Wednesday 24 June 2015

Grammar: Clichés 3

"One of the largest figures in politics today"

Can we stop saying politicians "toured" a flood-affected area? It's not a tourist attraction. It's a natural disaster. (Ryan Kessler @therkess)

Why is mercury always set to plummet and cold weather to sweep across the country in tabloid journalism? (Caroline Mansfield ‏@LadyofMisrule)

How are we entwined? Inextricably. What are our rows? Furious. Where are we teetering? On the brink. (Sam Leith @questingvole)

Faceless estates, suburban sprawl, soulless financial districts. (Feargus O'Sullivan ‏@FeargusOSull)
Modernist architecture is soulless and oppressive and ugly. (

Love way people turn into cod-Jane Austens when writing dating site profiles: 'Confess I have a penchant for exploring and am a tad flighty'. (@MarkOneinFour)

Why would anyone just "say" anything? Not when you can retort, argue, groan, sputter, question, posit, avow, crow, declare and implore. (Typical YA Heroine ‏@TypicalYAHero)

By law, every story about silly urban development schemes must quote some local booster dreaming of putting their neighborhood "on the map". (@davidjmadden Apr 5)

BAFTA tweets are all saying “X is the best at what he does”.

There should be a rule that you can only say 'This is where the magic happens' if you are literally gesturing at a wizard's lair. (Rebecca Davis ‏@becsplanb)

I'm all for free speech, but I would support an absolute and permanent ban on disgraced people saying "I'm not perfect" in speeches. (Derek Thompson ‏@DKThomp)

By the way, a footnote: not all 20-year-olds are "fresh-faced". (@DAaronovitch)

‘Symbolizing fertility’ is often scholar-speak for ‘not terribly sure what’s going on’ (see also: ‘apotropaic’ and ‘ritualistic’). (

'Talks'. There's either a 'breakthrough', or they 'collapse in acrimony'. (Hugh Pearman)

If “big” means “important”, how do you say something’s “large”?
There are significant pockets of people that have decided to forgo the immunisation process. (Skeptic March 2015): sizeable pockets

the water rises more: it rises higher

The Ringways awoke a great level of protest. People campaigned heavily against the destruction of their neighbourhoods, and the plans were abandoned in 1973. (Douglas Murphy in the Guardian April 2015): high level, campaigned strenuously

The number of objects is so big that... ( Numbers can be high or low.
Bones have a bigger story to tell. (Secrets of Bones): a more important story
London’s massive housing shortage: severe

Whether or not you like Hillary Clinton, it’s impossible to deny that she is one of the largest figures in politics today. ( most significant

This was a huge milestone. (Nature’s Miracle Orphans): significant
“We think it’s a very large milestone,” says Claudia Angeli of the University of Louisvillle [talking about the injured possibly re-learning to walk].

Some big things have been changing, however. (
Another big reason [for village desertion] is a change of farming. (Mick Aston)

Small-scale gold mining may be a big source (of mercury). (New Scientist Aug 2014: They mean “source of a large amount”.

There were big restrictions on the tube network: severe
He made some big points: important

a growing glut of contentious sites (Independent) Once you’ve got a glut, you’ve reached saturation – or surfeit. A glut can’t grow (and it certainly can’t deepen).

All that money comes at the heaviest possible price. (Prices rise or fall, are high or low – not heavy or light. Losses can be heavy, you can pay a heavy toll.)
That translates into greater access to heavily white neighbourhoods with good public schools. (Time, Jan 2014)

Interactive map shows how income inequality has deepened across the globe. (Andy Pakula ‏@apakula): The income gap widened.
The housing crisis continues to grow: worsen
It is 50 years ago that Dutch elm disease began to erupt here (Times Feb 2015): emerge, attack, spread, proliferate
London’s Urban Beekeeping Scene Is Exploding ( (expanding rapidly)

In 1536 Henry VIII's Parliament passed an act which saw the Dissolution of the Monasteries. (English Heritage): led to

a brutal duel, a brutal game of cat and mouse (Ben McIntyre on Kim Philby Both duels and games of cat and mouse are gentlemanly and refined, not brutal. How about “ruthless”?)
California is currently laboring under a brutal drought. (Jezebel Mar 2014): extreme, severe
a brutal winter storm: severe
Remember that Europe has just come out the other side of a world war and a brutal flu epidemic. ( Here’s a place for deadly or devastating.

