Monday 29 July 2013

Mixed Metaphors 9

Slough, Morass or Mire of Despond

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

In March 1962, President Kennedy was mired in the arms race. (Times 2013 How can he run a race if he’s stuck in the mud?)

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.)

first out of the blocks
(Times Mar 2012 first off the blocks (running), first out of the traps (greyhounds))

bolt the stable door after the horse has, er… (It’s “shut the stable door after the horse has bolted”)

Sometimes I wish I could reign in my imagination. (rein in – horses, not kings)

He’s a legal beagle. (It’s “eagle”.)

He played it cool and collective. (imdb commenter That's cool, calm and collected.)

wives’ tale for old wives’ tale (They’re tales told by old wives, not old tales told by wives.)

His glance was almost literally riveting. (Radio4 on Rasputin)

drumming the point home for ramming or forcing (You drum a lesson into a pupil’s head; you ram home a point, like the point of a sword.)

You reap what you sew. (Web)

the proof is in the pudding ("The proof of the pudding is in the eating" is the usual cliché.)

They hissed me like the pantomime dame! (Daily Mail man on BBC breakfast September 20, 2011 You hiss the villain of the panto.)

The real Mrs Beeton was in fact a strip of a girl who could not cook. (Guardian 2006 That’s “slip” of a girl, as in young plant or sapling.)

‏In my short office career I once saw an internal ad seeking someone who could "think outside the envelope". (@xiij)

It could further inflame tensions./Tensions are combustible. (BBC News July 8, 2013 Ropes or cables under tension may snap, but are unlikely to catch fire.)

You’re batting up the wrong tree. (Dogs bark up the wrong tree where the prey isn't hiding.)

I will never step foot in that place! (set foot)

We love the idea of noble hoary handed sons of toil. (They're horny handed, from all that toil.)

It could be the final death knell in Blackpool’s coffin. (BBC News You close the coffin with nails while the death knell is rung.)

It’s higher paid males over-indexing and inflating the seven-letter bucket. ( You fill a bucket, inflate a balloon.)

They were in a hermetically sealed bubble. (Bubbles are already airtight.)

How much will inward investment feed property bubble? (Twitter What do you feed your bubble?)

At first sight, Henrietta Molinaro’s prints of flowers, tree trunks and butterflies look as if they have been excavated from the archives at the Victoria and Albert Museum. (Only if they keep their archives in a flower-bed or have buried them in an archaeological dig.)

Owen Jones is a “braying jackal”. (Fox News, June 2013 They mean "jackass".)

I have to be the canary whispering in the Roman emperor's ear. (Jeremy Hunt in the Times Canaries in mines warn of vitiated air; in triumphal processions, a slave would constantly murmur in the Emperor's ear: "Remember you are mortal." )

Pandora is out of her box! (Pandora's box held all the evils of the world. They told her not to open it...)

I have a deep-seeded wish. (That's "deep-seated".)

milk the public purse

unleash a revolution (You can only unleash hounds.)

bite the bullet on the head (Speaker thinks it means “nip it in the bud”. Pre-anaesthetics, wounded soldiers on the battlefield were given a lead bullet to bite on while they underwent surgery.)

Mushrooming legal highs leave control system floundering (Fungi meet fish in a Guardian headline)

She had a chequered past. (Only if her life went from good to bad and back again, or she moved from a nurses' hostel to a witches' coven to a yoga retreat. Think of a chess board with black and white squares.)

We don’t want the heavy hand of government telling us how to do this. 

Part 8 here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Art Shows in London and Eastbourne

Tate Britain
Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life

To 20 October
The critics have been rather mean-spirited about this show. Is Lowry just too popular? Is his reputation terminally tarnished by that dreadful song about "matchstalk men"? HIs simply drawn figures inhabit townscapes showing the sooty terraces where they lived, the churches where they prayed, and the bleak factories where they worked. If you scraped off the crowds, the pictures might look more beautiful, and gain more critical approval, but the grim architecture, polluted rivers and damp wastelands would have no meaning without them.

