Saturday 31 March 2018

Grammar: Synecdoche, Ellipsis, Shorthand

Sometimes an adjective takes in the meaning of a noun it once qualified, but is now usually dropped. If you say “The atmosphere was fraught”, or “I’m feeling rather fraught”, listeners will understand that the atmosphere was strained, and that you feel tense. The entire phrase “fraught with tension” is taken as read. 

Synecdoche: “A figure of speech in which the name of a part is used to stand for the whole (as hand for sailor), the whole for a part (as the law for police officer)...” (American Heritage Dictionary)

But what do you call it when people use the same term for both the thing itself and our perception of it, or our possession of it?

I am right, you are wrong: It’s your statement that’s shown to be right or wrong, when compared with reality.

We must confront our fears: We must confront the things that make us frightened.

Early Man lived by a different kind of time: He lived by a different method of measuring or marking the passage of time.

The medieval mind was different from ours: Medieval ideas were different from ours.

There is no such thing as Truth because truths so often turn out to be false. This is switching from abstraction to specific examples, and pretending that “truth” (abstract noun meaning “trueness”) means the same as “statements put forward as truth”.

aesthetic: aesthetically pleasing
bitter: bitterly contested 
character building: building good character
citizen: good citizen

drug dealing
discrimination: discrimination against
diversity: ethnic diversity

ecstatic, delirious, drained:
ecstatically happy, delirious with joy, drained of all emotion
fashion scarves: high-fashion scarves

genetic food:
genetically modified food
grant writing: grant-application writing
greenhouse emissions: greenhouse-gas emissions

infectious personality:
personality whose gaiety is infectious
judge: judge unfavourably
livid: livid with rage

marital affairs:
extramarital affairs 
outpouring, public outpouring: public outpouring of grief 

of paramount importance
prejudice: adverse prejudice
privilege: white privilege
prohibitive: prohibitively expensive

rabidly enthusiastic, furious 
race relations: good race relations
relevant: relevant to life in the 21st century 

social mobility:
upward social mobility
value sweaters: good value

Even more rhetoric, equivocation and sophistry in my book Boo & Hooray: Dysphemisms and Euphemisms.

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Outdated Stereotypes: Brits, Bankers and Bureaucrats

Brits and bureaucrats are depicted wearing bowlers, which faded out circa 1970. Bankers are shown wearing top hats - they ditched the headgear in the 30s. The English character Spalding in Hergé's Flight 714 is tall, thin, red-haired, tweed-suited and sports an RAF moustache of the kind not seen since the war.

An American cartoon shows a balding man in a tweed suit and a trilby hat, blowing bubbles from a Sherlock Holmes pipe, sporting a monocle and a handlebar moustache, riding a penny-farthing with a BREXIT pennant into the void.

A caricature Briton wears a bowler hat, a moustache, and combinations. (2017 Dec 31 And nobody knows how to draw a bowler hat.)

A French paper publishes a cartoon of post-Brexit Britain: A tall thin man with an RAF moustache in a tweed suit and bowler hat reads the Sun in an outside toilet.

There was a French “comedy” series about a humorous Englishman in a bowler hat (Major W. Marmaduke Thompson by Pierre Daninos).

Who wouldn't want to unite and fight in the face of a common top-hat bedecked, welfare-scything enemy? (Huffpost Dec 2012)

Dominic West is amused by the expectations Americans have of anyone with a British accent, eg “fairness, style”. He says that in Finding Dory he and Idris Elba play two British sea lions sitting on a rock “an island in the middle of nowhere, being fiercely aggressive towards any outsiders”. (Times July 26 2016)

Cartoon bureaucrats are shown as men in pinstripe suits and bowler hats, with briefcases, scurrying through an ornate doorway. Pinstripe suits were last seen in the mid-70s. And the bowler-wearing, pinstripe sporting, briefcase carrying bureaucrats of circa 1955 would have worn a raincoat or overcoat outside. (This led to a long argument on Twitter, with people saying “it’s useful shorthand”, and a similar one about bankers in top hats – “Aren’t we allowed to use metaphors?”)

South Americans think Englishwomen have huge feet (and they think it's hilarious). French 19th century cartoons of Englishwomen show them with flat chests, huge flat feet, long noses, horse faces, lank blonde hair and sticking out teeth, dressed top to toe in tweed and carrying umbrellas. The French think we eat animal food (broad beans) and jam with everything (red currant jelly, mint jelly). Anything cooked "à l'Anglaise" is boiled in plain water.

