Thursday 28 November 2013

Inspirational Mantras 3

An essay needs a thesis.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Know when to give up. Do the sums – if it's not worth it, don’t start. (@secularbloke )

Take up more space. Spread yourself. Use three chairs.

Advice to the young: Avoid novelty rucksacks and any form of jazz, however 'harmless'. (@IanMartin)

How to make people like you:
Tell stories about embarrassing things that happened to you – and act embarrassed.
Have pretty friends/Facebook friends.
Wear branded clothing with the label showing.
In high school, be a bully.
Get other people to do you favours – and thank them profusely.

Never get into a breath-holding contest with a fish.

Everything that is, is holy. (William Blake)

How do you know but every bird that cuts the airy way
Is an immense world of delight, closed to your senses five? (William Blake)

Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. (Will Rogers)

The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off. (Gloria Steinem)

When people think you’re soft they tend to walk all over you. (Scooby-Doo)

I tend to smile warmly at most people at these things (networking events) and if I don't get a response
I keep smiling anyway to make them feel uncomfortable. (Web)

Like all geeky girls on the planet I have no friends. (

Maybe today you look at all of the things you are doing and you ask which of those things aren't working. (Truett Ogden @Truett)

That’s not OK – are you OK? (Christopher Banks - when somebody says or does something unacceptable)

Everyone has a first day at everything.

All may be inexplicable / Awe inspiring / Wondrous / Wonderful / But there are no miracles. (@labisiffre)

In every revolutionary beats the heart of a gendarme.
It was fun, it ended, things do.

Never retreat, never explain, never apologize – get the thing done and let them howl.  (Nellie McClung)

Enough is enough.

Nearly half children surveyed said they hid their talents to avoid being bullied.

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Predictions for 2014

British food

The media will tell us that:

British food has improved in the last ten years.
Britons love bizarre sports like bog-snorkelling.
Children don’t learn to read as fast or as well as we would like. Many adults are illiterate.
Etiquette is a thing of the past/undergoing a revival.
Families don't eat together any more.
Fashion houses are making bigger sizes and using larger models.
Girls grow up too fast these days.
If you don’t wash your hair, after six weeks it cleans itself.
Internet/app dating has lost its stigma.
It’s OK to be single – and holiday at the seaside.
Masculinity is in crisis.
Men use prostitutes.
Motherhood is denigrated.
Nobody talks about “spinsters” any more.
People are going in for “hook-ups” rather than relationships.
People expect too much from marriage (“It’s not happy ever after”).
Police don't interfere in "domestics".
Rape victims should get better treatment.
Spousal abuse happens in all levels of society.
The fashion industry has recognised the existence of the older/larger woman.
The NHS is failing old people who can’t feed or wash themselves.
Therapy has lost its stigma.
There is bullying in care homes for the disabled.
TV ads treat men as lovable idiots.
Welfare money lies unclaimed because people don't know what they're entitled to. If they do know, the claiming procedures are so Kafkaesque they give up.
Women don’t need to get married any more.
Women experience period pains in silence.
Women giving birth are ill-treated.
Women suffering miscarriages get no sympathy.
X% of women are wearing the wrong size bra.
You can cook with flowers.
Young women aspire to marry rich men.
Zeppelins are back. (The Times predicted their return 31 Aug 2013.)

Any news of a Viagra for women will be met with claims that for women “sex is all in the head”.
Journalists will misunderstand average age of death (everyone in the olden days died really young, yeah?).

Journalists will refer to women as a “minority”. (According to the 2011 census women outnumber men in the UK by almost a million.)

Journalists have given up pretending not to understand Twitter, but they will complain about hashtags and outrage.

Journalists will exclaim over some “new” internet acronym that has been around for decades – and will claim that it’s “youthspeak”.

Someone who has never even looked at Facebook or Twitter will write a pompous article about why they don’t use FB or Twitter (breakfast, celebs, Stephen Fry, attention seeking, me me me, silly “like” buttons”).

Another grumpy old git will complain about people taking instagrams of food.

Young journalists will write articles about the amazing changes the world has seen in the last 10 years, and how dim and unreconstructed we were a decade ago. They will also predict a “revival” of some garment that was fashionable three years ago. They will talk about the 90s as if they were a remote geological era (“back in 96”).

