Friday 27 October 2017

Art Shows in London, Durham and Southampton

Bloomberg Building
3 Queen Victoria St, London
Bloomberg's new building, designed by Norman Foster, incorporates the temple to Mithras discovered in 1954. The Mithraeum will open to the public, free, on 14 November, with an accompanying exhibition of objects found at its original site. Mithraism was a male-only religion popular among Roman soldiers.

Royal Institute of British Architects
Portland Place
To 26 November
Pablo Bronstein Conservatism of the long reign of pseudo-Georgian architecture. Drawings of 20th century buildings in an "ostensibly neo-Georgian style", plus Georgian objects in a domestic setting.

Soane Museum
Lincoln's Inn Fields
Until 9 Dec
Adam Nathaniel Furman's colourful classical ceramics. Wish I could afford a "soapaduct".

Dulwich Picture Gallery
Tove Jansson To 28 January
The Finnish writer and illustrator of the Moomin books was also a painter and graphic artist. She lived in an attic studio and spent summers on a tiny island.

Pallant House Chichester
To Feb 4
David Bomberg
Spirit of the Mass: David Bomberg's Legacy
The works of David Bomberg, and a parallel exhibition of the artists he taught at the Borough Polytechnic between 1945 and 1953, including Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff. Bomberg started his career as a modernist, moving from Vorticism to a more naturalistic approach as a war artist in World War Two.

Courtauld Gallery
To 21 January
Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters & Bellboys
The Russian-Jewish painter Chaïm Soutine, who was based in Paris, was more famous for painting rotting sides of beef in thick impasto. But he also painted witty and sympathetic portraits of the workers who staffed the capital's restaurants and hotels. The paintings proved popular, and their sale lifted him out of poverty.

Palace Green LibraryDurham
To 25 February
Between Worlds: Folklore and Fairy Tales from Northern Britain
2 December to 18 March
Hell, Heaven and Hope: A Journey through life and the afterlife with Dante

British Library
Euston Road
To 28 Feb
Harry Potter: A History of Magic
Divination, potions, creatures, unicorns and more.

Sainsbury Centre
University of East Anglia
To 11 February
The Russia Season: Royal Fabergé
Jewellery and objets d'art from the Imperial fabricators. Eggs, flowers, cigarette cases, hardstone animals and a model of the Tatlin Tower (in the grounds).

British Museum
Living with Gods
2 November to 8 April
The story of the world's religious practices, told through objects. And in 2018 the museum is showcasing Oceanic Art.

Southampton City Art Gallery
Commercial Road
To 6 Jan 2018
From Mile End to Mayfair: the East London Group 
This talented bunch of painters were taught by Walter Sickert to record the streets of London. Look out for Elwin Hawthorne and Albert Turpin. Works by the Camden Town group will be shown alongside.

And there's still time to catch the monstrous, apocalyptic Art of Ray Harryhausen at Tate Britain, London until 19 Nov.

Monday 23 October 2017

Confusibles 3

Some words and phrases sound so similar that they are often confused. It's dangerous to mix up your alkahest with your almagest, especially in the presence of Queen Elizabeth I.

almagest: A treatise on astronomy, geography and maths compiled by Ptolemy about AD 150.
alkahest: The universal solvent once sought by alchemists.

Magician John Dee (pictured) is wearing a goffered ruff.
A goffering iron
(short O)  is a device for putting pleats in a ruff or bonnet.
A gofer (long O) is someone you send to fetch (go for) things.
A gopher (long O) is an American rodent.

You bail out a leaky boat, and bail a friend out of prison, but you bale up a bale of straw with baling twine.

You can have a buttoned-down (Puritanical) personality. You may be buttoned-up and rarely reveal your feelings. When you apply yourself to a task you buckle to (or down). When you collapse from all that hard work you buckle up, or just buckle.

Censers burn incense, censors ban books, and sensors are robot eyes and ears.

A bad egg is addled, an over-rouged woman is raddled.

Discomforting: disconcerting, making someone uncomfortable.
Discomfiting: Beating someone in a fight or argument.
(They’ve been confused for centuries.)

A galley is a compact kitchen on a boat, a gallery is where you sell works of art. So a small kitchen in a house is a "galley kitchen".

