Sunday 31 January 2016

Received Ideas 9

Agatha Christie

My book, Clichés: A Dictionary of Received Ideas, is now available as a paperback from Amazon here. Here are some extra, free urban legends, What to Say About, and factoids Everybody Knows:

19th CENTURY NOVELS Dated. Irrelevant to modern life. You can still recognise modern society, despite the many changes – that’s why they’re called “classics”. They’re “timeless” after all!

ACORNS The buttons on the end of blind cords are carved in the shape of acorns to protect your house from lightning.

ACTING “Just say the lines and don’t bump into the furniture,” said Roger Moore, Spencer Tracy, Noel Coward, Henry Irving, Mrs Siddons...

ACTING Actors declaimed Shakespeare stiffly until Garrick/Kean/Irving/Olivier came along.

ACTORS All rich and posh (“luvvies”), especially once they’ve acted in Shakespeare. Have booming voices, and like all posh people, constantly say things like “don’t you know, my dear”. Are not allowed to have political opinions, or sympathise with the poor.

AGATHA CHRISTIE Her habit of repeating words wasn’t an oversight but a clever use of neurolinguistic programming techniques to subliminally hypnotise the reader. (Once she became successful, she forbade her publishers to change a word. She used a dictaphone and was careless at times.)

AGATHA CHRISTIE II When talking about the Golden Age mystery writer, always mention “chintz”. (See Miss Marple and tweed, and nuns and wimples.)

AGE OF CONSENT Used to be 21 because that was the age a young man could stand up in a suit of full armour.

AGRICULTURE Agricultural societies settle and become civilised (build cities). Hunters, gatherers and herders should be moved off the (valuable) land.

ANKLES Crossing your ankles confuses the brain.

APOSTROPHES We all go purple-faced with rage over a misplaced apostrophe, don’t we? Why don’t children learn grammar these days? Work isn’t marked for spelling, punctuation and grammar any more! (Grammar and punctuation may have gone out of fashion for a time, but are back in force in most schools.)

ART, ARCHITECTURE Practically any feature was “designed to show how rich you were”.

ARTISTS Create because they are inspired, not for the money.

ATHEISTS It makes no sense to define people on the basis of what they don’t believe in. It’s a logical impossibility for an atheist to exist. Worship nothing. What do they say when they want to say OMG?

ATMs If you’re being pressured to give someone money at an ATM, enter your PIN in reverse. You’ll still get the money, but the police will be alerted and will arrive in a few minutes. (Don’t try it!)

AUBERGINES Never taste as good as they look. (This must date from the days when they were quite rare, nobody knew what to do with them and were convinced they had to be salted to “remove the bitterness”.)

More to come.

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Haiku 14

Help me! I am trapped
in a Haiku factory.
Save me, before they

Oh no, how awful
Fearless I shall rescue you
Let me just get my

To convey one’s mood
In seventeen syllables
Is very diffic
(Hugh Porter ‏@ShugPorter)

There's a big floppy something
Making a fool of itself in the wind,
Noisily, relentlessly,
Poorly fastened by bad workmen.
(your fair claire ‏@illusClaire)

I'm the only one on this train.
I think. It's a bit eerie.
Outside it is night.
And Swindon.

In that one dark pass
behind the shadow
of the world.
(Chris Hadfield)

London this morning
In mist –
Tip of the Shard.
(Antony Parké)

I'm off to bed,
in a caravan
in the middle of a field
in the middle of nowhere.
Good night.

Just pulling into Runcorn,
now they're pumping out Mariah
on the tinny PA system.
I have conflicted feelings.
(Matthew Whitfield ‏@mwhitfield80)

Ennui in the office.
Dirty grey winter dirt.
A small orange toy wagon
abandoned on the pavement.

A short shift on my day off.
A lost hat, soon to be reunited.
A broken brolly, disregarded.
A tree full of crows.
(Some Bloke in a Hat ‏@toolegs)

White mushrooms a-peeping
through the leaf litter;
Pumpkin, spattered on the roads;
Many hundreds of geese
in the stubble-field.