Americans laugh at us for eating fruit cake and having terrible teeth. They sneer at us for saying “an hospital” because they think we’re speaking Dickensian Cockney. (They also think Lord Peter Wimsey dropped his Gs out of solidarity with the workin’ classes, when it was an old-fashioned aristocratic habit.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday 23 March 2018

Euphemisms in Quotes 10

Executive Homes are never in Vibrant Areas.
 (via FB)

How brands repurpose influencer content, Five unique ways brands can repurpose evergreen content, How to Repurpose Video Content Marketing Ideas for Brand Awareness… (“Influencer content” is pix and videos by people you pay to boost your products in an apparently neutral forum like Instagram, Youtube etc.)

Dementia can affect anyone, even those most special to us. (Alzheimer’s Research UK suggests that those reading the article will never suffer from dementia.)

Alex Salmond to Mhairi Black: I’m sure Taz will take you out to go shopping or something at some point and you’ll find your own style. (Translation: Wear a skirt.)

I was once at a fundraiser dinner with Max Clifford. Having asked me if I was gay, he spent a few minutes being slightly old fashioned (well, massively homophobic). So I asked him “And what do you do?” and he got really cross that he had to explain. (Adam Kay‏ @amateuradam)

So we are going to be in the Customs Union, but it won’t be called the Customs Union it’ll be called something else, like Gavin or Kylie. Is that right? (@Tony_Robinson)

Stephen Ward, the society osteopath, introduced lucky young women into polite society, or in harsher terms procured girls like Christine Keeler for his rich clients such as Lord Astor. (Jane Kelly on Conservative Woman)

Dastyari says the tape of the press conference “shocked me” because it didn’t match his recollection. (PatriciaKarvelas‏ @PatsKarvelas)
Code for: 'I was shocked that someone recorded what I actually said so it hasn't allowed me to deny it.' (@RodgerShanahan)

I covered the campaign last year. Over and over men insinuated that women's analysis of HRC's candidacy were "biased," or "subjective," or "opinion." When women wrote about Hillary, it was a "feminist take." When men wrote about Hillary, it was "the truth." (@CharlotteAlter)

Business analyst Emma Sheldrick offers some useful translations. "Manage our stakeholders," she explains, means "placate the people who are asking the intelligent questions about why something is being done"; while "Update our stakeholder matrix" really signifies "we need to take off the people who disagree with the task at hand and find some new ones who agree." (Guardian Nov 2017)

Miss Markle is a very interesting person. (Sky News Royal Correspondent, adding that she’s biracial and anti-Trump.)

Meghan grew up in the Valley, a leafy middle-class area. (Sky News)

And here are the Daily Mail's euphemisms for "black" today: “Gang-scarred home of Meghan’s mother revealed… gangs… bloods… territory… run-down area… social worker… gang-afflicted…” (Alex von Tunzelmann)

If you’ve already seen a significant sample of “borderline-racist” (which is usually just racist) posts from her public profile… (Mallory Ortberg)

The President is incorrect about how we choose Person of the Year. TIME does not comment on our choice until publication, which is December 6. (@TIME)

"The President is lying…" is what they're trying to say. (@soledadobrien)

You really have to laugh at the Tories as they say we can have better employment rights, higher environmental standards, improved citizens rights when we leave EU. These Tories have been attacking these rights and standards for years calling them red-tape and burdens on business. (@AngelaRayner)

Reminder: "no accent" just means "the character has the dominant accent for the culture" (everyone has an accent. Some of them just happen to be coded neutral) (Aliette de Bodard‏ @aliettedb)

I have been called ‘bubbly’, ‘peppy’, ‘cheery’, ‘excitable’ by male academics. I do not think I am actually especially any of these things. (Charlotte Lydia Riley‏ @lottelydia Women were also told they “came across as abrupt” and “masculine”.)

No-one says "Islam isn't a race" unless they're trying to negotiate some points-free racism. (Keir Hardie‏ @scatterkeir)

Layers of crude and distorting old overpaints were removed and losses were sensitively and minimally inpainted,” says Christie’s report on Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi. The restorer stabilised the picture, removed most of the later overpaint and fillings, and made cosmetic changes to bring it back closer to Leonardo’s original. (

Those who voted Leave largely didn’t do so for economic reasons. It was a question of values: a desire for steady work, family and community. The majority of people are quietly conservative. Labour won’t win until we understand that. @blue_labour)

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Urban Legends

“I’m often run into by cyclists on pavements.” What motivates some people to make up stuff like that?
(Paul Thompson @raganello)

Trump has said: ‘I saw 1,000 muslims dancing in Jersey City on the night of 9/11. Many people saw it. I saw it.’ You would have thought some evidence would have emerged. Some shred of evidence. And he says, ‘Oh, no. I know it. It’s true. 100 people called me and said the same thing.’ (Deborah Lipstadt)

The first-person experience is an urban legend template, often found on Facebook. I have heard or read all these.

