Thursday 5 December 2019

Buzzwords of 2019

Brexit is “humiliating” and making us “the laughing-stock of Europe”,  end Dec 2018. (Still true, Dec 2019.)

Jan 2 Today I learned that under NYC law, "gender identity" means "one’s internal deeply-held sense of one’s gender"; where "gender" is defined as "an individual’s actual or perceived sex [or] gender identity". So that's all super-clear! Also "sex" is defined as "a combination of bodily characteristics… and" – wait for it! – "gender identity." (@oliverburkeman)

Royal College of Paediatricians tells parents not to worry about screen time. Times headline reads “Doctors say screens bad for kids”, BBC trumps research with anecdotes “Social media made me self-harm”.

Running, swimming and singing prescribed for depression. All may help, but friends say “what about social context, why make it all up to the individual”? They agree that mindfulness is being used as a Bandaid, plus it stops you questioning your circumstances or the people around you who may be driving you barmy. (You need to review the situation, take an audit, and look for strategies.)

Someone points out that hipsters have become so mainstream that nobody bothers to comment on them any more.

Vegans a new phenomenon? The word was coined in the late 40s and I used to eat at a vegan café in the early 70s.

Easter eggs in shops too early again – when will manufacturers learn to listen to middle-class whingers who despise Easter Eggs because they are covered in silver paper and made of milk chocolate.

Americans are worried about white people ceasing to be the majority.

What will the next “life-saving food” be? And who’s growing it? We should find something that will grow in the Scottish Highlands, sell it to the rest of the world, and survive Brexit. Though we may need immigrants to pick it.

Everybody’s got “red lines”, second week of Jan.

If anyone complains of anti-Semitism accuse them of anti-Semitism.

Democracy” now means “Brexit”.

Has “instilling resilience” as a goal for schools gone out at last? (No such luck.)

Reach out” for “contact” is everywhere, despite the moans about it (ghastly Americanism) over the last few years.

People on Twitter afraid of being attacked by militant vegans? They must be joking! (Jan 16)

A sock puppet is now a “sock”.

Boringly, journalists have gone back to moaning about Dry January, laughing about how they fell off the wagon, and boasting about their intake. Apart from Janice Turner, who’s shocked to find that she feels much better without booze.

The idea that "trigger warnings" are unnecessary and just attempts by "the liberal elite" to mollycoddle young people and especially students on campus who must be exposed to challenging ideas and "you can't ban Nazis from speaking" has become a well-worn path over the last few years. (BN)

“You netted that out exactly.”

Escape Room
absolute unit

You don’t need an iPod to listen to a podcast any more. You can upload them to Youtube and people can listen on their phone. Just means “home-made radio” now.

First “superb owl” spotted.

“Logic is a capitalist plot” is back from the 80s. Also “slavery only means slavery of black people in America”.

modalities (Me neither.)

Authorities are literally “opening the floodgates” in Townsville, Australia.

People are being “broken” first week of Feb (by their grandmother’s cooking, etc).

stoush for row

Visualising” now means “drawing a diagram”. Diagrams are “visualisations”.

February: If you’ve somehow found yourself on the same side as the woman defending Hitler, the man who scuppered FGM legislation or the Minister who gave a contract to a shipping company with no ships, it might be time for a rethink. (@mrjamesob)

Someone who does not want kids has been accused of being 'adultcentrist' which is, I quote, 'as bad as racism'. (LW) (This kind of "let him be anathema" and party-line toeing is also back from the 80s.)

chud (Appears to be a type of human.)

People claiming to be “outraged” and “upset” that others are referring to Dr James Barry as a “woman”. (In the 19th century, Barry qualified as a doctor, lived her life as a man and performed the first Caesarean to save the lives of both mother and baby.) They were also outraged over an article that suggested Mr Casaubon from Middlemarch was hard done by, and his research might have led to another Golden Bough. Did it go against the narrative that he oppressed Dorothea?

Seven MPs have left the Labour Party and the Twitterverse is dumping on them from a great height, even people I thought were sensible – and kind.

“Broad church” popular as three Tories join them.

Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston have just literally crossed the floor of the House.

The Independent Group is already IG (Feb 23).

A French singer “practised her gracious loser pose before the ceremony”. (So much for "living in the moment".)

Radicalisation: used recently to describe anti-Semitic Labour Party members. Its meaning has morphed from “brainwashed into becoming a Communist” to “brainwashed into becoming a jihadi” to “indoctrination into any POV”.

Competitive bloviating, speculating and sneering
about Shamima Begum and The Independent Group. Some even sneering that The Independent Group went for a meal out at Nando’s! Shame on them! Shows how “greedy” they are! Couldn’t they have gone somewhere more up/downmarket?

