Wednesday 6 March 2013

More Clichés


Isn’t it wonderful that our language is so diverse that people can choose these colourful expressions? What would happen to poetry without them? (It would be a lot better.)

Reading this book is a bit like being trapped in a Past Times catalogue. Although the writer's story spans the 1850s to the second world war, her narrative hangs suspended in a de-historicised past, carelessly furnished with pretty ladies, wry clergymen and blunt military men who make rotten husbands… In the Bodleian she finds "a smiling and helpful young man in the splendid manuscript room"… It degenerates into a gushy heritage tour around mellow-stoned rectories, country houses and ancient seats of learning… (Kathryn Hughes Guardian 2004)

sage advice, unmitigated disaster: “He is, however, the kind of author who in the absence of hard evidence resorts to the well-tried scholarly technique known as making it up. ‘Inspector Thompson,’ he writes at one point, ‘permitted himself a rare smile of satisfaction.’… Fanny and Stella, described on the dust jacket as ‘dazzlingly written’, is full of naff phrases and clichés. Bouquets are the order of the day, advice is sage, disasters are unmitigated, rooms are too small to swing a cat in and events go swimmingly or arrive like a bolt from the blue.” (Terry Eagleton on Neil McKenna’s Fanny and Stella, LRB March 2013)

unpleasant weather is always “decidedly” something (cold, chilly)
what fog is
treacherous: I like it when weather is described as “treacherous”. I did once lose a girlfriend to some mist. (Matt Suddain/@suddain)

Are traditional costumes never drab? Is authentic food never inedible? Are sleepy fishing villages never dull?

bustling: the bustling Muslim quarter (Sunday Telegraph 2012)
Other cultures are always “fiercely” proud or independent. “Zuma, 70, who was born into a polygamous family and is fiercely proud of his Zulu heritage.” (The Week)
expanses: always vast
overdeveloped: places we avoid
tranquillity: You can find tranquillity off the beaten track away from the tour buses.
blanket: Forests blanket hills.
teem: Wildlife does this.
trippers: Arrive on excursion trains and from cruise ships which enable the wrong sort of people to get to less accessible places we thought we had all to ourselves. "Kenya and South Africa, where hundreds of thousands of tourists traipse about every year gawping at animals, in Botswana it's altogether more exclusive - as well as massively more expensive.” (FT, Nov 2012)
travel: In your Spanish hotel, your maid is called Concepcion - or Circumcision.
unspoiled: no “tourists”

Re HS2, is there anything other than “picturesque” countryside? i.e. Can the countryside ever be ugly or worthless? (Charles Holland/@fatcharlesh)

Piazzas, always “windswept”. See also Bleak Underpasses. (Hugh Pearman/@hughpearman)

blot on the landscape: Terms that should be barred from any aesthetic debate: blot on landscape, emperor's new clothes, my 3/4/5 year old could do better than that. (Charles Holland)

I'm in favour of both planning & protection but could we talk about new housing without that phrase "paving over the countryside" coming up? (Charles Holland)

flow: Now means knock down all internal walls and turn your house into a “space” or “family home”.

Journeys, delays and lists are long or short, aspirations high or low, questions important or trivial.

with such big aspirations (Relocation, Relocation): high aspirations
but there is a bigger question: more important
the big worry: the main worry
huge casualties: numerous
A big rule of thumb when cycling is to avoid major streets and thoroughfares: important (
Plaques along the route provide the biggest clues to its existence: the best clues (
big delay: long delay
The biggest reason people come to our site is to save money: the main reason
They all have a huge life journey to go on: long journey (Winterwatch)
They have a big wishlist: a long wishlist
In March, with the publication of a new novel… the list will swell: It will lengthen. (Prospect, March 2012)
massive jail sentences: long

crush, quash: Hopes are always crushed, rebellions quashed.
what violence does
send, drag, throw:
We send people to jail, regimes we disapprove of drag people off to jail, or throw them in jail.
roam: When a state breaks down, militias tend to “roam unchecked” and there are often “clashes” between different groups.
roll: Tanks roll into a conquered city (when they’re not trundling or rumbling).

less inclined to forge an ironic distance: to establish
spawning in its wake an entire industry: creating
the images that fuel revulsion: provoke

away from prying eyes: out of sight
belch: “the Gothic ornamented chimney of the Edgbaston waterworks, which in the writer's day would have belched smoke from the steam engines”
blunder: what bees do
brutal: Out of the crucible of last year’s brutal illness… Try “severe”. (Guardian Aug 16 2012)
cavort: what people do in the nude

When did you last see a chocolate box with a sentimental scene on the lid? They still survive on biscuit tins, however. So it’s “biscuit-tinny” from now on.

crippling: what strikes are
find, achieve: You find fame, but achieve notoriety.

How do you concur? Heartily, of course.

humiliating: Political climbdowns always “humiliating”. (@hughpearman)

mess: If I hear that garbage mantra “economic mess labour left us with” one more time I'm going to scream! (Rich Firth-Godbehere/‏@mrgodbehere)

outrage: always “faux

overwhelmingly: mainly, largely. (Yes, they’re doing it in large numbers but we can’t be “overwhelmed” every time.)

What research is. The reconstructed temple of Trajan at Pergamon, where German bv  archeologists have painstakingly excavated for 130 years (Daily Beast)

panic: Now means “broadcast weather warnings” – and “chaos” means “traffic may be disrupted”.

pitch perfect, picture perfect, picture postcard perfect: all became popular long after cliché’d picture postcards faded from the scene. Try “picturesque”.

rekindle memories, reignite controversy: revive

Travel-writing clichés
Political and scientific clichés
Catechism of cliché

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