I look out of my window and see all these vastly obese people.

Look down any British street today ... and you’ll see fat people. (Carol Midgley in the Times)

Apparently Waitrose is preferable to Tescos because you are less likely to bump into “single mothers with large numbers of children with different fathers” and there are “fewer people on obviously bad diets”.

I was going to vote Remain, but I go into the supermarket and the banana is straight. I’m sick of all these silly rules they impose on us. (BBC Question Time)

My corner shop is so full of immigrants I can’t get to the till.

I go into my local Tescos and there are three aisles devoted to Polish food.

I go into Tescos and I see immigrants buying food with vouchers.

My mother goes to the doctor’s and she’s the only white person there.

My Polish grandmother recently told me how Polish immigrants integrated so much better than immigrants today (ie black and brown immigrants) even though every story of hers about growing up is about how they only did Polish things with other Polish people. (Jessica Stone @MediocreFred)

My friend’s granddaughter can’t take bacon-flavoured crisps to school because of all the Muslims.

I go purple faced with rage when people perpetrate one of these 10 grammar errors.

My toddlers are crying because Nickelodeon is off the air for 17 minutes in support of the students protesting about gun control and Paw Patrol is the one show I let them see and I can’t explain it to them. (Twitter, paraphrase)

I’ve been sitting here in the hospital sobbing my heart out for an hour because they said I ought to get my grandchild vaccinated, and it was just so insensitive. (There was a string of these on Facebook, with variations.)

The past is viewed through rose-coloured spectacles.
When I was a child, all schools and Government buildings had a union jack flying outside them, not now.

Schools never shut – I used to walk four miles to school through snowdrifts.

I travelled alone on long train journeys when I was six and I was fine because there weren’t all these paedophiles then.

We all left our doors unlocked and I remember when it was all fields round here. And they didn't have all this innovation when I was young.

More nonsense here.

Saturday 17 March 2018

Received Ideas (in Quotes) 8

The fact is that the vast majority of people are absolutely impervious to facts. Test the average man by asking him to listen to a simple sentence which contains one word with associations to excite his prejudices, fears or passions --- he will fail to understand what you have said and reply by expressing his emotional reaction to the critical word. It was long before I understood this fact of psychology.” (
Aleister Crowley)

Racist and classist grammar was predominantly invented in England in the 1920s for school textbooks.
(via Twitter Sexist perhaps, but racist and classist?)

Twitter: People are so easily offended these days! Atheism is a religion. Won't somebody think of the children? If we come from monkeys why are there still monkeys LOL! Why isn’t there a white history month? You should be worrying about (something completely different). Wake up, sheeple! Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. (Via Alex Andreou of the Guardian)

“This exhibition is about challenging people’s preconceptions” says curator of show about venomous insects at the Natural History Museum, as if he was the first person to think of it.

"Making ends meet" refers to accounting: balancing "end" gains & "end" losses at the end of the year (where "meet" means "equal," not "come together"). (Jason P. Steed ‏@5thCircAppeals Surely ends of a piece of string?)

In the midst of sorrow and loss the symbolism of the weeping willow offered solace and reassurance the dead would rise to heaven as quickly as a willow branch takes root. (Surely the weeping willow is a symbol of mourning because of its drooping branches?)

Hazel nuts were said to have contained so much bite-sized wisdom they became the source of the phrase “in a nutshell.” (via Twitter. It's a metaphor for packing a lot of information into a few words.)

Reading The Old Curiosity Shop last night and noticed Dickens used 'bran-new' which was endnoted with explanation that china used to be packed with unwanted bran, so a fresh bit of china was 'bran-new'. (Claire Cock-Starkey @NonFictioness)

The Hawaiian beachcombers talk about their marbles being from ballast on ships from back in the day. (via FB)

In the late 1700's Sydney's Aboriginal people made stone tools from Thames flint, bought to Australia as ballast on convict ships.

There’s a yarn whereby someone had a load of pyrites, perhaps used as ballast, and had to get rid of it, thus leading to “streets paved with gold” – it was used to make roads.
 (@guessworker It's metaphorical again – it's so easy to make money here it's as if the streets were paved with gold.)

There is plenty of evidence for Britain's colonial past on the foreshore, such as this huge lump of coral at Rotherhithe. Used as ballast on ships returning from the West Indies.
(@ThamesDiscovery Possibly, but I doubt ballast stories on principle.)

