Monday 31 October 2011

Ballad on Approving of the World

Ballad on Approving of the World by Bertolt Brecht as sung by Robyn Archer

Translation by John Willett and Robyn Archer. Music by Hans Eisler

I'm not unjust, I’m not courageous either.
They pointed out their world to me today
I saw the bloodstains on the pointing finger
And quickly said “I like my world that way”.

I stood before their world, beneath their truncheons,
And spent the whole day judging all I saw.
Saw butchers who seemed suited to their functions,
And when they asked, D’you like it? I said 'Sure!'

And from that instant, my professed opinion was:
Better be a coward than in your grave!
To keep from falling under their dominion,
I kept approving what one can’t approve.

I saw the cops and landlords profiteering;
With hollow cheeks, the people doffed their caps.
I tried their wheat, and told all within hearing,
'Top quality, a little dear perhaps.'

Then the industrialists - such crippling losses.
They can't find work for more than one in three.
I told the other two, 'You'd better ask your bosses,'
I'm ignorant about economy!'

I saw the soldiers preferring guns to butter,
And planning whom to murder and to rob!
I called out as I stepped down in the gutter:
Credit where credit's due, they know their job!

Saw Civil-Servants green with mildew keeping
Their great big mobile dungheap-shifter on the move.
So poorly paid for bullying and creeping;
I really hope their salaries improve!

I saw the teachers, those poor flagellators
Imposing their own image on the young
That’s what they get their stipends from the state for
Or else they have to starve, so you should hold your tongue!

And children seen in early adolescence
Whose brains are eight and bodies eighty-three
I say “that’s life” – to the unspoken question
“Why’s life like that?” I answer “Don’t ask me!”

And the professors, whose impressive phrases
Excuse the deeds of those whom they support
Crime wrapped in talk of economic crises
Let no one say they’re any worse than I had thought!

That tradesman there, assuring all and sundry
'It's not my fish, but I who really smell!'
Won’t eat bad fish himself, so let’s all get to know him
And hope that he may find us fit to sell!

Doctors who throw back every hard-up patient,
Like anglers throwing back a too-small fish,
I can’t avoid, and lay my sickly body
upon their couch to carve up as they wish.

I saw the murderers and the victims also,
And with a bleeding heart and failing nerve,
Saw how the murderers singled out their victims
and shouted 'I approve - without reserve!'

I see them coming, see the butchers marching,
Would like to call out 'Stop!', but since, meanwhile,
I know their agents are behind me watching;
I hear my own voice calling at them 'Heil!'

Since poverty and baseness leave me cold
My pen falls silent; times are on the move
Yet all that’s dirtiest in your dirty world
Includes, I know, that fact that I approve.

Posted because I couldn't find Brecht's words exactly as Robyn Archer sings them (other translations seem rather inadequate).

Thursday 27 October 2011

Whatever Happened To...? 10

AIDS deniers, BSE deniers (who claimed it wasn’t caused by a virus/prion)
Anti-Vivisection Movement

Banda duplicating machines

beauty contests (replaced by even more humiliating
X Factor, Pop Idol etc)
Berol pens (Jane Austen would have written better with a Berol!)
blowing smoke rings
(not seen since Anna Friel’s embarrassing advert about mobile phones on different networks talking to each other – back in the Stone Age)

changing for dinner
(still around in 70s in hotels and posh people’s homes)
closed shops
collar studs

combover hairstyles (They really did get laughed out of court.)
computers that weren’t compatible so you couldn’t transfer files from one to another – and having to explain this to people
(it was truly horrible)
cups and saucers
Cutex cuticle cream
(which tinted your nails pink and smelt of Turkish Delight)

dimmer switches
(very 70s)
dinner parties
dried herbs
(you can get fresh herbs everywhere)