A writer will whinge that the Brits don’t take advantage of all the free food available in forests (berries, mushrooms). Another writer will complain that the Brits are now stripping woods and forests of rare mushrooms and selling them to restaurants.

A celebrity chef will “revolutionise hospital food”.

A charity will turn donated clothes into trendy designer clobber.

Research will reveal that X% of children arrive at school hungry because they’ve had no breakfast.

Stats will show that parents talk to their children/each other for a depressingly small number of minutes a week.

A huge organisation will commission a bespoke computer system which doesn’t work and gets scrapped after billions of pounds have been spent.

A new social media technology will arise. Immediately, scam artists will offer to show you how to make fortunes from it – for a price, while broadsheet pundits will cry woe, woe and prophesy that it will destroy society.

A public figure will make an outrageously racist remark and then exclaim innocently “But that wasn’t racist!”. Other racists will complain bitterly about being called “bigots”. Yet more racists will say it’s the intention that counts, and complain that people are just too easily "offended", whatever that means!

Someone or some thing will be a bad role model for young girls.

Girls will outdo boys at GCSE. The press will report it as if it was a BAD thing. Men will earn more than women.

Teachers will claim that they can't get boys to read. Others will claim it's because the poor lads are forced to read dull chick lit like Pride and Prejudice.

We’ll be promised a “new ladylike look for autumn”.

Someone will ask “Weren’t we supposed to have gender equality by now?” When progress doesn't happen as fast as expected, someone will say “Guys! It’s 2014!”

People will get upset about something utterly trivial, like Comic Sans.
Someone will try to start a trend for a sarcasm font.
Someone else will push for more expressive punctuation!”?
Everyone else will go on using emoticons. ;-)

There will be a new exercise craze.
There will be a new superfood.
There will be a new diet fad.

Experts will tell us that diets don’t work and we should just eat less and exercise more. We will ignore them.

Several people will threaten to shoot anyone who confuses "your" and "you're" (or asks "Can I get a latte?").

The French will ban some baby names.

Discovery will make a programme about the leaning tower of Pisa.

Archaeologists will find that Neanderthals, not Homo sapiens, invented (dugout canoes, philosophy, cooking, art, jewellery, poetry, writing etc etc etc). Americans will use "Homo sapien" as a singular.

Scientists will find that animals have some attribute previously thought to be unique to humans.
Writers will claim that all kinds of things are the one “that makes us human”.

The following arguments will be had:
Halloween is a ghastly American import – no actually it’s Scottish.
Flanders poppies – newsreaders start wearing them too early - grief inflation – diktat – jingoistic - originally anti-war? All BBC staff forced to wear them!
Flu jabs are useless – out of date – mismanaged – essential.

“They” will do something awful to the countryside.

Young people will need to be taught how to behave in the world of work. The middle classes will wail that children speak jafakin/write in text speak/copy the Tellytubbies/watch too much telly/don’t watch telly any more/watch telly and text at the same time. They will completely forget last year’s panic about something that is now an unnoticed part of life.

Volume builders will design houses with windows even smaller than last year’s. They'll add pitched roofs and a red stripe so the houses are “in keeping” with their surroundings, despite being surrounded by Gothic villas, warehouses, 60s blocks, 30s blocks, half-timbered bungalows...

Teenagers will invent their own language incomprehensible to anybody over 20. Adults will predict dire consequences, and several people will say "Language has got to evolve".

A school will ban an extreme hairstyle.

There will be a new plan for Battersea Power Station.
As the year ends, people will moan about Christmas starting too early and getting too consumerist while simultaneously whining about the recession, the decline of manufacturing and the decay of the high street.

Predictions for 2013. 2012, 2011.

Inspirational Quotes 44

Live in the moment, we make our own reality, there are no rules any more...
Couples often had nowhere private to go. They fell in love in dance halls and embraced in cinemas and parks. (Review of The English in Love by Claire Langhamer, Observer Aug 2013)

Convention serves a purpose;
it gives life meaning, and without it, one is in a constant existential crisis. Elizabeth Wurtzel

Other uses of the notion of performativity in the social sciences include the daily behaviour (or performance) of individuals based on social norms or habits. (Free Dictionary)

People say "Never give up" but sometimes giving up is the best option because you realise you're wasting your time (true but hard to accept). Said and copied by Syed. (Pinned up in internet café.)

