntled”.

droughts always “hit

explode, explosion = Restrict use to bombs. C. difficile infection is caused by antibiotics wiping out swathes of bacteria in the gut. It gives the surviving C. difficile bacteria room to explode in numbers and produce masses of toxins which lead to diarrhoea and can be fatal. bbconline dec 2011/Agents tell me that there is an explosion in tenants unable to move. (Make that a huge increase. Or try multiply, proliferate or expand.)

FIERCE denials are always fierce, Colombians have a fierce contempt for authority (people are also fiercely sensual, and dessert menus can be fiercely retro)

FUEL, TRIGGER Try lead to, give rise to, powered by, contribute to, start, raise (fears)

gloom rises, the squeeze deepens = In the real world gloom darkens, squeezes tighten.
grip What famines or frosts do to countries

HURTLE It’s what things do in space. Couldn’t they speed, rush, fly, whiz or zoom sometimes? Men in Mars project “were supposedly hurtling millions of miles through space”/ See the Southern Lights from above as space station astronauts hurtle past./ The spacecraft will hurtle through space at a remarkable speed./ How fast would we hurtle off into space if gravity was suddenly removed?/ In the commercial, photon humanoids leap off a platform on the sun and hurtle through space towards earth./ Why do we hurtle ourselves through every inch of time and space (Indigo Girls)/ It's a place for everyone, young and old, to journey to a fantasy land of the past and future where you can hurtle through space to unknown lands (Florida Magic Kingdom)… Or do you mean hurl? The stage is all set for the launch of PSLV-C18, which will hurtle into space the 1,000kg Indo-French collaborative Megha Tropique satellite.

Idylls are always “shattered”. An idyll is either a romantic relationship or a “tranquil” and old-fashioned way of life. (“Ordered worlds” are constantly being “disrupted” too. “Immediately the couple's well ordered, harmonious world begins to disintegrate.” on Adam and Eve “Often they begin from a premise of a relatively ordered world suddenly disrupted by a crime.” British Television Drama in the 1980s by George W. Brandt)

have ignited controversy = have started controversy

indictment [Practically anything] is a sad indictment of society.

is set to
= on course to

jockey/vie for position = compete

light always pours or floods @FatCharlesH

motley = what assortments always are

Research is always painstaking (and usually takes two years). And so is restoration: After six years of painstaking restoration (the Bolshoi reopens)./ She gives me a tour of the painstakingly renovated building. BBC October 28, 2011

public rebukes are always “stinging

revenge = always thirsted for

= what cuts are

sentimentality = always “unabashed

Sitting is still popular: The headstones which had been positioned around the perimeter wall have been broken up and now sit in a large pile in the deconsecrated church yard. (Surely they're lying?)

spark, trigger, ignite = provoke outrage, precipitate, bring about, open a debate, start, begin, bring in

spectre, threat People are fond of writing "the spectre of X" rather than plain "X" A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of communism. Karl Marx (At least his spectre was haunting something.) Bubonic plague, the Black Death, has been one of man's most terrific scourges. Time, 1930/ This summer the once dreaded scourge of bubonic plague is on the loose in the Southwest U.S. Time, 1983 (A plague is a plague – it doesn’t need to be a scourge as well.)/ The scourge of scrap-metal theft on the railways is so bad that…

swathes = always vast @entschwindet

swell Periodic Table swells as three new elements named (lengthens, grows)

tension is always eroded (how about reducing it? or even better, slackening it?)

throngs of people are usually dark-skinned (especially if they’re a “ululating throng”)

Torrential rain sparks flooding (BBC Online) causes - the rain would put the spark outBold
unleash = activate, enable

visceral = used to mean almost anything (unpleasant, earthy)

A Catechism of Cliché here.
More journalistic clichés here.

Friday 9 December 2011

Buzz Words of 2011 Part II

Every year has its favourite slang. Every year has its fashionable pomposity, too - like to do so, rightly so. But effectively, to that end and sits well with seem to have gone at last.

for current, modern, present-day
ping me!