A gambit is a move in a game, an ambit is a sphere of influence, an orbit is the path a planet takes round the sun, your remit is your area of responsibility.

Bears are grizzly, beards are grizzled (grey), ghouls are grisly (gruesome).

Hermitic individuals avoid the rest of humanity, hermetic knowledge is magical or obscure (it's been hermetically sealed).

The jive is an energetic teenage dance of the 50s, to jibe is to agree or fit, when you gybe in a sailing boat you go about, a gibe is a needling insult, and gyves are fetters.

Lightning is a bolt from the blue, lightening is a relief of pressure.

If you're livid you are purple like a bruise from anger, or pale with shock; a lurid light is a sinister glow, a lurid paperback contains a shocking tale.

Mettle is determination, metal is gold, silver, iron, steel, tin, brass...

Ordnance refers to weapons, ordinance to rules.

Populace is a noun: it means “the people”. Populous is an adjective meaning “crowded”.

A bum rap is a harsh sentence; a bad rep is a poor reputation.

Society may be riddled with corruption as a Gruyere cheese is with holes. It may also be crime-ridden, and riven with dissent and factions. Anything riven is likely to be full of rifts.

You build on a site, keep your small child in sight, and cite facts in support of your argument.

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 22 October 2017

Past and Present

This is the first scene in Augustus Egg's Past and Present, recently discussed on Britain's Lost Masterpieces. The man has just come in (that's his briefcase and umbrella in the foreground, and he's set down his top hat on the dining-room table). He's clutching in his hand an incriminating letter, revealing his wife's affair.

The picture is full of symbolism: on the back wall are portraits of the couple, and engravings of the temptation of Eve, and a shipwreck by Clarkson Stanfield. The wife has just cut an apple in half - a gleaming red apple from the Tree of Knowledge, but it has a rotten centre. Notice her beautiful brown silk skirt and filmy blouse, and the little girl's moire silk dress. The children are building a house of cards which is about to fall. The woman's snake bracelet may be a reference to the snake in the garden of Eden.

Here's my reading: the man came in and stood, showing her the incriminating letter. She fell to her knees in front of him, holding up her clasped hands and begging for forgiveness. He may have pushed her over - or else he refused to forgive her, and she fell, still holding out her arms. Now her clasped hands and bracelets make it look as if her arms are shackled. He then collapsed into a chair.

In the subsequent pictures, the little girls, grown older, are alone in their bedroom. The older girl is looking sadly out of the window at the moon. The wife looks up at the same moon from an arch on the foreshore. She is holding another child under her shawl.

The pictures are here.

Thursday 19 October 2017

Styles and Genres 5

Chicago bungalow (Ornate, with features from many periods and countries. Let’s build lots.)
cheap clumsy reproduction (What you get after a Georgian terrace is demolished.)
cinematic expressionism – towers and irregular arcades (Martin Lampprecht)
contemporary funky polite (Adam Nathaniel Furman)
cosy modern a la Indian YMCA (ANF)
developer’s quayside tat (Gareth Hughes)
Essex barn vernacular
1950s spindly fusspot architecture (Hugh Pearman)
funny shape-ist (for houses, HP)
pastry-cook’s Gothic (early 19th cent)
Polish cathedral (Over-the-top, with domes and a westwork.)

Po-Tech: An early classic from the period when Po Mo met High Tech resulting in a sort of camp modernism or a less historicist Post Modernism depending on your point of view. (Charles Holland on Terry Farrell's Water Treatment Centre in Reading)

Rubik’s Snake: looks like half-unfolded origami
Tesco pomo (ANF)
Victorian picturesque thrusting classical pomposity (Rohan Storey)

80s Chinese restaurant (mint wallpaper and ornate silk paintings)
luxury avant-garde 
American post-war corporate (Douglas Murphy)
faux bois: rustic log and twig garden furniture
industrial scrape’n’reveal vibe (HP)
witch kitsch

cocktail lounge jazz 
landfill indie bands of the early Noughties (Paul Whitelaw)
Tawdry 80s visions of the good life: I’m driving away from home, 30 miles or more. Love is a stranger in an open car.