(people used to talk about it a lot)

foreign-exchange controls
(meant that few Brits could holiday abroad, so it was exclusive)
French mustard

giant rucksacks
that were bigger than the small girls who carried them. (They were REALLY EASY to carry, you just had to BALANCE them right. Yeah.)
Gustav Junghitchhikers
(especially the ones made out of old socks)
humorous plaster skulls labelled “poor old Fred, he smoked in bed”

International Times
and its blurred stencil of Theda Bara

jet age
(Jet travel was presumed to be evil in a uniquely modern way. People could always “jet off” somewhere else.)
jet set


leaving your baby to sleep outside in a pram
lucky Cornish piskies/Joan the Wad
Ludo (it was an entertaining pastime)

madras cotton
(late 60s/early 70s)

nostalgia boom

opera gloves

oxtail soup

parapsychology labs (no findings, lost funding)

pencil cases in the shape of a giant plastic pencil

photographic memory

picnic sets
(in baskets)
Pietro Annigoni
piggy in the middle

pin money


piping bags

Powers Boothe

Rainer Werner Fassbinder

requests for job applications to be hand-written (because the HR department employed a graphologist - the superstitious 80s)


slimline tonic
(very 70s)
sodastreams (are back)
sugar lumps
swimming for fun (diving, duck-diving, somersaults, widths under water, ring a roses…)

tasteless, tacky wrapping paper
(it used to be the only kind you could get)
teasmades (they’re back, apparently)
The Midnight Movie (bring it baaaaack!)
theme restaurants, theme weddings time and motion experts
tinned cherries

Toile de Jouy


virtual reality

whining about having to spell “computer program” the American way
Willem de Kooning (he’s having a retrospective at MoMA)
zed beds
More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 16 October 2011

More Malaprops


Malaprops are the wrong word in the wrong place, or a combination of the two - but they improve on the original. Portmanteaus pack two meanings into one word (celebutainment).

amist for amidst

Behind the door, under a thick layer of dusk, lay a treasure trove of turn-of-the-century objects… Telegraph October 7, 2010

Don’t forget to sing my guestbook!

glacier cherries (recipe in local paper)

new-fandangled (it was a new-fandangled thing)

periodic features for period features (Homes under the Hammer)


There was no room for manoeuvrement! (The Apprentice, October 27, 2010)

You meet, you resume (resolve) the argument, you come to an agreemency and carry on. (Welsh builder on Homes under the Hammer).

advertorial, advertainment


food (created by the Italians for the British)


n. A cappuccino from a vending machine, or one made from brewed or instant coffee.




people who adopt aspects of the appearance and trappings of the Bohemian lifestyle without actually straying too far from the straight and narrow of social conventions. OED (like weekend hippies)

flatforms (ballet shoes?)

floordrobe @glittrgirl

folksonomy A folksonomy is a system of classification derived from the practice and method of collaboratively creating and managing tags to annotate and categorize content… also known as collaborative tagging, social classification, social indexing, and social tagging. (folks+taxonomy)



intershagging for interspecies shagging


Mockintosh (pseudo Charles Rennie Mackintosh @HughPearman)

praycation (retreat)

(homeopathy courses at uni)


touristocrats on breakation (Fe and Amy)


More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday 15 October 2011

Neologisms 2

Denim sandwich

How did we live without these expressions?

a head desk moment

affectations – for handmade artisanal chocolate bars, “overwrought moustaches” and the rest of Brooklyn hipster culture (70s Camden culture all over again). “the packaging is designed by his friends and printed with soy inks on 100 percent postconsumer-recycled, chlorine-free, processed paper that was made from wind-generated energy.” It’s also “precious”. Of course it is. Adrianne Jeffries, New York Observer, 26 July 2011

All the time [these patches of forest] are getting gnawed away. BBC1, Miracle Babies, 2011

angry palm trees for Chinook helicopters

Are the plates moving? Is there going to be change? Bloke on BBC Breakfast commenting on FIFA corruption and geological structures.

budget airline seat How the Independent described Princess Eugenie at Will and Kate's wedding 2011