A bullfinch.
Marsh harriers.
Two deer.
A black-tailed godwit.
A massive nose bleed.
A flat battery.
A jump start.
Today at Leighton Moss.
Some Bloke in a Hat ‏@toolegs

To be a high school
poetry judge
I have put on
large earrings.

Wind chimes are doing some rattling out there...
singing about a big wind that's on its way, perhaps.
(Alan McGinn ‏@Chainsaw_McGinn)

What I love most about London
is how you can take a 20-minute bus ride
and pass through many cities.
(Karl Sharro ‏@KarlreMarks)

Every time a train station is revamped,
we lose a place to end a grim relationship.
(The Guardian)

How do you know
if it's a fall poem?
There are geese in it,
and the word "ochre".

Chilly Hackney coffee temple.
Earnest man spends 5 minutes
making sans-serif cappuccino.
Tastes like lukewarm Mellow Birds.
Croissant? Stale.

Moving to the
black bones of winter,
the cold teeth
that tear the skin.
(David Southwell ‏@cultauthor)

Misty and still.
The silence underscored by a
distant Diesel engine.
(Some Bloke in a Hat ‏@toolegs)

La panthère nébuleuse de Taïwan
est officiellement disparue.
Vers un autre Monde.

Beautiful sliver of new moon
and big sparkly Venus
in the misty morning sky
when I was out at the hens.
(Alan McGinn ‏@Chainsaw_McGinn)

And now the exciting moment of suspense
In which I wonder if I’m on the right train
And if not, where I’m going.
(John Elledge)

Falling leaves in the parks
And wet pavements along the
deserted Embankment.
(Kenneth Williams)

Of all the stars in the whole sky
Visible to the naked eye
Only one is green
And nobody knows why.
(This is Beta Librae,
the second brightest star in Libra,
the Scales, just south of Serpens.)
(Fortean Times)

Dipped my feet in an ice-cold mountain lake
only to look down and see a snake
sitting on my foot.
(Mark Hogan ‏@markasaurus)

That raven's still outside.
Bad omen. Be careful.
Are you threatening me? Oo it's raining.
I... can't remember. What?

I've just watched a fox
run away down the railway tracks,
a little swift ghost
vanishing into the darkness.

I can hear more foxes
scuffing the dry leaves under the bushes,
as if embarrassed clerks
picking up spilled foolscap.

“It is not your dark, human,”
the foxes say.
“It never has been.
It is our dark,
and now we are taking it back.”
Hugh: Exactly where is Crouch End?
Centre's easy, but where are the edges?

Ruth: I've lived in London almost all my life
(both north and south of the river)
and to the best of my knowledge
I have never been to Crouch End.
If it isn't a tube station
I'm not convinced it exists.

Hugh: It isn't a tube station.
Yet I am here.
Wherever 'here' is.

After-dinner walk.
The light from the pizza van
draws in moths.

On intercity train,
darkness beyond the glass,
listening to Wicker Man soundtrack.

Wooden stirrer in takeaway tea,
polystyrene against cardboard,
nails on blackboard,
teeth and ice.

Waiting for the 77 bus to Arlington Heights.
The kids say, Mom, you sure love the bus.
To which I say: I do.
(Elizabeth Bastos)

I picked up an abandoned ES mag
under a tree near the tube.
Damp pink petals
keep falling out as I read it.
(Ruth Slavid @archifreelance)

The more I hear about
the great world outside,
the more I want to hide away
in a large snail shell.

It is gone eleven
here in north Sweden
and it is still not dark
and I have eaten cloudberries
and my room looks like
being inside a silver birch.

