Wednesday 28 March 2012

Things Go in Cycles

The ye olde, olde worlde of the 30s was inherited from the nostalgic Victorians and Edwardians. It became a mass phenom and moved down the classes, so it was sent up as “Gremlin Grange” or "Stockbroker's Tudor".

1. We can’t see the previous decade.
2. It recedes further and we begin to characterize it (usually as the decade that taste forgot).
3. We think we want to revive it (after all, we revive everything) but we still can’t really see it. The 80s become a time of big hair, jelly shoes and fluorescent wrist bands.
4. The same, but people become over-excited about it.
5. One or two vintage shops begin selling real 80s style, but it looks odd or ugly.
6. Hipsters get it.
7. A tentative version is produced by manufacturers.
8. It's possible to wear the real thing out in public.
9. Manufacturers produce a version nearer the real thing. It’s “everywhere”.
10. It’s over.

Laver's Law
According to fashion historian James Laver:

10 years before its time a fashion is Indecent
5 years before its time it's Shameless
1 year before its time it's Outré (Daring)
When it's current it's Smart
1 year after its time it's Dowdy
10 years after its time it's Hideous
20 years after its time it's Ridiculous
30 years after its time it's Amusing
50 years after its time it's Quaint
70 years after its time it's Charming
100 years after its time it's Romantic
150 years after its time it's Beautiful

A popular cultural phenomenon:
a) is everywhere talked about, bought, believed in
b) begins to look “so five minutes ago”
c) belongs to an earlier generation
d) which earlier generation thinks it’s terribly dated
e) young people say “We need a new X for our times”
f) geeky young people want to return to Original X but the earlier generation is embarrassed to be associated with something so dated
g) Original X becomes cool to a small but discerning crowd
h) Geeky member of earlier generation points out that it’s all been done before but nobody listens
i) Original X is blown up/abolished just before Society to Save Original X can save it
j) TPTB relaunch X under another name
k) TPTB relaunch X in an utterly denatured form
l) Something utterly different is launched as “Original X!”

1. Who is Ricardo Montalbán?
2. Get me Ricardo Montalbán.
3. Get me a Ricardo Montalbán type.
4. Get me a young Ricardo Montalbán.
5. Who is Ricardo Montalbán?
6. Wait a minute – isn't that What's-his-name?

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Mixed Metaphors Part Six

he reserved his darkest venom for… Venom is usually bitter.

Yesterday, the North Korean lost their tin horned thug dictator, Kim Jong-Il (blogger) He’s thinking of “tin-pot” dictator. Only dictators are “tin-pot” - was it originally from tin-plate toys? SEE chocolate soldier, idol with feet of clay. A tinhorn is a “A petty braggart who pretends to be rich and important” says The Free Dictionary.

Endeavour was a quality act, and no surprise, given that Morse creator Colin Dexter still has his fingers firmly on its pulse. (That’s “hand firmly on its tiller”, if you must use a metaphor for “is still in control”. You take someone’s pulse to measure their heartbeat, not to control them.) Times January 3, 2012

which oiled his path through the ranks (smoothed - if you oiled a path everyone would slip)

the mayflies perform their swansong (Earthflight voiceover) Well, no, the mayflies are performing their mayfly dance. As a metaphor, it’s equivalent to “swan song” but we can see that they are dancing, not singing.

It took a book to lift the lid on the bitter tensions.

fat chequebooks (like fat wallet - but chequebooks are all the same size)

Trade gap falls to the smallest since 2003 (try shrinks, narrows, reduces, closes)

This programme “serves to line the overflowing coffers of wealthy corporations” at the expense of society’s poorest. Sarah Poulton, DM, Feb 2012 (you line pockets metaphorically because they’re made of cloth - try fill)

England unearth a new star (stars are found in outer space, not buried in fields)

racked with for riddled with (you can be racked with pains as if being tortured on a rack. A rabbit warren or ant-heap is riddled with tunnels; metaphorically a person can be riddled (run through and through) with disease, or a society riddled with corruption.)

in the 17th and 18th centuries, as traders forged their way through the wilderness... Telegraph March 2012 I expect they “hacked” their way through it.

That hopefully will unlock the whole morass. Lawyer on BBC Breakfast

Those jockeying to be captain of the ship can afford to spend their entire time backstabbing, stealing credit from rivals and waging turf wars. Luke Johnson Financial Ttimes March 2012 (They’re riding racehorses while running a ship, stabbing each other in the back while picking each others’ pockets and fighting over a lawn.)

