Wednesday 25 June 2014

Received Ideas VIII

Who was that rather common little boy?

More quotes redacted from my book Clichés: A Dictionary of Received Ideas, available on Amazon.

ROMANTIC NOVELS Modern heroines are feisty and self-determining: “Today’s romantic novel is a well-written and accurate reflection of the modern woman, with all her strengths and insecurities. … the days of muscled heroes sweeping damsels in distress off their feet as the waves crash over their tanned and gorgeous bodies are long gone.” (Writers and Artists Yearbook)

SHAKESPEARE Much too lower middle-class to have written the plays attributed to him: “You have to be a snob if you just hate it that the greatest poet the world has produced was born into the humble aldermanic classes of a provincial town.” (Janet Suzman, The Guardian, 19 August 2012)

SHYNESS “Getting along with people doesn’t depend on saying amazingly profound things in a striking way. It’s about listening to people and showing you’ve heard – in a word, communication. It also means knowing your own strengths so that social success doesn’t become the be-all and end-all of life.” (Agony Aunt Angela Willans in the 70s. In other words, you’re stuck with it – just give up.)

TATE MODERN Say “It’s just cynical the way it puts on blockbuster exhibitions to pack in as many people as possible, there was some lovely stuff there of course but it was impossible to see it. You’re marched round and only given a few seconds for each picture.” (JL)

TATTOOS Have become middle class. Should we panic? “The story - that tattooing has "entered the mainstream" - is just one of a number of tattoo tropes recycled relentlessly over the decades, suggests Dr Matt Lodder, art historian and tattoo expert at the University of Essex,” says the BBC, quoting a “tattoo worry” article from 1908.

TEA “One person thinks tea cools you down, one person refuses to accept this.” (, July 2012)

VEGETARIANS Friend TW writes: “I have always understood that if you lived only on red meat with nothing else at all, you went mad.” (When I was young, we thought all kinds of things would  drive you mad – apart from sleeping in moonlight, what were the others?)

VICTORIAN CARTOONISTS Stodgy and dull: “One of those Victorian bores who drew fussy scenes and bolted on weak jokes at the expense of servants and foreigners.” (Libby Purves on the very funny Pont (1908-1940), Times 2008. Queen Victoria died in 1901.)

WINE “One of the many wine myths that needs debunking is that great wine has to taste disgusting in its youth, before evolving into a delicious dotage.” (Jane MacQuitty, The Times, November 2011)

WOMEN Can have jobs now, hooray! But will they become too masculine? “Thousands of young working women are literally going bald because of ‘testosterone overload’ caused by occupying traditionally male roles in the workplace, a report said yesterday. A study carried out at the University of Portsmouth… found that of 800 women interviewed, 30% were experiencing hair loss,” said the Sunday Times. “Dr Hugh Rushton, a consultant trichologist, said women in the workplace were becoming more sensitive to the circulation of male hormones, such as testosterone, in their bodies. Increasingly in recent years, professional women have been seeking treatment for hair loss, acne and deepening voices.” (Helen Carroll, Daily Mail, 1997) “Bobbing hair causes women to grow beards.” (Humourist S.J. Perelman, 1920s)

More here, and links to the rest.

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