In Cambridge in the 50s, being seen with a girl lost you prestige, being seen with a man gained you prestige. (Jessica Mann, paraphrase)

Dr. Alexander Avila identifies the seven gifts that shy people naturally possess - sensitivity, faithfulness, listening ability, reflection, modesty, mystery and gentleness. (Review of The Gift of Shyness)

Being quiet and shy in Asian countries is OK. But here in Western land it’s a different story when it comes to dating. (

Once you acquire a degree of fame and fortune, one suffers very little at the hands of the rest of humanity. People tend to treat you with a disproportionate degree of respect, and then you’re on the phone to someone who’s not looking at you and suddenly you feel how a lot of people are treated a lot of the time. (Rowan Atkinson, after someone imitated his stammer on the phone, Sept 2011)

We want to move on in life and look to the future. (Couple on Countryfile talking about getting a place of their own)

Make your own plans. Life's too short to spend a decade waiting for someone else to get their arse into gear. (Donovan ‏@MrOzAtheist )

Possibly as bad as your first day at school, or your first kiss.

There are destinies being decided. Eye-watering calculations are being made.

Choices which are possibly going to affect some aspect of the rest of their lives.
(BBC News on A level results day 2013)

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Mixed Metaphors 10

The centre promises to be a buzzing cultural hub. (Only if there's a beehive in its cartwheel.)

Its pulse is on a very tiny part of the community. (It has its finger on the pulse of… Its focus is on…)

The tide is changing. (Tides turn – they rise, then they fall, then they rise again.)

Dinosaurs are just red herrings put there to test our faith. (Intentional.)

We don't have a horse in this fight. (Rick Santorum on Syria. He means "dog".)

They were going absolutely stir-fry crazy! (Time Team)

You can see the clogs whirring as they think it over. (Machines have cogs. Clogs are wooden shoes.)

Only amusing thing was the man at reception apologising and saying he was just a "clog" in the machine. (@adamcreen )

William is determined to forge his own path.

draw-dropping beauty

He draws a picture of Eliza as a young woman without much imagination, forced to use her raisin-sharp wits to carve out a brand-new life in a difficult new place. (NYT October 2013)

Tensions boiling over
in Uitenhage (The Herald PE)

Slovakian Roma in Sheffield: This is a boiling pot ready to explode (Guardian Nov 2013 Pots usually boil over long before they explode.)

Prince Charles urged the NHS not to dismiss alternative medicine as a “woolly cul-de-sac”. (Edzard Ernst)

Queen Mary became a rock around which the royal family focused. (Yesterday)

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Let's Play a Game

The Caravan Game
We call this the Caravan Game because we played it while staying in a caravan waiting for the eclipse in 1999.

Each person has a piece of paper and a pencil or pen.

Everybody writes a caption at the top of the paper. (Something like "Everybody was longing for the next episode of Downton Abbey" or "Dr Who greeted the alien slime moulds with a witty quip".)

Pass your paper to the person on your left.

Illustrate the caption.

Turn down paper over the caption (forwards).

Pass your paper to the left.

Write a caption to the drawing you see.

Turn down the paper over the drawing.

Pass your paper to the left....

Until you get to the end of the paper.

In turn, read out the captions. Pass the papers round.

Costume Consequences

Everybody has pen/pencil and paper.

Turning down and passing on between each item, write:

An adjective for a girl.
A girl's name (someone you all know, or a celebrity)
A disguise (what she want to the fancy dress ball dressed as)
An adjective for an item of clothing.
An item of clothing.
An adjective for an item of clothing.
An item of clothing.
An adjective for a man.
A man's name.
A disguise.
An adjective for an item of clothing.
An item of clothing.
An adjective for an item of clothing.
An item of clothing.
What they were mistaken for.