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

Sunday 25 March 2012

A Little Party in the House

We're counting on you for a song

A Musical At Home

A little party in the house -
The first to come is Mr. Grouse.
And he has hardly settled down
When they announce Sir Fractious Frown;
And, just as talk is getting slack,
My Lord and Lady Answer Back.
This is a pleasure. I am proud.
Step in: you'll find we're quite a crowd!
And Mrs. Contradict, I see,
Is just behind you: [Door bell rings] Pardon me!
Another ring! Ah, Lady Snap,
Permit me to remove your wrap.
How good of you to come so far
And bring the Grumbles in your car!
 Now, bless my soul, I know that face!
And yet - of course, it's Miss Grimace.
These fashions alter people so!
Come in and take your hat off. No?
And who's this trotting up the stair?
Little Miss Quarrel, I declare!
So musical, so quick, so merry,
and clever with her fingers - very!
Ah, Mr. Bump, good afternoon!
I thought we might expect you soon.
 [Knock] Another knock. Dear Major Punch,
Most kind of you to rush your lunch.
Let me present Miss Whack. You've met her?
Old friends, you say? So much the better!
Lord Biff - allow me - Canon Batt.
At school together? Fancy that!
The world is really very small.
Excuse me - someone in the hall.
 Aha, the gallant Captain Kick!
Late? Not at all. You're in the nick.
And you, Miss Shindy, come along:
We're counting on you for a song.
And now I think we're nearly done -
All here and happy - but for one.
Ah, Mrs. Tears, How do you do?
So glad you've brought your music too!
What dreadful weather! Do come in.
And now we might as well begin.

Saturday 24 March 2012

Church Noticeboards II

1 cross, 3 nails = 4 given
Fight Truth Decay – Study the Bible Daily

Faithbook: You Have a Friend Request from God

Get the Son on Sunday

Get Fit – Walk with God

There are some questions that can’t be answered by Google.

God is perfect – only man makes misteaks.

Let us help you study for your final exams.

Down in the mouth – come in for a faith lift.

We are the soul agents in this area!

Almost 2,000 years old and still under the maker’s guarantee.

Worn out? Come in for a service.

Forgive your enemies – it messes with their heads. (Donelson View Baptist Church)
Be an organ donor – give your heart to God.
Read the Bible – it will scare the Hell out of you.

Unplugged? Plug in and get current with God.

Solar powered by the Son.

Church Noticeboards Part I

Buzz Words of 2006 and 2007

eating al desko
for thing or partner you want to keep
Who knew? (replaces Who’da thought it?)
lab for labrador

woollen is now wool, knitted knit and wooden wood, but roast has become roasted (vegetables)

is back
a trench coat is now a trench (like a dashboard is a dash)

His desire to create an open-ended, multivalent architecture is inversely proportional to his revulsion for crudely reductive buildings: Guardian June 22 2003
Islamic militancy is a multivalent, diverse and complex phenomenon. Guardian Feb 9 2003
Efforts to mitigate this situation take the form of the production of multivalent vaccines - that is, vaccines containing several of the strains... Guardian April 17 2001

hollow out (industries, areas)
the elephant in the room
let x be your friend
artisanal (It’s an American thing - but now it's over here 2012 - and we're sick of it 2016.)

storied for historic, legendary
Coach Kudryavtsev says Russian skaters benefit from the storied tradition of Russian ballet (Web)

do for hairdo
underscore for highlight
swell for expand, rise
Team (Insert Name Here)
making inroads for gaining ground

(for baggy trousers, jerseys – not new (slouch socks were 80s) - but no one says baggy any more

“Nobody sits down to eat any more.”
rescue dog for rescued dog
sweep to mean what exactly? sweep the board? conquer? pass through? (the first man to sweep three events)
tumultuous where they used to say turbulent
rubber chicken circuit (official hospitality serving up chewy chicken)
kick back for relax (seems not to mean a bribe any more)

bragging rights
stakeholder (been around a few years, probably part of the PFI)
go-to guy
(hotel, beach resort etc. meaning upmarket, exclusive, unique, tasteful, new, clean, comfortable, small)
shutter for close down
reality bites (film? TV?)
pap (v) (for take sneaky photos)
Who’s the daddy? (film?)
speak to for testify to
WAGs (wives and girlfriends)
boom box (a kind of wireless set)

for promiscuous person, Lothario, womaniser, playboy, creep, commitment-phobe, promise-breaker (and when did people stop saying promiscuous?)

canary in the mine, or just canary (odd because mines haven’t needed canaries since Humphrey Davy invented his lamp)

for real gaining ground? It's a stone bargain Observer Oct 8 06
cuff for bangle

“I think we are seeing a whole new way of developing social networks here” – say about any technological innovation.

tipping point

Twice on Dec 23 2006, the Times weirdly uses “steer” for “pointer”. (It was everywhere that week, then vanished as quickly as it appeared.)

Why is everybody using the expression “sorry-arsed” and variations in the week of Jan 1, months after Prince Harry used it on TV?

written up for for given a written warning for (may be American)
surge for sending more soldiers to Iraq
fashion forward
Good luck with that! (Or: A nice touch.)
time bomb has become ticking time bomb
salad bowl (metaphor for multiculturalism 2007)
People are using Jones to mean yearn. Why?
rictus is popular, but people are misusing it

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday 23 March 2012

What That Really Means...

[Men aren’t scared of commitment as such] - what they’re scared of is commitment too soon, and “too soon” simply means “before he’s thought of it himself”.

It is up to parents to determine the way they want to help their children navigate boundaries and how they define right and wrong (David Lammy, January 29, 2012) = parents should be allowed to smack their children.

"It was scripted" turns out to mean "Clarkson arranged with the producer beforehand that he'd say something about the strikers". He didn't learn lines, or read off an autocue. (Like TOWIE is a “scripted reality show”?)