Victoria and Albert Museum
Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s To 16 Feb 2014
The Mud Club, the Wag Club, the outrageous clothes and makeup. Sculpt your hair any way you like it! (It's sponsored by Tony and Guy.) Dear V&A, can we have 80s décor next? Meanwhile you can get the look at (More décor here.)

Dulwich Picture Gallery
An American in  London: Whistler and the Thames
16 October 2013-12 January 2014
Whistler's views of the Thames were strongly influenced by the Japanese art that was coming into fashion at the time. He put them together from sketches made on his many boat trips up and down the river at all times of the day or night. Not everybody liked his impressionist style and layers of thin paint – including art pundit Ruskin. This show includes some of his famous "nocturnes", and the sketches that preceded them.

Towner Gallery, Eastbourne
The Lyons Teashop LithographsTo 22 September
In the 50s, the ubiquitous chain of Lyons Teashops commissioned well-known artists of the day – Edward Bawden, John Piper, David Gentleman, John Minton, William Scott and John Nash – to produced series of lithographs for its cafés. The vogue was for observations of Britain's landscape, buildings and social life, in a colourful English romantic style that steals from Blake, Palmer, Thackeray, Leech and Keane. They recorded funfairs, hotels, seafronts, factories, farms, fishermen and the fashions of the day. See some here.

Docklands Museum
To 27 October
The Museum of London Docklands is in a converted Georgian warehouse on West India Quay. This show includes the work of ten artists inspired by the bleak wilderness of the Thames Estuary, a place of grey water, mud, marsh, crumbling fortresses, rotting wood and rusting iron. The artworks range from photography through video to gamelan music.

And if that isn't enough, the Barbican Cinema (now moved from its basement to street level) is running a season films featuring London.

Not by Lowry

Friday 19 July 2013

Whatever Happened To....? Part 24

afros (they’re back)

agoraphobia (Is there a new word for it?)

antimacassars (They lived on in trains long after you ceased to see them in people’s houses. In the 70s they were made of bright orange synthetic material which clashed with the turquoise pattern of the seats. They were attached with Velcro.)

barbers who shaved customers

beverages (a range of hot)

black lace mantillas worn in Catholic churches

British Israelites

collecting birds’ eggs
(jolly 50s pastime we were always being exhorted to take up, because everybody needs a hobby – it has been a criminal offence since 1954. Our Ladybird books must have been out of date.)

computer journalists writing “just hit ESC and…” Their keyboards must have worn out quickly. Now they write “fingerhover”. You can’t hit a tablet. (They never started programs, they "fired them up".)



Design Centre


men in Islington wearing Afghan hats
(now men in Stokey wearing flat caps)


outrage over A4 taking over from foolscap

pot plants in offices – spider plants, mother-in-law’s tongues, aspidistras

premarital sex (60s) And the societal breakdown it was going to bring in its wake. Now even
fundamentalist Christians think it’s OK if you’re engaged.

proper French mustard (dark, mild and vinegary)

rubber hand-held showers you attached to taps

smell of rubber bathing caps


straw bale houses (The housing of the future in the – 90s? There were a few sad people living in tiny straw-bale dens.)

temperance hotels
trains that go diddly-dee, diddly-dah (rails are now continuously welded)

wacky theories about the pyramids


More here and links to the rest.

Thursday 11 July 2013

How to Be a Courtier

Petronius was a courtier – or sidekick – of the Emperor Nero, a despotic Roman ruler who liked to execute people who annoyed him (like his mother, and his wife). Nero also fancied himself as a singer and poet. Petronius kept his head (on his shoulders) by making remarks that could be taken two ways. That way he pleased Nero while never actually telling a lie. Well, that’s what happened in the film Quo Vadis, anyway.

Petronius: [watching Rome burn] Now indeed, Nero has his place in history.

Petronius: [to Nero] You will be worthy of the spectacle - as the spectacle is worthy of you.

Others have followed his example. Even Nero, committing suicide, cried out: What an artist dies with me! (Allegedly his real last words: Qualis artifex pereo!)

A disguised King Pelios in Jason and the Argonauts, to Jason: The day your father lost his throne, I fought as bravely as any man.

