Thursday 31 May 2012

Whatever Happened To.....? 14

They may still be out there, but you don’t hear so much about them any more. 
Acker Bilk
Bob a Job week
– back after a 20-year gap
brooches made of grouse feet (eew!)
buying a man’s sweatshirt and cutting off the welts (80s)

cakes on paper or plastic doilies
(did anyone ever put cakes on linen doilies?)
Cancelling third world debt – it caught on.
Captain Marvel (revived, went again, forgotten)
CD Roms – they became apps.
chambray and challis – 80s denim-coloured light fabric
Charity telethons
Co-operative Stores
(it’s all at the Co-op now!)
cocktails with a glace cherry on a cocktail stick
Complan, Bengers Food, Virol, Radio Malt
corded silk
cork tiles
(you could never get them quite clean)
cress (in sandwiches)
Demerara sugar
dressing gowns (we have en suite bathrooms instead)

electricity showrooms
Empire Day celebrations
experimental theatre

experimental relationships
(only a tiny number of people experimented, and the experiments failed. Very few people now live in groups in communes where you sleep with a different person every night and share child care. The children are now having therapy.)

filthy London buildings
finding it odd to see a man tapping a keyboard
(early 80s)
flower arrangements stuck into Oasis or screwed up chicken wire
getting terribly, terribly upset about men growing their hair long
glacé cherries
(especially in fruit salad)
government crèches (promised in the 70s)
grapefruit knives (flexible, with one serrated edge)
handheld device for shredding cabbage (to make into coleslaw) 

Instant Whip
large framed sepia photographs
Lemon Puffs
lolly stick jokes
(back after 25 years)
Lyall Watson (Supernature)
Middle class people owning country cottages where they spend every weekend.
Milo (available in South America) Also Kolynos toothpaste.
mohair (60s, 80s)
mosaic tiles
music hall (it became Britain’s Got Talent)
Nestle and Lindt chocolate (they’ve diversified)

panicking that in the future workers would have to “multitask”
parchment craft
pay phone cards
picnicking in a layby
sitting on collapsible chairs with a collapsible table

salmon pink
saving sixpences in dimple Haig whisky bottles
scat singing

secretarial bureaus
shag pile carpets
silver balls and hundreds and thousands
single sex schools
(getting harder and harder to find 2012 – hurrah!)
sitting by the telephone
surrendered wives

taping songs from the radio

the Eugenics Society (changed its name to the Galton Institute in 1989)
the new celibacy
the pineapple/grapefruit diet
The Song of Hiawatha, The Immortal Hour 

the word “interface”
tile-topped tables
touchtyping and shorthand
(and meals on trays)
(playing Moon River)

waist height dado rails
wall pockets
willingly paying £15 for a CD
woollen jerseys

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Dialogue II

He said, she said - it gets boring. How about woofling, whingeing or chuntering for a change?

babble Nearly half of Twitter messages are "pointless babble"' – Telegraph 2009 They became constant companions and babbled endlessly about the importance of art in one's life.

bay, bray mobs always bay, while the upper classes bray

burble To describe online discussion as a 'burble of banalities' is unfair – Guardian 2009 He grinned excitedly, his face lighting up with enthusiasm. "And then, those trees!' he burbled. Lin Carter

chunter The optimal response to companies who chunter vacantly about best practice might be the same as for a politician who calls for a meaningless package of measures on the weekend news. Switch off. The Post chuntered that Congressman Adam Schiff is up to no good.

crow Or are we all convinced, in a politically paralyzing way, that Margaret Thatcher had it right when she crowed that ''there is no alternative"?

drone (on) For years, museum officials have been droning on about the need to dispel the notion that art museums are elitist. "Come on," he droned, "I've been ordered to take you down to the bridge. HHGG

froth Milli said she only helped the boys with their laundry, etc, etc, “because I’m a humanitarian”. “I treated them as my brothers,” she frothed. Exactly what Weza said! “I’m a communal person”, “I’m a giver and I give.” In case you haven’t got it yet, “I share because I care,” she frothed. The Namibian 2011

fume “Mean and untrue,” he fumed.

gripe “I can only be in one place at a time,” he griped.

gush Wouldn't it be wonderful, she gushed, for the inmates to hear the joyous music made by her friends from the church during the Christmas season?

huff 'Well, if you're gonna play hardball, no deal,' she huffed.

lecture “Please make sure to post file durations in the Notes field,” she lectured.

natter She nattered on about Bangkok, the bad traffic and the weather.