Profits before environment (which translates as: profits before YOUR well-being).

That reminds me of John Lanchester's review of Intellectual Impostures and his complaints about the 'stultifying rigour' of the sciences. At first reading I took his review to be a piss-take, satirizing post-modernist attitudes. His complaint about stultifying rigour could be paraphrased as "Having to know what you're talking about is so boring." (Friend JP writes)

Had an old dealer in moaning that people are too educated & you can't get bargains any more! (translated he can't rip people off as easy) Antique dealer @LadyKentmores

When people say “there used to be a living in it, but not any more”, they mean “I don’t want you muscling in on my patch” (antiques runner, voiceover artist). But then if you’re a freelance it’s very annoying if people want you to tell them how to “break into the market” – ie give them all your contacts so that they can do the work that’s paying your mortgage/bread and butter.

More euphemisms here. More here. And here, here, here, here, here and here. And here.

You're Fired!

From CBS News:

(MRK) president Mark Timney recently sent his U.S. employees a memo which contains at least 12 different euphemisms for the company's planned job cuts and layoffs in October, but doesn't actually mention the words "jobs" or "layoffs."

Merck should be praised for talking openly about the fact that it needs to reduce its workforce by 13,000, in addition to the 17,000 jobs it vanished as part of the acquisition of Schering-Plough. Timney, however, appears to have swallowed a thesaurus of business-writing cliches before he began his email. At one point he describes layoffs as an "opportunity":

... the opportunity for employees in the aforementioned select areas to proactively "hand raise" and be considered for separation. Timney's other don't-mention-the-war maneuvers included:

"reducing our expense base." "manage our expense base" "vacancy management" "restructure" "removing more open positions" "necessary actions" "we cannot promise the avoidance of such activities." "restructuring exercise" "affected employees" "the people who are directly affected." "the need for us to change our underlying operations"

Timney also seems to be a little bit confused as to whether Merck's employees ought to challenge the status quo or follow the company's "unchanged" strategy (a strategy that required a U-turn from Merck's previous strategy of refusing to cut costs): Our strategy, which remains unchanged, reinforces the need for us to change our underlying operations and enables our ability to grow. Rather than waffling about the need for unchanged change, the entirety of the memo could have been reduced to a couple of sentences if Timney had written them in plain English. November 16, 2011

And x number of people are being “managed for value” = fired

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Political Euphemisms Part Four

Stuffy bureaucrats

= 'Aspire' is mushy talk of politicians with nothing to say. See also 'crackdown', 'get tough', 'hard working families' . Twitter

bureaucracy = socialism
bureaucrat = socialist
stuffy bureaucracy = socialists telling US what to do

Choice means no more nanny state, you work it out for yourself, and pay for it. (Friend H writes)

cohesive = not divisive
and of course divisive = turning people against the government, us
and so cohesion = everybody’s on OUR side!!!!
Francois Hollande says a top tax rate of 75% would “send a message of social cohesion”. Feb 2012 What on earth he mean?

crackdown = shelling your own citizens
doom and gloom = recession, unions having too much power

lobbying = puffing, pushing
localism, interference, activism… But revealing his action, Mr Pickles said last night: "The High Court judgment has far wider significance than just the municipal agenda of Bideford Town Council. By effectively reversing that illiberal ruling, we are striking a blow for localism over central interference, for freedom to worship over intolerant secularism, for Parliamentary sovereignty over judicial activism, and for long-standing British liberties over modern-day political correctness." Re the Bideford Councillors. First they were forbidden to put prayers on the agenda paper (to bring them in line with the law). Following a mass hissy fit, Eric Pickles unilaterally overturned the decision and justified it as above. Where to start?

malaise = recession, country not making things any more, unions having too much power

men and women of good will = people who agree with me

nanny state = socialism (when Conservatives try to get people to behave responsibly and eat sensibly, that’s not the nanny state)

patriot = Sarah Palin's tweets are minefields of coded words; for her, "patriot" is defined as, "those who agree with me." When she says "Americans," it is not inclusive. (Roger Ebert)

People don’t trust politicians (to pursue a right-wing agenda)

politically motivated = left-wing, motivated to remove a political opponent

public figures who are troubled, tormented, “been through choppy waters” (Boris Johnson) = been prosecuted for drugs, fraud, sex crimes
regime = a government we don’t approve of

shrink the state = reduce welfare

smug = socialist

social exclusion = poverty, deprivation

stabilize = put down revolutions, mop up pockets of resistance, fire on peaceful protesters etc etc

tensions = ethnic hatred or violence

The Russians/Poles need a strong leader = they need a leader who will make them respected on the world stage. Need a leader who’s prepared to threaten and invade other countries while silencing dissidents and making some people extremely rich.

well-intentioned but naïve = socialist (To Where our Well-Intentioned but Naïve Legislative Creep is Leading Us - headline from Civitas website)

Why is it that anything the Tories disagree with is politically correct? Sun commenter

Part Two here. Part Three here. More here. Don't know what happened to Part One. Try here, here, here, here, here and here.