Canadian tuxedo/denim sandwich for double denim

Graceland is safe. And we would charge hell with a water pistol to keep it that way. Spokesman after Memphis floods May 2011

grand gesturism Tom Dyckhoff

grimly jolly What a bloody shocking building - thank god it's for children otherwise it might have made me cry it was so grimly jolly.
headline chasing
hour-glass economy

If we didn't know would UK pupate into USSR? @politicsworld July 2011

in the proprietary garden behind the paywall Ben Goldacre blog Sept 2011

It leaves no ass unkicked.

knee-mail for prayer

minted and skinted (haute couture/high street)

needlepoint truisms uttered by Oprah Winfrey, Guardian May 26, 2011

oily Uriah Heeps… genuflecting like seaweed. Jeremy Clarkson, Sunday Times, May 1 2011 (like seaweed? Picture a stormy sea and the seaweed waving up and down…)

pantomime horse merger (of two disparate companies) Tom King Times July 2011

perfume-ad aesthetic
Nicholas Barber, Independent on Sunday on arty film May 2011

Philip Green “depicts the London underworld with loads of icy jazz” imdb

polo mint sculptures Andrew Graham Dixon on Hepworth in the Sunday Telegraph May 2011

poserphobia - fear of wearing full cycling kit

quandaring “If you’re quandaring about that one…” Antiques Road Trip

shoulder season for coming up to/down from high season

sofa government for using the chat show sofa as a platform

stealth wealth for minimalist chic

tasted of warmed-up rubber (burger)

the current planning practice of ad-hoc interpretation from manuals of vague platitudes Oliver Wainwright on Stratford “regeneration”, bdonline, 21 Sept 11

the red-meat press (Telegraph, Express, Sun)

The schedule is etched in jello. Murder She Wrote

the type of film that credits the furs and the oil paintings. imdb

the various flavours of Marxism

The Way is “middlebrow cinema at its most unambitious”, said Kevin Maher in The Times May 2011 (He also implied it was glutinously sentimental in an acceptably arthouse way. Barf!)

This corridor goes on for days! Lucy Alexander on Homes under the Hammer

Tim Robey in The Daily Telegraph. If you want a “period romp laced with whispered intrigue, poison and grand passion, with barely a bodice unripped”, rent Patrice Chéreau’s La Reine Margot (1994) instead. That was a feast: “Tavernier gives us a vegan alternative”. July 2011

whispering in the weeds Liam Fox on rumours about him, week of October 10, 2011

Wind’s getting up in that particular teacup, isn’t it? (A friend writes.)

You tiptoed a thousand pounds over the top end of the guide price. Lucy Alexander on Homes under the Hammer, October 14, 2011

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

Thursday 13 October 2011

Inventions and Reinventions 2


breach of promise
(before the 30s, you could sue a man who let you believe your relationship would end in marriage and then reneged)

bubble cars

cabin trunks

closed-plan living (saves heat)

disabled-friendly taps
as standard
dog toilets

(no cheating possible)
giant Austrian porcelain stoves
insulated baths

jettied houses with projecting upper storey for more space

kitchen/living rooms
(you don’t put the kitchen down one end – you build a large kitchen and move in a table, chairs, a telly and a sofa)

kitchenette, breakfast nook

lifts and escalators in all tube stations
mistresses – with a flat, a living wage and diamond bracelets

nylon stockings

observation cars
on trains
outside staircases to flat roofs

paid companions

phone numbers containing letters
polytechnics (happening)
porthole windows

room dividers

rooms that open out of each other
(no more narrow, dark corridors wasting space)
record one channel while watching another (Back with digital.)