Nature documentaries must say “teeming with life” at some point, and use Tennysonian phrases like “summer’s bounty”.

“Their most precious harvest” – someone turns over a piece of honeycomb slowly and reverently. “Harsh realities are never far away – even the summer nights hold an unwelcome chill.” “After dark, the village takes on a siege mentality. The villagers close themselves off from some very unwelcome visitors – Asian black bears. It’s not just bears on the prowl. Foxes take their pick… in the shadows an even more sinister presence is lurking.” “A devastating intensity – a botanical wonderland – coaxing new blooms from the rich glacial soil...” (All from Wild India. Nobody talks like this.)

End your nature or science doc with the words “…in ways we (or scientists) are only just beginning to understand”.
Don’t forget that dinosaurs “reigned” for 65 million years, or perhaps “ruled the earth”.

Science writers are still trying to make dramatic events more exciting.
Entities don’t take in, ingest or inhale, they suck or gulp. They don’t emit or exhale but belch, spew or burp.

Meanwhile, it sucks down Amazon adverts from the cloud. (Steven Poole, Guardian 2013)
Offshore wind farms could suck enough power from a hurricane to reduce its impact on land. (
This environmental catastrophe involves sucking millions of tons of small fish out of the sea and crushing them into fish oil and dry feed for farmed fish, pigs and chicken. (Isabel Oakeshott, Sunday Times Jan 2014) Try draw or extract.
Eruptions spew from these gashes.
The Lea then flows through a once heavily polluted former industrial area before belching its silt into the Thames in London’s old docklands. ( Try "discharging".

There’s a kind of mission-statement speak with a long list of aims that are utterly vague – all about people being “passionate” or “messianic” about what they do, and companies having a “flexible response”, instead of actually doing anything.

It's a bit of an outrage with new towers going up in London sitting empty. (Don’t towers “stand empty”?)
The stones of Stonehenge “and the wider landscape in which they sit”. (They stand. They’re standing stones.)

Dictators are toppled, markets tumble, plummet or plunge. Like “do battle” for “fight”, does it sound more dramatic than “fall” or “drop”?
There’s no need to smash or shatter a record – breaking a record is breaking a record, and it’s exciting enough. You might break it by miles, of course, but all you’ve done is break it.

Who are these people who say that romance is dead? Where is their research? And do we all need our faith in human nature restored? More restoration: anything to its former glory, your faith in anything. (The only one I hate more is “lulled into a false sense of security”.)

Why “unbridled” lust? “Bridle the incitements to lust.” (Origen, De Principiis. In Ireland, there’s a sculpture of lust wearing a bridle. About 800 years after Origen.)

Tender age doesn’t just mean “age”. You can die at the tender age of 5, or ironically at the tender age of 76.

If you want to be flowery, beginning writers and artists are “budding artists” etc. Their talent may “blossom”. “Blooming marvellous!” They may form a “burgeoning movement”, or a “flowering of talent”. If unlucky, they may “wither on the vine”.

If you want to sell toiletries to women, you must claim they are “gentle – not like harsh old-fashioned products”.

Many people remain mired in poverty.
Wars are brutal, civil wars are bloody, gaps yawn, abuse is hurled.
Destroyed buildings are “left a smoking ruin”.
Poor driving conditions are treacherous, ice grips or entombs.
Fortunately choirboys are “suitably” seraphic, angelic or cherubic.

How exactly does one shove a belief down another person's throat?

Why is it always "Armageddon" and never "Ragnarok"?

No, no pranks are “hilarious”. No pranks are even funny.

More here, and links to the rest.

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