Vaguely soulful pop fodder that’s clogged up the charts recently: a touch of gospel aligned to modern digital production, words on thwarted love, and a singalong chorus that’s perfect for an X Factor hopeful to give their all to while their relatives burst into tears at the side of the stage. It’s resolutely unremarkable. (Will Hodgkinson)


Daily Telegraph alternative Turner prize: paintings of café terraces and bougainvillea with too much ultramarine
high concept: The kind of art project that involves finding 50 people called Dominique Lambert, getting them to fill in a questionnaire describing themselves, giving the questionnaires to an artist who draws a picture based on their answers, giving the pictures to a police artist who turns them into efits and... I can’t remember what they did with the efits because I’d lost the will to live.

amateur choreographer, teaching assistant with a dark past (Eva Wiseman)
Heroin chic (90s) Fashion spreads in empty rooms in run-down hotels with dralon sofas and peeling, awful wallpaper.

normcore: dull food from the early 90s. May be ethnic, but in a safe and not very tasty way.)
snackwave: junk food
What to call the ramen burrito? Normcore fusion?

Watched the Titans movie. It's a classical mash-up. A bit 'tell Perseus that Helen's cyclops is riding a Minotaur in a trireme.' (Dan Snow)

The decade was finally starting to show the growth of the Post War economy and shine, so were the Movies, even the Noirs and it was the beginning of the end for the Genre. The look was not the only thing that started to "lighten up", the Characters were becoming less cynical, more perky, and frankly more boring. This can be exemplified by the Roommates here that are so spunky and aloof that they seem to glide and float through this Mystery/Thriller. Lowbrow Blues and Jazz was replaced with the nonthreatening Pop softness of Nat King Cole. (Anonymous imdb commenter on Blue Gardenia)

The "for people who hate forrin muck films" breed of lazy remake.

Upmarket Romance - girl gets the guy, but, boy, does it take time. (@JonnyGeller)

amazing dreck (Dan Auty in the late 70s when rep cinemas screened old scifi and you could even see it on telly sometimes.)

berserk pensioner
chase-a-minute action romp (Spooks)
desert road trip movie (popular in 70s)
doll horror
fashion horror
(The Eyes of Laura Mars)
found footage
French-window froth (imdb)
inspiration porn: films about cute brainboxes
low-tech Steampunk Victoriana (Greg Jenner on Dr Who)
mama drama
pig opera (Babe, Private Function/Betty Blue Eyes)

bonnet book
bus shelter poetry (Paul Whitelaw)
cat mystery: all characters are cats
clogs and shawls: romantic novel genre

country mystery:
  even broader than “country house mystery”, takes in any story not set in a big city
cozy mystery: There’s a murder, some suspects and a detective, but the whole thing is set in a country village and deliberately smothered in quilts, chutney, ponies and kittens. (No, I haven’t read any.)

creative writing class prose: present continuous, banal detail

ghostwriter’s prose: "
It was a lovely hotel… suddenly a man in a Stetson hat appeared…" On top of page after page of this mind-numbingly boring and irrelevant filler, the paint-by-numbers ghostwriter's prose is also dull and grating - "correct" in construction but utterly void of any creativity, style or interest. (Amazon review. Ghostwriters also tend to say “he was my rock” and “his smile lit up the room”.)

London cabbie humour
slum porn


Within general fiction we have subdivisions, from the university satire to the coming-of-age novel, but within genres there are even more, with Steampunk, Hard SF, Alternative History, time travel and Space Opera in SF and Cosy, Procedural, Psychological, Legal, Period and Serial Killer in Crime.  (Christopher Fowler)

Or make up your own: medieval self-help, Ice Age family saga etc

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 12 October 2017

Grammar: Pedantry 4

We must have [grammar rule] because in [unlikely scenario], if we ignore the rule the sentence might be ambiguous.

And we're all going to hell in a handcart because people are ignorant of the following: 

Christmas news bulletins sent to your friends are not round robins, they are circular letters.

"I and the staff would like to wish you a Happy New Year" – well why don’t you, ha ha?

Different to, different from, different than have different meanings and one of them is not “grammar”.

The programme should be spelled Desert Island Disks because “disk is original”.

Cooking instructions are a “receipt”, not a “recipe” – "recipe" is French. (That's "recette".)

Tube trains run through a tunnel, underground trains run through a covered trench.

The earth isn’t round, it’s spherical.

