Monday 24 June 2013

Reasons to Be Cheerful, Part 7

Do you remember the good old days? Shop staff were rude and unhelpful, and if you absolutely had to talk to a stranger you approached them with a frigid "Excuse me..." I do prefer today's friendly "Hello!", and cheerful shop staff.

“There’s still plenty of discrimination,” said Zachary. “But what’s changed was changed by law.” “And how does law get changed?” said Daffodil. “Social pressure.” (Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour)

1315 France prohibits slavery by royal edict
1794 French revolutionary government abolishes slavery
1802 Napoleon brings it back
1848 France abolishes slavery again

1822 Chinese Emperor Dao Guang bans acupuncture and moxibustion

1869 Tax on hair powder repealed

1885 Sir Nathaniel Rothschild made the first Jewish peer

1919 American women get the vote

1943 Nazi Germany demanded that Bulgaria deport its Jewish and Roma population to Nazi concentration camps. Tsar Boris III, then King of Bulgaria, refused, thus saving the lives of Bulgaria’s Roma and Jewish communities. (via Pipopotamus/Philip Borev)

1970s White Australia policy ended

1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act outlaws gin traps and killing wildlife with a bow and arrow

1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child “the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.” Unicef has the details.

1989 Law against fortune telling repealed (Part of the Vagrancy Act of 1824)

1990 Checkpoint Charlie dismantled

1990 Capital punishment abolished in Ireland
2002 Constitutional ban on death penalty in Ireland


1503 James IV and Margaret Tudor are married. A Treaty of Everlasting Peace between Scotland and England lasts ten years. (@Suburbman/Hamish Thompson)

1965 Catholic cardinals cease to wear the galero (an elaborate red trilby)

2013 Putin outlaws gays, gay activists and “religion insulters”

Part 6 here, and links to the rest.

Friday 21 June 2013

Whatever Happened To...? 23

American surrealist Philip C. Curtis
ashtrays made of checkerboard marble

banshees (gone the way of throwing salt over your shoulder)
barrel organs
birettas and flat priests’ hats
bizarre courtesy of men half-rising when introduced to someone
black towels
brushing your baby’s hair into a quiff
burning stubble
butter knives (and butter curls and butter pats)

cabbage stalks
calling girls Sorrel, Bryony and Fern (replaced by Willow and…)
chain letters
cocktail parties (not missed)
cold soup
confetti, defacing the bridal “going away” car with JUST MARRIED signs, throwing old shoes
cottage hospitals
cubbyholes (in public loos etc where functionaries made tea on gas rings)

dinner gongs (reborn as meditation aids)
Distressed Gentlefolks' Aid Association (still going as Elizabeth Finn Care)
Dvorak keyboard

electronic publishing
executive information systems that worked through touch screens because executives were too grand to use keyboards

fatalism (Perhaps we don't need it any more.)
fear of draughts
Frankenfoods - oh, they're back.
French manicures (Haven't they gone yet?)
fruit salad with kirsch

gammon steaks (especially with pineapple)
Gauloises Disque Bleu
Greek dancing (Was assimilated by “contemporary dance”, which was assimilated by ballet.)
green cars (and orange, red, blue, ochre, brown…)

HEP (hydro-electric power – still there, but people don’t go on about it like they used to)
Hirondelle wine (70s)

information technology
itinerant knife-grinders
itinerant nuns selling handmade and embroidered baby clothes
itinerant onion sellers (dressed as “Frenchmen” on bicycles in stripy Breton jersey and Basque beret. 50s.)

Kilvert’s Diary (Boring diary by a 19th century parson, inexplicably popular in the 70s.)
laundry baskets
legitimate aspirations (of a union's members)

Meltonian Shoe Cream
negative ions (given off by a water feature or indoor fountain, they were good for you)
official photographs of people talking on the telephone (holding a huge ancient handset to their ear)
old lady flower sellers

people who refused to leave messages on these newfangled answering machines
pine essence
police dogs
proper French mustard
rubber flooring

SAD (seasonal affective disorder)
scrapbooks (You bought them in Woolworths and were supposed to stick in cheese labels, beer mats, newspaper clippings etc. What fun we had.)
self-control (became attention management)
serving hatches (some people are putting them back in – allegedly)
soapbox derbies (too dangerous)
sunbathing (became St Tropez tan)

Tab cola
telegraphic addresses
telling people their hair was in “rat’s tails”
terrible written imitations of Irish accents (hould for hold etc)
that occult shop opposite the British Museum
the magical “black box” (still around, unfortunately)
the Establishment
the human potential movement (Potential for what? Where did it move to?)
toile de Jouy
TVP – texturized vegetable protein

unions with names like NUPE
vaulting horses
video links (now Skype)

When did people start serving grapes with cheese?
Where did “cava” come from?