orate He orated about local vegetation, landscaping techniques, the renaming of the ballpark, the correct side of a nearby mountain to climb, and the perfect month of the year to visit the area, which was of course not this month. Kay Hoflander

patter I didn't even catch any veiled insults as he pattered on about absolutely nothing while we ate.

snap “Fine”, she snapped “it's obvious that you love him more than you love me”.
sniff "Well, that's the official line," she sniffed. "They're bound to say that, aren't they?"

spout Wrestling described as “soap opera for men” by cliché-spouting twit

squawk 'What,' she squawked. 'How could you doubt me?'

utter Werther had a love for Charlotte. Such as words could never utter.

wail “But it's in a can!", she wailed, when the nutritionist suggested affordable tinned chicken in white wine sauce. The Guardian

warble His roster of notable achievements, which include warbling saccharine tunage. Chiara O. Scuri on Justin Bieber,

whimper The book whimpers to a close, and I have the strong feeling that the author has not read into the emerging literatures as well as he might have – there is too much of the old stuff here. amazon review of book on the environment

More synonyms for "say" here.

New life

I have left my full-time job as a sub editor. I shall miss concentrating for 12 hours a day, the biscuits and the banter. And conversations like this:

“Who do you want on the cover, Marilyn Monroe or an orang utan?”
“Let's have Galloway, Brand and the sheep.”
"The question is whether we go for a picture of Ferdinand Mount or two hedgehogs."

There are a lot of young people who want to be journalists. My advice to them is to learn touch-typing and shorthand.

Meanwhile I am free to edit your ebook, romantic novel or thesis, proofread your essay or website, or transcribe your interviews. Hire me!

You can read my cv by following the link under "Pages', top right. And you can contact me here:

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Epithets II

Of course everyone is an individual (and other such pieties), but as Miss Marple says, human nature is much the same everywhere and people run true to type.

Bible thumper
carpet knight
(armchair philosopher)
cheeky chappie
clutter buster
Congressional ribbon-cutter
Ingenious crackpots have given it zodiacal significance. Sunday Times Sept 09
crimper for hairdresser (70s)
departure-lounge novelist The property [the flat in Theatre of Blood] became the London home of departure lounge novelist, failed politician and former jailbird Jeffrey Archer. Wikipedia
determined liberal
doom monger
elbow roomer
In geography and urban planning, elbow roomers are people who leave a city for the countryside to seek more land and greater freedom from governmental and neighbourhood interference. Some are carrying out activities such as large-scale gardening, the raising of horses or other animals, or farming, or otherwise have a genuine need for the space. Others wish to pursue a rural lifestyle for reasons unrelated to space itself. (wiki)
empty suit for an ineffectual functionary or yes-man who's just there to make up the numbers
enfant turbulent
enfant terrible
femme enfant
(child woman)
femme fatale
femme formidable
(publicity agent)
format fiddlers (Clive James)
G-plan people (Kenneth Williams)
good sport (someone who doesn’t complain when insulted, bullied and made to look ridiculous)
guys in ties, lords on boards
happy clappy
(movie villain)
hurricane head
(storm chaser)
Indian giver
monstre sacré
nouveau riche/pauvre
party pooper
plus assorted lovers, writers, sycophants, enablers, academics, gun dealers, snake handlers and hangers-on. on the Beat Generation phenom
poverty pimp
power-brokers and reputation-makers, preservers and preventers
Geoff Dyer Guardian March 2012
(tout for illegal card games, nightclubs etc)
sofa spud
spear carrier
spokescreature (spokesbod, spokeshuman)

starched brain
stirrer: the calculated wind-ups of a professional stirrer (re Clarkson)
stuffed shirt
Terra-firma types
may prefer to take a jeep tour or an old-fashioned bus excursion.
the liberal overclass (Peter Bradshaw)
war monger
yet another interchangeable courtier
(Wikipedia on Malateste, a character in the Duchess of Malfi)

Illogical II

The ball is very much in their court (either it is or it isn’t - and shouldn’t it be “the ball is on their side of the net”?)

"If you deny the existence of God, that proves he exists."

"Lets talk about Augustus Pugin who would have been 200 today" - the splendid Evan Davis on bbcr4 today. Had it not been for what, Evan? @DAaronovitch (And can we retire “who was to become”?)

Stone walls do not a prison make, not iron bars a cage – but, well, they do actually.

“Lose them from learning now and lose them from society forever.” Grace Dent Guardian October 1 2011. This is turning an inclusive term into an exclusive term – “society” consists of us all. The opposite is “we are all shy really” – which means you have to find a new word for people who can't speak in public.