Monday 19 March 2012

Political Lexicon

Julie Meyer of Ariadne Capital (BBC Question Time, "digital native" ) seems to have taken this lexicon down from her site. (That's not a picture of her above.) Could it be a parody? Quote starts here:

January 14, 2012

It strikes me that so frequently we succumb to the wrong language for expressing ourselves.
A friend of mine - JP Floru - at the Adam Smith Institute has started this helpful new lexicon. (Not Found on his blog too.)

A New Lexicon

Do not say/Say
austerity/living within our means
welfare state/something-for-nothing society
investment (state)/spending
free (state services)/taxpayers’ money
greedy bankers/greedy government
bailing out the banks/politicians bailing out the banks
public sector/big government
public services/services
regulations/red tape
the rich/people who have done well
accumulating wealth/saving for later
broadest shoulders/someone else
cuts/bringing back to reasonable spending levels
fat cats/entrepreneurs
wealth/nest egg
key workers/key voters
affordable housing/subsidised housing
safety net/state hammock
quantitative easing/printing money
state created jobs/private jobs taxed out of existence
fair share of taxes/excessive taxes
fairness/reward for effort
redistribution/punishing success
poverty is inequality/poverty is absolute
fair trade/free trade
he earns more than the PM/he earns less than the PM if you include the PM’s benefits
fair share/I don't know where to start to describe what's wrong here.
progressive taxation/disproportionate taxation
income inequality/reward for effort
nantional insurance contribution/tax on jobs
commercial/what people want

Sunday 18 March 2012

Neologisms 4

Metaphors, terminology...

blowing a kiss Rococo style – but blowing a kiss to the Art Nouveau. Anita Manning on Bargain Hunt January 14, 2012

circling the drain

cryptic Lazarus species The Floreana giant tortoise may be 1st ever cryptic Lazarus species, rediscovered when ppl found its genetic footprints. @edyong209

Hallmark moments = cornily sentimental moments in films

heaviosity It lacks the spiritual heaviosity of an Indian raga. “John Lewis” in the Guardian on Indonesian group Sambasunda February 16, 2012

legit, nutso Almost 400 people at Late Bar last night. This week has legit been nutso packed there!!! Is winter deadtime over? No more tumbleweed nights? @mgeils

nibbling Yesterday he was nibbling into the right direction. BBC Breakfast pundit on Ed Miliband

peanut gallery = the people in the cheapest seats (whose opinion doesn’t count)

Susan Greenfield, the neuroscientist who seems to have given up on science but constantly appears in the media telling people that ‘the internet can damage your brain,’ now has a website and a YouTube channel. A sense of irony, however, seems still to be on pre-order from Amazon. mindhacksblog

quilt of life How falling snow in the deep ocean creates a quilt of life @edyong209

sectariana Owen Hatherley on Belfast murals

side gig, side business

As Dr. Ofri writes, “[The term 'provider'] makes [physicians] feel like a vending machine pushing out hermetically sealed bags of ‘health care’ after the ‘consumer’s’ dollar bill is slurped eerily in.” PloS blog Jan 2012

wall wart
= A small power-supply brick with integral male plug, designed to plug directly into a wall outlet.

More neologisms and coinages here. And here, here, here and here. And here.

Friday 16 March 2012

More Quotes About the Eighties

Perception is reality.
 (Marshall MacLuhan)

Bad books are unreadable books, in my view, irrespective of what they say. Hard-core literary theory of the 1980s must be responsible for some of the most impenetrable and jargon-ridden prose of the past quarter century: "The center is at the center of the totality, and yet, since the center does not belong to the totality (is not part of the totality), the totality has its center elsewhere" [sic]. This is actually from one of Jacques Derrida's essays, Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences, but any of his books would do – along with any author who dares to call George Eliot's Middlemarch "an autonomous signifying practice". (Valerie Sanders, professor of English at the University of Hull, Times Higher Educational Supplement March 2012)

Paul Gross and Norman Levitt published Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science in 1994. (That long ago?) And of course, when in doubt, the text is a pseudo-hegemonic discourse critiquing the gendered dialectic that speaks to the tribulations inherent in the human condition as metaphorically represented by eroticized bodies, fissured parent-child relationships, the color white, thwarted acts of redemption and socio-political realms of intensely fraught interaction between the authorial presence and the protagonist-as-reader-surrogate. (

The entire Marxist tradition was repressed, leaving a weird sinkhole that quickly filled up with the most dreadful rubbish: wise wounds, herstory, nature goddesses… (Jenny Turner on feminism 2012)

There was a moment 40 years ago when women decided that looks were incidental to their lives. (Alice Thomson Times January 2012)

My goal isn't to defend science from the barbarian hordes of lit crit (we'll survive just fine, thank you), but to defend the Left from a trendy segment of itself. (Alan Sokal. In 1996, Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies. The submission was an experiment to test the publication's intellectual rigor and, specifically, to learn if such a journal would "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if it (a) sounded good and (b) flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions." The article "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity", published in the Social Text Spring/Summer 1996 "Science Wars" issue, proposed that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct. Wikipedia)

Lyotard rejected notions of truth and clarity as synonymous with ‘prisons and prohibitions’. Foucault shared these sentiments, claiming ‘reason is the ultimate language of madness’, suggesting that nothing should constrain our beliefs and political preferences, not even logic or evidence. Frank Lentricchia, another left-wing theorist, said the postmodern movement ‘seeks not to find the foundation and conditions of truth, but to exercise power for the purpose of social change’. Hicks’ suspicions are confirmed by Stanley Fish’s argument in
Is There a Text in this Class? (Harvard, 1982) that theorising and deconstruction ‘relieves me of the obligation to be right . . . and demands only that I be interesting.’ (An endeavour in which he, like many of his peers, has often failed.) (Eye magazine May 2001. I think "exercise power for the purpose of social change" is code for "propaganda".)