Here's my favourite thing in Palermo. The kamelaukion with which Honorius III crowned Constance of Aragon as Holy Roman Empress in 1220. Found in her tomb when her coffin was opened in the 18th century. (mym @LiberalDespot)

Edvard Grieg wrote In The Hall of the Mountain King as a satire of terrible music and said he could barely stand to hear it. It is now one of his most played and best remembered pieces. (Quite Interesting @qikipedia)

Peter Lorre liked to claim he hardly knew any English when Hitchcock hired him for The Man Who Knew Too Much, but the wonderfully nuanced line readings he delivers in this film prove he was fibbing. ( In Fritz Lang's M he plays a sinister character who compulsively whistles In the Hall of the Mountain King.)

My teenage son told me that our insatiable appetite for quinoa has transformed it from a daily staple to an unaffordable luxury in some communities & that I therefore must never buy it... is there any truth to this? (@SnowdenFlood)

Nope. The idea that quinoa is unethical stems from a baseless, scaremongering article from 2013. It ironically has lifted tens of thousands out of poverty. Shows how damaging irresponsible journalism really can be, even years later. Feel free to enjoy it!
(James Wong @Botanygeek)

Putting an onion in your sock will NOT:
1) clean your blood,
2) filter out bacteria,
3) draw chemicals and poisons out of your foot, or
4) make your foot smell better.

More here, and links to the rest.

And if you like this sort of thing, why not read my book, expanded and updated.

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Outrageous Excuses 2018

It has been a good year for excuses – so far.

I’m not the same person
I was in a dark place
I’ve said I was sorry
I know I’ve done wrong
I’ve gone into rehab
I stayed a whole week
I’ve entered a program
I’ve wrestled my demons
My life’s back on track
I’ve hired a good lawyer
My industry needs me
Redemption is possible
Don’t you believe?

It wasn’t me, it was the drink
You know I’d never hurt you
I only want the best for you
All I’ve ever done is for you
I snapped
My boss had a go at me
If you didn’t keep winding me up, it wouldn’t happen.
I love you so much. I don’t need anyone else.
You don’t need someone else.
(Coercive Control @CCCBurySt Ed replies)

"I'm a different person now from when I sent that abusive Tweet". This defence won't stand up in a court of law, neither will "It's all the victim's fault." We punish perpetrators, not victims.

Sexist tweets “are not a true and genuine reflection of either my character or beliefs. I had to apologise because I looked at the words I used and I didn't like them myself. They are not a reflection of my true character and they do not reflect the way that I was brought up by my parents.” New manager of the women’s England football team.

Making excuses for someone else: I understand that his depression manifests as anger, he always had a temper, the devil made him do it.

Backtracking: I didn’t spike a vegan’s food, as I claimed in an earlier tweet, I just served her a pizza with mozzarella on it blah blah.

Monroe Bergdorf says her abusive comments were “taken out of context”. I wonder if people think "context" means "situation in which I said these things"? I mean, "I was just emailing a friend", "It was a private text", "It was only a tweet". Perhaps they think it means "taken out of the private realm into the public realm"? But "taken out of context" means textual context, in which the surrounding text will change the meaning of the offending words, as in "religion... is the opium of the people" (Karl Marx), or "the poor are always with you" (Jesus). 

The lastest Tube bomber is saying he came to the UK because he wanted to be a wildlife photographer, and he planted the bomb because he liked the idea of being a fugitive chased by Interpol. (March 13, 2018)

Huge mistake, moment of madness, stain on my character. Not something I’ve ever done before, or will ever do again. (Says the footballer who spat at a 14-year-old girl, and was caught on camera, March 2018.)

Florida Teacher claims racist podcast was “political satire”. (@JoeMyGod)

“I don't know how that got there,” teen tells cops as they find 8” knife down his trousers in Shoreditch search (Hackney Gazette)

Daniel Handler “just has a potty mouth”.
"But he didn't mean that!"
"But that didn't offend ME."

This morning I met two men cutting down trees "because druggies hide behind them and shoot up". (@GeorgeMonbiot)

Alex Jones of Infowars is just a “performance artist” playing “a character” says his divorce lawyer.

Oh dear Henry Bolton busily insisting his lady friend’s messages were doctored. Like those people who are always hacked when they tweet pictures of their pudenda. (Matt W @Clavdivs1)
When pressed ... he clarified SOME were doctored SOMEWHAT. (Jo Phillips @joglasg)

Paul Townsley, who hit a woman when protesters surrounded Jacob Rees-Mogg, was snapped dressed in Nazi uniform. He “dressed up for a family do. He is a good man and a lot of people would support that”, said Mrs Townsley, quoted in the Times.