"William Gibson may be a kind of futurist, but his best eyes are for ruin." How many eyes does he have? @ballardian

Live every day as if it was your last. “You couldn’t function in society if you really did that.” Steven Poole The Guardian Feb 2012

More twisted logic here.


It's not logical, Captain...

a “dateline” shows where you are, not the date

Britain is now the second most obese country in the world. Guardian May 23, 2008 (Britons may be the second most obese nation, but a country can’t be obese)

cheap at half the price (shurely ‘twice the price’?)

Clegg asks you to nominate for repeal "laws that are not required and which are likely to see law-abiding citizens criminalised".

closed circle (all circles are closed)

dates to the 12th century (dates from)

Delicious is not the word! (And disgusting is?)

depthless for bottomless (American, because they’re too prudish to say “bottom”. If it’s got no depth it must be shallow.)

double edged sword (All swords are doubled edged. A single edged sword is a sabre.)

empty bottle of mineral water

forewarned is forearmed (You can’t post-warn somebody.)

free gift (All gifts are free.)

fully 70ft to mean 70ft (Gosh, that’s a lot in case you hadn’t worked it out for yourself.)

goes some way to redressing the balance, fulfilling their obligations etc (Shurely goes some way towards?)

head over heels in love (Your head is normally over your heels. Shouldn’t that be “heels over head”?)

herbal teas (Isn’t Camellia sinensis a herb?)

I could care less/they care less (It’s “I couldn’t care less”.)

jump in with both feet (You can’t jump in and leave one foot behind.)

like a coiled spring (What other kinds are there?)

meteoric rise to fame etc (Meteors nearly always fall to earth. In space they orbit.)

not to mention (But you’ve just mentioned it.)

one of the only (one of the few)

organic food (Unlike all that inorganic food you eat the rest of the time such as... salt.)

see if you can hear

Simon Rattle, still only 39 (as if he’s been 39 for several years)

surrogate mother when it’s her own egg (and own child).

that goes without saying (but someone’s just said it)

the curtain falls/rises, curtain up - but theatrical curtains usually move sideways.

More illogicalities here.



Some words look and sound very alike. They may be used interchangeably, or take on meaning from each other. They tend to be archaic, or refer to vanished ways of life. If you must use them, make sure you know what they mean.

avast, aghast, aroint, abaft, adjunct

Avast is nautical for Stop!
When you're aghast you're shocked and stunned.
"Aroint thee, witch!" means "Go away!"
Abaft is nautical for behind, to the rear.
An adjunct is an add-on.

Is this mystery opaque, obtuse, obscure, oblique, arcane, abstruse or occult?
An arcane topic is studied and understood only by a select few.
An abstruse topic is just hard to understand.
Opaque is the opposite of transparent.

Obtuse is from the Latin obtusus, meaning blunt or dull. An obtuse angle is more than 45 degrees; an acute angle is less than 45. An obtuse person is stupid, unlike those sharp people with acute intelligences. This is possibly a Victorian joke.

Obscure means hidden, hard to find, or hard to see – like a distant star.

Oblique means slanting, like this: //// But you may make an oblique, or back-handed, reference to something.

Occult means hidden, and usually refers to dark arts and spiritual realms

ScupperedA scupper is a drain in the side of a ship. If you scupper someone's chances you put a spanner in the works – or possibly open the drains so that the ship fills with water and sinks.

You scuttle a ship when you punch holes in the hull to sink it.

If you take a scunner to someone, have you fallen in love at first sight? Or do you loathe them on sight? According to Merriam-Webster a scunner is "an unreasonable or extreme dislike or prejudice"  According to Words & Uses by R.G. White  (1881), "Cultivated and well-meaning people sometimes take a scunner against some particular word or phrase.")

Redound, resound or rebound

They have different meanings, but they've been confused since Thomas Malory wrote about King Arthur and his Knights in the 15th century.

The Free Dictionary says redound means:
1. To have an effect or consequence: deeds that redound to one's discredit.
2. To return; recoil: Glory redounds upon the brave.

resound   means to echo

rebound   what happens when you overstretch a rubber band and it snaps back against your hand.

Torrid affairs
means hot
turbid means muddy
turgid and tumid mean swollen
torpid means sleepy
turpitude is depravity

More confusibles here.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Travel Writing Cliches Part III

If a place is worth going to,  people will go there. And if they didn't, the hotels, resorts and airlines would go out of business and you'd have to stay at home. But travel writers spend a lot of time trying to find a destination unvisited by other people. Or is that the wrong sort of people? 

bustling (the bustling beaches of the Med) = crowded (but "bustling street markets" are OK)

tranquillity = emptiness. You can find tranquillity off the beaten track away from the tour buses.

chaos = crowds (the chaos of holiday season)

When tourist hordes descend on a place they “spoil” it, ditto “cruise-ship crowds”.