"Owing to" refers to a verb, "due to" refers to a noun. You can only say "thanks to" if you're thanking somebody. So what can we say? "On account of"? But that's American. So we may have to state directly that A caused B, and B happened as a result of A. But we can't do that, we're British!

Anticipate means “be prepared” not “expect”.

You’re wounded on a battlefield but injured in a car accident. (Times style guide)

It’s thank you, not thankyou. “Thankyou” is not a word. (See NGram – use of “thankyou” has risen sharply since 1972, while “thank you” has declined and then risen slightly since 1900.)

It’s not “this year”, it’s “the current year”.

There’s a difference in meaning between ’til and till.

You must use Oxford commas either all the time, or never. (NGram shows a steep rise for "Oxford comma" from 1985. It depends on context. Sometimes you need a comma before and, and sometimes you don’t. But if you always stick in the “Oxford comma” you'll never be wrong.)

These are brackets [ ]
These are parentheses ( ) 
These are braces { }

It’s “an aught” not “a nought”.

Singular 'they' never went away; it has been in steady use for centuries: Wikipedia quotes Chaucer, Shakespeare, Chesterfield, Ruskin, Byron, Austen, Defoe, Thackeray and Shaw. Some 19th century grammarians promoted a gender-neutral 'he', but the former remained widespread. (AG)

Merriam-Webster, which calls the usage 'entirely standard', notes that "hopefully" has been used to start sentences since the early 1700s, and other sentence adverbs for a century longer still. It's interesting that, according to an American Heritage Dictionary usage panel, approval of 'hopefully' as a sentence adverb dropped from 44% in 1969 to 27% in 1988. Also, if you disapprove of it, do you also disapprove of 'accordingly', 'seriously', 'understandably', 'amazingly', 'frankly', and 'honestly'?  We all seem quite happy to use those in the same way. (AG)

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Neologisms 18

People come up with new figures of speech every week – fortunately. They're far more fun than dialect words for long-forgotten agricultural tools.

Centrepoint: mid-air concrete embroidery (Magdalene Logan‏ @MaariVekki) 

One of those days when you could sob a beck full of tears...
(@herdyshepherd1, May 23 2017)

A lot of what drew me to the novel and made it distinctive I felt was sanded off in adaption. (@jeannette_ng)

Just coined the word "sparsescapes", and I'll fight any editor that tries to cut it. (@mrdavidwhitley)

Blimey! When I lived in Glasgow, I wouldn't have known an avocado if I'd found one in my porridge, as we used to say, I think. (Alison Classe)

Casual, little Englander superior nostril flaring. (via FB)

Compared to the banquet Jeremy Corbyn is offering, that’s rather a dry biscuit. (Andrew Marr to Theresa May)

Every galah in the pet shop is now an energy expert. (

He had all the common sense of an igneous rock. (AJB)

I don’t want to throw myself a pity party here. (

If you don't want to cringe so hard you'll end up in another dimension, do not read Theresa May's interview with the Plymouth Herald. (Owen Jones)

This, from a self-identified right-libertarian, features more spectacular projection than the 3D IMAX. (John Band‏ @johnb78)

[Prime-ministerial hopeful] isn’t competent to run a bath. (@johnb78)

Rome didn't so much fall as slide around a bit. (David M. Perry‏)

There’s a warehouse full of myths and urban legends when it comes to Prince. (BBC Breakfast)

Visitors arriving by train are now greeted with a generic clone-town scene more like a suburban retail park than an illustrious seat of learning. (Olly Wainwright on Cambridge)

We’ve got a duvet of cloud. (BBC weatherman)

You don’t have to be Encyclopedia Brown to find out that they’re living a very different life than the one they project. (

Covent Garden street performer hell

edu-lingo (full of terms that refer to nothing)
lobotomised whelks (Michael Cashman on Sun journalists)
malignant dimwits (Simon Schama on Trump’s “kakistocracy”)
neoclassical mounds of bombastic gloop (Rowan Moore on neo-country houses)
Remainders for Remainers
rurban fringe, bastard countryside (edgelands)
stained-glass platitudes (JP on Rees-Mogg)

More here, and links to the rest.