Pass on one more time, unroll the paper, and draw them (they aren't allowed any other clothes). In turn, read out the results, and pass them round. Here's how it should sound:

Miley Cyrus
Went to a fancy dress ball as a dalek
Wearing acardboard
and a
She danced with
Jude Law
who went as a

faceless bureaucrat
in a
and afake fur
glitter ball
They were mistaken for

Clare, Gran & the Seven-Layer Pie

About five years ago, my sister and I dreamed up a project: to make a kids' picture book out of our grandmother's famous recipe, Seven-Layer Pie. It was truly horrible and probably came out of a church charity cook book. As we worked on the text and pictures, the story evolved. We wanted to celebrate Gran's baking talents (she really did win prizes), and recall those happy days at the village fete where we slid down the slides, helped in the tea tent and sold ice creams. Mum and her elegant friends are in the background selling pot plants, another friend is brewing up the tea. The year is 1965... ish.

Here's an outline of the plot: Clare goes to stay with her Gran and has to endure her experimental cooking. But when the fete comes round, Gran brings her cakes and bread for the Women's Institute baking competition, and Clare goes in for the sack race. The local girls bring biscuits and fudge, and the fortune-teller promises them all they'll meet a tall, dark stranger. At the end of the day, they all dance round the field to the strains of the local brass band.

And if you want to know how to make Seven-Layer Pie, buy the book! Click the link: Clare, Gran and the Seven-Layer Pie

Friday 15 November 2013

Junk Statistics? Part 3

More girls apply to uni

Alcohol is detectable in the fingers 45 seconds after passing the lips. 

“We hate math”, say 4 in 10 – a majority of Americans. (Joke headline?)

Women now make up nearly half of the CIA. (

[We think] 30% of people in this country were born abroad (it’s about 11%). (Guardian)

0.7% of benefits claims are fraudulent (BBC, Guardian, DWP figures)

Rowntree Foundation unable to find single instance of 3 generations having lived on benefits. (@Philip_Goff)

Shapps/Green/Fox claimed 1 million people on disability benefits dropped claims rather than face medicals. Official figures show 19,700 did. (May 31 2013, James O'Brien ‏@mrjamesob)

Benefit Figures: 42.3% old 20.8% poor 18.4% family 15.5% sick/disabled 2.6% unemployed.

Public think £24 in £100 is fraudulently claimed in benefits. Official estimate 70p.

We think 31% of population are immigrants - actually proportion is 13-15%.

The public believe 24% of uk population is now Muslim. Actual figure = 5%.

We over-estimate teenage pregnancy 25-fold…  only 0.6 % of under 16s have babies. (All via @benatipsosmori)

46% say anecdote and own eyes better judge of public services than statistics. Only 9% say would use stats! (@benatipsosmori)

The DWP publishes official estimates of fraud in the welfare system. The most recent publication estimated overall fraud at 0.7% of the benefits bill. At £1.2bn, that sum might – just – be said to count as "billions". But we should remember benefits can be underpaid as well as overpaid – and last year, those underpayments (arising from errors by either officials or claimants) added up to £1.3bn – more than the cost of fraud.

According to figures from the government and the Bank of England, the UK's manufacturing sector is bigger than its financial services sector. Manufacturing contributes around 11% of GDP, versus around 9% from the City. Contrary to what you might think, the biggest sector isn't heavy engineering (though there is plenty of that), but food and drink manufacture.

Despite the country's reputation as a "green and pleasant land", though, the UK doesn't grow that much: agriculture contributes less than 1% to GDP. (Guardian)

At least 20 children a year take their lives because they are being bullied.

70% of nonfiction books are ghostwritten. (

The average woman hopes to get married at 27 and have first baby at 28, men ditto 2 years later, happens on average at 30 and 32. (Poll Times Sept 2013)

For every four girls who apply to uni, three boys apply. (Sunday Times Aug 2013)

There’s a site that shows gender distribution, average salary, average age, average house price for every town in the US.

45% of first marriages end in divorce, compared with 31% for second ones.

Women enjoy an annual income premium up to $18,152 a year if they wait until 30 or later to marry;
By the age of 25, 44% of women have had their first child;
52% of married men report they are “highly satisfied” with their life, compared to 35% of single men.
(The Relate Institute/National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia)

Men feel worse about themselves when their wives/girlfriends succeed.