Molise has yet to be discovered, so it's a region worth visiting before tourist hordes descend. ( ... avoids the tourist hordes that descend upon Moscow's Red Square. (

hordes of holidaymakers and sightseers teem through the streets.

Try to avoid the hordes of day trippers who arrive about 10.30am on excursion boats from Rhodes… Web

Most travellers descend on popular regions (like Europe) during the summer months, as this often coincides with their own holiday periods. The result? Hordes of tourists descending on the attractions that you want to see, booking out the funky hotel that you wanted to stay in, and packing out the tables in that restaurant that you didn’t want to miss, all on the day you’re in that town that you wanted to visit because the pictures you saw made it seem so quiet, serene and delightful. Lonely Planet blog

More clichés:

Fishermen fish, local people hunt, farm etc “to fill their bellies”.

I never again want to read the words “the sun beat down

studded with Only use for things that could look like studs, like diamonds. Fishing nets, no.

Must you mention every cobbled street?

hills roll, grassland is lush, and anything can be colourful: roadside stalls, vegetable patches...

lash     what rain does to buildings (see buffet, pummel)

industrial wasteland = applied to any collection of industrial buildings busy employing people and producing widgets

More travel writing cliches here. 
And here.

Inspirational Quotes Part 14

Just love yourself and remember that confidence comes from within - or it might be more effective to seek out a group of people similar to yourself.

Parents who protect their children from the truth – that some tasks are difficult, that they won’t be good at everything – are essentially lying to their child. [When they realise,] the children stop relying on their parents. P. Bronson in Guardian booklet on family relationships February 2012

It's also very important to realize foreplay starts long before the bedroom when the man shows kindness, respect and consideration.

A recurring theme among many women is that they try to place themselves under a "holier than thou" light, never admitting that they fooled around or dividing their number of boyfriends by five.

It made me a romantic, it made me think the reason to be with somebody was purely for love, not for a meal ticket, not to fulfil some conventional obligation imposed by society, says Cherie Lunghi.

I'm a total romantic at heart. Guardian Nov 1 08

We love telling stories in the hope that people will find us interesting. Karl Sabbagh

It is a ‘publicity story’, something you use when called on to give an account of yourself. It has some approximate relation to the truth – it began with an attempt at honesty and accuracy – you’ve repeated it so often that you no longer know what it means. Daniel Soar, London Review of Books, 21 July 2005

They were taught new hope-related skills, including identifying goals, ways to achieve them, and how to motivate themselves.

There is an existing body of research... that shows that physically attractive people tend to date other physically attractive people. For reasons not entirely clear, we all tend to gravitate to our own level of attractiveness (as well as socio-economic class, race and social circles).

As on any cruise, social groups quickly defined themselves by nationality, age and tolerance to alcohol. Anthony Horowitz Daily Telegraph March 2012

Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society. Rush Limbaugh

Everyone thinks they’re going to marry and have children.
woman on BBC March 8 21

Anxiety and insomnia are often responses to various other actual difficulties and misfortunes. And poor physical health can easily itself be one of those, and can tend to cause some more (such as unemployment, lower income, lack of a life partner). Commenter on Daily Telegraph website Jan 2012

Inspirational Quotes Part 13
Inspirational Quotes Part 12
Inspirational Quotes Part 11
Inspirational Quotes Part 10
Inspirational Quotes Part Nine
Inspirational Quotes Part Eight
More here and here and here. And here. And here too. Yet more here.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Americanisms IV

British people are picking up Americanisms – clearly the world is about to end. (Americans panic about picking up "Britishisms".) The Economist blog explains away the melodrama. It's just:

1) selective hyper-literalism: refusal to understand idioms as such
2) amnesia, or else the “ recency illusion“: A belief that something quite old is new
3) simple anti-Americanism: the belief that if something is ugly, it must have come from the States

And 4) belief that we mustn’t use any Americanisms because Americans are interfering imperialists who have far too much influence. (I said that.)

The verb gotten (I suppose we have to call it a verb?) Jeanette Winterson Times Aug 6 11 (Some Americans avoid it because they think it isn't good English.)