Tacanco: we know no other company like it. (Rupert Goodwins)

This fancy gravy boat couldn’t make my wife’s sauces taste any better.

This show takes exhibitions to a whole new level. (The basement.)

UKIP members have nothing to fear from GCHQ intelligence gathering.

We wish him all the success he deserves.

Princess Anne was always known for her taste in hats.

This year’s entries are as strong as ever. (David Lammy’s comment on the 2005 Turner Prize)

Mrs Thatcher wrote a terrible Yes Minister sketch which the stars performed at an awards ceremony. Yes Minister author Jonathan Lynn said: "The Prime Minster has now taken her rightful place in the world of situation comedy."

The price of a luxury spa break in Southport/week at a bagpipe festival in Ghent/underwater grandfather clock for your swimming pool/16-course vegan banquet has to be whatever it costs.

Gyles Brandreth: It’s weeks like this that make me glad that I’m no longer in politics.
Ian Hislop: Do you know, I think most of us feel the same.

Evelyn Waugh's Scoop featured an underling who replied to any statement by his boss, Lord Copper, with: "Yes, Lord Copper." Or "Up to a point, Lord Copper".

Or you can always use this formula:

Kill List is probably the best hired killer/Wickerman crossover I'll see this year. (@unlikelyworlds)

Surely the most notorious production ever to be filmed in Malta. (imdb on Hieronymous Merkin)

This is the most ludicrous psychedelic zombie biker movie that Beryl Reid ever starred in.

Irish Bulls

Bulls, attributed to the Irish, are sentences that appear to make sense on first reading, are nonsensical on the second reading, and on the third reveal a kind of gnomic wisdom.

I’ve seen hills compared with which that is a VALLEY! (Red Queen, Alice through the Looking-Glass)

Don’t nobody say nothing. All I want from you is silence and precious little of that. (Falcon movie)

Good morning, doctor. I’ve just come to see you to see if what I’ve come to see you about is worth coming to see you about. (Punch cartoon)

I started out with nothing and still have most of it left. (Groucho Marx)

If we make an exception for you, we’ll have to make an exception for everybody.

It’s lucky for your wife you aren’t married.

On tin of paint: Brilliant White – Guaranteed Irish Colour

Overpriced at free.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to know nothing. (via James Geary)

We have the best politicians money can buy!

Mere form without substance must collapse of its own weight. (Dean Manion)

What has posterity ever done for us? (Boyle Roche)

Two Bathetic Tales

We were distinctly underwhelmed – in fact we were thrown into a frenzy of apathy as the actress went under the top and ran the gamut of the emotions from A to B. We could barely contain our boredom. Her performance would have brought tears to a glass eye. It had to be seen to be disbelieved. Was there no start to her talents? And the production plumbed new shallows. Written by a figure of towering obscurity with a following of glittering nobodies, it was the kind of show you came out of whistling the scenery. The public stayed away in droves. Offstage the star had a heart of pure tin and her life, in a mansion with all modern inconveniences, was as as private as a postcard. Hollywood - scrape off the sham tinsel and you find the real tinsel underneath.

During weeks of low drama, and office don'ts where the wine flowed like cement and the fun never started, he wondered if his performance would ever rise above the overwhelmingly average. His trendy marketing strategy had been a howling failure. He had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. He engaged in uncivil wars with his colleagues. Would he be kicked upstairs, or compete in a race to the bottom? Or was there less to this than met the eye? After exchanging a few unpleasantries, his boss sneered: “You’re a mine of misinformation. Your ignorance is encyclopaedic. You have a great future behind you. That’ll wipe the snarl off your face!” “I’m going!” he snapped back. “I plead temporary sanity!”

More bathos here.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Bathos Part Three

Bathos is one way of being ironic. You set the reader up – then you pull away the chair just as he’s about to sit down. Or is it paraprosdokian: “a sentence whose latter part is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe the first?”