Millennial” now just means “person between 15 and 35”.

RIP André Previn and I thought I’d never have to hear “André Preview” again. 1971, and it wasn’t funny then.

When, oh when, will people stop going on “journeys”?

Witch hunt, innocent until proved guilty – now in the context of Labour Party members accused of anti-Semitism.

Race Across the World – the Twitterverse is being mean to Alex, who’s 20 and cries when it takes five hours to find somewhere to stay in Budapest. Man up, etc. And his dad is a “wonderful Yorkshireman” when he compares Alex to Alexander the Great, unfavourably. (Excellent programme, but very manipulative.)

White saviour big early March.
Trickle-truthing (letting the truth out bit by bit).

Does the current fad for naming every last “orientation” (demisexual: someone who doesn’t feel sexual attraction until they fall in love) have anything to do with Americans’ need for a diagnosis of a named condition before their insurance company will pay for therapy? (Or is that an "asexual panromantic"?)

“Having someone’s back” popular early March.

Arancini came and went.

Identity now means “white identity”, though “identity politics” is black people being uppity.

Fuss over paper straws has died down (“Just because one turtle got a straw up its nose!”)

Churchill’s “broad, sunlit uplands” have become “sunny uplands”.

interabled couples (They’re fine as they are, they say.)

Interpretive dance is even more of a thing – though it never really existed. There were contemporary dance groups in the 70s, but they were rather serious and abstract.

“I don’t believe in Twitter.” Do they think that if they don’t believe in it, it doesn’t exist? It has been around for about 12 years and shows no signs of going away.

There’s an anti-Semitism denial industry.

Bigotry today has become adept at draping itself in the garb of victimhood. (

Mentoring now means “instructing”. And I thought it meant motivation and cheerleading.

Oh no, asking if you want a straw is “socialism”, apparently.

Postmodernism is now a folk devil. But what do they mean by it? Has it replaced “communism”?

"Jordan Peterson is just a psychology professor from Canada - why is he being persecuted?" (He’s a libertarian and associated with all the wrong people.)

experience: user experience, student experience, improve your shopping experience, experiences make people happier than things blah blah ("Improving the user experience" means targeting ads more cleverly. And probably content as well.)

Apparently it’s a big joke that newspapers tell us stuff we could have guessed, like the accused saying “I’m innocent”.

Craven now means “giving in to offended snowflakes”.
“All white people are racist” is back from the 80s.

There’s a new George Martin and he isn’t the fifth Beatle. And I’ve forgotten the first Russell Davies.

April: Councils have the clever idea that if they shroud trees, hedges and cliffs in netting, they can stop birds nesting. Because they aren’t allowed to grub up hedges where birds are nesting – oh.

Why are capybaras trending? Is it some kind of therapy?
Apparently woke snowflakes say everything is “problematic”.
Everyone’s an expert on how they photographed the black hole.

The Notre Dame fire is a punishment for colonialism. The wealth of the colonies was stolen to build this monstrosity, says @nopidgeon. Did the French have any colonies in the 13th century? (No.)

Isn’t the Catholic Church enormously rich? (Notre Dame belongs to the state.)
Americans saying “What about Flint and Puerto Rico?”

Aren’t the French over-reacting? And do we need all this coverage of candlelit vigils?
And now the Italian far-right is blaming the gay community for the fire!

"The building was so overburdened with meaning that its burning feels like an act of liberation." (Rolling Stone)

All: It’s just a building, just a building, just a building, just a building, just a buildinggggggggg.....

And people are tacking these words onto any appeal. “It’s just a building, we should stop plastic pollution.”

Judeo-Christian popular. (Stands for “White Conservative Protestant”.)

Eco-protesters glue themselves to the Docklands Light Railway. April 19 (A man dressed as a bee has glued himself to a bus, Dec 4.)

Oh yes, I use Twitter, Facebook, Google, youtube, Whatsapp, Amazon, but not that ghastly Instagram! (Repeat, with variations.)

Apparently there is an “Instagram style”, characterised by supersaturation, coloured walls and pictures of avocado toast. It is now being superseded by something more naturalistic. You can get a filter that reproduces the look of a disposable camera.

If I ever read the words “avocado toast” again it will be too soon. (All started in an article about home ownership in the Australian press. I’m not going to laugh every time you say “avocado”. Avocados are not expensive, and have been readily available since the mid-60s. To me they don’t say “entitled rich young person”, they say “tricolore salad”.)

TIG/Change abused for having too many colours on their poster. (September: they are fading away and morphing into LibDems. Hurry it up.)