I caught myself saying "shopping cart" instead of shopping trolley today and was thoroughly disgusted with myself. Email to BBC online

On holiday (not “vacation”) recently, my husband’s face froze in horror when one of his children used the word “elevator”, not lift. Carol Midgley Times March 12, 2011

Here are some we've picked up and nobody seems to mind. But they should! Shall we start a scare?

aside from = apart from
A&E = Casualty
headed for bankruptcy = heading for
heads up = alert
How did they get to be so powerful? = become
hunker down = what did we say before? Hole up? That sounds rather American too.
lawmaker = MP
specialism = special subject
stomping ground = stamping ground
tomato, coyote, avocado, chocolate – all Aztec words

Americanisms we haven't picked up - yet.
accommodations = accommodation
around = round
expiration date = expiry date
leaf litter = leaf mould
panicked = panicky or panicking
= power
The pronunciation "ommahge" for homage
they add “a” to words (run afoul of, I enjoy working afield with live animals)
They say “it’s not” rather than “it hasn’t” etc
They stop people from doing things, ditto forbid (we forbid them to do things)
tight-knit = tightly knit
wood-panel walls for wood-panelled walls

Matthew Engel sounds off
The poet Coleridge denounced "talented" as a barbarous word in 1832, though a few years later it was being used by William Gladstone. A letter-writer to the Times, in 1857, described "reliable" as vile… I listen to people who know nothing of [baseball] talk about ideas coming out of "left field". They speak about "three strikes and you're out" or "stepping up to the plate" without the foggiest idea what these phrases mean. … We no longer watch a film, we go to the movies. We increasingly have trucks not lorries. A hike is now a wage or price rise not a walk in the country.

Ugly and pointless new usages appear in the media and drift into everyday conversation:
•    Faze, as in "it doesn't faze me"
•    Hospitalize, which really is a vile word
•    Wrench for spanner
•    Elevator for lift
•    Rookies for newcomers, who seem to have flown here via the sports pages.
•    Guy, less and less the centrepiece of the ancient British festival of 5 November – or, as it will soon be known, 11/5. Now someone of either gender.
•    And, starting to creep in, such horrors as ouster, the process of firing someone, and outage, meaning a power cut. I always read that as outrage. And it is just that.

I am all for a living, breathing language that evolves with the times. I accept that estate agents prefer to sell apartments rather than flats - they sound more enticing. I accept that we now have freight trains rather than goods trains – that's more accurate... [But] we are letting British English wither.  Matthew Engel on Americanisms, BBC Online July 2011

More at Americanisms and Americanisms II.
And Americanisms III.

Monday 14 May 2012

Inspirational Quotes Part 13

People adopt pets for a variety of reasons. Some simply love animals; for others, pets are a social lubricant, an easy way to meet new people.

Next to me a group of young women discuss the flaws of another, absent, young woman. The insistent analysis. It's like high school newsnight. Feb 2012 @DavieGreig

The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it. Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Socialising is an extreme sport. Harvard student

The loss of a partner, through death, divorce or separation, can leave a person bereft of confidence and wondering whether they will ever again be able to entertain or meet others socially with ease. Review of Doing It Alone by Elaine Borish and Sheila King Lassman

Being the oldest person in the office is odd. How did it happen? Was I not paying attention? One moment I was one of the kids, going out after work and drinking a lot … The next minute I am quietly responsible … not wanting to go to clubs, even if I could find them without my glasses, and looking forward to an evening self-medicating on Desperate Housewives. Carol Cooke,

Sean Stewart selected Quickstart because it advocates [life] coaching after just 30 days of training. After completing the course, he made cold calls to acquaintances, looking for clients, though they have thus far been skeptical (one called him “a fraud”). But Mr. Stewart is undaunted. “The fact is, most people don’t want a coach,” he theorized of his lack of success, following with a classic [Tony] Robbinsian “re-frame”: “What people do want, however, is a solution to their pressing problems.” NYT on life coaches, Feb 2012

For men, marriage has become more optional. They don't need it. The romantic relationship has become more central to both men and women than ever and it's a great source of social worth, of validation. But men use sexual prowess, how many partners they have, to get a sense of worth, and women will want to be loved. So in that respect women are more dependent on men and want exclusivity while men want quantity. Eva Illouz Guardian Feb 12 12

Inspirational Quotes Part 12
Inspirational Quotes Part 11
Inspirational Quotes Part 10
Inspirational Quotes Part Nine
Inspirational Quotes Part Eight
More here and here and here. And here. And here too. Yet more here.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Outrageous Excuses II

I was researching a role!

Adlène Hicheur claims he wrote the emails [to an al-Qa’eda member] during a “turbulent” time in his life, when he was taking morphine for a back injury. May 2012

I’m not voting because I’ve just had enough of everything, voting never changed anything, I’m not voting for a politician, I want to send Them a message...