Housemartins are back
in their nest under the eaves of our house.
Summer may now commence.
(Ben Jones ‏@ben_patio)

The cat, Henry, so
quietly it sneaks up on you,
is snoring.
(Sam Leith ‏@questingvole)

Today, on anonymous Midlands Industrial Estates,
a surprising abundance of beautiful spring blossom
is frothing the little landscaping trees.
(Damian Counsell ‏@PootBlog)

I'm just up Brent Cross
having a jammy dodger
in the hospitality suite.
(Matthew Whitfield ‏@mwhitfield80)

In the dark woods,
to the sound of shrieking foxes,
there is a man thinking about
Ludwig Kirchner, & other ghosts.
(Imaginary Cities ‏@Oniropolis)

Oh succulents,
the more I try to love thee,
the more I inadvertently kill thee.
(Kate at

Brilliant blue sky over SW London this am.
Tiny dots of a crow and sparrowhawk
scrapping above Clapham.

If a vast, mist-shrouded
Russian lake could sing,
it would sound like
Hamlet Gonashvili.
(Andrew Male)

Exploring Reston, VA.
The back streets have a sort of bland bleakness
that American cities do so well.
(Mike Bennett @MikeHypercube)

"Forever" is at least until
all the protons in the universe decay.
10^76 years at the very least.
So I'm going with that.

All hail!
Those icy little spheres
falling from the sky right now.
(Mike ‏@Archangel_One)

It is now so cold
you can walk across Lake Erie.
But don't.
(Feargus O'Sullivan ‏@FeargusOSull)

‏Albion! Thy beauty
remains unsurpassed!
My heart sings
as we travel the A120.

We can't ever lose
these pictures that take us back
to places we have never been.
(Beatrice Queen ‏@lilBeaQ)

More here, and links to the rest.

Haiku 13

Found: a dying star
gobbling a broken planet,
leaving a trail of dust.

Proof-reading my manuscript,
I realised I use the words
tyrannical, puritan, mythic,
binary, future & miasma
far too much.
(Imaginary Cities ‏@Oniropolis)

I have just removed
most repeats of “always” and
nearly all ghastlies.

I have no idea
What the fuck a haiku is
Some syllable shit
Neil ‏@nellyweather)
I just have to say
that is a decent haiku
despite ignorance.

Disaster! A child,
Seeking escaped pet ferret,
Tramples my fernery.

Last night in the rain
Sitting outside a café
In damp ballet shoes.

Look, foggy hazes,
And icy plains and mountains –
New views of Pluto.

In café, man in hivis vest
showing pix of his baby girl
born this morning in a taxi.

Yellow butterfly
is flapping its way down
Dunsmure Road.

I wanted diamonds.
I got a self-assembly
rocking chair kit.
The glue failed to stick
and it remained a pile of
red-painted wooden bits.

Rays of bright spring sun
on taffeta pincushion –
a thin film of dust.

Caught on the bus stop
Waving in the chilly wind
A single long hair.

Wet slippery path.
At the end of the garden
Empty swings dangle.

I am following
two old acquaintances but
they don’t know that.

At the bus stop, dude
with rainbow mirror shades
eats a banana.

More here, and links to the rest.
Picture by Djordje Isailovic

Monday 25 January 2016

Similes 5

London's new towers are 'like architectural leylandii'. (Independent Feb 2015)

Can you remember the last time you bought an actual "hot cake"? (Damian Counsell ‏@DamCou)

Russian basses “sound like cardboard boxes being torn up”. (Will Stevens)

A new Foxtons branch in your London borough must be like the arrival of smiling Conquistadors brandishing smallpox-infected blankets. (@AlexPaknadel)

London feels like one of those heated aeroplane towels this morning. (@HamishMThompson)

It always looks so good on TV, but everything at Olive Garden tastes like cardboard with sauce. (Stephanie Fredricks ‏@stephfredricks)
Fancy chain restaurants are just fast food joints dressed up for the prom. ( ‏@Brimshack)

Ed Miliband is like a blancmange in a hurricane.
[Hoping alt therapy will cure cancer is like] running into a burning building & trying to put the fire out by means of interpretive dance. (@HadleyFreeman)

#Spiral Poor Judge Roban, more and more resembling a wounded stork. (Roy Kelly ‏@stanyanfan49)

David Moyes seems to be picking up Spanish, much in the same way that I'd pick up a semi-concious bumblebee. (@cluedont )

I slept like a twig.