Scottish broch
with 3ft thick stone walls (that would be really warm inside)
small porch area inside/outside front door to insulate, and leave coats and boots
small schools
soap dishes that drain

State Enrolled Nurses
(without degrees) The best hospitals are reinventing them according to Camilla Cavendish in The Times Sept 29 11


summer time all the year round
temperance bars
terraced bungalows

the paperback – 6in by 4in, half an inch thick (about the size of a Kindle), fits in a bag or pocket, doesn't weigh you down

the WWII rumour department - use it to spread useful information

turn children’s desks to face the blackboard

two-year degree courses


wall units

wood panelling
for room insulation

All counters to have an overhang so you can sweep your change into your hand

in tube stations

bike shed/park
for all new houses

disabled friendly stapler

disabled nights
at galleries and museums with free wheelchairs and pushers (and lots of extra seats)

Europe-wide electricity grid

insulated mugs

lighter money
"The ridiculously heavy currency" Andrew Sullivan notices what’s changed and what’s stayed the same since he left the UK Sunday Times July 2011 ("The general low-level alcoholism of almost everyone is as recognisable today as ever.")

Make all languages spoken in the UK GCSE subjects (Punjabi, Yiddish, Romany, Yoruba).

non-wobbly credit card reader stand

phone handset shoulder rest
(Somehow no one managed to invent one before they were made unnecessary by email.)

Phones should show their own local number and the number of the person who’s calling.

Serve airline food in hospitals.

water grid

Reinventions 4
Reinventions 3

Reinventions 2

Reinventions 1

Useless inventions

Sunday 9 October 2011

Revolting Expressions


Can we retire revolting expressions like:

a bit rich for my blood
abort for cancel
anoint someone as your successor
anything involving lips (bring a chuckle to the lips of...)
anything involving tongues (tongues will wag! give tongue)
bleeding heart
blistering (but why is speed blistering?)
blood curdling
bowels of the earth
chew the fat
cough up

drool over

with envy
egg on your face
flesh out
(Bible – means something like casserole, but used as metaphor)
get your (creative) juices flowing
gives me goose-flesh
gut feeling

gut wrenching
(unaccountably popular 2008)
(for consume, especially when talking about oil)
haemorrhaging funds (not as common as used to be)
I couldn’t stomach it.
I feel it in my water.
I was sick to my stomach.
I won’t waste my breath.
in bad odour
in the bowels of the earth
in the flesh
it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue
it froze my blood
lacked stomach for the fight
lance the boil (for solve the problem)
leaves a bad/nasty taste in the mouth
lick your wounds
make old bones

men of that kidney
My blood ran cold.
my gorge rose
on everybody’s lips
on the tip of my tongue
on/with an empty stomach
phlegm (displayed extreme phlegm)
put some flesh on the bones (of a thin story)
raises its ugly head
ram X down your throat (usually something inappropriate like "gay sex" or "abortion")
re-open an old wound
rump (parliament, of company after selloff etc)
running sore on the body politic (as people were fond of writing in Victorian times)
sealed in blood


with envy
slaver in anticipation
sour (v)

spawn (n and v)

(especially “bile”)

strong meat

all the romance out of it
suck it up
sweats for sweat suit, sweat suit trousers and particularly sweat pants
swell for expand, inflate, balloon
the bulk of (don’t know why, just sounds ugly)
The old sores have not healed.
they soured on X
vent your spleen
the appetite
with your tongue hanging out
wounds have not healed
You’re licked!

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Corny Old Religious Jokes

"I don't question your existence." God

Adam to Eve: "I'll wear the plants in this family!"

An Archdeacon is familiarly known as the crook at the head of the Bishop's staff. (The Rev David Grieve)

Birth, life, death. Repeat as necessary.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

Give me that old-time Religion...Hail Zeus!

I am an agnostic pagan. I doubt the existence of many gods.

In a crisis call for Isis!

In the beginning was the word, and the word was aardvaark.

Jesus Saves! By using double coupons and shopping wisely.

Photons have mass!? I didn't know they were Catholic...

Sects, sects, sects. Is that all you monks ever think about?

Sorry I missed church, I've been busy practising witchcraft and becoming a lesbian.