More about the eighties here, and links to the rest.

Quotes About the Eighties Part I

Saturday 10 March 2012

More Euphemisms II

What are they really saying?

= old thing I disapprove of (Julian Pardoe)
Be realistic = Do what I tell you.
Be spontaneous, live in the moment, be yourself, be positive, have confidence
= You’re on your own.

build character
= teach children morals (Character is associated with judgement and honour. Personality favours boldness and entertainment. Sarah Sands, Independent on Sunday Feb 2012)
busy = crowded (American) (busy market, streets)

bolt hole Does “bolt hole” now just mean “country cottage” or “second home”? Hampshire has been home for the past 30 years, and he keeps a bolt-hole on the Isle of Wight, where he writes his novels… Daily Telegraph Jan 2011

commercially successful David Cameron has said he wants the British film industry to focus more on “commercially successful pictures” – i.e. more mainstream ones. Charlie Brooker Jan 2012

estate agents: characterful = battlements, half timbering, leaded windows, pargeting.
period/character/dated = really old, old, unfashionable

Hollywood reboot = remake with distorted/misunderstood plot, set in different period, cast stars of the day, make Watson a girl, take 30 years off Miss Marple’s age, clunkily update, add unnecessary slapstick, car chases, explosions and shouting

human intelligence
(humint) = interrogation
iconoclastic director = oeuvre includes Driller Killer

imbued with a strong work ethic
= will work 14-hour days for hardly anything, doesn’t know UK employment law

internalise = learn, understand (but we can’t say “learn” because it’s not PC)

deeply troubled = Israel adds 227 homes to Ariel settlement and the US is “deeply troubled” (which translates as “go right ahead”.

= It is frequently described as “brave”, a journalistic euphemism for “disastrous”. Amanda Craig Independent March 2012

literary novel = It has recently been fashionable to make much of Bleak House, not in my view an especially fine novel, though the opening is a joy, because it is as close as Dickens got to writing a “literary” novel, that is to say one which it is a bit of an effort to read, and in which not very much happens for quite a lot of the time. Peter Hitchens mailonsunday Jan 12

live by your wits
= sell your body
militant secularists = unbelievers insisting on equal rights (it used to be “secular humanists”)
move forward = forget unacceptable (sorry, “inappropriate”) behaviour/forgive and forget
move on = live it down

nuanced = slippery "I think it might be more nuanced than that." The Leveson Inquiry equivalent of "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". Lee Jackson

pacify = demolish (In Rio Janeiro November 2011, when a favela was demolished)
quibble/split hairs = ask awkward questions
serious adverse event = the patient dies

sterile, stale = Met Commissioner glossary: "sterile debate" = a question on falling police numbers. "Stale debate" = any follow up question on police numbers @AdamBienkov

take the difficult decision = cull badgers (David Cameron)

Team player
is code… for someone who will allow us to do whatever we want to you. |
Results-oriented or self-motivated = you have to work hard to make any commission. Entrepreneurial = you do your own washing up, fix your own computer. Quoted on Feb 2012

utopian = doing the right thing with respect = When someone says "With respect..." he means "With impatient and patronising contempt..." Peter Bradshaw (Working-class “I’m not being funny, but…”)

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Reasons to Be Cheerful III

1823 The practice of burying a suicide at a crossroads with a stake through the heart is banned

1839 Custody of Infants Act Allowed mothers to petition for custody of their children up to the age of seven

1871 Bank Holidays Act introduces idea of holidays with pay

1873 First non-Anglican students at Cambridge

1885 First of the Land Purchase Acts starts the exodus of the Ascendancy (in Ireland)

1900 UK shop workers allowed seats

1967 Supreme Court declares Virginia's anti-miscegenation law unconstitutional

1970 A man’s right to petition a court for “the restoration of conjugal rights” abolished

1985 Badger baiting outlawed

1999 Capital punishment was abolished in the 11th century by William the Conqueror but was reinstated by his son William Rufus. Efforts to have the death penalty abolished began in the late 1700s. On 10 December 1999, International Human Rights Day, the government ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights thus totally abolishing capital punishment in Britain.

2000 In Germany, parental right to discipline abolished

2011 Anglican priests who have been divorced, or whose wives have been divorced, are allowed to become bishops.

2011 Defense Bill repeals military ban on sodomy in US

1540-1640: 48 people tortured at The Tower. It was not officially part of English law was usually used in interrogation. (@HRP_learning)

1907 The Romanian peasants’ revolt. Around 11,000 shot by government troops.

1971 Free school milk for over-sevens scrapped by Margaret Thatcher.

A form of serfdom existed in Russia from the 13th century. In the 17th century most of the peasants were made serfs. In the 17th/18th century there were several rebellions. There were also slaves (turned into serfs in 1792). Many slaves committed suicide, prompting many a fanciful explanation by the nobles and bourgeoisie, none of which was “because they couldn’t stand being serfs”. Serfdom was abolished in 1861, on terms unfavourable to ex-serfs.