Reasons To Be Cheerful 20

I remember when bar staff thought women shouldn’t order drinks at the bar, so if you tried, they would ignore you (circa 1970). The stigma against going on blind dates – you had to pretend you’d met through friends – really has disappeared. (There were endless articles claiming it had gone when it hadn’t.) Heatherwick buses now have windows (and they slide to open, actually letting in AIR). 
Over the last two centuries, poverty has fallen, education and literacy have risen, democracy has increased, more people are vaccinated, and child mortality has fallen. Smoking in pubs and offices is a distant memory. Aquariums like Sea World no longer exhibit performing whales. And we don’t kill people for fun in public arenas any more. Do you still want "everything to go back to how it was", Brexiteers?

And when did the UK stop prosecuting “poachers” for shooting rabbits that nobody else wanted?
When did we cease whaling? Circa 1960, says Wikipedia. (Harpoon guns made whaling too efficient, and we ran out of whales.)

Since 1558 England has had a female head of state for 41% of the time. (Dan Snow)

1598 Edict of Nantes gives rights to French Protestants
1685 Edict of Nantes renounced, leading to persecution and flight, and depriving France of “many of its most skilled and industrious individuals” (Wikipedia)
1787 Rights restored
1797 Declaration of the Rights of Man ends religious discrimination in France

Poland banned corporal punishment in schools in 1783 (in their Constitution), and the Soviet Union in 1917. (UK 1986, some private UK schools 1998.)

Capital punishment was banned in West Germany in 1949. It continued in the DDR until 1987.

1782 Spanish Inquisition abolished
1823 Slavery abolished in Chile
1851 Window Tax repealed in UK

1914 Defence of the Realm Act ("The trivial peacetime activities no longer permitted included flying kites, starting bonfires, buying binoculars, feeding wild animals bread, discussing naval and military matters or buying alcohol on public transport. Alcoholic beverages were watered down and pub opening times were restricted to noon–3pm and 6:30pm–9:30pm (the requirement for an afternoon gap in permitted hours lasted in England until the Licensing Act 1988). Wikipedia)

1917 Dangerous Drugs Act bans selling and possessing non-prescription narcotics
1917 Women are admitted to the armed forces
1917 House of Commons agrees to remove the grille from the Ladies’ Gallery

1917 Stoke Newington appoints first woman Councillor
1924 Stoke Newington appoints first woman Mayor

1960s Australia no longer classifies aborigines as animals under the Flora and Fauna Act
1962 Jamaica gains independence from UK
1965 Contraception legalised in US
1970 Royal Navy ends officially sanctioned daily rum ration for sailors, instituted 1665
1974 Roman Catholics can be appointed Lord Chancellor

1974 Women can get credit cards without a husband's approval
1982 El Vino’s lifts ban on women standing at the bar

1990 Native Americans allowed to practise their languages in schools.
1992 US ratifies Human Rights Covenant
2002 Keiko the orca from Free Willy was freed in Iceland and lived in the wild for five years.

2015 Malta becomes the first country to outlaw non-consensual medical interventions in cases of intersex.

What a week! Greater abortion access for Northern Ireland women, same-sex marriages in Germany, huge faith school reforms in South Africa and Ireland. (@Humanists_UK)

By law now nothing prevents Tunisian Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men and inheritance between men/women is now equal!

Massive collapse in number of Anglicans in Britain, survey shows. “Given the number of faith schools, something is wrong!”
(@WalkerMarcus, paraphrase)

Homeopathic products should not be sold in Australian pharmacies because they place consumers at “unacceptable risk”, an independent review of pharmacy regulation for the health department has found. (Guardian) The NHS is considering ceasing to fund homeopathy in London and the Southwest – why hasn’t this happened already?

The Tasmanian government apologises to people affected by laws against gay sex and cross-dressing, repealed in 1997.

Garden Bridge quashed.
Supreme Court ruling extends same-sex survivor benefits to pre-2005 accrual.
First same-sex wedding involving a Muslim in the UK.
Church of England priests can choose whether or not to wear vestments in services.
Baroness Hale becomes Britain’s top judge.
Jordan's parliament votes to abolish a law which allowed rapists to avoid jail by marrying their victim.
Nepal criminalises banishing menstruating women to huts.
The loos are free at Victoria Station.
First Pride march in Kosovo.
Kenya’s High Court rules that one-third of MPs must be women.
MTV scraps gender-specific categories for movie and TV awards.
Falkland Islands introduce marriage equality.
First US woman wins a college football scholarship.
Rola Sleiman becomes the first female pastor in the Arab Christian world.
Female Islamic clerics declare fatwa against child marriage.
Nevada bans gay “cure” therapy for kids, becoming the 10th jurisdiction to ban gay “cures”.
Taiwan’s top court rules same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.
Scottish Episcopal Church votes to allow same-sex marriage.
The King’s Troop is almost 50/50 men and women.
German government approves equal marriage.
Saudi women can drive. (It had something to do with the country's reputation in the rest of the world.)