75% of Italian women murdered between 2000 and 2012 (total: 2,200) were killed by partners or former partners. (

One in ten emergency calls are about domestic violence. (Guardian, May 22 2013)

Rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions in England doubles in a decade (Centre for Social Justice report Sept 1 2013)

Figures revealed deaths involving "legal highs" in England and Wales increased from 29 in 2011 to 52 last year (Centre for Social Justice report Sept 1 2013)

About 40% of full time college students don't drink. (@OMGFacts)

57% of people think they should “fight pain for as long as possible before taking non-prescription treatment” ie painkiller. (Mintel survey reported by Times Aug 2013)

1 in 4 Young Adults Regret Social Media Posts, Survey Says (

The number of tanning salons in the UK has fallen by 29% in 2012-13. Sales of fake tanning products have fallen by 20.8%.

In the 70s, women earned 45% less than men for the same job.

The US Department of Veterans’ Affairs processes 97% of its claims by hand. (Yes, on paper. And the magazine Private Eye is still typed on typewriters and pasted up, and Jobcentres don’t have the internet.)

In the 1970s there were 600 murders per year in the UK. Now there are 550. Bloody computer games, reducing violent crime... (@BarnabyEdwards)

25% of the UK's 600 MPs are women.

The increase in women who drive is reasonably well correlated with a decrease in the road traffic accident rate. (@MrBLawton/Brian Lawton)

Cost to the NHS of smoking related illness £1.7Bn pa. (NHS figures)

"Health tourism is a huge problem", say Ministers. In reality, it costs the NHS 0.15% of NHS spending. (Dave Jones ‏@welsh_gas_doc )

X% of productivity is lost in the US thru heavy drinking, excessive commuting, Facebook, coffee breaks yada yada yada.

37% of the internet is made up of pornographic material. (Outdated, unreliable stat says net filtering firm Optenet. Academics say that only 4% of the internet is porn.)

30% of all net traffic is generated by porn sites, says Extreme Tech using dubious methods and maths.

We learn most of our vocabulary before we’re 18. (Lucy Mangan And spend the rest of our lives complaining about all these ghastly new words.)

People with longer names earn less money.

More here.
And you can find reliable statistics at

Sunday 10 November 2013

80s Contradictions

Eighties types fought straw scientists (high priests telling a “triumphalist narrative”) - while trying to make their own disciplines as much like science as possible (graphs, impenetrable jargon).

They thought that intellectual analysis was the answer to everything – but you had to attack science and believe in magic.

They insisted on everyone being politically correct – but were rude and unfriendly.

They were working for liberation – but believed the subconscious was pulling your strings.

They were passionate feminists, but disapproved of girliness.

They said they were changing the world – but they insisted that “we create our own reality”.  (They never acted as if they believed it.)

They said they were creating a perfect world – but there was always a reason why we couldn’t be happy now (or even have any fun).

They had goals for society – but none for themselves.

They told us to rebel against conformity – but not during work hours.

They told us to smash capitalism – and get a mortgage and pension.

They told us that men and women were equal – but women had to avoid any behaviour that men might find “threatening”.

They were against censorship – but many opinions were unholdable and unspeakable. (Eg that intelligence is heritable. Or that your life could be changed by “life-changing” events.)

They said “We can talk about anything now” but they made many things undiscussable by banning their names ("We don't say that any more").

They were anti-hierarchy – and incredibly bossy.

They weren't strident so much as authoritarian – while complaining about oppression, repression, patriarchy, colonialism, cultural hegemony...

They condemned things and people as oppressive, elitist, judgemental ("value judgements" were out), while judging you according to their own brand of elitism (more PC than thou).

They thought people should be given more self-esteem, but complained about the “arrogance” of science, and thought we needed a "sense of awe".

They were so keen on changing society – but they never offered solutions to problems.

They insisted everyone was an individual, while being rigidly conformist.

They were very keen on “identity” – but claimed “there’s no such thing as the self”.

They were all for freedom – but they insisted there was no such thing as free will.

They insisted the universe is deterministic – but it was still all my fault, somehow.

They said they wanted to change the world – but told you to stay at home and change yourself.
They thought that everybody was created by their circumstances, but said that change comes from within.

But perhaps it was only the masses who were created by circumstances, or experienced false consciousness induced by capitalism. They hated you to try to change your circumstances, or do anything practical. They preferred theory to facts. Maybe since logic was a male conspiracy, they couldn't see a contradiction.

More about the 80s here, and links to the rest.
Read about the middle classes in the 80s here.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Inspirational Quotes 43

Live for the moment, violence never solved anything... blah, blah, blah.