45 years ago, 16 US states deemed marriages between two people of different races illegal.

More Reasons to Be Cheerful... ish.
More Reasons to Be Cheerful here, here and here.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Buzz words of 2004 and 2005

Tote that... bag

mollycoddled has made a strange and sinister comeback

tote (for collapsible umbrella, tote bag. Why, since we carry things and don’t tote them?)

road warrior

(What mean exactly? Oh well, it's gone again 2012.)

poky (seems to have come back as term of abuse, but meaning slow, provincial rather than cramped, shabby)

mimsy for girly in a tedious, whiny sort of way

came for happened (last five years)

all over the map = all over the place
Bite me! (Seems to be over Sept 2004)


slouching towards
(for blundering towards)

jump for any kind of increase

People have started talking about values again in the context of asylum seekers not understanding ours. Like family values and Victorian values, these are rarely specified. Possibly they are things like democracy, free speech, obeying the law and women having the vote, but why not say so?

refrain (for mantra – but no one says this any more)

undulate for fluctuate

I’m loving it (We’re loving Britney Spears, I’m loving the frumpy look)

push and pull factors


Graceful it’s not. Been around for years, but v popular Jan 2005

marmite for something everybody either loves or hates (eg Marmite Ken [Livingstone])

serves him well (or, if American, just “serves well”)

suck in (money, troops, business, workers)

Miss Marple is still with us (but only in the context of tweed, sadly)

BOGOF (buy one, get one free) (not new this year)

bling-bling has become bling

Has uptalking gone out? Please? (Used as "Blah blah blah? As anyone else but a moron like you would know already?")

prepping for preparing

anthracite for dark grey (why, when no one under 40 has ever seen anthracite?)

slice and dice (for plastic surgery etc)

hopping (bus hopping, doctor hopping, religion hopping)

maybe not (perhaps popularised by that nice ad for nappies with the Scottish voiceover)

dipping sauce

mojo is back

churn (for turnover? rotation? flipping back and forth? Rita churning toward Texas, Louisiana – CNN)

dislocation for disparity, disruption, disturbance and...? Michael Philips, managing partner at Apax in Europe, said there was a dislocation between the perception of Tommy Hilfiger in the US and elsewhere – Guardian Sept. 24 05 (disparity) ... which in turn relates to drug use, discrimination and social dislocation or exclusion. Guardian Dec. 12 05 (doesn’t seem to mean anything) ...said in a statement that Katrina would cause energy price volatility and "dislocation" to the US economy. Guardian Sept. 21 05 (disruption) evidence of a cash crisis that is about to cause major dislocation of health services. Guardian Sept. 7 05 (disruption, disturbance) ...committing copycat crimes motivated by unarticulated motives of political-religious protest and moral dislocation. Guardian Aug. 21 05 (ignorance? lack of connection? misunderstanding?) People don’t feel displaced any more but dislocated. (Vanished like dew in the morn 2012.)

What were they thinking?

swell for increase

there’s an X thing going on
disconnect (n) for fracture, break, rupture, split etc.

wiggle room seems to have gone out

back in the day
(a bit like controversial - think it's a euphemism for "turning people against us")

sleepwalking into/towards... (October)

matchy matchy (décor, clothes)

scale back (ie lower) charges etc.

recuse American Heritage Dictionay: To disqualify or seek to disqualify from participation in a decision on grounds such as prejudice or personal involvement.

resile (from) (recover, like being resilient)

inroads (for advances)

N-n-n-n-no (for no)

gilded for plush

All from the Guardian:

eerily redolent of so many other ill-judged flirtations with a past gilded in the memory by selective recall. (Gilded memory is a cliche, but the original seems to be “gilded by memory” which makes much more sense, i.e. memory makes ugly truth superficially beautiful by applying a thin layer of gold all over it, which is what "gilding" means.)

But the key detail that confirms his gilded existence is this: "I wore boxer shorts of combed Sea Island cotton at eight bucks a pair."
A sound system propped in the corner of the gilded dining room

Like F Scott Fitzgerald's gilded rich

Happily, the incoming month offers gilded opportunities (they mean golden opportunities)

lifted the lid on the gilded lives of the super-rich

Not even a gilded appearance by Les Dennis or a role for Kate O'Mara could save it. (What on earth did they mean?)

possessor of a life so gilded that spending time with him is dangerous for the soul

the more gilded wing of the extreme right

“Across France, the period of the Directory witnessed revenge against those who had carried out revolutionary justice during the Terror. Opponents of the Jacobins forced them from office and sought to prevent them from participating in politics. In Paris, this so–called white terror was carried out by the "Gilded Youth," a gang of youths from wealthy backgrounds who considered themselves the antithesis of the sans–culottes and whose actions eventually helped pressure the government to close down the Paris Jacobin Club, as we see in the excerpts of the memoirs of a left–wing politician from late 1794. Fréron gave the watchword to the "gilded youth" (jeunesse dorée), as they called the group he had organized.” (Web)

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.
Buzz Words of 2006/7 here.