That was Zen. This is Tao.

The lion and the lamb shall lie down together but the lamb won't get much sleep.

Why settle for the lesser of two evils?

Why are you writing "F*** the Pope" on that wall, my man? Because I don't know how to spell "F*** the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland."

Drinking tea can improve your character: charitea, humilitea, sensitivitea, puritea. (The Rev. David Grieve)

Sometimes it's the blend leading the blend. (The Rev. David Grieve)

Church Noticeboard jokes here.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Inspirational Quotes Part Seven

Miss Beale assumed her bright professional smile. (P.D. James, Shroud for a Nightingale)

She had that bland, quiet, undisturbed look and manner which few [nurses] are deficient in — they study it no doubt…

I have plenty of people to do things with. I just have no one to do nothing with. Katharine Whitehorn

...we could fall asleep in each other’s arms but I knew it was play acting and so did he. We weren’t really intimate — it had just been a game. The circus had left town.... Underneath my attempts to appear bubbly, I was hard...Dawn Eden, Sunday Times January 14 2007

"Everybody has a conversational party trick, a one line showstopper statement that makes listeners snap to attention and gives you an instant advantage in any social situation." Observer June 6 04

The study also found that both men and women and older and younger individuals were likely to evaluate relationships based on their conformity to traditional proposal scripts. Schweingruber et al

Best to have a script, to think it through.

Are we liberated women or are we slags? (Sex and the City, paraphrase)

It’s important for doctors, family members and friends to understand the response type of their patient or loved one with breast cancer and to resist urging a different kind of response...

“How we think others see us and how we see ourselves affects all our behaviour; book choice is one clue to others and ourselves.” Professor Pam Mara, a psychologist Guardian August 23, 2006

"For a long time, parents discouraged their children from worrying about what others think. They didn't realize how shortsighted and stupid that was," says Mark Leary, a social psychology professor at Duke University who studies impression management.

"We need other people to think well of us." (Time Oct 06)

Now try and reconcile all that with these unhelpful platitudes.

More here and here and here. And here. And here too. Yet more here.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Inspirational Quotes Part Six

What was quickly impressed upon us was that we were a team... We were being moulded into a conforming, disciplined unit. We dressed the same, talked the same, thought the same. There was no place for those who were different. Chris Blackhurst, Evening Standard City Editor, August 30, 2006, on working in the city

For younger people, work is an important social centre, a place to make friends and attract a partner. So their behaviour at work was about being entertaining, drawing attention to themselves and putting on a display. Guardian July 31, 2004

To be shown love is to feel ourselves the object of concern. Our presence is noted, our name registered, our views listened to, our failings treated with indulgence and our needs administered to. Under such care, we flourish. Alain de Botton

Nowadays we tend to be patronized into believing that it’s all there for us if we’d just work a little bit harder. Letter to Time

Researchers generally agree that the main components of anyone’s personality can be boiled down to five different aspects: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. How a person rates in these five categories can predict many important life “outcomes,” such as health and mortality, academic success, job performance and the ability to have successful, lasting romantic relationships. (msnbc)

Monkey society is governed by the same two general rules that governed the behaviour of women in so many 19th century novels. Stay loyal to your relatives … but also try to ingratiate yourself with the members of high-ranking families. Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth of the Uni of Pennsylvania in Baboon Metaphysics

A year later all the bullies want to be your friend. (Catherine Tate)

A new study suggests abandoning insurmountable goals may be a prudent measure as internal markers of our body’s response to stress are lower among individuals who decide to cut their losses.

Once you've rehearsed to the mirror or a friend, it feels easier to say in person. Cornell University's Ask Uncle Ezra

Becoming human is learning to use our higher brain centers to reason through complex issues and find guidance from principles, values, goals and long-term planning. Uncle Ezra

But don't forget to be yourself and be spontaneous - if you can square it with the advice above.

More here and here and here. And here. And here too.