The Scottish no-nonsense [way] to approach safari park talks. "This great grey owl is thick as mince." (Ben Hatch Novelist ‏@BenHatch )

The fog came down like a sheepskin coat.
A line printer that yammered like a set of prank-shop chatter teeth. (New Yorker)

Some say that the Bible shouldn’t be translated into poetry, as it distracts people from the meaning.

Your princes are like grasshoppers in a day of cold — when the sun rises, they fly away; no one knows where they are. Nahum 3:17

To bow down his head as a bulrush. (Bible)

Lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.

For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them. (Isaiah 1:30-31)

And the Amorites, which dwelt in that mountain, came out against you, and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you in Seir, even unto Hormah.

Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney. (Hosea 13: 3 )

She shall rustle away like snake. (Jeremiah on a defeated Egypt)

Your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away. (Hosea)

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Inspirational Quotes 81

Shallow party friends
Remember, a lot of useless advice is from age to youth.

I reject the ideas that life is supposed to be confusing, that life is supposed to be hard. These seem to be very prevalent ideas though. I also clearly reject the idea that life is supposed to be totally spontaneous except for the things those mean grown-ups make you do. I reject the notion that doing things that make you happy are “selfish” acts that should be minimized. (Truett Ogden ‏@Truett)

Fashion is a lonely, shallow world full of ‘party friends’. (Daily Mail)

Novelist Ali Shaw, author of The Girl with Glass Feet, suggests that glass delusion might simply be at the extreme end of a scale of social anxiety which many of us experience to a lesser extent. The fear of tripping and breaking is really an exaggerated fear of social humiliation. (

‏ Saying “Oh, you’ll be fine” and dumping them in at the deep end of social situations will only reinforce their fears. (Times guide to shy children)

I don’t think you’ll ever recreate the buzz and cameraderie of working as an employee with like-minded souls once you pass the 40 mark. (commenter on Steerforth’s blog, The Age of Uncertainty)

After Hillsborough, standing was banned. After Kings X fire, all wooden escalators replaced. After
100 London cyclists killed by lorries...? (Bill Chidley ‏@BillBuffalo)

It is semi-public space outside homes that allows for social networks to develop. (Dr Elanor Warwick, Academy of Urbanism ‏@theAoU Apr 22)

Here we go again with the “agitator” narrative. Such BS & so disrespectful of the people who are rising up based on oppressive conditions. (Ida’s Disciple ‏@prisonculture)

If life begins at 40, I have some things to say about the warmup period. (@AmyDentata)

Today ... when you use words like democracy, human rights & rule of law, they immediately depict you as a leftist. (Dan Meridor)

Hollywood is full of sports captains and prom queens who want to be famous. (Eddie Marsan)

Admit it, have you ever told a cracking story to your friends but failed to include the crucial (but perhaps boring) caveat that the amusing events actually happened to someone else? A new survey of hundreds of US undergrads finds that borrowing personal memories in this way is common place. (BPS digest)

Embarrassment all round as Prince Charles's letters to ministers reveal him to be diligent, polite and well-informed. ‏(@iainmartin1)

As the population grows, so the pie needs to be shared in smaller pieces. Fairly. (@pal_ette)

The only single mother and single child in our circle, we were oddities, lonely together... Big families would invite us over with what I often perceived as a tinge of sympathy. (Single mother who lived in a suburb where you had to have a dog to fit in)

women: (exist)
men: Has Feminism Gone Too Far?
(little archer boy ‏@ithinkurkewl)

Matt Allwright: You just pour in care and affection until they submit, don’t you?
Council worker: You cannot give up with young people – you just can’t.
(Housing Enforcers)

Is it a hate crime that I don’t enjoy Ted talks? (Tristis Lacerta ‏@Jugbo)

Keeping people hopeless and pessimistic - see I think there are two ways in which people are controlled - first of all frighten people and secondly demoralize them. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern. (Tony Benn)

The Queen’s Speech: profit before people, screw the young, screw the poor and forget civil liberties. Same great taste now with no liberals. (Laurie Penny ‏@PennyRed)