Apparently it’s OK to shoot birds because crows pick the eyes out of lambs. And the BBC should sack Chris Packham because he is anti-hunting.

Forced adoption” protesters seem deeply sinister, like the “dads’ rights” gang.
Fake “cranky prof” accounts
are a thing... (Gone by October.)

Sorry/not sorry.
Sand art on beaches – it’s ephemeral, but you publish the drone footage. (Now snow art, Dec.)

The “gypsies steal children” rumour is alive and well in Yarmouth. Not heard that one since the 50s.

Hugely laboured efforts to defend Danny Baker, while the man himself goes “Honestly I didn’t know it was Meghan and Harry’s Royal Baby they were talking about” (he made a frightful chimp joke). Oh, anyone who complained (sorry, “took offence”) is racist themselves, of course.

Also defending the headmaster of Stowe school, who whinged that “thanks to social engineering”, fewer private-school pupils are getting into Oxbridge.

When did “set foot” become “step foot”? When did “long-drawn-out” become “long and drawn-out”?

Change UK
still a much-loved sneer target. (May)

IKR (I know, right?)

Even the news has become reality TV. Yes, it’s good to talk about the menopause but do we have to be so maudlin?

What to say about HIGNFY: Bring back the good old days it’s not funny any more. Past its sell-by date. (I think they mean: Too left-wing. Mocks those in power.)

Other people’s use of social media is all wrong.
We voted to leave – why don’t we just get on with it? We’ll be OK – Nigel Farage says so! (Dec: "Boris will get it done and everything will be fine.")

It’s good that JD Williams is using “real” models (large, diverse), but must they sashay towards us in slow motion while smiling cheesily? (Dove is doing the same, with plonking lectures about "looks don't matter".)

1001 reasons why throwing milkshakes at right-wingers is political violence and a slippery slope, but outraged snowflakes must learn to debate with points of view they disagree with. Or something. (Which is code for “allow very right-wing speakers to come and address their fellow-students who may end up believing them”.)

BBC Breakfast just said “back on an even keel” of a listing ship.

Deepfake (May) It’s like Photoshop for videos.

End May: “John Cleese wasn't racist really.

Pivoting” to a different political party.

Insults morning after Euro elections: upchucks, toady melts.

Live your best life.
(You have several lives available – all you have to do is pick the best one. Ditto “be your best self”. You are not changing yourself to fit into society, oh no, not at all.)

He’s already “Chuka Uppah”. That’s really disgusting.

Well, at least we can pronounce “Huawei” now. The days of “Werwer” are over.

Good grief, the nastiness about Change UK. (Please, everybody, just join the LibDems like sensible people. Oh, you have.)

Apparently posh people/millennials/Remoaners/lefties/Brits say “grahnd piarno” and “an hoop”.
(It's from Monty Python, and there’s a tendency for a parody of any social group to become a parody of the posh.)

He lives in a land of unicorns and fantasy. (BBC pundit on Boris, paraphrase)

Everyone very impressed by Fleabag and Gentleman Jack giving looks to camera, “breaking the fourth wall”. Just as Ian McShane used to do as Lovejoy. And Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream, Chorus in Henry V and probably several characters in Sophocles.

Jeremy Hunt’s name! Tee hee hee hee hee!
"Socialists want to turn Britain into Venezuela."
Stan” is stalker+fan and has been around since 2000 in K-Pop circles.

Has social media made us nasty? Forty years ago cruelty and sarcasm were common from  strangers, teachers, bosses, bus drivers, jobsworths, officials, functionaries of all kinds. People who say “social media has made everybody nasty” or “Thanks to social media, we can see how nasty everybody is” were not the target back then. The targets were low down the pecking order: women, and especially young women. I’m sure anybody brown-skinned got it too. But if you were an adult white male it was all “Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir”.

“I can’t speak to how Mark Field was feeling in that moment” when he grabbed a protester by the neck and manhandled her out of a Mansion House dining room. Speak to? Isn’t this a ghastly Americanism? (The Tory MP was suspended and has not been reinstated.)

“Harry and Megan-bashing” is the latest popular sport. (“The ‘Firm’ will force her to conform.”)

Lots of mean-mindedness about women who leave bags on unoccupied seats.

Selina Soule's petition to keep women's sports for females (she is a female high-school track athlete in Connecticut where males can self-idea into female sports). *self-id (but autocorrect was actually on the button in this case.

Put your big/boy girl pants on.
Labour anti-Semites all claiming to be Jewish now.

Children need “adventures”, not more things.
Social stories, children are social natives (“Social media” is meant.)