1857 Taney's Dred Scott ruling declared that African Americans, whether free or enslaved, were not and could never be citizens of the U.S.

The Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. (Alexander Stephens, 1861)

The Great Reform Act of 1832 gave the franchise to about 17% of the adult male population. And even that change had been fought fiercely by many of the landed interest that dominated British politics… [The “reform” narrative] was a tale of doing just enough at the 11th hour to avert rebellion by the majority of Britons who made the wealth. (Times, Sept 2017)

If you are a same-sex married couple you cannot get divorced on the grounds of adultery – adultery being a biblical definition that relates to an extramarital affair between a man and a woman. In reality, a same-sex couple can get divorced on the grounds of “unreasonable behaviour”, which can cover infidelity, but in the interest of equality this should be changed. (For straight couples, if your husband is unfaithful with another man, that isn’t adultery. Independent)

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Overheards 11

At the Scythians exhibition:
For a nomadic people very sophisticated, very sophisticated.

At the road protest: 
Woman: We want to stay in a Pallahdian villa.
Man: We went to a chateau in the Dordogne.

In the café:
Specialist? He’s more of a specialised gobshite.
Donald Trump – is it a syrup?
You’ve got to have a few of those poncy cafés if you want your neighbourhood to improve.
Of course, he was still the head of the National Spiritualist Society.
It’s like the golden goose, innit.
For my birthday I want a tattoo of a paper aeroplane.
What was yours called, Scripture? I couldn’t get into the Bible.
I'm looking for a venue to do a conscious clubbing night. 
All songs are about infidelity or death. Usually both.
Right! Custard!

Got a lady with a fox in her kitchen. It came through the front door, sat down on the radiator and won't leave.

And 'es chasin’ Ted up the road, pullin’ 'is trousers down, and I thought “Nah! This isn’t my sort of christenin’.”

“The amount of Turkish weddings I went to – Greek christenings.” Woman reminiscing about working in a Top Shop factory and wearing the samples. “I was the best-dressed girl in the street!”

People get intimidated when someone's got a posh voice but they're just like anybody else, they have problems like anybody else. 

So the module’s entirely on vampires?
Obviously we’ll be studying Russian vampire legends, the 1931 film – it’s hilarious, Buffy. What are you studying?
An Old Norse version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Old posh lady to her companion in the Foyles café: "Kim? Oh Kim has gone to the daaaaahgs!" (@Andr6wMale)

Man in café: "It's one of those Northern working-class cities, isn't it?" He said "Northern working class cities" like it was some rare breed of goose.

In the park: Man to woman: I want you to go down on your knees and propose to me!

At the concert:
I am fortified by your falafel.

On the bus: 
Two old ladies reading a cardboard sign BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD with utter incomprehension.

On the Thames foreshore: Oscar, could you put your rock down, please.

In the street:
Oh, if I could I wouldn’t, would you?
I think I probably would.

Woman: People have different points of view.
Man: Epping Forest!

Man on phone: So it only took you nine years to return my call, you prostitute!

Man to me: Don’t worry lady – write a novel! (So I did.)

In Notting Hill: She was working class, but not stupid!
He went back to the hospital because he wasn’t getting any joy and he saw the head honcho.
Elderly lady customer: "I've just been to Putney, for want of a better word". (@lucyfishwife)

In Fortnum’s: I was born in Lambeth Palace – no, Canterbury Palace.

In the market: There’s free energy, but they don’t tell you!

In the charity shop: I don't go out much, I'm very naïve.

