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Outdated Slang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More outdated slang here.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) mentalfloss.com

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). democraticunderground.com

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. thisissussex.co.uk

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). (theinvisibleevent.com)

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. bps-research-digest.blogspot.com

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

[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. coachingintogreatness.com

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.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Political Euphemisms III

A certain kind of rightwinger fits the riots into the pattern of moral and social decline that she imagines has afflicted British society since the 1950s: multiculturalism, soft policing, family breakdown (ie, sexual tolerance and feminism), liberal teaching, welfare dependency and immigration are all part of this elaborately imagined world. @DAaronovitch, Times 11 Aug 11

As a forum researcher you will actively follow your field of interest and churn ideas of how New Turn could introduce the issues and debates to the wider public in an engaging manner. = You will create propaganda and dream up missionary strategies. FB page of shadowy group New Turn

consideration for others = do what I say (Times leader October 26, 2011 says protesters “lack consideration for others”. But surely camping out in the rain is character-building? NB character is a rightwing euphemism for "the kind of character that will be useful to US" )

convulsive, convulsions: revolutions, invasions, rapid changes of government, coups, depositions, abdications, annexations, civil wars

Gaddafi's most famous literary work is The Green Book, published in 1975. This treatise on "Islamic socialism" defined the concept of Jamahiriya, a state without parties that would be governed directly by its people. Which, in practice, translates as a military dictatorship, headed by – you guessed it – Gaddafi! Guardian blog Mar 2010

indecent haste = Let’s not do it now. Let’s not do it at all.

lobbyist = pimp or shill for company that wants to influence government decisions so that it can make money (one person's lobbying is another's bit of essential advocacy @DAaronovitch)

media frenzy = What Liam Fox refers to as a "media frenzy" was actually investigative reporting into breaches in ministerial conduct. @fatcharlesh

political elite = people who disagree with me Oborne, euro debate 'manipulated by political elite in anti-democratic way' - the way he describes people with different opinion to his own. Oborne's is a classic "my opinion is authentic and courageous, yours is manipulative and part of a plot" piece of self-love. @DAaronovitch

populist firebrand = troublemaker, divisive

Putting People First = NHS cuts

rejection of "the culture of excuses" Hmmm. Sounds suspiciously like a culture of 'blaming the victim'. Andy Giddings

More euphemisms here.