Words fail, I’m losing the will etc

wish list
(around several years)
bucket list
mindless being wheeled out, coupled with “violence” and “thuggery”, week of riots
slouch (item of clothing – it’s a shrug)
robust (policing) week of riots
violet – oddly popular week of riots
seasteading: PayPal founder, inspired by Ayn Rand, sinks $1.25 mil into 'seasteading' - libertarian, floating micronations. @ballardian

= area of town that planners hope will fill with hip cafes, art galleries and Thai restaurants. Or else it’s a few new-built closes surrounded by ex-industrial sheds, and the builders hope that if they call it a “quarter” people will think it’s got some kind of history and character. Roman quarter, Chichester/Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Oxford.

Adding “age” to words to make them sound grander: porterage, signage, dockage. Many ironic coinages.

lots of things being “shredded”, including welfare safety nets and existing power structures in Libya (Aug/Sept)

visceral being used to mean almost anything September 5, 2011
underbelly popular September 6, 2011 (soft underbelly, unpleasant underbelly –
think you mean “seamy side”.)
merch (merchandise)
roll out to mean “bring in” (If you roll something out, you start in Wakefield, move to Liverpool, then Manchester ect ect)
upselling = persuading customer to buy more things (meal deal) or something more expensive (better wine)

toxic is back late Sept
chasing down (used to be hunting down, chasing up)
+tives and –tives (Tweetese)
rock for wear (a barely there skirt ect)

picture-perfect What mean? Don’t use for things that aren’t visual, like food. And is it picture perfect, pitch perfect, or picture-postcard perfect? And how can you qualify "perfect"?

= what psychologists used to call “flooding”) as self-treatment for embarrassment, phobias. Afraid of talking to women? Chat up 50 women in a day. Embarrassed by dorky bike clothes? Ride topless! The bike clothes won’t seem so bad. Versus “don’t over-challenge yourself”.
life writing, wilderness writing, nature writing etc etc
X is what it is
when did forbidden to do become forbidden from doing?
family adventure (you can’t just “go on holiday” any more)
You have to say Adele is “beige”. October 10, 2011

reputational damage
enormo (Twitterspeak)

everyone’s complaining that people pronounce aitch as haitch (It’s everywhere! Actually, just one HSBC ad.)
Def’natlay, def’natlay! (Also high-pitched “Hiiiiiiiiiii!”)

link bait
– piggybacking a product on a charitable cause.
systemic trending week of Nov 6
levels of has replaced kind/s of
technocrat popular week November 16 2011
artisanal is the new home-made
meltdown (formerly throw a wobbly/become hysterical)

– the salmon die in the very stream that gave them birth. (“The same stream” would do. Yea, verily.)
especially for particularly
back in 1972
Whisper it!
popular week of Dec 5 (a whopping great...)
Hollywood reboot Rewrite, recast, misunderstand and utterly ruin well-loved classic. Turn Miss Marple into a feisty thirtysomething.

make choices = do things (because if we say “make choices” we’ll encourage people to choose to do things instead of following others, being influenced, being dominated, carrying out orders, doing what everybody else does, doing what the mores dictate etc. Or rather, they’ll still do all that but we can pretend they don't.) Americans use “children must learn the consequences of making choices” to mean “behaviour we disapprove of will be punished severely”.

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.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Junk Statistics

You can prove anything with statistics - as long as you make them up.

Sex and Marriage

6 out of 10 women prefer chocolate to sex. (Fay Weldon in her latest book Sept 2006)

Men think about sex three times a second. (Latest figures say 19 times a day.)

43% of women experience sexual dysfunction.

50 per cent
of US marriages end in divorce. (Based on stats from one year - allegedly.)
One in three marriages ends in divorce? Not true. The risk of divorce varies hugely according to age, class and length of marriage. Once you've survived the first seven years, the risk of divorce drops dramatically. Marriage kills passion? Not true. People in long-term relationships have more and better sex than single people. A lack of commitment is to blame for relationships breaking down? Not true. On average, couples stick together for six years before taking steps to bail out. Kate Figes, Guardian January 16, 10

[Some amazingly high number of women] don’t have orgasms through penetration alone.

80% of conceptions are spontaneously aborted. (junk or questionable according to bloke quoted in New Scientist)

Child obesity has doubled in the last 10 years.

60% of young people don’t know that milk comes from a cow or eggs from chickens.

A generation of children knows virtually nothing about history. Michael Gove Nov 2011

Only 50% of French schoolchildren know about the Holocaust, the French education minister admitted last week. Marcel Berlins, Guardian February 20, 2008

48 percent of schoolchildren don’t know why we celebrate Easter/have never heard of the Holocaust.