More here, and links to the rest.

Inspirational Quotes Part 37

Proper love should be utterly supportive and comfortable, like a raincoat or a jacket potato. (Olivia Colman, G May 2013)

When you make me hurt you I'm doing it because I love you and want you to learn to behave. (Rosa Rubicondior)

Appearances are everything if one is clinging onto one’s dignity. (Woman at French food bank, BBC)

Never held down a relationship. (Alcoholic at soup kitchen, BBC)

We are wired to seek a romantic partner in such a powerful, fundamental way that we even get a considerable kick out of doing it by proxy. (tvtropes)

Even tiny, seemingly silly arguments can have the most cumulatively corrosive effect. (India Knight 2013-05-05)

Social cognition research has shown how we adopt mental "scripts" for different aspects of our lives (BPS Digest May 2013)

I had to listen while my manager told one of my holiday stories as his own. (BBC Breakfast May 2013 )

And yet loneliness is made as well as given, and at a very early age. Deprive us of the attention of a loving, reliable parent, and, if nothing happens to make up for that lack, we’ll tend toward loneliness for the rest of our lives. Not only that, but our loneliness will probably make us moody, self-doubting, angry, pessimistic, shy, and hypersensitive to criticism. Recently, it has become clear that some of these problems reflect how our brains are shaped from our first moments of life… It’s tempting to say that the lonely were born that way—it’d let the rest of us off the hook. … Care for a pet or start believing in a supernatural being and your score on the UCLA Loneliness Scale will go down. Even an act as simple as joining an athletic team or a church can lead to... “molecular remodeling.”

The media industry is high-status, but, at least early on, very low pay. (

Second marriages don’t have to happen at all. The clocks have ticked, the children have appeared and all societal pressure has been removed — giving you a better chance at a union that happens because you really want it to, rather than because of duty or mores. India Knight 2013-05-05

I was in a bedsit in North London working at a book shop. No money, no girlfriend and not many friends. (Psychotherapist James Davies, Times May 2013 He sent his SOAS dissertation to Oxford, was accepted there and “my life changed”. That’s right, he didn’t change his attitude, he didn't try to change himself, he didn’t try to be happy with what he had, he did something that changed his life.)

These women won’t know your past, your dreadful indiscretions, your previous girlfriends, your wretched dating history. They won’t be able to place you socially, and your mother and friends will struggle to rate them… They are outside the system, and, in their eyes, you are a blank slate, able to rewrite your past, even your own character. And the longer you keep them away from your friends, the more you can reinvent yourself and your life. If all goes well, you become exotic by proxy… (Philip Delves Broughton in the Daily Telegraph on why Englishmen marry foreigners)

Rumsfeld’s speech was not gobbledegook but a lucid, even brilliant, exposition of a complex idea: (Oliver Kamm, Times May 2013)

There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don't know.

Part 37 here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Avoid the Scourge of the Tautology Plague

Karl Marx started it off with: “A spectre is haunting Europe: the spectre of communism.” And now people write “the spectre of AIDS” when they just mean “AIDS”.

[Erotic puppeteer] Mr. Binkster has sought to teach the people of Puerto Rico to confront their inner demons, to love and not fear the miasma of sexual energy... (Fox News)

In this sort of auction, one never needs to fear the miasma of bankruptcy or foreclosure. ( (It's bankruptcy that one fears.)

Although 7,853,787 bunnies have been destroyed in Australia since the Rabbit Nuisance Act passed, the rabbit plague is on the increase. (Rabbits are on the increase.)

The terrible scourge [the Black Death] killed x million people (Fortean Times, October 2011, paraphrase) The Black Death/epidemic/plague killed etc We know a scourge is something terrible, you don’t need to point it out. And if you tell us that an epidemic killed X million people, you don’t need to say it was a “scourge”.