Rob Porter’s explanation for how his first wife ended up with a black eye: “They were arguing over a vase, which struck her.”

Ian Duncan Smith on the leaked economic impact report: "It was deliberately leaked because it gives a bad view, therefore we should put it to one side and just forget about it." (Not so much an excuse, more “Everything is all right really because reasons, we may have hit an iceberg but we should look on the bright side.”)

It is acceptable for some people, possessed of certain kinds of exceptional character, to behave in certain ways that for most people would be unacceptable since regarded as rude, intrusive or even immoral. (@johnmilbank3)

GP who's retired to France voted leave for his grandchildren, knowing it would make us poorer but we're a great trading nation and have been for centuries. And we discovered "the Internet".

Oxfam chief says backlash against sex scandal is an “overreaction”. The charity allowed the worker to resign rather than sacking him "because a scandal would undermine our wonderful work". (Paraphrase.)

How A Public Role Controversy Unfolds, in Six Parts

1. "I have many inflammatory opinions."
2. "I am delighted to take up this new role which is in no way incompatible with my inflammatory opinions."
3. "I am sorry for the inflammatory opinions I held years ago. I was a different person then."
4. "Yes, I also expressed several inflammatory opinions last week, but these have been misrepresented. When I said everybody except people like me is evil and should be destroyed this is a complex and nuanced view that has been twisted by people who aren't like me to make me look bad."
5. "If you didn't keep telling people about all the inflammatory opinions I have expressed there wouldn't be a problem here."
6. "With great regret I am giving up this role, at which I would have been brilliant, because this controversy has become a distraction from the matter at hand - and it's everybody's fault but mine. I hope you're happy with depriving those who need them of my help and insight." (David Bennun)

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday 7 March 2018

Jobs You Never Knew Existed (in Quotes) 2

Modelling agencies told me they're increasingly staffing secret "atmosphere models" for parties in an industry dominated by men (the tech industry).

An entire industry of “reputation management” companies exists which businesses can hire to create highly believable fake reviews, “fix” their reputation if they’ve received bad reviews, or sabotage their competitors. (

Although she had no qualifications as a nutritionist, the food blogger had sold more than 40,000 copies of her own $25, five-day “cleanse” programme – a formula for an all-raw, plant-based diet majoring on green juice.

Harold Camping is notable for issuing multiple failed predictions of dates for the End Times, which temporarily gained him a global following and millions of dollars of donations. (Wikipedia)

These young bloggers, vloggers, Instagrammers, Snapchatters - one gathers that they make a fortune by linking up with fashion houses who pay them to push goods, or they are given their own line of clothes or accessories. (Moira Redmond)

"What did you do in the content wars, grandad?" 
"I was an 'influencer', my boy, I pretended to really love things so brands would pay me." (Mic Wright ‏@brokenbottleboy)

Horses can help people with physical issues, speech problems, behavioural issues, emotional problems, and other disabilities. (

Mario Taddei makes his living making the inventions designed by Leonardo da Vinci. (Discovery)

We found a growing industry of “funsultants” offering advice on how to make workforces more positive. (Guardian Dec 2016)

People can say, with a straight face, that they're a "preschool consultant," or that they do "nanny surveillance" or "closet organization". (

Nanoco is the world's leading manufacturer of cadmium-free quantum dots.

He was part of the East Sussex hiphop scene and also put in the hours as a blues singer: neither field is known for producing the stars of tomorrow. At some point he must have bitten the bullet and thought: I could spend the next decade singing for the same ten blokes in the back room of the Prince Albert or I could compromise a bit and see where a major label could take me. (Will Hodgkinson on Rag’n’Bone Man)

Found the website of a clothing co. that makes made-to-measure 10th Dr brown pinstripe suits. Damn. Something else to consider saving for... (‏@LindenG)

Human geographer, transport mathematician, shopping historian. (Nancy Banks Smith in The Guardian Aug 23 07)

Master dinosaur builder. (Aart Walen)

More here.

Epithets 3

Classical poets like Homer referred to cow-eyed Hera, faithful Achates, pious Aeneas, rosy-fingered dawn, swift-footed Achilles, the wine-dark sea, all-powerful Kronos (Time), wind-footed Iris (the rainbow). Apollo (the sun-god) was known as “destroyer of mice”. Do "Homeric epithets" still exist? Who are the Dynamic Duo, the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader? The Iron Lady, Il Duce, the Bard, the Fab Four, the Swan of Avon? (Wikipedia says this is antonomasia.)

If you're looking for a role in life, this list may give you some ideas.