5G and Smartmeters
are the new geopathic stress.
Reluctance to use the R word. (Don’t we have official definitions of R?)
Oh dear now fruit is bad for you.
Straw wars
rumble on – is it an attack on “libs”?
Just waiting for FaceApp to be over. (Gone by October.)
People misusing cognitive dissonance to mean ambivalence.

Jo Swinson is the new LibDem leader and she is being “monstered” (July).

The Daily Mail and its vile readership are attacking Meghan. Can’t think why.

Now the whole of Sweden is a no-go zone thanks to the usual suspects and all the Swedes are leaving for Hungary. (Swedes still at home, October.)

Labour anti-Semites now accusing prominent Jews of being anti-Semitic.

The American definition of racism seems academic and incomprehensible. Result, “I can’t be racist because I’m black”. Racist acts and speech are redefined because in the current system they can't be racist. (It’s all about power relations, you see. I think they’re mixing up two different things.)

Rees-Mogg’s rules to staff about commas, spaces after a full-stop, and avoiding “due to” are widely called “grammar rules”.
“These bad boys” are back, Aug.
Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
"Delicious" now means “oooh, a bit naughty!”

TERF bangs are a thing! Yes, trans-exclusionary feminists are supposed to wear a chunky fringe. “All over the internet”, apparently.

Now they’re telling us not to wash our clothes.

Relentlessly popular to mean tirelessly or unstoppably. (It means "remorselessly", which doesn't mean unstoppably either. Aug.)

When did gunmen become shooters?
People want no-deal because they think any kind of deal is “staying in the EU”.

Tweets/IG posts that “go viral” often do so by means of bought bots following and liking. And Boris has an insta-army of Borisbots to like his tweets.

Everything’s a “story”. Museum objects and pictures are “about the story”. On the Antiques Roadshow, the “story” is more important than the object.

In August, “mood music” re the G7 summit.

Deadnaming: using a transgender person’s former name. It’s now called “gender confirmation” surgery, but there’s a backlash against treating teenagers.

What’s all this about phrenology?

The meat industry is seeding the press with scare stories about veganism.

Hurrah for the natural hair movement – but students in Cape Town are being told they can’t wear afros because they “aren’t natural” and “make them look like trees”.

Upset by an anti-Brexit march? Just say “Waitrose” and they’ll all vanish in a puff of smoke.

OJ now stands for Owen Jones,
who is defending Ash Sarkar. You are dead to me, Owen.

“Draw me like one of your French actresses” is popular, for some reason, early Sept.

And nobody, but nobody, is visiting London. (So I don’t know who all those people are in the Travelodge.)

“Hipsters” are not so prevalent as formerly. And nor is “branding”. Perhaps “turning yourself into a brand” didn’t live up to the publicity.

I know how to negotiate because [insert irrelevant experience here]. You just don’t understand because [insert irrelevant reason here].” (Early Sept.)

Plastic straw wars reaching heights of silliness in the States – or are all the stories made up? It’s “the libs” who want to ban them, and advocates for the disabled (or are they climate change deniers and Trump voters?) who want to keep them.

Attacks on Meghan become increasingly absurd.
– what mean exactly? Visuals?
At the Last Night of the Proms EU flags were given out free! (Instant Urban Legend.)
Cancel culture is the latest bogeyman,

Twitter users are ranked by number of followers – should people with less than X followers be allowed to etc etc.

Rabbits are the new cats – your friends and the wider public will welcome constant updates on their amusing antics and bodily functions. Especially if you call them your “babies” and pretend that they call you Mummy and Daddy.

A couple revealed to their family, friends and the entire world the sex of their unborn baby by filling a watermelon with blue jelly, throwing it into the mouth of a hippo, filming the whole thing, and posting it on socmed as “The worst gender reveal ever!”

Strange take on Greta Thunberg No. 94: Yes, but what about this indigenous teenage girl climate activist?

Australian-style points-based system” much talked of for "controlling our borders" post-Brexit.

Phub: phone snub by fiddling with phone instead of talking.
X with the face/hair of Y. (Yawn.)

Please don’t treat me like a freak because I don’t want to see a close-up of your dog’s mouth ulcers.

Looks like a haunted...” Can we retire this one?

Suzannah Lipscomb is trying to get people to start emails “Dear X” and end them “Yours sincerely”. Hi Suzannah sweetie, Email has been around for about 30 years and it’s a bit late now. Tatty-bye! All the best! Ta-ra!

This has been around for some time, but men can’t go to the doctor without a long rant about the impossible appointments system. “You have to ring at 8am, and then there’s a menu, and then you’re on hold for ten minutes, and then...” etc etc. 