When, finally, he asked me to move in with him, I was overjoyed. At last I felt we were a proper couple. I even dared hope for a future together. (Daily Mail)

Police are being told to make more eye contact and say people’s names when dealing with the public. (BBC News Aug 2013-08-10)

We preach pre-incident contingency planning. (LAPD spokesman)

I have a date coming up and have all the usual date questions lined up. (

Some forms must be gone through before a man can marry a million. (George Eliot, Daniel Deronda)

“[I’m good at being formal, but] it’s a horrid bore, because it involves a lot of doing of things you dislike, tactical planning, personal adaptation and looking ahead.” (Rachel Ferguson, The Brontes Go to Woolworths)

Other uses of the notion of performativity in the social sciences include the daily behaviour (or performance) of individuals based on social norms or habits. (Free Dictionary)

The reporters made tentative, hovering movements. (Ngaio Marsh, Vintage Murder)

People quietly frown upon single women, wondering what's wrong with women like me who haven't married yet or may never marry. Single women are excluded from social circles because married women fear they will "steal their men". (Crystal Wright in the Guardian 6 Aug 2013 talking about the US.)

There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers. (Stephen Pinker)

People say that nothing is impossible but some things are. (9-year-old quoted on Twitter)

From within you got very strong, but also you got coarsened. (Ian Dury on the cruel and abusive school for the disabled he attended)

Newsnight is like the bright outgoing schoolboy who becomes bullied and loses all confidence. (Twitter)

I had learned how to be tough. (Floella Benjamin She beat up the children who bullied her sister, and they never bullied her again.)

Synod reminds me of school - you see who to sit with. There are the noisy bullies and the quiet marginal people, the in crowd and the loners. (Robert McCrum, Observer 2013-07-21 on the CoE)

If one is singled out for exclusion, it isn’t unreasonable to fear that there might be grounds for it, that one might indeed be unworthy in some way, or again that simply by being excluded one might become unworthy, at least in the eyes of one’s peers. (Tim Parks on Dickens, LRB July 2013)

Though presentable, my looks had never been those of a “trophy” woman, so I needed to make an impression in other ways. (Diana Athill)

Some people regard brownfield sites as inferior, simply because they are the product of human activity. (NS letter Aug 2013)

Perhaps the worst scenario is being the oldest person in the office. When you don't know what the others are talking about - be it pop culture or the latest hot spot - it's bound to be lonely and embarrassing.

Get a job with people the same age as you. (yahooanswers)

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Whatever Happened To....? 26

amusing suggestions for what to do with a used CD (frisbee, bra, bird scarer)
autograph books
Berlei bras
Bremner, Bird and Fortune

calling everybody “love”
(It was so patronising.)
calling people “unreconstructed”
cereal box toys
(Suddenly appeared in the 80s and vanished again.)
clip-on sunglasses
cocktail parties
coconut kirsch roulade
(the French writer)

drinking brandy out of balloon glasses
(as a Sign of sophistication)
fagging system at public schools
football hooligans

grown-up nightclubs with jazz bands and food and a tiny dance floor
having people in for drinks before lunch or dinner

hitchhikinghouses called Mon Repos
jasmine tea

lampshades based on fish-traps
licking envelopes and stamps
lolly stick jokes
Look and Say
reading method, aka the "whole language" method (Shown up as ineffective, losing out to synthetic phonics or "D says duh". See the New Maths and the Initial Teaching Alphabet.)

machismo and people who pronounced it makismo
yashmak jokes
macrobiotic diets
Michael Moorcock
Michelene Wandor

painting a decent Edwardian pub exterior in orange/cobalt, orange/jade or lilac/violet (So ghastly that they were quickly repainted – but in charcoal or dark brown.)

paperless office

playing the National Anthem at the end of plays or films
pouring tea into your saucer to cool it
ringing up for a chat
screen-in-screen TV
shops dealing in old vinyl
sick building syndrome
(perhaps they fixed the problems)

teaching Irish children in Irish
teacups and saucers
tealeaf reading (teabags happened)
the county, county families (what was it, and who were they?)
the Green Party being so high-minded it didn’t have a leader

The Oxford Group
(and their theatre which was always showing the same play called something like Bishop’s Move) Now called Initiatives of Change.