On the tube:
“The good thing is…”
“Is there a good thing?”
(Rhodri Marsden ‏@rhodri)

At work: Anyone who precedes 'cliché' with 'a hoary old' deserves a smacked wrist. (Andrew Brown ‏@seatrout)
It's very interesting, Nebraska's unicameral legislature. (Andrew Brown ‏@seatrout)

On the train:Absolutely hysterical guard on South West trains this morning who's just greeted us over the PA system with a Stephen Fry 'Good morning, good morning, good morning', given a fanfare of an announcement to say that 'an absolutely beautiful young man has just joined the train to push the refreshments trolley.' The guard then listed the products finishing off with a stress on 'PEANUTS', a request that we keep the aisle free for the beautiful young man, then offers his own help to passengers 'in any way, shape or form'. Passengers discuss and conclude that he's eaten the customer services memo for breakfast. (BG)

Our train driver as he announces our train terminates at this stop: "Its been a blast. It's been emotional. Peace." (@PhilWilliams)

Heading home from Harlech, train conductor just announced "Platform one for Aberystwyth, platform two for the Big Wide World". (@QuintinLake)

"Don't do that, you'll get stratospheric failure" said the man opposite me before hanging up. (Charles Holland ‏@ordinarycharles)

"As a Tory councillor from Surrey, I don't want affordable housing - it'll just create more Labour voters." Just heard this on the train!

Glorious conversation between teenage girls on my train about the pros and cons of mahogany in relationships.

Woman at Euston: 'When I found out Chester existed, it blew my mind. I thought they'd made it up for Hollyoaks'.  
(Elliot ‏@helloitselliot)

Ascot to Waterloo: I’m a lady, but if you don’t effing treat me like one, I’ll act like a guy. 

Kids today:
Woman to child in the street, Brighton: 'Stop letting your happiness get in the way!' (@robertlcoupland)

Still thinking about the toddler I saw in Madison Square. She was waving a plastic sword, shouting “Be alive! Be alive! Be alive forever!” (‏@DrFidelius)

Nine year old to his mum,'Please can we have something a little less vegetarianly extreme tonight... I don't want tree roots!' (via Twitter)

Just overheard in W. London. Mum to little boy on scooter. "If you don't lose your attitude... I'll eat your brunch bar." (@Tony_Robinson)

A: Let's go to Oval. There's nothing there, right? It's just a space.
B: No. Obviously the Oval's there.
A: What's the Oval?

The evangelicals suckered me twice, once when I believed what they told me, once when I believed that they believed it too. (@rupertg)

Yeah, nice guy, but he kept pointing at Pret A Mangers, sayin' "There's another one!" (@Andr6wMale)
In the most exquisitely posh accent: "I don't know if you know what I mean by a 'Port A Cabin'." (Will Stevens‏ @teletextpage152)

A friend after going through the National Gallery: "Well, that's Western art for you. A thousand years of crucifixions, then stripes." (Sandra Newman‏ @sannewman)

It’s not a workshop, it’s a space.
 (Via JP.)

A Friend of my parents were in the main square in Brussels with its Grand  Palace, once, when American tourists were busy photographing everything. They overheard the conversation:
"It says here,  all of this is 1698."
"Wow!  What's that in Dollars ?" 

Actual comment at school today: "You've got all these playing fields but not enough parking to park next to the school!" (Simon H.‏ @Recursived)

And at the weekend it's up at the roof-garden with a Campari. Why would she not like that? (@Andr6wMale)

He had that house, 16th century. You lived there you'd do yer back in.  
I know him. Went off to do weights after that funeral. (@Andr6wMale)

And I was really nice to him. I was like 'Thanks very much, Julian' or whatever his effing name was. (@Andr6wMale)

Just overheard: 'Brits are eating FAR more sugar and it's giving us diabetes!!!'  Actually UK sugar consumption has been falling for decades. (James Wong ‏@Botanygeek)

"I don't know why there are so many people on this street, I doubt it even leads to anything," says an irritated North American, walking towards inner Soho. (@Furmadamadam)

I don't care about an attractive man who can't make a profiterole. (@JonnElledge)

"You are good at promo modelling. Can you get rich old men to invest in our hedge funds?" completely normal interview happening next to me. (Leslie Micek‏@lesmicek)

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 1 October 2017

Misunderstandings 6

The sentence “Seals in the ocean will sample but a soupcon of the stuff” should have been cut out, disembowelled and stuck on spikes as a warning to future science writers. (Oliver Moody, Times Sept 2017 Rejected prose, typed on paper, was stuck on a SPIKE on the editor’s desk. It was called a “spike file”, and did not resemble a bed of nails. You can still get them.)