Political and Scientific Cliches

In case of economic collapse, please pitch tent


Protesters are vociferous and shrill (and don’t have a clear message). Uprisings, disturbances and riots are fomented. People are hustled out of meetings and bundled into police cars. They are thrown into cellars or hauled into the dock. Rumours are scotched, riots are quelled and restraint is urged. Tanks trundle into cities. And dictators are always toppled.

killers go on a spree or rampage
strikes are always crippling

painstaking Research is nearly always painstaking and takes years.

Seven months of painstaking research followed. Observer Magazine Nov 29 2009

After years of painstaking research, French historians say they have solved one of the country's most enduring mysteries. Guardian Dec 8 2008

"It has taken years of painstaking research to prove this," said Dr Okasha El Daly. Guardian Oct 3 2004

“Over years of painstaking research Toto has compiled the biggest and most sophisticated database of human toilet behaviour in the world.” Times May 2010

It took 20 years of painstaking research to turn this simple idea into a reality. (BBC news on test tube babies, October 4, 2010)

The video is the result of "years of painstaking work and research"

"After many years of painstaking research and sheer hard work, a lifesize replica of the mosaic has been created, using authentic materials and dyes."

But just occasionally it's intense – Jonathan Safran Foer's latest book took "three years of intense research".

Political euphemisms here.
More political clichés here.

Saturday 3 March 2012

Grammar: Fighting for the Cause

Most phenomena are caused by something, and cause other things. Something starts them, something else stops them. They get more so or less so, go faster or slower. So why not say so? Writers are very fond of using

kick start

when they mean cause or start (they're particularly fond of saying that floods are triggered, or that icy roads spark traffic accidents). If you always write “spark” when you mean “cause” it soon loses any idea of a stray spark setting a haystack alight and you might as well use:

advance, aggravate

bring about,
build up

construct, contribute to


elicit, enable, encourage, evoke, exacerbate


generate, give rise to

impel, incite, increase, instigate

lead to, lessen

magnify, make possible, motivate

power, promote, prompt, provoke

release, result from, result in




Friday 2 March 2012

Grammar: Big, Bigger, Biggest

Journalists constantly need to say that a phenomenon has increased or decreased, is large or small, serious or trivial. Sometimes they express these happenings in terms of rising levels in a test-tube, expansion as in balloons, or explosions. But they frequently get these images mixed, ending up with exploding lists, ballooning gaps and deepening ties.

In the real world, lists lengthen, gaps widen or narrow, tension slackens. Levels, hurdles, barriers and rates can be high or low, delays lengthen, balloons and bubbles inflate (and burst), rivers and population numbers rise, slums spread and sound is amplified. Beware of using swell, expand, balloon or shrink when you mean rise or fall.

There’s a fashion for using big to mean serious. But then what do you do when you want to say something’s large? Writers use large, big, high, deep for severe, great, tough, extreme, important, chief. They use biggest for worst, best, most important, main, top, most. They use hefty for large, serious, impressive, leading to absurdities like “hefty decline”. So hefty means big, and big means serious or extreme... and severe means big? (It could be worse – they used to say everything was major. And then they suddenly stopped.)

A big concern about the national debt (grave)
would face big antitrust hurdles (high)
big concerns (serious)
Berger says this new species offers a big clue as to what was happening in the 100,000 years in between. ABC news April 2010 (important)
played a big role (prominent)
The biggest way to reduce carbon emissions (best)
Overpopulation is the biggest factor (main)
Perhaps the biggest lesson companies can learn... (most important) June 2011
the biggest hangover I’ve ever had (worst)
It occupies a huge niche in Asian American culture. (Niches are small. A huge niche would be a cave. You mean “important”.)

His works have had a large influence on contemporary thought. Wikipedia (great)
demographers report a large decline in family size (Confusing, as we're talking about families getting smaller – you mean steep.)
The IMF was the target of a “large and sophisticated” cyber attack. June 2011 (serious? widespread? large-scale?)
as his legend has grown ever larger (greater)

the largest tourist destination (most popular)

There are several reasons why I haven’t attempted to become a UK citizen, the biggest of which is that it costs £735. Tim Dowling, Guardian May 10 (most important)
the biggest scientific quest of all time (greatest, longest, most important)
the country’s biggest newspaper (the newspaper with the largest circulation in the country)
hugely limited (severely restricted)
big mileages (high mileages)
one of the biggest victims (one of the worst-hit)
The biggest rule that people should set themselves is: no pay for failure. Sir Stuart Rose June 2011 (most important)
Snake populations worldwide suffer big declines New Scientist June 10 Don't you mean "snake populations worldwide get much smaller"? How about "snake populations worldwide decline sharply" or "shrink alarmingly"?