A recent poll showed that 43% of the population have no idea what Easter celebrates, with the young most clueless. Polly Toynbee, Guardian April 14, 2006

One in four children are not the offspring of their supposed fathers. (…though nonpaternity rates of 10 percent and higher have routinely been cited in studies and textbooks, these numbers turn out to have little solid data behind them. Among the estimated rates they found: More than 30 percent — obtained from a researcher's remarks at a 1972 symposium on medical ethics, referring to a study (apparently conducted decades earlier in a single English town) that was never completed, much less published. 20 to 30 percent — from another aging and unpublished UK study; and 7 to 14 percent — from a 1990 study that relied (as later researchers would point out) not on any biology-based testing but on self-reporting by readers of a British women's magazine on the frequency and timing of their off-the-books intercourse.

Half of people under 30 don’t know how to boil or bake a potato (headline for piece about the Potato Marketing Board but the board didn’t quite say that)

A friend writes: Someone on this morning's Today show saying that some appallingly high percentage of "young people" think that peas and sweet corn are in season all year round... (May 29 09) 2 in 10 British people can’t recite any poetry (woman interviewed at Hay on Wye “I don’t get my students to learn poetry by heart – I don’t want to put them off it.” This is in the top ten silliest remarks of all time.) Or is it only 2 in 10 can?

Women, men
In the Renaissance, 50% of nobly born women were shut up in convents. Aristocratic families were loth to stump up dowries for more than one daughter. The rest were walled away. In Milan in the 1600s, three-quarters of the female nobility were cloistered.

75% of women wear bras that don’t fit

76 percent of women hate their bodies. Only one in 50 British women is happy with the way her body looks, a survey claims today. Evening Standard April 11 06 Grazia magazine poll found the average woman worried about her body every 15 minutes... while 29 per cent worried about their size and shape all the time... Grazia editor Jane Bruton said "98 per cent of British women hate their bodies.” 98% Carol Midgley Times January 13, 2011

Women utter 20,000 words a day, men 7,000.

Shakespeare had a vocabulary of 500 words, we use 3,000.


There are more Indian restaurants in London than in Mumbai and New Delhi combined. Sathnam Sanghera

Humans have only twice as many genes as the fly or worm. Humans have fewer genes than rice. (Or some other shockingly small number of genes.)

People tell an average of 10 lies a day More than four out of five people admit to telling little white lies at least once a day. Reuters, December 28 2006 (Or is it three lies every ten minutes?)

Approximately 75% of all CVs have some form of embellishment and 25% contain outright lies.

50% of all advertising is wasted.

The attention span of a TV viewer is only ten minutes. (Amazon review of Alain de Botton’s Consolations of Philosophy)

The average Briton is caught on CCTV camera 300 times a day. “England has more CCTV then rest of Europe put together!” Anna Minton in Ground Control (Research based on two streets and extrapolated - allegedly.)

It’s 90% appearance and body language, 7% what you say. Only 7% of communication is verbal.

All white Americans are 12% black and vice versa (probably more mixed than they had thought, but DNA testers revised their figures down)

80% of Americans think they have been anally probed by aliens. "It's about alien abduction, an issue they take far more seriously in America, where something like one in three people claims to have experienced it, anal probe and all." Spectator Jan 4 2003 (It’s more like 3%, one survey concluded.)


One-third of all murders in England and Wales are "domestic." (BBC)

Two women in England and Wales killed by partner or ex-partner each week. Most are killed after repeated, escalating violence. (Home Office)

75% of American teenagers who take the virginity pledge subsequently lapse.

40% of people who go to a therapist quit after one session.

55% of Britons have read less than a third of the books on their shelves; 10% haven’t read a single one (a poll says).

About 30% of people on singles dating sites are married. (true)

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Outdated Slang

When did people stop saying...

aficionado (Very 80s. Nobody could spell it.)
Ah hae me doots!, I must dree my weird, och aye the noo, hoots mon, it’s a braw bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht and other pseudo-Scotticisms (thank heavens it's over)
and in that order
blast from the past

boo boo, boob
(we boobed)
brains of a prawn
cake-hole (mouth)
(it was an insult)
cascading (popular 80s 90s? Bit like the trickle-down effect)
colour me (beautiful, over-eager)
control freak
Don’t be such a lazybones! (or slow coach)
eventually (now finally)
going spare
grands projets
(and insisting that we build them because they’re iconic and will raise our self-esteem or something)
high camp
I just thought I’d share that with you.