The rot of corruption went to the top. (Corruption went to the top – corruption is rot.)

Crisis argues that instead of doubling its efforts to end the "scandal" of homelessness, the government is in effect making it impossible for those on low incomes to pay their rent. Guardian August 31, 2011 (Crisis wants to end homelessness, which it thinks is a scandal.)

Save Aduga and her cubs from the threat of extinction. (They mean “from possible extinction”.)

The prospect of war could yet be avoided. (War could etc)

More tautology here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Too, too devastating

If you tell us how much destruction was caused by the flood, tornado or tsunami, there's no need to say it was "devastating".

Every tree has been stripped of its leaves, after a devastating tornado in April 2011. (Telegraph March 2012)

There was a catastrophic epidemic that killed 20,000 in Palermo alone.

The catastrophic fire of 1917, which razed much of the city… (Spectator Nov 2011)

devastating floods that left 1,000 acres of farmland unusable

The devastating crash of 2008 Robert Peston 27 Mar 2013

The "devastating explosion" on the Deepwater Horizon rig in April 2010 caused the worst offshore oil spill in US history and killed 11 men. (The Week)

a deadly battle in which 1,000 were killed

The brutal 1960-1996 civil war in which 200,000 people were killed. (And there are no gentle civil wars.)

More tautology here.

Sunday 16 June 2013

Tautology 5

At a decisive crossroads

Tautology combined together in one single place, with a few extra additions. (See what I did there?) (More here.)

Ditch repetitive phrases like transformational change/new innovation/worldwide global firm, says @goodcopybadcopy. (And there's no need to tell us that conflicts are brutal, or tragedies terrible.)
13 different
sizes (if two of them were the same as each other, you’d only have 12 sizes etc etc)

a grisly skeleton in its closet (A skeleton in your closet is evidence of a crime you want to conceal. It makes no difference if it’s grisly or cuddly.)

a huge head start (If you’re ahead by a head you’re ahead by a head and most horse’s heads are about the same size. A “head start” doesn’t place you miles ahead of the field.)

a ticking time-bomb about to explode

abiding preoccupation
abject slavery
absolute perfection
added bonus
apocryphal folklore

appalling poisoned chalice: We mustn’t leave behind for our children “an appalling poisoned chalice”. (Prince Charles Times Sep 12 10)

Argentina calls UK “a crude colonial power” for hanging on to the Falklands.

at a decisive crossroads

becalmed in the doldrums

big transcontinental motorways

bloody violence (in Syria)

bodes well for the future (you can’t bode backwards)

brutal axing of the News of the World

brutal/bitter/bloody conflicts (They usually are.)

close proximity
collaborate together
complete monopoly
conspire to create a thick wall of silence (NYT)

continue on, continued all along

cooperate together
could eventually end up

despite persistent denials to the contrary

down: descending down, down to the sea below, hang down, parachuting down, sink down, rain down (No, it doesn’t rain up, etc.)

dysfunctional disaster: the country “seemed like a dysfunctional disaster about to collapse”

entirely new
exploited ruthlessly
extend out

false idolatry:
For someone who has spent a career crusading against fakery and false idolatry, Penn Jillette sure is doing a lot of reality TV these days. WSJ Nov 2012 (Do they mean that "reality" TV is actually "fakery"?)

false illusionsfellow classmate
fellow co-workers
fictitious story
fierce riots

fill X full of Y
(fill X with Y)

follow behindfor the very first time (This is also baby talk.)

forward planning
free gift
from this moment on
fully insulated
future plans

global world:
We have to think about our children in a global world. BBC Breakfast Nov 17 2012

gratuitously unnecessary: It was an act of gratuitous violence that was totally unnecessary (Vicar on Crimewatch Roadshow June 30, 2011) We’re seeing more objects taken from religious churches. (Art squad spokesman, ditto)

hideous racial prejudice: The Commission for Racial Equality recently tried to have Tintin in the Congo banned in the UK for its “words of hideous racial prejudice”. (There isn’t an attractive kind.)

hollow charade
Hopelessly marooned, Shackleton ordered his men onto the ice… (Agatha Christie’s True Crime Inspirations Mike Holgate 2010)

horrible monstrosity

horrible tragedy:
“The horrible tragedy is that innocents die.” Tony Blair on the Middle East

horrific carnage, vicious hand-to-hand combat (ad for book about Richard III)

huge juggernaut

inglenook fireplace
(An inglenook is a fireplace.)

initial starting point


inundated by floods (to inundate is to flood)

Is asteroid mining the next big gold rush?

