Thursday 26 July 2012

Clichés and Received Ideas

Those factoids that everybody knows, those bromides that everybody wheels out: Gustave Flaubert (pictured) called them "received ideas". He collected them into a dictionary, and I have copied him. My new ebook Clichés: A Dictionary of Received Ideas is now available from Amazon at the low, low price of 0.75p.

Here's a sample:

LADYBIRDS Hate the colour purple.
COLOURS How do we know that what we see as “red” is the same as what other people see?
ELIZABETHANS Had appalling table manners.
FLORENCE, BRASILIA ETC It always rains without fail at four in the afternoon.
PLOTS There are only five plots.
GOLD A person who is gilded all over will die because their skin can't breathe.
LOS ANGELES They arrest you for walking.
PHILISTINES Were really sensitive potters.
NETTLES If you hold your breath they won't sting you.
WATER Runs down the plughole anticlockwise south of the equator.

Sir Thomas Browne in 1672 wrote a whole book on people's stubborn insistence on believing that ground glass was a poison and sheep bred on hillsides had one set of legs shorter than the other. They even thought that mistletoe grew on trees from seeds carried by birds, the ignorami!

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