I reckon

I’ll drink to that

in effect (and “effectively”)
It’s all go!
It’s an old Spanish custom.
kick up a fuss
Less of it!

make the running

most notably

(now especially – bleurgh)
play silly buggers

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

raft, slew
road warrior
– because now everybody works on the move
See you later, alligator! In a while, crocodile!
snug as a bug in a rug

so far so blah

swingeing cuts
(now “brutal”)
That was a (real) killer.
The answer is a lemon.

The exception proves the rule.

think on
threads (clothes)
tools for skills
(very 80s – skills were 70s)
weak-willed/strong-willed (All you need is willpower. Now self esteem. Just as imaginary.)
wet, don't be so
what a giveaway!

What’s YOUR problem?
you mug! (Cameron to Mili Ed)
You silly clot!

More outdated slang here.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Whatever Happened To...? 11

all you can eat salad bars (replaced by “food halls”?)
commemorative teaspoons
complaining about “long-haired DJs
eau de Nil (the colour – used to be everywhere in kitchen enamelware, tiles, packaging, walls, doors…)
egg cosies
Equity cards

free higher education

idea that word processors weren’t really computers

jibes about bra-burning, chairpersons, chivalry and door-opening (making an unwelcome comeback)
making your own Xmas decorations by spraying twigs/holly nuts gold/silver
microfiches New Society (the magazine)
olde fashionede phones made of… pale green onyx

people saying there can’t be any such thing as sexual harassment and besides the accent is on the first syllable (gone the way of the people who declared they would never use those new-fangled post codes)

roll-ons (they kept your stockings up)
Second Life
sex-objects (borrowed from Lacanian discourse re subjects, objects and others and only really makes sense in that context)
smell of creosote

sound of typewriters, rotary dial phones, coffee percolators, flash cubes, record changers (clunk! hisss….), cash register, film projector (slide projector (whoosh clunk! whoosh clunk!), broken record record record (and 78 comes to end)

Theatre in Education
(still around in bags like crisps, apparently)

vast Come Dancing skirts made from layer on layer of nylon net (and a gazillion sequins sewn on by hand)). They bore only a tenuous relationship to genuine olde-tyme dance wear.

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday 21 November 2011

My Predictions for 2012

The seaside is OK now

Columnists will recycle old articles moaning about mobile phones, computers, typewriters, ITV into whinges about Facebook (Why I Don’t Use Facebook, Why I Don’t Let My Daughter Use Facebook, Why I Have Left Facebook, Why I Am Joining Facebook Five Years After Everybody Else, Why Facebook Is Dead).

A television historian will opine that children should learn British history which will make them proud of their country. (Kings and Queens, not social reformers.)

Girls will outdo boys at GCSE. The press will report as if it was a BAD thing.

We’ll be promised a “new ladylike look for autumn” as a corrective to the tarty chav clothes we’ve been wearing all summer.

A politician will suggest restructuring the NHS.

Teenagers will invent their own language incomprehensible to anybody over 20. Adults will predict dire consequences, and several people will say "Language has got to evolve".

Journalists will exclaim over some “new” internet acronym that has been around for decades – and will claim that it’s “youthspeak”.

There will be a nine days’ wonder about the media.

Someone will say that a new film/TV prog/book “Shows that women can be funny after all!”

A school will ban an extreme hairstyle.

The media will tell us that:
Girls grow up too fast these days.
The NHS is failing old people who can’t feed or wash themselves.
There is bullying in care homes for the disabled.
You can cook with flowers.
Welfare money lies unclaimed because people don't know what they're entitled to. If they do know, the claiming procedures are so Kafkaesque they give up.
Police don't interfere in "domestics".
Masculinity is in crisis.
Rape victims should get better treatment.
The January "detox" is just too hard.
Spousal abuse happens in all levels of society.
Fashion houses are making bigger sizes and using larger models.
The pale and interesting look is back – and so are knitting and zeppelins.
People expect too much from marriage (“it’s not happy ever after”).
Internet dating has lost its stigma.
X% of women are wearing the wrong size bra.
It’s OK to be single – and holiday at the seaside.