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." Groucho Marx

“Yes, sir,” said Jeeves in a low, cold voice, as if he had been bitten in the leg by a personal friend. (P.G. Wodehouse, Carry on Jeeves 1925)

[The actor had] the screen presence of a roll of lino. (Patrick McCarthy, Guardian June 27, 2007)

[Boxer] Joe Louis is a credit to his race—the human race.  (journalist Jimmy Cannon)

After more than a decade I can say: beneath the snooty unfriendly façade, Paris is a snooty, unfriendly city. (FT)

Aida is usually staged with pomp, ceremony and models of sphinxes. (The Week)

An ordinary suburban life, local comp, 2.4 tortoises. (artist Nick Relph)

Andrew Gimson charts the meteoric downfall of Chris Mullin, a Labour gentleman, as revealed in his new volume of diaries, Decline and Fall. (Telegraph 17 Sept 2010)

Arcane words are put to use, often accurately. (Gore Vidal on Henry Miller)

At age 13 they enrolled her in a convent school in San Antonio, Texas, in an effort to curb her rebellious ways. This worked as well as one might expect. (

Blood is thicker than water – but only if you add cornflour and Bovril. (Spike Milligan)

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine. (Robert C. Gallagher)

Cherie singing Like a Virgin in a Gaultier basque? Come on, you want it as much as I do. (Rupert Smith, Guardian December 8, 2005)

Discretion is the better part of valour; the other parts of it are called “Run for it,” “help”, “I surrender” and “Christ, here they come again.” (Spike Milligan)

Don’t forget she lives in dire wealth. (Muriel Spark)

Expectations ran low [for WNO’s subtextual Fledermaus]. (Rupert Christiansen, Telegraph 2002)

For those of you who don't remember Dick Emery, count yourselves lucky. (@VictorianLondon/Lee Jackson)

Giving up on a relationship is easy. But staying together when it looks like everything's falling apart - that takes real stupidity. (@GreySkyThinking)

Hans Pfitzner's opera Palestrina: like Parsifal without the jokes. (Anon)

Have spent literally minutes trying to unpick the Tory logic of "marriage taken too lightly these days, so gays who want to marry mustn't". (Ian Martin ‏@IanMartin)

He rose without trace.
(said of David Frost)

His voice rose to a murmur. (Simon Hoggart)

How do you find America? Turn left at Greenland. (John Lennon) See also: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!

I mean, who hasn't accidentally killed their secretary with a submachine gun at least once?  (Theunis Bates)

I tried using my Bible for a roadmap. It was unfortunately vague regarding the location of Guildford. (digitig@cix/Tim Rowe)

If this pianist is not heard again in Shanghai, he will carry away with him the grateful thanks of our music-lovers. (Shanghai Mercury c. 1919)

If you've never seen Arachnoquake on SyFy Channel, keep up the good work. (@GadsdenJazz:)

It was an argument based on a solid foundation of ignorance. (JP)

Mr. Attlee is a very modest man. Indeed he has a lot to be modest about. (Winston Churchill He was also known as a “sheep in sheep’s clothing”.)

Mr. Benjamin, intentionally or not, gives us a good lesson in the politics of cynicism where everyone is less than they seem. (Darrel Puls)

Nothing sounds sweeter than the sound of someone not playing the bongos. (‏@DemetriMartin)

Pure as the driven slush. (Dorothy Parker)

Re X Factor: the tension is utterly bearable. (@londonette/Sarah D)

Sherpas fell loyally into crevasses. (Clive James on a programme about the Himalayas)

So I visited Niagara Falls yesterday. The city is like a mini Vegas but without the taste. (@steveparnell)

Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that. (Bill Shankly)

Such a talent richly merits anonymity. (Susan Peak)

The '80s were about as harmonious as a particularly lengthy piece of Schoenberg. (Patrick Strudwick/‏@PatrickStrud)

The Barbican’s lack of a front door was "part of a boldly stupid plan" to put all London's pedestrians at first-floor level. (Leo Benedictus, Times September 2006)

The boundless, puppyish optimism of the performers is deeply depressing. (Lyn Gardner, Guardian June 10, 2008)

The Irish tenor - known and hated the world over. (Spike Milligan)

The makers of the 2010 version of a classic TV series have taken the best parts of the original and discarded them. (Guardian April 9 2010)