George Orwell said that good writing is a window pane, an object of clarity and shining precision. (
Roger Lewis, Times Sept 2017 (In Why I Write, George Orwell wrote that “good prose is like a windowpane”. He meant it should be transparent, so that you can see the meaning through it, and that you shouldn’t dirty the glass with your own ego. )

Butter had been replaced by a repulsive whale-fat slime called Snoek. (Nicky Haslam, Redeeming Features. Snoek was whale meat. During the war butter was replaced by margarine. He also thinks “flak” (anti-aircraft fire) was metallic tinsel dropped to confuse German radar. It was called "chaff".)

Ripping up red tape: You can rip up regulations, they’re printed on paper, but legal red tape (which is actually pink) is woven and tough and you have to cut it.

The announcement that the Queen’s speech has to be printed on “goatskin parchment” led to stories on the BBC and in the Telegraph claiming that we had to wait while her speech was hand-written on a goatskin scroll. “Goatskin parchment” is the kind used in parchment craft, and is a kind of fine but robust paper. The UK’s laws are, however, handwritten on parchment scrolls made of calf or goatskin. It’s very durable, and the writing is not easily altered. The story rapidly involved a scapegoat... (Pictures and footage of the Queen reading her speech show her with a booklet, never a scroll.)

The table behind me has two women on it, one with a ridiculously loud, piercing, crystal-posh voice, that you just can't not hear, even with considerable effort. (AJB)

“Twitter — don’t really do it,” she says wearily, her home counties accent as sharp as mandolined celeriac. (Times May 2017 However sharp your mandoline – there are several kinds – sliced celeriac would not be very sharp. The cliché is “cut-glass tones”.)

Stepped wife for Stepford Wife (Stepford Wives was a film about a suburb, Stepford, in which all the wives were replaced by lifelike robots who never stepped out of line.)

Carol Midgley doesn’t want to go back to the 70s and have to wear those horrible hot, itchy “nylons” – she means tights. Nylons were nylon stockings: thin, fine and non-stretchy, and held up by a suspender belt.

What a trooper! (Surely it’s troupers – itinerant actors – who are prepared to endure any conditions and take on any role? Or are troopers meant – infantrymen – who get the short end of the stick and obey orders however misguided?)

Clare Adamson does a bit on Schrödinger's Cat: "The Brexit box is open, the cat's about to eat the poison. Get out of the box!" (Philip Sim @BBCPhilipSim Schrödinger's Cat was in a box with some radioactive material that might or might not kill it. Until you opened the box, it was both dead and alive. I think.)

She always put the emPHASis on the wrong syllABle.
The BBC's radio drama version of Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers is excellent, but the actors frequently get the emphasis wrong.

Two typists are having tea: If I give you a bob and you give me twopence and the waitress twopence and settle up at the desk, we shall be all square.

It should be: "If you give me twopence and the waitress twopence." Plus, the typists are played as posh and affected, whereas in the book they are lower down the social scale.

Lord Peter Wimsey asks: Is it possible – I fear it is – I think you must have encountered my unfortunate cousin Bredon.’ ‘That was the name –’ began Dian, uncertainly, and stopped. 

In the radio version, Dian says “That was the name…” instead of “That was the name…”, meaning she thinks she’s heard it somewhere.

‘Oh, do tell,’ urged Dian, her eyes dancing with excitement. ‘It sounds too terribly breath-taking.’
‘I suspect him,’ said Wimsey, in solemn and awful tones, ‘of having to do with – smug-druggling –
I mean, dash it all – drug-smuggling.’

In the radio version, “smug-druggling” is corrected to “drug-smuggling”, and the joke is lost.

David Thorpe reads Margery Allingham's Look to the Lady enjoyably, but talks about a horse called Bitter Aloes in her loose box. (It's a loose box, where the horse is not tied up, and you accent aloes on the first syllable.)

A Radio 3 announcer referred to the Land of Lost Content with the accent on the first syllable, as if it was Web-page content. (It's content, meaning contentment.)

More here, and links to the rest.