[Mr Quayle was] train-bearer and organ-blower to a whole procession of people.” (Charles Dickens, Bleak House Mr Quayle’s friends are all do-gooders, and this is his role. (Heroine Esther realised that “it was Mr. Quayle's mission to be in ecstasies with everybody else's mission and that it was the most popular mission of all”.)

“Offcuts of the New Left who originally met up at the Partisan Coffee House, but were in reality, rather than political activists or academic theorists, more the hefty drinkers, convivialists, half-forgotten artists and writers, or never to be known thinkers, working their way looking forward but stepping backwards to oblivion... ageing into a repetitive narrative and early death... a merry-go-round of ageing drunks with and without a ruined talent.” (Novelist Jenny Diski on the 60s denizens of Fitzrovia)

Elizabeth Taylor’s husband Eddie Fisher "dwindled into being her factotum, flourishing the onyx cigarette lighter, whistling for the limo".

There were a fair number of failure models on view: the drunk, the incompetent, the placemen and the pompous. (Julian Barnes Guardian July 2013)

ageing enfant terrible

attack dog

back-seat driver (micro-manager)
bellowing know-nothings (Owen Hatherley on planners who raze all 60s buildings)

co-op types
 (The entire class was full of co-op types, vegetarians in overalls and tie-dyed T-shirts. Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot)

daft ha’porth
(Matthew Sweet on hobbits and dwarves)
drama llama
drugstore cowboy
empty suits in seats of power (@davidhuyssen)
fading matinee idol

fang bangers
(fans of Twilight, True Blood etc)
feinshmekers (connoisseurs)
femme fatale
foot soldier
fortune hunter

gurt jobbernowl
gym buddy


intellectual yet idiot (All the right/left’s intellectuals are IYIs, depending on which side you are on.)

keyboard warrior 
lame duck
man of mystery

Mansplainer, whitesplainer, pagansplainer, instant expert who has been to one workshop

Monday-morning quarterback
my pet failure
nicknacketerian (collector or trader of bric-a-brac)
office spy
partner in crime
reality nobodies (Richie Brown/@whiffytidings)

shabby genteel

shadow spokesthing (David Aaronovitch)
Sieg-heiling tossweebles (@Gaipajama on UKIP)
mall goth
social climber
sore loser
stragglers (from a previous decade or the one before that)
Sunday painter

taxi-to-table breed
(in New York) (Times Sept 2015 on women who ostentatiously don’t wear tights – with their high heels - in winter.)

tennis nut
the crunchy-granola set (

the poor-little-me type
(Agatha Christie. She points out that you can play this role even when medium-sized.)

useful idiot
What happened to “rock liggers”? They were people who turned up to press events for the free food and drink, or to mingle with people on the scene, without actually playing in a band or even being a driver or roadie or PR person or stylist or...

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Syndromes We Don't Have a Name For 5

Baby Duck Syndrome:
Users believing that the first software product they use is how all software should work from then on. Whatever's familiar, no matter how difficult, is going to be what that user wants to stay with forever. From baby ducks (and other fowl) imprinting on whatever they see first after hatching and considering that object to be their mother, even if it's a human or an inanimate object. (

Vision but no Strategy: This is very good news for all of us who want vision injected into the Brexit process. (Tim Montgomerie @montie)

This, in a nutshell, is the problem with Brexiteers. Every single one of them wants to talk about 'vision'. None wants to address detail. There is absolutely no shortage of vision. They're all ladling it out, because that's an awful lot easier than making sure planes can fly. All they've done is talk about what the glorious future will look like. None wants the boring hard work of actually making it happen. (@mrdavidwhitley)

Days of Future Past: Once upon a time teleworking was the future. (BBC Online)

Former top dogs were now second-class citizens. (Sudeten Germans post the Hapsburg empire, which they ran.)

Daily reminder that capitalism will co-opt counterculture and sell it to you... (Counterpunch, with a pic of an army surplus hoodie covered with “hand-drawn” slogans. Links to marketing hipness, in the process making it mainstream, so there’s nothing left to sell.)

The Poetry Society, which precisely because it was a backwater was a viper’s nest of invidiousness and intrigue. (NYT)

Family dynamics where one person dictates everyone else’s behavior because everyone else is terrified of setting them off on another one of their “adult temper tantrums”. ( Actor Charles Laughton used to throw a huge tantrum early on in a production and then was as nice as pie – but everybody treated him with terrified deference in case he did it again.)