The plot dilutes, Chief Constable! (The Body in the Library, TV version)

The proposed city – snappily titled the Integrated Resort Tourism, Business and Back-up City – would be sited on an existing airport close to Osaka. (The Week)

The vast minority of our time should be spent on this. (JG)

They used to laugh when I stood up to speak - now they gag me. (Albert Campion)

Think the U.S. marines, minus the sensitivity. ( on La Légion Etrangère)

This book fills a much-needed gap on the subject. (Dorothy Parker)

This incident-packed novel gave much entertainment, most of it intentional, to its many readers. (Nicholas Parsons on A Lady of Quality by Frances Hodgson Burnett – no, not that Nicholas Parsons)

This is not a book to be cast aside lightly – it should be thrown with great force. (Dorothy Parker)

Tim Henman remains utterly unspoilt by failure. (Joe Joseph Times June 12 06)

We shall not see their like again, thank goodness. (Max Hastings on sporting dukes who shot 6,000 rabbits in a morning.)

You may recall his one big hit - if you're unlucky. (Simon Hoggart Guardian April 12 08)

More here.

And here.

Thursday 4 July 2013

Inspirational Quotes Part 38

There's something about everybody living within a two-mile radius of each other that cements a bond that cannot be broken. (Lenny Henry on Dudley, June 2013)

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. (Aldous Huxley)

Put other people’s feelings ahead of your own when possible. (Yes, but not all the time.) (@etiquetteguy/Jay Remer)

While Tamara, Tallulah et al crash around being frankly annoying we are repeatedly nudged to admire their dash and daring. But there is a limit to how many times you can read about parties at which someone rode in on a baby elephant or wore gold-laced slippers or said something witty that they had almost certaily been rehearsing or days. (Kathryn Hughes on Flappers by Judith Mackrell)

Daddy worries that my lifestyle and my lesbianism will lock me out of conservative Hong Kong high society. It’s not just high society. The whole of local society here is conservative. (Gigi Chao, Times May 30 2013)

History is not about self-congratulation. History is meant to keep the powerful awake at night. (Simon Schama)

Rummaging in our souls, we often dig up something that ought to have lain there unnoticed. (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina)

Like pornography, the industry of telling women what they’re doing wrong in relationships is recession-proof. ( in an article about a Chinese woman who claims she can train you to find and catch an “elite” foreign husband in 90 days.)

I was running a failing company in a dead-end town, I couldn’t pay my bills, I hadn’t had fun in (actual) years, my landlord was threatening to evict my startup, and I had cut out exercising and friendships in order to make more time to fail at things. So, I don’t think that was a case of my brain randomly deciding to make some depressing chemicals. I think that was a very rational reason to be bummed out. It turned out that the “solution” was to give up on a solution: close up shop, admit that the only big, adult thing I’d ever done in my life was a failure, and move to New York with $400 and zero knowledge of urban living… If you have a terrible job in a terrible city where you live with a terrible boyfriend in too-close proximity to your terrible relatives, and you try to fix everything as it stands, it’s pretty likely that you will wear yourself out early on… Go do something easy – maybe some kind of feel-good temporary job that allows you to pay your bills… Plenty of people have this idea that they want to achieve some mystical, ultimate success and glory… How many people have you known who had moderately comfortable lives, talked about breaking free and doing something riskier and more difficult but infinitely more awesome – and then they got engaged, and all you ever heard from them after that was stuff about different kinds of dresses and dishes? (

New research suggests that the higher status bestowed on extroverts in new groups may drop as their contributions become better understood. In the meantime, neurotic people may see their lower status improve. (British Psychological Society Occupational Digest May 2013)

This type of non-purposeful conversation, made up mostly of freewheeling banter, relies less on its subject matter than what you can do with it, and, usually, how amusing you can be while doing it. ( on small talk, May 2013)

Everybody thinks they are above average.
It’s been shown in loads of tests that we think we’re above average intelligence, above average attractiveness, above average sense of humour. We can’t all be. (Derren Brown, Guardian, May 2013)

Part 37, and links to the rest