Nigella Lawson says she has lost weight because a double bunion operation meant she couldn’t walk to the fridge.

You only say there isn’t a God because “You don't understand the nuance of theological argument.”

You’re not married because a) you’re afraid of change b) you deliberately choose people who are unavailable c) you deliberately choose people who will treat you badly d) you don’t really want to be.

Mohammed Amir was “blackmailed” into spot-fixing by manager and agent. He replied to texts about spot-fixing “out of boredom”.

Always fun when someone gets something wrong and then says they did it "to provoke discussion". @matr77 

Man masturbating on train claimed he was a) strumming an imaginary banjo b) panting due to a respiratory infection c) adjusting his underpants. Times March 8, 2012

A decade ago, American actress Winona Ryder was convicted of stealing thousands of dollars worth of clothes. In an interview with Vogue magazine a few years later, she blamed her actions on painkillers that she said she had got from a "quack" doctor after breaking her arm a few months earlier. The painkillers, she said, left her in a state of "confusion". (I thought she was “researching a role”.)

I didn’t build this illegal 2,250 square foot underground palace - it was my wife! Henry Tang Feb 2012

My dope test was positive because I ate a contaminated steak.

Dr Liam Fox, in his resignation speech, said he’d allowed "distinctions to be blurred between my professional responsibilities and my personal loyalty to a friend". ... Possibly he was inspired by his colleague, Caroline Spelman. In February, after abandoning her plan to privatise Britain’s forests, she said: “It is a good example of how humility is a valuable tool in a politician.” Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph Jan 2012

“I went outside to top up the electricity meter and my towel slipped off.” flasher, Northants Evening Telegraph Nov 5 2011

The espresso machine is broken = I don’t know how to work the espresso machine.
You’re not in the system any more because we upgraded when we moved offices = I don't know how to use this new system.
I could see an espresso machine and asked a waitress for a cappuccino.  “Sorry,” she said. “We don’t start the machine until breakfast has finished.” Giles Coren Times mag Oct 9 11 (I think this, too, means “I don’t know how to work the espresso machine.”)
Ellis, 18, said he snapped because she had been "moaning at him" because he had not made garlic bread for tea. BBC (He stabbed his girlfriend over 30 times.)

When I said, ‘I was a Nazi,’ all I meant was ‘Come and play with me,’ Lars von Trier Sept 2011

Sister Patricia, from the Carmelite Monastery in Baltimore [explaining why prayer didn't always work], says: "A person can be healed in ways we’re not aware of. Maybe their heart wasn't healed in this particular study but... maybe they're meant to be ready for death in a fuller way... that's healing in itself." (This goes with "The real miracle of Lourdes is that so many people repent.")

Philosopher Jeremy Bentham wrote an entire Handbook of Political Fallacies on parliamentary excuses ("We can't possibly do that because..."). Writer Sydney Smith came up with a shorter guide.
This is straight out of the book:

David Burrowes, one of the organisers of the campaign against [gay marriage], told The Independent he is "cautiously optimistic" the proposal will be defeated in the Commons because it would "fracture" the institution of marriage. Mr Burrowes, parliamentary aide to the Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin, insisted there is strong opposition to gay marriage across the Conservative Party spectrum. "Many colleagues are worried that it would fundamentally affect how marriage between a man and woman has historically been viewed in this country," he said. "There are strong doubts that we need to go down this path. It would open up a can of worms and a legal minefield about freedom, religion and equalities legislation. Gay marriage is a debate we don't need to have at this stage. It is not an issue people are hammering us on the doorstep to do something about. It is important that there is a reasoned debate around how we view marriage rather than about homosexual rights. It may open up old wounds and put people into the trenches; no one wants that." He denied that dropping the plan would jeopardise Mr Cameron's modernising credentials. "There are many other ways that the Conservatives can show we are a modern party – not least our social justice agenda. This is too important an issue to decide in terms of where it positions our party." Independent January 17, 2012
More Outrageous Excuses here.

Archaic Words III

The Middle Ages are so over

arrogate to yourself: claim
abrogate all responsibility:
deny, devolve
battle, combat
: fight
beguile: bewitch

: involve

high and mighty
(1548 HALL Chron., Edw. IV 229 Right high and mightie prince, right puyssaunt and noble kyng.)

Iran is sabre-rattling over its nuclear ambitions.
mettle: spirit
: disputes

(an appetite): satisfy
save, save for, save only for: apart from
scud (clouds across the sky)
(and other words for fight like fray, spat, do battle, fracas, skirmish)
sullied: grubby

tantamount to
(means “such amount”. paramount = top amount. Norman French): equivalent to
teeter on the brink
to boot:
as well

wrath (incur the wrath of X): anger

Archaic pairs here.
More archaisms here.
And yet more archaisms here.