It would be nice to have the option of an alternative choice.It’s a terrible national embarrassment.It’s got linear lines! (Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Sept 2012)

Jewish rabbi, Jewish synagogue

key stage:
in education, stage

lamentable weakness: “the lamentable weakness of the (criminal justice system)”

leader arrogantly refuses to relinquish power (he could at least have done it humbly)

mass rally
Miliband is quite encircled by gurus

new innovations

orbit around

other options:
They have run out of other options.

past history (You don’t write the history of the future.)

phenomenal tragedy (of sex abuse in the Catholic church, Catholic commentator on the weekend of the Pope’s visit)

pithy bon mot

pose a real threat/pose a very real threat

potential risk/hazard/danger, a very dangerous fire hazard (Risk, hazard and danger all mean “potential harm”, not the harm itself. Try "extreme fire hazard".)

prestigious prize: awarded the prestigious prize

prior warning

quintessentially iconic

random anarchy:
"random anarchy will rule the soulless boulevards." Simon Jenkins predicts the fate of Dubai in the Guardian, 20 March 2009. (Anarchy is not known for its rules and regulations.)

return back: Jimmy has returned back to Australia. (Nothing to Declare)

reverse back
revert back
rural countryside

safe haven
secret plot

seems like
a good idea
shares in common with
She was charged with importing prohibited imports and making false misleading statements. (Nothing to Declare)

significant milestone, important milestone: hailed as a significant milestone

Stalin’s toxic curse on his children has finally died with Svetlana. (Simon Sebag Montefiore Dec 2011)

stark contrast

staunch allies:
The revolt was led by staunch allies of… (Wikipedia)

strong convictions
strong faith, firm allegiance
strongly deny
sworn enemy, implacable foe

synchronise together

temporary blip

terrible bane, extra lashings:
"The present tangle of wires in my living room ... is one of the terrible banes of my life. ... There is something about our times that mean that those who articulate rage with extra lashings of venom have found their hour." Writes Michael Gove in the Times, 11 May 2009.

terrible blood feuds, terrible havoc, terrible prophecy of doom, terrible tragedy, terrible travesty of justice
(You get the picture.)

the lamentable weakness of the (criminal justice system)

They share the same name
throughout the whole day
total paragon

transformational change:
Bill Bratton, the former US police chief now advising the government on gangs, has told the Guardian he can bring about "transformational" change in the UK. BBC August 15, 2011 (That's like saying "changey change", although "transform" has come to mean "change for the better".)

tricky dilemma
two separate groups
two-way dialogue
(A one-way dialogue is a monologue.)

UKIP candidate, Nicholas Wilson "has a keen interest in ensuring that Cambridge is not ruined by misguided overdevelopment".

unprepossessing-looking building (lose the “looking” and avoid strings of ings)

upward ascent
various different rules
visual appearance
vocal songs

More here.

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday 8 June 2013

Yet More 70s Decor

Wearing a tweed solar topee and a denim smock,
you looked round your open plan living space and admired the:

pottery owls (They’re back.)
basketwork wallpaper in black and gold
decoy ducks
enamel advertising sign
East European folk art
Gingham (in brown, green and yellow)
crocheted fungi
mushroom guest towels
brass bedstead
stripped pine kitchen
cream tiles decorated with tureens, mushrooms, tomatoes and peppers
orange Le Creuset

More 70s decor here. And here.

Badly Dressed Boy II

1. trousers belted under a beer belly

2. sleeveless jersey

3. tight trousers on older men

4. short-sleeved clerical shirt

5. There is an upper age limit for shorts.

6. long hair with a suit

7. grey loafers

8. shortie overcoat

9. white nylon turtlenecks worn with sidewhiskers (late 60s)

10. frilly evening shirt with velvet bow tie (late 60s)

11. bottomless glasses

More fashion faux-pas here.