Predictions for 2011.

Thursday 17 November 2011

More More Adjectives

cheap: over-reliance on a set of cheap journalistic tricks Mind Hacks blog

eyerolly I am especially eyerolly at the ones who have NO IDEA how polarized this place is (the US).

feeble (piece of writing, humour)

formulaic, FX-driven set pieces Independent on Super 8

fridge-magnet Helen Keller’s fridge-magnet wisdom… “Security is mostly a superstition.” Guardian September 3, 2011 See quilted sampler, cross-stitch mottoes

hideously decadent It's this pick-and-mix approach that generated the meaningless architectural train-smashes of the 1980s, especially those hideously decadent mixtures of gleaming surfaces and crudely over-articulated 19th century industrial pastiche. Jay Merrick, 12 Sept 2011

inane: I forgot to mention inane, Blairite, 'cultural industry', non-elitist, outreach and interpretation based names for… vast, useless cultural buildings. @FatcharleshH

ingratiating baby talk Eva Wiseman, Observer Sept 2011 on cute messages on packaging (“lovingly packed by Dawn and her team”)

insipid rubbish Nothing like a tragedy to inspire insipid rubbish. @entschwindet on giant silver hands made out of doves (really).

Lame attempt to justify turning the lights off across East Sussex. Crime and accidents will surely rise but everything is OK because someone can take a picture of the moon.

meaningless waffle: The release went on meaninglessly, moronically: “Our dream is to grow our clients’ business by transforming human behaviour through uplifting, meaningful human experiences.” the presentation being “unveiled” contained marketing waffle with diagrams shaped like flowers whose petals were labelled Community, Currency, Content and Conversation… woolly thinking… hot air… drivel… guff… Lucy Kellaway in the FT October 2011

piercingly average Unfortunately for credibility, John Simm looks piercingly average. Clive James, DT, July 2011

It’s a million miles away from the pious slaughterhouse chic of the River Café. Keith Miller, Telegaph Sept 2011

tiresome: Ursuta’s abject sculpture is actually one of the better examples of a kind of figurative sculpture that is always with us: by turns jokey, laughable, stupid and extreme, in a frequently pointless and tiresome way. Adrian Searle G October 13, 2011

truly gruesome, ticky-tacky etc Across the road a truly gruesome collection of beige and green glass lacklustre ticky-tacky Pomo apartments with virtually no redeeming features apart from the fact it’s just so incredibly wrong. Christian Harrap blog

vainglorious: endless vainglorious cameos from tediously eccentric friends @fatcharlesh on Iain Sinclair, July 2011

vapid bollocks fatcharlesh Charles Holland Page Eight was awful. The kind of pompous, posturing but vapid bollocks that is invariably described as "oozing class".

More adjectives here and here and here and here. And here.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Children's Book Cliches

A healthy dose of Younger Readers' fiction (the wonder of nature, making new friends, learning who can and who cannot be trusted). (

When attacked by a large creature with fangs, prop its jaws apart with a halberd, or anything handy.

To kill a dragon, hide in a pit and stab its vulnerable underside as it crawls to the river to drink (may be myth No.794).

If your dog disappears, it will be found on a ledge in a quarry.

In caves, the walls are “covered with a kind of phosphorescence that gives a little light.” Sometimes they are “gleaming with moisture”.

When hiding from the enemy, you always give yourself away by treading on a dry twig and breaking it.

You can tell who's nasty because they call childrenbrats”.

You can disguise yourself by staining your skin with walnut juice.

An orphaned boy is the only one who can defeat a terrible tyrant (or dragon).

Twins are separated by destiny.

A band of adventurers quest for a magical talisman, ring or artefact.

When the heroes find a cave stuffed to the roof with gold and jewels, there's always some reason why they can't take any away: an ancient white cobra warns them off, it's guarded by a dragon, they turn into a dragon etc etc Or else a Boring Old Fart appears and lectures them on the fact that money never brings happiness, bla bla bla... or the gold weighs their pockets down and they have to leave it behind… or they take the prettiest jewels and they turn out to be glass.