the trickle-down effect
Theodor Adorno
tinned tongue
trad jazz
etc (The AUEW merged with the ASTMS to form the MSF, which then merged with several other unions to form Unison – I think. Michael Savage ‏/@Softspoken_One)

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday 1 November 2013

Too-Appropriate Metaphors Part Five

It’s not just red squirrels you see ferreting around in the woods. (Michaela Strachan)

The Philosopher’s Stone is the intellectuals’ Holy Grail. (Forbidden History)

Seals have their babies in giant rookeries in New Mexico. (Nigel Marven)

Houses can’t be set in stone, of course. (NYT Oct 2013)

This is the unsung story of British embroidery. (Fabric of Britain)

This trench is a last-ditch attempt… (Tony Robinson, Time Team)

California wildfires “erupted” in mid-August.

Pitt-Rivers’ ground-breaking approach to archaeology… (BBC4 Aug 2013)

This tarantula is about to go ape. (Rhys Jones’s Wildlife Patrol)

Kestrels are eagle-eyed. (Rhys Jones’s Wildlife Patrol)

Chris Froome condemns cycling fan for throwing urine at Mark Cavendish: "It leaves a nasty taste in the mouth." (July 11 2013 via Nick Robinson)

Avoid writing that shale gas would “fuel” the economy.

Archaeologist Mick Aston “did very good work on original British towns which is still being built on.” (Francis Pryor, quoted in the Mirror 2013)

Horses were routinely plunged into Hackney Marshes and forced to doggy paddle across. (Telegraph Aug 2012)

Where woods shelter half-ton leviathans. (Wild Russia, showing us a bear)

This tinny hammered copper… (Bargain Hunt)

The new steamships ran like well-oiled machines. (Coast) They were well-oiled machines. I can see you mean “the steamship service ran like a well-oiled machine” but it’s too close to “steamship”.

Next week is Immunization Awareness Week - help it go viral. (@BadScienceWatch)

A PR recently called and said they "wanted to touch base with me voice to voice, so to speak" (Hamish Thompson ‏@Suburbman)

"The Dangerous Dogs Act is literally a dog's breakfast," Richard Madeley just said on the news. Jennie Bond added, "The law is an ass." (Matthew Sweet ‏@DrMatthewSweet )

Latest here.

More here, and links to the rest.

Neologisms 9

overcook (photo in Photoshop)

The measles of evil!
Spotty map marking the spread of London's £500k flats. (Feargus O'Sullivan ‏@FeargusOSull)

I could go into some sort of namby-pamby butterflies and unicorns crap about love and understanding… (

a particular kind of college-bred stupidity (Angela Carter)

In the 1930s, when Vogue prose reached an apotheosis of tinkling breathlessness. (Angela Carter)

Contains more hyperlinks than seeds in Rothamsted (Alok Jha)

screaming match (not new, but useful to describe what lefty politics is once again turning into)

educated above her intelligence (@katabaticesque)

custodize (Nothing to Declare) What happens to you after you've been a "dog indication" and they've found the cocaine in your shoes.

Imagine a country hamlet built by the love child of Prince Charles and Lady Gaga. It's worse than that. (BBC on Portmeirion and other quirky destinations in the UK)

That argument has crumbled like cake in the rain. (Mic Wright)

mayfly signing (to a record label) (Dorian Lynskey, Guardian 2013-09-12) Like “firework career”.

vanity height: unnecessary space in the world’s tallest buildings

Year 3? My baby? How the jibbering biscuits did that happen? (James O'Brien ‏@mrjamesob)

a veritable zoo of gargoyles who are so gargoyliffic that they fail to even realize the gargoylic proportions of their gargoylosity. (

Ep 2 of a mandible-dropping series (on insects). (@DrMatthewSweet)

A day late and a dollar short. (Christie’s Captain Hastings)

Tony Singh's Scottish accent can be seen from space. (Sathnam Sanghera ‏@Sathnam, Aug 2013)

The theme, as with many contemporary carnival acts, seems to be “post-apocalyptic dystopia”. (Irish Times, Aug 2013)

absolute fried gold (@gaipajama)

There are still issues with print, colour and a tendency to overdesign. (Blogger for the over-40s Amanda Carr on M&S’s autumn range)

I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. (And variants. It’s from a 1977 film based on an HG Wells story.)

