Sunday, 15 June 2014

Received Ideas IV

You never see her writing
Because of copyright concerns, I've removed some quotes from my mini ebook Clichés: A Dictionary of Received Ideas. But I thought I'd share them with you before putting them away in a drawer (actually a folder within a folder within a folder).

“They had become so used to saying the same thing… that they no longer thought about what they were saying. The same phrases were simply trotted out without thought.” (The Guardian, 12 January 2013)

“It’s common these days (perhaps it always has been) to sneer at our ancestors as gullible fools and talk about how enlightened modern society is.” (Commenter at, July 2012)

AGATHA CHRISTIE Couldn’t write: “You never see her writing.” (Nancy Banks Smith)

ARCHITECTS Are always constructing buildings the wrong way round: “On Fourvière Hill (Lyon), note the basilica, a Romano-Byzantine monstrosity apparently built the wrong way up.” (Sunday Times 2012) “Located at the rear of St George’s Hall are St John’s Gardens… It is rumoured that the gardens were to form an impressive frontage to St Georges Hall and that the Hall was actually built the wrong way round.” ( “A long-standing rumour was that the Birkdale Palace Hotel, Southport had been built the wrong way round, so instead of the hotel front facing out to sea, it in fact faced inland. It was also said that the architect, William Mangnall, then committed suicide by jumping off the roof of the building. There have been stories of how the architect’s ghost was heard to travel up and down in the lifts and was heard walking along the second floor stone floors whilst the building was being demolished.” (Wikipedia) “I had recently been to Hobart in Tasmania, where the Sheraton chain had built a hotel of stunning plainness on its lovely waterfront. I had been told that the architect hadn’t actually visited the site and had put the hotel restaurant at the back, where diners couldn’t see the harbour.” (Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island) And many, many more…

ARCHITECTS When not disorienting their buildings, they add pillars that don't support anything: “When Sir Christopher Wren was designing the Sheldonian (Theatre in Oxford), he envisaged an unsupported ceiling. His patrons, convinced that such a structure would collapse, insisted that he insert some columns. He reluctantly agreed – but years later, maintenance workers discovered that the columns stopped a few inches short of the ceiling. [But] there are no columns in the Sheldonian. However, this story is also attached to other Wren buildings: eg Windsor Town Hall. It has four non-supporting columns, but no one has ever managed to find any evidence of them causing a dispute between Wren and his employers. [And] the same basic story is also told about Brunel and the Maidenhead Bridge, Brunelleschi and Florence Cathedral, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.” (Financial Times)

ART Don’t try investing in art: “One shouldn’t really buy paintings for financial gain, one should buy them because one loves them.” (Art dealer on Cash in the Attic)

ATHEISTS Don’t really exist: “By night an atheist half believes a God.” (Edward Young, Night Thoughts) “I am still an atheist, thank God.” (Luis Buñuel) “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” (GK Chesterton) “Atheists are accidents.” (Deepak Chopra) (Thankyou, Twitter.)

AVANT GARDE “The avant garde is now a period style.” Robert Hughes

BALLAST All kinds of unlikely things came over as ballast: “Imari plates came over as ballast in tea clippers.” (James Lewis on Bargain Hunt, 2010) “Mr Schwartz, author of Finding Oz, said that the Dutch ships that carried the first inhabitants of Peekskill used yellow paving bricks as ballast, and these were then used to lay roads.” (Times, 13 June 2011) “I heard he was digging out the earth and selling it for a great deal of money as ship’s ballast.” (A neighbour on London’s Mole Man, The Independent, 4 October 2011) “These warm water shells were originally brought over as ship’s ballast.” (Ellie Harrison in Scott’s Grotto, Country Tracks, 2012) “He himself likes the sword-and-sorcery ones, like Savage Sword of Conan and Kull and the Barbarians. He says they’re shipped over from America as ballast.” (Angela Carter on an 80s newsagent) “In the 19th century, cargo boats returning from Europe to North America would carry quarried stone as ballast, contributing to the architectural heritage of some east coast cities (for example Montreal), where this stone was used in building. (Wikipedia) “After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, rubble from the decimated buildings and streets was offered free as ballast for sailing ships. Many of these ships came to Newcastle and their ballast was discharged at Stockton [in Australia’s Newcastle]. This area of Stockton is still known as ‘the ballast ground’.” ( Alcatraz prison is built of concrete used as ballast. (BBC) (And many, many more. But “Stones from many parts of the world can be found on [Porthmadog’s] Ballast Island as well  as rare plants and flowers which have grown from seeds brought on the stones.”)

BEGGARS Earn huge sums and drive expensive cars: “Rumours abound of Romanian beggars earning £100 a day in London.” The Daily Telegraph, July 2013) “I think Thackeray has a character who sweeps a City crossing by day and goes home in his carriage to a sumptuous house in the West End at night.” (historian Lee Jackson)

BOARDING SCHOOL “Any boisterousness or subversive tendencies are ironed out of him at school, and everyone… says how much he has improved. No one, on the other hand, can explain why the housekeeper’s cat has been strangled.” (Jilly Cooper, Class)

BRITISH FOOD Not as bad as it used to be: “A strange myth has emerged that Britain is now a country full of sophisticated restaurants. Well, try getting anything other than fried chicken, pizza or fish and chips in any provincial town after 10pm on a wet Monday evening.” (Harry Mount, Daily Telegraph, June 2010)

CATHEDRALS “Forests were the first temples of God and in forests men grasped their first idea of architecture.” (James Snyder)

CELIBACY It is possible to live a fulfilled life without sex, according to Christian barrister Mark Mullins.

CENTER PARCS “They have all the characteristics of normal woodlands, apart from the fact that they are enclosed in a dome of weatherproof glass.” The Times, October 7 2012 (Just the swimming pool.)

More to come.

And more here.

1 comment:

  1. I've definitely heard the story of the short pillars - I supposed now we'd call it an internet myth and get to debunk it.

    Isn't there a phrase about 'no atheists in foxholes'....