A dog/horse is bought cheap/found wandering and discovered to have some flaw due to its unhappy childhood, eg compulsive head tossing. New child owners (with help of crusty old avuncular character) retrain dog/horse - will it revert to type at the gymkhana/dog show or win the prize?

An English teacher writes: It's a stepping stone on the way to the trendy adolescent novel about a teenager who's got some flaw owing to a bla bla bla and is reclaimed by a bla bla bla and will they manage to play the lead role in the school play/play solo in the piano concerto in the end-of-year concert/win at sports day bla bla bla or will they go back on the drugs etc? There are only seven plots in the whole of world literature and this is one of them (actually quite a good one too). Examples: a naughty boy in Little Men; hero of good 70s school story, Pennington's Seventeenth Summer, countless boarding school sagas by the likes of Enid Blyton. Of course some of them had a sinister agenda - you were meant to give them to difficult but possibly gifted children to read and say, There, I understand your pain, just do as I say and you too could win the Olympics, sing at Covent Garden, get off with the most beautiful girl in the school etc etc.

In books, it is cool to be a rebel if you do it IN THE RIGHT WAY...

This trend is bucked by the utterly brilliant Huckleberry Finn, who at the end of the novel seems all set for reclamation by kindly good people etc but decides he'd prefer just to p*ss off and do his own thing. 

My mother gave me The Fairy Doll by Rumer Godden when I was a small child – I wonder why? It's about a little girl who's slow and clumsy and nobody thinks her capable of anything. She even has straight dark hair. Is Elizabeth helped by The Fairy Doll, or does she find her own inner confidence? (Give me a fairy godmother any day.)

Per Liz Jones, Diana Pullein-Thompson’s publishers told her she mustn’t give children adult emotions.

In 30s children’s books, children do adult jobs – acting, dancing. When the books were written, 12-year-olds could earn a living, but the law was changed in the 50s. A generation of girls grew up obscurely disappointed that they couldn’t be a ballerina aged 14 like Belle of the Ballet from Bunty – or was it Judy? Nobody explained why. In The Family from One-End Street, by Eve Garnett, Lily says “I’m just living till I’m 14!” She can’t wait to leave school and get a job in Woolworth’s, unlike her swotty sister Kate who gets into the grammar school (cue panic over uniform) and will probably go to university. But I don’t think there were any books about “Lily the Shop-Girl”. Shame.

In the Borrowers series, the tiny people end up being kept in a dolls' house by a human. Is there a parallel with the East Enders being housed in gleaming new towers after One-End Street was bombed? The Borrowers eventually escape.

In every children's TV series there's an episode where a character thinks the other characters have forgotten their birthday.

How not to start your children's book, from the Writer's Digest:

I woke up one morning...
Let me show you round my school.
Meet my best friend and the school bully.
Meet my parents, siblings and pets.
I looked round my bedroom and saw...
I was sitting thinking about my problems when...
My life is so normal and average!
We got into the moving van and set off for the new house.
I looked in the mirror and saw a podgy freckled kid.
The summer job from hell.
First day at a new school - will I survive?

I used several of these in my first novel.

Why not turn them on their heads?
One morning I didn't wake up – and now I'm a ghost.
I'm being home schooled and have no friends.
My best friend is the school bully.
I am the school bully.
It was Christmas Day in the orphanage.*
I sleep in the kitchen.
I am the most well-adjusted person I know.
I wish my parents weren't so Bohemian.
Watch me make the new girl's life hell!

*Rumer Godden wrote this one – The Story of Holly and Ivy.

More clichés here.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Inspirational Quotes Part Eight

Be spontaneous, live for the moment, don't make plans, just go out and have fun! Yeah.

Many people will always see the self-help industry as a cynical money-spinner. bbc online Nov 2011

Self-empowerment rubbish about breaking through walls and finding your true self. Nicholas Lezard Guardian October 19, 2011

"This is one of the crazy romantic myths of the 1990s" Stephen Pinker on the idea that violence is caused by lack of self-esteem. “There is no data behind the self-esteem movement in the first place.” Radio 4 Oct 11

“...most readers already have learned that expressing one's individuality is often at odds with fitting in with the popular crowd. So, while many of the rules here, including "Don't follow trends - set them!" "Be independent," "Be yourself," and "Stand tall," are positive nuggets of advice (if not to say old chestnuts), they may not go down with the target audience...” Amazon review of How to Be Popular book.