Stereotypes mean when I or others are being actively dehumanised and I point that out, it’s my fault for not understanding the “joke”. (@FeministAspie)

The Human Rights Act will simply be replaced with another act. They’ll remove an acronym, add “responsibilities” to the label, and claim victory. (Matthew Parrish Times 2015-05-23)

Height gives you clout and presence. I just used to look down at people and they did things. (Melanie Reid Times 2015-05-23)

"The over-arching thing is that the world is moving in a better direction” despite bad news. (George Clooney on #bbcbreakfast)

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 14 January 2016

Inspirational Quotes 80

Practise your smile in the mirror

Don't copy others, people will take you at your own valuation and love you for your flaws.... (yawn zzzzz).

I just hope my daughter doesn’t ever have to feel like she has to prove she is beautiful or that she has a confident smile or all that jazz. (@matthaig1)

If dating and mating is in fact a marketplace – and of course it is... (Atlantic)

A woman who has been complicit in keeping this traditional partnership in place for old-fashioned bourgeois reasons – security and income. (Observer April 2015 If she’s doing it now, it’s modern.)

An ex-barista describes stealing over-the-counter chat from a naturally sunny colleague. (Observer April 2015)

The rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful the woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child. (Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett in 2002)

Dating can be a form of courtship consisting of social activities done by the couple. While the term has several meanings, it usually refers to the act of meeting and engaging in some mutually agreed upon social activity in public, together, as a couple... Behavior patterns are generally unwritten and constantly changing. (Wikipedia)

Psychology researchers at the University of Michigan suggested that men prefer women who seem to be “malleable and awed”, and prefer younger women with subordinate jobs such as secretaries and assistants and fact-checkers rather than executive-type women. (Wikipedia What was that about self-confidence being attractive?)

Men really dislike a literary woman
(especially if she is good)... (Dawn Powell)

Men don’t like strong women who are successful. (Katharine Hamnett March 2015)

[In the 80s] we felt we could change the world for the better. But somehow, by the end, we had £3,000 puffball skirts. (Katharine Hamnett)

I hate that “honor code” where nobody’s supposed to tell anybody that anybody’s cheating. (

Single women over a certain age continue to be stigmatized. (Time May 2015)

Whom to marry and when will it happen – these two questions define every woman’s existence. (Kate Bolick, in Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own – sounds like a rerun of Live Alone and Like It)

“Everything happens for a reason” is usually what everyone says when life doesn’t go the way they wanted it to. (@madfactz)

Loneliness is bad for you. Some experts have even likened it to a kind of disease. (BPS Digest)

When I moved out on my own, I had such a difficult time adjusting to the real world that I spent years feeling like I had been duped and left on my own to figure out how to “de-weird” myself... Outsiders grow uncomfortable with your lack of familiarity with pop-culture, or find it wildly funny and strange when you miss an obvious social cue... Brene Brown wrote “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.” ... every time you were made fun of, misunderstood, felt cheated of a life most other kids had, felt behind in your education, had to add one more thing to your list of stuff you missed out on and are trying to catch up on... even though I may not have understood all the references being made, I knew I was being mocked, made fun of, or was the topic of conversation. (Homeschool graduate)

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Buzz Words for December 2015

Earlier every year

Vicious condemnation of people buying anything on Black Friday (American import, only buying TVs and Xboxes), media-induced frenzy. Somehow this is not “prejudice”.

Butthurt is popular, unpleasantly. Being used for our old friend “over-sensitive”, ie minding when people are nasty to you.

Overweight people are the new hate figures for some morons in the States and now here.

prayer shaming (After shootings in San Bernardino, some say prayer is not enough.)

“This media charade called Christmas.”

“With the ever increasing commercialisation of Christmas, just how do you help kids understand the real meaning.” Yadda yadda.

“Christmas is in shops for about 1/4 of the year! Too much commercialisation missing the point!

And some satire: “I loath Christmas all the commercialisation the meaning lost & more importanly it is a pagan festival ;)”
“I hate commercialisation. DOWN WITH ALL FOOD AT CHRISTMAS!