River deep, mountain high

So how deep are the levels of fraud and misconduct? BBC World Service Web page, Sept 00 (high)

It is part of the deepening crisis enveloping the dome. Guardian Sep 13 00; The diplomatic row over the Falkland Islands deepened dramatically. Times Feb 24 10 (worsening, worsened)

cooperation (greater)

exploding costs (rising)
exploding lists (lengthening)
Agents tell me that there is an explosion in tenants unable to move. (huge increase)

growing levels (rising)

a heavy level of redundancies (high)
hefty decline (sharp)
high-paced (fast-paced)

The Antarctic ozone hole has not become more severe since the late 1990s... World Meteorological Organization report August 2006 (bigger!)
Periodic Table swells as three new elements named (lengthens, grows)
Officers warn of thin troop levels. headline Wall Street Journal March 03 (low)

His family was socially prominent (his dad was Mr Big), though his performance was outstanding and the question was salient. (And the Cardinal was known as "His Eminence".)

Thursday 1 March 2012

Buzzwords of 2002 and 2003

The Shard

It seems sooooo long ago.... boot-knocking? swing by? grey goo?

celebrate (diversity etc)
In France, insecurité is fuzzword for crime
for strengthen, intensify, exacerbate etc
shard “Three interlocking shards of aluminium are designed to represent the ravages of conflict on land, in the air and on water...” Guardian July 3, 2002 re Daniel Libeskind’s Imperial War Museum in Manchester. "Asenbryl hand dyes plastic tubing in rich colours, before slicing them [surely it?] into individual shards and threading them together." Press Release from Yorkshire Sculpture Park

meaning idiot
thinking outside the box (August)
baby steps
Shroud-waving was a proud tradition during the 1992-1997 Major government, a time which to most MPs seems as distant as the pre-Devonian period.” Simon Hoggart

ragtag (for armies without uniforms eg the Afghans)
the skinny for “the knowledge” (Front page of Guardian Guide Nov. 16, gone 2012)
mojo (Sept)

bada bing!
(There’s even a café called this in Clerkenwell. And now nobody says it any more 2006, or in 2012.)
How dull/silly etc. is that? (Been around for some time.)
wrenching for agonising
present but absent (like it)
swing by (October) (gone out 2004)

("our" compensation culture, customer care culture, canteen culture, victim culture, entitlement culture - still flourishing)

best practice
(around for a couple of years)
going north/south (for going kablooie)
global now means international

(Evening Standard Dec 2 02 CoE is “moral hinterland” of the nation. Something like “moral foundation”?)

is not an option

high maintenance

for crash, take a dive etc

Mad as a bicycle/brush/goose/snake/fish/bell/pink balloon/box of frogs/bag of spiders/cut snake/hornet/bucket of toads

You say that as if it was a bad thing!
road kill

witches’ knickers
- plastic bags stuck in trees (Guardian 2/12/03) (or witches’ britches)

of the street
New Archbishop says we mustn’t adopt the morals of the street, Bruno Schwartz spoke Russian/Polish not “the Yiddish of the streets

street for "the word on the street"
boot-knocking is the new bonking (Obs March 2) From States, just hit here. (WordSpy's Paul McFedries writes: This phrase originated (or, at least, was popularized) in hip-hop/rap circles as "knocking the boots" or "knocking boots." Rapper Candyman used the latter phrase as a euphemism for sex throughout his 1990 LP Ain't No Shame in My Game.)

the lollipop look - losing so much weight that you look like a lollipop, ie your head looks too big for your body (people who do this are Lollipop Ladies 2005)

big tent (Bruce Springsteen and IDS, March 03 “Your big tent cannot be big enough to include Ms Short and Donald Rumsfeld.”)

chops for skill/talents

(journalists in Iraq) (March)
embeds (embedded journalists)

spoils (archaism revived for war coverage on TV)
toy boy became boy toy (gone now 2012)

grey goo
(May - some scientific process threatened to turn the whole world into grey goo and Prince Charles was quite worried about it)

hurting for damaging (hurting the investment rating)
hurting for suffering (She’s still hurting)
minority (for member of a minority ethnic group) (US)
torpedo for destroy

(world) (Jacques Chirac) The French very keen on “poles”. But surely you can only have two poles, a north and a south? (Means "world no longer ruled by only two great powers".)

pumped (up) for chuffed, bucked, gung-ho etc
pump for asthma inhaler

destination events/shopping/weddings
sleb (celeb) Guardian June 18, 2003
event TV/films (you watch TV to have something to talk about)

is back (July) but only when referring to Demi Moore’s new one, which cost (insert enormously high figure here).

mired to mean stuck (still everywhere 2012)
target now means aim
slice and dice
comfort zone

amuse bouche
for amuse gueule (maybe nobody can spell or pronounce “gueule”) (and what happened to “bonne bouche”?)

sclerotic for hidebound
modern (has been rehabilitated and is the modern word to use when you want to say “modern”)

No one can mention tweed without saying Miss Marple.
Deal with it/get used to it/get over it

Not a good look
(Needy is not a good look – and this is not a new idea. It used to be “Desperation is not attractive.”)

hobble (for hamper. Suppose people have been told not to say “cripple”.)
greenwash (cosmetic attempts by firms to appear environmentally sensitive)
big up
top dollar
get a wriggle on
(over already 2004)
(became bling)
it’s not rocket science (has replaced "It’s not brain surgery".)
joined at the hip

More here (90s, 2000, 2001).

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.