Jobs You Didn't Know Existed Five

All genuine. Usual disclaimers apply.

Now in mini e-book form:

78s DJ (of 20s jazz)

Add/restore plasterwork details to houses (coffered ceilings, rose mouldings, cornices ect)

architectural psychologist

china matching for when people smash bits of their dinner service

deep clean flats for tenant handover

design high-performance backpacks with gadgets and fleece-lined pockets for your sunglasses

dog nanny: people in India buy dogs and then hire a caretaker to feed, wash and walk their dog

forensic sculptor

freelance bailiff

for Booker prize judges

gold-plater for dictators’ guns, sofas, typewriters etc

face jobs:
white man hired to make company look more successful, white woman hired to make CEO look more successful; professional queuer from Weird Asia News

invent, make and market all-in-one duvets and covers that you can put in the washing machine

look up other people’s family trees

make upmarket garden sheds (home offices)

manufacture meditation/prayer pods

nanny to the super-rich

organise “pamper parties” for children or adults

organize 40s parties like @Dambustersball


professional crop circle maker (firm’s logo, pattern for advert, take photo and sell postcards, calendars, posters etc)

provide onsite masseuses to offices and “pamper parties”

purvey camel’s milk

run a “tutorial college” that guarantees exam passes by giving students the answers

superfood grower: search scientific literature for next superfood and start growing it. Seed press with stories about its superness and hope to start a trend.

sheep rustler

steam clean carpets

truffle hunter

write for video games (instead of scrabbling for copy editing/copy writing freelance work and getting paid £8 a week)

More here and here. And here.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Jobs You Never Knew Existed 4

Now in mini e-book form:

bespoke wedding jewellery designer
blagger (see NotW scandal July 13, 2011)
corporate house dick: you spy on the employees through their computer use
pet diet designer
theme park queuing technology designer
fake log designer
ebay drop shipper
infomercial writer

home manager: member of faux family which lives in a (furnished) empty house that’s on sale – to give it a lived-in look. Apparently empty houses don’t sell. Showhomes of Nashville, Tenn. Times May 5 2011

MP portrait dealer "In his early twenties, Philip Mould started buying cheap portraits of lords and members of parliament that had found their way to America, and selling them back to the House of Commons Advisory Committee on Works of Art at a profit."

 Join a dating site, flirt with several people and persuade them to give you money for operations, flight to the UK etc.

Join the police, infiltrate a radical movement, and send in invented reports. Offer to mislead the police. Tell the police you’ve misled them etc etc etc

lead tours of artists studios in Shoreditch, Homerton etc
lead tours of modernist architecture in your town
make exotic food to order and photograph it
make fake Titanic memorabilia and sell on the internet
make very grand sundials that sell for circa five grand
make heated foot mats
manufacture dummy birds of prey to scare off pigeons
medical ghostwriter

National Trust room dresser (they get books for the shelves from a central NT book depository and dress rooms with what the person who once owned it “would have” read.)
organize safaris to kill endangered species

police lip reader
run a pet crematorium
run an olde worlde farm with free range hens and ducks and do BandB and let guests make hay, feed animals etc (they exist – they’re called haycations)
run care homes
run fly-fishing courses
sell ethnic food from a van
set up a pawn shop
source books to be used as décor (GA Henty and school stories seem to be in)
start a Ponzi scheme
tree house designer and builder
van customiser
visit European music festivals and steal valuables from tents
witch – cast spells for others (advertise online)

All genuine from CareerBuilder:
A: Actor for haunted house
B: Bingo announcer
C: Clown for rodeos
D: Drawbridge tender
E: Eye glass buffer
F: Fingerprint analyzer
G: Glass sculptor
H: Hot rod builder
I: Interpreter for government agency
J: Jelly donut filler
K: Karate instructor
L: Lifeguard at nude beach
M: Military role player (played Iraqi citizen for military sensitivity training)
N: Note taker for college students
O: Ocean scuba guide
P: Phone psychic
Q: Quiz writer for competitions
R: Rescue squad for pets
S: Stand-in bridesmaid (for weddings where the bride didn't know enough people)
T: Telemarketer for a cemetery
U: Urinalysis observer
V: Voice-over specialist for movies
W: Window washer for skyscrapers
X: Xmas tree decorator
Y: Youth boot camp instructor for juvenile offenders
Z: Zoo artificial inseminator

More here, here and here.