Doubles down on her prejudice when called out. (

There are two things about psychopaths like him which are worth knowing. One is that they don’t have any friends. The other thing is that they don’t seem to do anything. If you get these two things together, look out. (Elizabeth Jane Howard)

Most cargo cults in the South Sea died out fairly quickly because no cargo arrived: it was really hard to continue fooling themselves. (David Didau)

The feud consumes their lives and irrevocably damages their careers. (Greatest Mysteries)

I just checked out a new coffee shop. At the register, there's a sign that says there's no wi-fi so that customers "make a friend." It worked! My new friend is a different coffee shop. (@legogradstudent)

Once folk believe one daft thing, they can be encouraged to swallow a different daft thing. (@EUtopean And vice versa. Get a cult member/conspiracy theorist to doubt one thing about their complicated worldview and the whole house of cards comes down.)

“Oh sorry, we wouldn't have tried to bully and intimidate you if we realised you were middle class and articulate." (via Twitter)

Get your foot in the door just as it’s closing.
Take up a fad just as the cool people drop it.
Have long-term plans, then realise the moment has passed. 

Plan to jump on a bandwagon, and then realise it left years ago.
As your beauty fades, cling to the remnants of a career.

Old-timer tries to be a giddy girly girl – for 22 years. (Cruel 19th century joke)

Crazy Optimism:
Urge the restoration of  Brighton’s burned-out pier as the charred skeleton collapses into the stormy waves of the English Channel.

The End of the World Has Been Postponed: Instantly coming up with a reason why the world didn’t end when you said it would, and why it will end on the new date you now put forward. (Rinse, repeat.)

Time for Violin Practice: Tendency of adults to force children to do something difficult, unpleasant and probably pointless, like learning Chinese. Or practising the violin when they have no musical talent and will never even be able to give a decent rendition of Greensleeves. Continue this for about ten years. The child then gives up lessons, puts away the violin and never touches a musical instrument for the rest of its life. The only thing that has been achieved is suffering and time-wasting for the child, but maybe this was the object. It scrapes at the violin, under duress, but at least it isn’t playing computer games.

Jeremiads: “The English language will soon be extinct” etc etc blah blah. (Jeremiah was always prophesying doom.)

We're All Doomed:
Academic or novelist rants about how some technological innovation (biros, Twitter, word processors, semaphore) is going to destroy novel-writing, letter-writing, conversation, civilisation, life itself etc many years after everyone else has accepted Twitter and it is such a part of people’s lives that nobody notices it any more.

Recency Illusion: Thinking this Thing has never happened before, even if it has happened every year for the past 30.

Civilisation flourishes for 1,000 years in a remote location. Then abruptly the city is deserted and elaborate temples, palaces, sculptures are left to the desert sands/jungle.

The British way: Don't ask for help, when none is offered say "Thank you very much!" sarcastically, then complain, while congratulating yourself on your directness.

The Grass Is Greener: They do these things so much better in…

Flat Earthery is the new Alien Abduction: Youtube videos, lectures, conventions, followers, buy my book/DVD. Same template as Puritanism, Mormonism, Christian Science, revivalism, New Thought, fundamentalism, the End of the World is Nigh.

Hunger Games: Invite people to dinner, or to stay, and never give them quite enough to eat, or make them wait until 10pm.

Complain Brits won't eat free fungi.
Tell them how to find it.
Complain there's no free fungi left because the Brits have eaten it all.

Entire academic department studies the way people’s minds are warped by capitalism and “false consciousness” but no plans are made to do anything about it. The academics' minds are never so warped, of course.

Free Will: Explaining at length that Man has free will – and then letting determinism in again by the back door. Claiming that we don’t have free will and then living as if we did.

Public Sculpture: Amazing persistence of councils in commissioning and erecting ghastly humanoid sculptures that are immediately called “Slag Alice”, “The Tart with the Cart” etc.

Mole Man I: I Impulse to dig amateur tunnels, like the duke who built a ballroom under a lake. Links to the male impulse to do something dangerous, time-consuming and expensive, especially if it involves competitive equipment buying.

Mole Man II: Infiltrate a protest group and incite it to break the law so that you can crush it.

Temporal parochialism: Point out that Ice Age people had “modern minds like our own”.

Tendency of peasants to wear traditional costume with huge starched headdresses and a lot of labour-intensive lace and embroidery (adding value to cheap materials).

Mirror, Mirror: Inability to see that your vast wig makes you look like an alien.

Thinking your friends are more important than they are.

Writing poetry even though you haven’t read any since school, and don’t see what’s wrong with non-scanning doggerel full of “e’en” and “o’er the lea”. Or rhyming doggerel full of "to the seaside we did go".

Meek, mild-mannered man who never harms a fly tells you quite seriously that the only solution to the world’s problems is to wipe out 90% of the population, giving detailed plans for infectious plagues, nuking volcanoes etc.