Her reply had been prepared for some time. Agatha Christie (to the question “What made you look in the sarcophagus in which you found the body?”)

James Garner’s early jobs were never part of a plan leading toward show business. Such plans, in America, are usually called “dreams.” Clive James

The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly… closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong sense of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations. Guardian commentisfree Nov 8 2011

Counterfriends: The complete strangers you talk to at a house party who are assembled around the neutral zone of the kitchen counter. Like you, they may know only a few people at the party, including the super-mingling host, and are looking for counterfriends. Urban Dictionary (not suitable for those of a nervous disposition)

I did learn quickly to hide my A grades and not talk too much in class.

Your daughter hasn’t been invited to a party. “If she wants to approach the host, help her role-play what to say.”

[Paris syndrome occurs] during trips which confront travellers with things they have not previously experienced and had not anticipated. Wikipedia

Hoping the dress would help me fit in [at New Parents’ Night] was my first mistake. It was a cheery summer day-dress and everyone else was in serious cocktail attire. I was alone in Manhattan for the first time. The women were extremely glamorous and the men polished and gleaming. Alone, slightly dishevelled and distinctly British-looking, with a barely made-up face and flip-flops, I must have looked desperate, because nobody spoke to me at all. It was my first experience of going to a party where I couldn’t smile brightly and push my way into anyone’s conversation. After 15 minutes of failing to communicate, I sidled out and ran away crying. Times magazine October 2011, Sarah Kennedy

Through necessity, I’ve found myself associating with guys I’d never have been friends with at university. But I need someone to go out drinking with. Times May 27, 2008

Humans long for affection and tend to be affectionate to those who offer it. David Levy, author of Love and Sex with Robots

All such [interiorizing] approaches have their foundation in a general cultural assumption that is very hard to shake off - ie that fundamentally we are all individuals who just happen to find ourselves in societies. I suspect that it might be more accurate to say that fundamentally we are social creatures who just happen to feel as individuals. David Smail

You can stop working on your material, peel off the constricting pantyhose of vivacity and relax. Julie Burchill on marriage

A realistic goal is based on who we are - not who our boss, parents, spouse or any other external driver thinks we are.

The secret of attractiveness is making other people smile, according to a study by British psychologists. Experiments at Aberdeen University found we are more likely to think a person is good-looking if we catch members of the opposite sex smiling at them. Tests show that our taste is always swayed by the attention people receive from others. Ian Sample, January 17, 2007, The Guardian

When you meet someone new, before you’ve had time to build up some social standing in their eyes, don’t do anything that will get you negative reactions from the surrounding crowd. Dr Pam Spurr Times, April 15, 2009

Even in areas that aren't "formally" organized (eg school) dominance and status issues are a primary concern of the students who vie with each other to be the most "cool". We so dislike being at the bottom of a hierarchy that we naturally form coalitions that help to check the power of the dominant groups. (Web psychologist)

More here, and links to the rest.

Edward Burra

Pallant House, Chichester (review from several years ago)

Burra is the forgotten artist everyone has heard of and this is an opportunity to see a lot of his work at once. He worked mainly in watercolour because he became progressively disabled from arthritis. Born in 1905, he was a Bright Young Thing of the 20s - he made friends at art school (he went aged 15), and for the rest of his life kept in close touch by letter.

"It was so funny my visit as of course i was asked to bring MY WORK and before the big game woman and her companion saw it they kept rushing into the most awful artists material picture shops and saying 'Oh you MUST come in too, this is SUCH an interesting shop dont you ADORE that' pointing to a small water colour of the Virgin M nursing an allenburys progressive baby with a gas ring going off round its head seated on a toadstool in bluebell wood."

His letters are all in this style, camp and beady. He and his gang went to Paris, where they went to all the best bars, nightclubs and dives. He adored the black dancer Josephine Baker, and she turns up in his art (in one picture she and a troupe of half-dressed girls have invaded a rather staid teashop in an English seaside town).

His early paintings (of chorus girls, sailors and cafes in Marseille) are done in a meticulous "air-brushed" style that makes his people look as if lit from both sides. Perhaps he learned it from the cinema - he was a breathless fan of silent movies with their over-the-top depictions of the last days of Pompeii, Babylon, Rome...