Jobs You Never Knew Existed 3

Now in mini e-book form:

actor who plays corpse in crime reconstructions
aerial photographer/cinematographer
anti-holiday organiser: offer weekend breaks at Little Chefs, or drab bungalows by motorways in northern France. Get a real sense of the life of the people with a week in a Paris banlieue, miles from any narrow cobbled streets, bustling markets, flourishing artists’ quarters or vibrant old towns.
art looter (“clandestine excavator”)
astroturfer: fake blog commenter who adopts 70 personae to push corporate viewpoint

birdseed grower
cake designer
for 5,000 royal wedding invitations
costumed guide at London Dungeon
creator of fake identities for people who want to disappear

forensic cleaner

forensic IT
forger of disabled parking badges
Irish war piper

kennel maid
lookalike stand-in for star
to turn up to boring celeb appearances (remember the rumour that the royal family had these?)

manufacturer of garden mirrors
Mary’s Tea Parties
– she brings a tea party to you, wherever you are
: The truth is, if you can afford it, you can have your own private uniformed force, and your own highly experienced, highly trained and fully resourced private CID. Energy firms, just like many other companies, seek cost-effective solutions to issues that can damage revenue streams, branding and assets. It's a rational business decision for them to use every available legal tool to manage threats to their operations. Deal with it, because we're here to stay. Peter Bleksley Guardian Feb 2011

oyster pirate: the writer Jack London was both an oyster pirate and an oyster policeman (in San Francisco Bay)
queuer (for new gadgets/clothes etc) - hold place for people who don’t have time to queue
stable girl
writer of healing poems for those who have lost pets

More here and here. And here. And here.

And in G.K. Chesterton's The Club of Queer Trades. My favourite is the man who makes egg-shaped pod houses to be installed in trees (accessed by rope ladder).

Friday 4 May 2012

Dangling Modifiers II

Dripping with diamonds – as in Revlon’s 1952 ad for Fire and ice lipstick – the post-war economy brought money and women knew how to spend it. Times Sat mag, June 11 2011 (What was dripping with diamonds? The postwar economy? Money? Women?)
Born in St Louis, but soon moving to California, her playwright father would move the family to New York, Paris and London. Indy, Aug 2011 (She, not her father, was born in St Louis…)

Detained for over a month by Beijing police, fears are growing for the safety of the Chinese artist. Guardian standfirst May 10, 2011 (Weiwei, not “fears”, has been detained etc)

One of the very first gravel gardens, owner and designer John Brookes was ahead of his time. Telegraph May 2012 (John Brookes is not a gravel garden... you get the picture.)

Worked in the round on double-pointed needles, you're always looking at the right side of your work.

Flooded with natural light, its architect owner has created a home full of drama and surprises.

Facing a subsequent malpractice suit, the funding for his experiments is cut. @ballardian

Made from mahogany and dating from the 19th century, we are sending them off to auction with a price tag of £180. Jenni Bond on Cash in the Attic

Miles from the big cities, you’d be forgiven for wondering why Prestwick is here at all. Neil Oliver on Coast

With a dash of Wilde and a touch of Shaw, we overlook his works at our peril.

Now a beauty salon, I was lucky enough to spot this one having stopped to photo a ghost sign whilst heading home toward the A4. fadedlondon blog

Wearing a yellow dress, a green cardigan and a battered old pair of sandals, Mrs Cameron’s bump was clearly visible. Guardian August 24, 2010

More dangling modifiers here.

Thursday 3 May 2012

Great British Understatement

The Greeks called it litotes. What would the British do without understatement? When people are yelling and screaming and running round in circles you ask: “What’s all the fuss about?” If a friend is severely ill you say he’s “feeling a little sorry for himself”. You refer to World War I as “the late unpleasantness”. The retreat from Dunkirk was “no picnic”. If you’re surrounded by utter disaster you say “conditions are suboptimal”. You reserve overstatement ("an utterly appalling hat") for things that don't matter.

The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage. Emperor Hirohito surrenders

These films have their defenders. (That's damning with faint praise.)

Her novels never troubled the best-seller lists.

"Duchesses do not patronise these conveyances extensively..." Prospectus for the Central Line, considering fares 1891 via @VictorianLondon

A double-humped camel makes a curious appearance [at Rosslyn Chapel], even though such an animal was rare in Scotland at the time.

The Pond for the Atlantic Ocean

The scheme went under the rather snappy title of State Plan Theme 1425. Pete Clark Evening Standard September 19 07

A war abroad is "a little local difficulty".

According to Jonathan Miller, an upper-class American described a war situation as "rather ghastly".

More here.