Anything Christmas-related is a “frenzy”: shopping, baking, wrapping, decorating, singing, dancing. And “fashion frenzy” means “money off”. (It used to be the “Christmas rush”.)

Christmas music in shopping centres induces a trance like retail frenzy.” (People buy more than they need because they are hypnotised by the muzak – not heard that one since about 1962.)

luvvie: Is “luvvie” now shorthand for “lefty”? It has been appropriated by people who have no idea it once meant “actor”, from Private Eye’s LUVVIES column. (Actors are alleged to call each other “love”, “darling” etc because they can’t remember names. And all that portraying emotion in plays has contaminated them – they now express emotions in real life, the fiends!)

Now people are asking sarcastically what we’re planning for Valentine's Day (another American important and media-fuelled attempt to part us from our cash). Has anyone told them that meanness is terribly unattractive?

Stronger anti-stalking measures (I remember when “stalking” wasn’t a word and nobody would take it seriously.)

perpetrator: "We need to be dealing with the perpetrator. It shouldn't be the victim who needs to change their behaviour." Becoming more common and can’t be said too often.

Advent calendar “jokes”.
Twitter full of people making would-be clever “snide” remarks at the words and activities of those they perceive as a teeny weeny bit lefty.

museology: The discipline of museum design, organization, and management.

"Floodgates” used in the literal sense again.

Lots of fussing over teaching children cursive handwriting. (When schools got computers in the 80s, why didn’t they come with touchtyping classes? Proper Sight & Sound touchtyping, not hunt and peck. We could still do it and increase the nation's productivity.)

The feels!
Couples used to meet when seated next to each other on aeroplanes – now it’s shared Uber trips. Or LinkedIn dates.

Liberals being described as “Kumbaya-singing” when nobody has droned this dreary ditty for decades. But we SHALL overcome one day.

unicorns and rainbows: shorthand for unreliable uplift

transactional (relationships)

Oh no, now “cultural Marxism” (from the people who think “politically correct” means “rigidly left-wing”. People who seemed quite sensible, like Steven Pinker.)

PEGIDA: Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident

Earbud jewellery is a thing.

fauxminists (See champagne socialists. Again, if lefties are all “faux”, what are you so frightened of?)

Much discussion of the Star Wars trailer.
Lengthy, leaden attempt at humour from the Guardian about Xmas starting too early. (Sorry, Dean Burnett.)

Wonky windows on new buildings are a thing.

“We are brand shepherds.”

catfish: fake ID on socmed

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday 1 January 2016

Hey Guys, It's 2016!!!

The results of this poll of GOP voters are pretty stunning: Thirty percent of those surveyed expressed support for bombing Agrabah. (For those of you who are struggling with geography, that is the homeland of Aladdin and Jasmine.)
Other results: 54% back banning Muslims from entering the U.S., 46% support a national database of Muslims, and 28% support the WWII Japanese internment policy.
This is America in 2015.(Jeff Chu)

How is that people still watch beauty pageants? What year is this? (Ben White @morningmoneyben)

@greateranglia STILL can’t get their toilets working in 2015??!! (Sarah C @spookyjulie)

Why are grown men being referred to as 'rent boys' in the closing days of 2015 and by pinktrashnews no less (marcus #dogselfiegay ‏@marcuswstow)

Why are black people still being compared to food when it's nearly 2016? (@marcuswstow)

‏2015, folks. TWO THOUSAND AND FIFTEEN. (@Sathnam Responding to Times article on Port Vale not hiring Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink because of fears that “the black manager might become a target for racist abuse from fans”. Owner says “I didn’t take him because of the racial issue the club had got”.)

It’s 2015 and loos will one day be unisex. (Melanie Reid)

Yes, yes, sometimes women propose, but it's pretty much always the guys (happy 2015 everyone) (

And if I want a printout from Google maps that I can actually read, I take a screenshot and print that. (And half the streets aren’t labelled.)

On Twitter, if I want to see a whole picture without losing my place, I pretend I want to reply to the tweet.

More here, and links to the rest.