The word for today is “petrichor”. The smell of fresh rain on dry earth. Quite lovely. (Dave Jones ‏@welsh_gas_doc)

beds with sheds is called “backland development” (and cottages/gated communities in yards)

neophobe (says man who wants to bring back extinct species Professor Mike Archer, BBC)

Newspaper jargon for Italy's semi-abandoned factory zones: necropoli industriali. (Daniel Trilling ‏@trillingual)

They will rinse you of every bit of money. (Mike Haydock)

all over bar the screaming, the weeping and the financial settlement. (Michael Wood on Behind the Candelabra, LRB July 2013-07-04)

weapons-grade positivity (needed for concert) (Alex Silverman @silvermong)

There's much blandeur in recent New York high-rise apartment blocks. (Jonathan Foyle ‏@JonathanFoyle)

produced a historic level of collective eye-rolling (Jeff Chu, Does Jesus Really Love Me?)

besserwisser: know-all

I’m not calming up! (Speaker on Radio 5 Live on being told to calm down)

breathless ideas on programmes like this about stay-at-home dads (Dad on BBC Breakfast saying that their existence has been exaggerated)

makes everything seem like the Whimpering Twenties. (Mother Jones on The Great Gatsby, May 2013)

We are in the Rainforest Café as I feel the dining experience is enhanced by an animatronic elephant and a sense of dread. (Dave Turner ‏@mrdaveturner)

instant ancestor (old portrait you hang on your wall and pretend is great-uncle Bernard)

farm find, barn find (classic car found in old barn)

The sexfoil window in the right gablet (Jonathan Foyle on Bayeux Cathedral. Responding to @mym’s “quintriple” doors.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Grammar: Hypallage, or Transferred Epithet

One of those Ancient Greek figures of speech. When an adjective gets stuck to a word in the sentence other than the one it should be modifying, it's called "hypallage", or a transferred epithet. Not quite the same as a dangling modifier.

restless night:
The wakeful person, not the night, was restless.
happy morning: We are happy, not the morning.

“The ploughman homeward plods his weary way." (Thomas Gray) The way is not weary, but the ploughman.

a deceptive 29
A happy coincidence in Bar Harbor opened much wider doors  (My Three Fathers by William S. Patten): It opened doors to a wider society, and we were happier.

a tepid menu of ideas (New York Times January 24, 2007) The ideas, not the menu etc etc.
accessible journeys: journeys via stations with lifts and escalators

Another piece of that crucial jigsaw (Simon Thurley, Timewatch on Stonehenge): He means “another crucial piece of the jigsaw”.

anxious time

clutching at wild straws: wildly clutching at straws
deceptively spacious
fond memories:
I feel fondly towards the things I am remembering.

Greasy salt shakers
across the UK are stuffed with industrially produced sodium chloride (, Nov 2011): Salt shakers in greasy spoon cafes are stuffed etc.

He narrowly survived an accident: He had a narrow escape and survived an accident.
his proudest achievement
I ain’t beginning to like you any more. (Raymond Chandler)

In Gone with the Wind only the “wincing portrayals of slaves” have dated (Guardian): We wince at the portrayals.

It makes the area less transient: It’s the population that’s transient, not the area.

misguided cream socks

neatly clipped suburb:
suburb with neatly clipped hedges

nervous situation

Oh, happy day!

Olympocrats will not be spraying spume into the trudging faces of Londoners (Boris Johnson, December 18 2011): into the faces of trudging Londoners

Rupert Everett is taking a break from the silver screen to play the unlikely lead in Shaw's Pygmalion: The casting is unlikely.

surrounded by a sea of surgically planted olive trees ( the trees were planted with surgical precision

suspicious man: man behaving suspiciously
Tell me the honest truth: Be honest – tell me the truth!
The British team won a dramatic silver medal (BBC Breakfast): It was a dramatic win.

The ceremony has been minutely choreographed: It has been choreographed down to the minutest detail.

the dominant rise of the ANC elite: the ANC elite’s rise to dominance (the elite, not its rise, is dominant)

the reforms are bearing spectacular fruit: are bearing fruit spectacularly
treads a skilful path between: skilfully treads a path between

Have a nice cup of tea: Have a cup of nice tea.