Mean-spiritedness about absolutely anything and everything – especially on social media. (Which has given these people a wider audience and don’t they just love it.)

Sending 100 abusive emails and FB posts to a total stranger.

Policing other people’s inner lives. Particularly large groups of people, like “the young”, or “the masses”.

You break up, but you make sure your ex doesn’t find anyone else by staying in contact, being kind and friendly, lending her books, fixing her washing-machine, feeding her crumbs of affection.

Interrupt and distract someone who is concentrating, or working from home.

Tell atheists what atheism really is, while defining it out of existence.

More here, and the links to the rest.

Thursday 1 March 2018

Found Haiku 19

Offer readers a chair,
Then pull it away. Haiku
Too, need a punchline.

Somewhere down the road 
A child is practising the recorder; 
Or possibly an owl lies dying.
Lee Jackson‏ @VictorianLondon

At Glen Isle everything is covered in thick moss, 
The standing trees, the dead trees and the path itself. 
The moss, and my beard, drips from the fine mist 
Densely hanging in the air.
Quintin Lake

By the river, teasel heads. 
And Hambrook Marshes looking like 
A Bewick Wood engraving.

Bamburgh beach. A fantastic 
Long stretch of wonderful sand. 
Often too cold to stand still.

Driving back home from work 
I found myself briefly inside 
A charm of goldfinches.
Kate Long @volewriter

A misty, frosty
Morning with a little pink moon
Sailing across the sky.

The wild swans are coming back onto the Levels, 
And the winter wheat is hazing the fields with a faint greenness. 
And we met some anxious red bullocks.

There's always a lovely stillness to central London 
On Christmas day. Like the sound 
Of something somewhere not humming.

Driving away from Christmas rehearsals,
From our window we saw 15 men with guns 
Shoot terrified pheasants from the sky. 
I saw four drop in agony. 
Apparently those dudes pay £15,000 each to do that. 
Driving off we could hear the survivors calling for the dead.

Once again, on some muddy building site 
In a rain-swept icy domain. 
Covered with splashes of muddy cold slime.
Elwyn York

I'm in bed drinking tea.
I have put my arms in my dressing gown 
Back-to-front outside the duvet, 
Like a warming strait jacket

Do you take Monopoly money?
Only if I can be the dog.
OK yes you can. I’ll be the hat.
via FB

Snow is general all over Ascot. 
It is falling on every part of the dark Ascot racecourse, 
On the treeless Heath, falling softly upon the House of Adam.
Adam Roberts‏ @arrroberts

I learnt to play the harmonica whilst driving. 
On an autobahn.
Steering with my knees.
It was the early 1980s. 
I’m sorry now.
Katherine O'Donnell 

Sleepless night spent reading 
Of far-off places, listening to the sound 
Of rain on the window.
Darran Anderson‏ @Oniropolis

Old radio shows last week:
Michael O’Brien

English folklore told of seven whistlers, 
Leaders of a night-flying flock, 
Spirits of unhappy souls.
Jess Pagan‏ @paganpages

The sky has turned milky coffee 
And the sun is having a hard time. 
Dragons have been heard and mysterious riders 
Have been spotted on the Walworth Road.
It is now as dark as dusk here, 
Big black clouds obscure the sun. 
There is an eldritch odour to the air.

Sitting in the Moon and Sixpence 
Watching massive containers 
Ploughing up and down the brown churn 
Of the Bristol Channel. Wales kidnapped by rain.

Preparing the balcony for autumn. 
Enjoying the last colours with the backdrop 
Of rising fog and falling drizzle.

Destroying Angel. 
Isn't she pretty? Note the 
White skirt round the stem.
And the bulbous base, 
not clear in this picture. 
Don't think of trying it.

There are hidden histories 
Few people know about and 
There is always magic afoot.

Just watched a raven 
veer over the shore towards the cliffs 
and hang, unmoving, on an updraft.

We rose at 5 a.m. 
And went out into the orchard 
To look for the Perseids, 
But only the brightest stars were visible 
Due to an early mist 
(Except, oddly, for the Pleiades). 
It already feels like autumn here.
Lynn says these shooting stars 
Are called the Tears of St Lawrence, 
Which I did not know.

Clear dawn after yesterday. 
Blue skies with brown orange in the distance. 
Wales on the weekend?

Vast cloud dropping from 
The tip of the troposphere. Many miles down.
In the evening colours with half moon.

Expelling a large dragonfly
That followed us into the house 
Out of the thunderstorm.

To the tune of Eastenders:
Holidays in Stoke-on-Trent 
Fist fights in the rain
Or watching a swan die.
Regular Frog‏ @FrogCroakley

More here, and links to the rest.