He lived all his life in his parents' house in Rye, Sussex, but he loved to travel. His mother would say she was never sure if he'd gone out to get a packet of cigarettes or to get a boat to Mexico. In New York he hung out in Harlem and painted its bars, front steps, dudes and elevated railway. Look out for the tiny vignettes of New York buildings and shop fronts in the distance. From Mexico he took the partying skeletons from the Day of the Dead.

During the war he was confined to Rye. He came under the influence of Dali and borrowed his style - dark shadows, bodies devolving to egg shapes - and painted large surrealist pictures that are some kind of comment on the terrible events of the time. He also painted the Sussex scene - people growing cabbages, army lorries, empty roads. But these pictures often have a nightmarish and sinister twist: farmers mix with weird black-hooded figures. Gradually Dali recedes.

After the war he continued to paint the countryside, now becoming crowded with motorcycles and oil tankers. He seemed to disapprove of the oil trade, but his oil tankers are beautifully depicted. Diggers chewing up the landscape have evil faces, and an old plough cradles a cow's skull between its "horns". He also painted serene vases of flowers and unpeopled landscapes - though his figures may look naive and jokey his skills were impeccable.

He continued living in his parents' house after their death, and died himself in 1977. He never married.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful... ish II

We've advanced from the days when chattel slavery was considered normal and the absolute rule of monarchs was considered a product of divine creation. Mike Ballard

Sir, Jonathan Sacks... follows a long tradition of seeing only decline and collapsing discipline; Aristotle grumbled that the youth showed no respect... In living memory we have created the welfare state – the greatest act of communal generosity in history. Computers have stimulated a massive growth in the world economy. Not one European country is part of someone else’s empire for the first time ever. Four fifths of the British are literate, 40 per cent go to university and many will live to be a hundred. The nation gives ever more generously to charities… Britain is increasingly tolerant of class, colour, gender, race, religion and sexual preference... Charles Ross, Devizes, Wilts

Not So Cheering
1700s The Bloody Code
Sir Samuel Romilly, speaking to the House of Commons on capital punishment in 1810, declared that "...(there is) no country on the face of the earth in which there [have] been so many different offences according to law to be punished with death as in England." Known as the "Bloody Code", at its height the criminal law included some 220 crimes punishable by death, including "being in the company of Gypsies for one month", "strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age" and "blacking the face or using a disguise whilst committing a crime". Many of these offences had been introduced to protect the property of the wealthy classes that emerged during the first half of the 18th century, a notable example being the Black Act of 1723, which created 50 capital offences for various acts of theft and poaching. Wikipedia

1780 The Gordon Riots Around 250 people were killed by police in riots over Catholics being given rights.

1876 The Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 legalised vivisection, as well as providing total secrecy to the vivisectors and to the laboratories, with no public accountability. The Home Office awarded licences to vivisectors in secret, the locations of laboratories were secret. No access was allowed, for any reason - whether Member of Parliament, media, public, or local authority - all were barred. Wikipedia

1880s American business leaders thought compulsory education un-American.

Early 1990s Councils’ duty to provide sites for travellers “scrapped”

2011 Old people in care suffer neglect and cruelty. Talent show contestants are mocked and pilloried. And in a country of binge drinkers we use alcohol as a way of getting a cheap laugh.

What Took them So Long?
1885 The Medical Relief Disqualification Removal Act
meant that people who had accessed medical care funded by the poor rate were no longer disqualified from voting in elections. Wikipedia

1930 As part of the dismantling of the Poor Law tramps were no longer compelled to walk to the next “casual ward” for food and lodging.

1938 America outlaws child labour

1965 End of the Jim Crow laws in the US that progressively restricted the lives of black people since 1876

1980s It became OK for a woman to order drinks at a bar. (Earlier, bar staff would often ignore you.)

1994 Sunday trading restrictions abolished (Previously, it was illegal to sell most things on a Sunday. Vegetables and bibles were two of the exceptions. Sunday markets sprang up, selling all sorts of things – plus a vegetable to make it legal.)

2011 There are about 400 single-sex schools in the UK (boo!) – down from 2,500 (hooray!). (Steve Beach)

More Reasons to Be Cheerful here, here and here.