I don’t have a Soundcloud, do you have an Insta?” Translation: Soundcloud account, Instagram account.

Frightful joke going around about the free gifts in avocados being so boring.
There’s a lot of “inspiring” and “role models” aimed at young girls mid October. Copy Katarina Johnson-Thompson, not Kim Kardashian! If I was a young girl I’d be quite fed up.

Oct 17: Instapinions on the XR protesters who stopped a train at Canning Town by climbing on the roof. So inconsiderate! So unBritish!

Many pronunciations of “the island of Ireland”. Some speakers make it “the Ireland of island”.

Lit is the new "wicked", or something.

“If a tweet elicits far more hostile replies than likes or retweets it has been ratioed.”(@Yascha_Mounk) He’s defending “ratioed tweets” because he doesn’t like “conventional wisdom” and the ratioed are just “unpopular opinions”. You know, those ones. “Woke liberals” just spout a consensus and brave racists and misogynists must stand up against them de dah de dah.

Americans talking about development, regeneration and “zoning”. I have a nasty feeling that the last is a kind of jerrymandering whereby you keep poor people out of rich areas.

Red flags: “woke” (in quotes), and “elites”.

“Halloween” now means “Trick or Treating”, which you can whinge about because it’s American.

"Bin fire" popular.

What to say about Extinction Rebellion: "I agree with their aims of course but they’re doing protest all wrong."

PSA, TA, Deadspin. That might be “public service announcement”? Deadspin is a sports news site whose staff are resigning in droves because er er... TA, anybody?

You may disagree with them but it’s cruel to call Brexiteers “gammons”. Isn't it racist? And many others on this template including guff about being “civil” and “coming together”. We should be kinder to bigots, or they won’t listen to us. (I’m not sorry for them. They take their chance.)

Glacier seems to have become glay-cier. Is this a ghastly Americanism? Anyway, they’re shrinking and they’ll diminish further if we don’t do something.

His Dark Materials backlash after centuries of Philip Pullman adulation. @celestialweasel writes: I have read the Wikipedia plot summary of HDM, is it really that ludicrous?

Aren’t jokes about “fronted adverbials” getting a bit old?
“Oven-ready, best in class” agreements with the EU promised by the Tories.
Adults getting their knickers in a twist over Tik-Tok. (Yawn.)

Kombucha. Is it just a brand of fizzy drink? With supposed magic powers? Fermented tea that tastes like juice, say young people, and you make it with a “scoby” (like a sourdough starter or ginger-beer plant). Now for “matcha”.

People getting “dragged” second week of Nov.

A lot of criticism of headlines for not laying blame where it is due, by people who don’t understand how headlines are written. You can’t say someone committed a crime until they are found guilty by a jury, it would be contempt of court. Just so you know, writers don’t write headlines, they're written by editors and sub-editors.

Venmo (Paypal type thing, now a verb and that is perfectly OK.)

live worm (Line graph updated in real time during eg political debates.)

In the States, arguing about whether cats should be allowed to go outside is a thing. There is a “keep cats indoors for their entire lives” lobby. Reasons stretch from “They might be eaten by coyotes” to “They might kill otters”. Oh, and they eat birds. (“Indoor cats get almost no parasites, are vastly less likely to die in an accident, and don’t damage the native ecoystems,” I’m told. Update: there's a cat population explosion in the US.)

Now hospitals are “shovel-ready”.

Diversity buzz-words per @sarahstuartxx: cis privilege, decentring, intersectional, due diligence, emotional labour, disruption, allies.


Trend: long interesting thread on historical research ends with a request for a contribution to my Patreon, buy my book, my art etc.

Oh dear oh dear there are still people who think the British had an Empire because we really are superior. As George Orwell pointed out, this delusion was deliberately induced to persuade Britons to go out and work themselves to death or perish from malaria, cholera or typhoid.

Don’t politicize the London Bridge attack: Don’t suggest that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to let a terrorist out of prison early. Both sides are "making political capital" out of it by promising to avoid such incidents in future by stricter/laxer policies, or blaming the other side's strict/lax policies for the event.

Conscious as in “conscious uncoupling” now means something like: mature, calm, gracious, friendly, no-blame.

yeeting (Anybody?)

Lots of fuss about the Peloton ad. (It’s an exercise bike.)
Attendance at Choral Evensong going up across all age groups.

Blah blah echo chamber blah blah bubble blah blah opposing views blah blah oversensitive blah blah taking offenceconservative cliché bingo.

the forelock vote (11 Dec)

Culture wars: woke snowflakes (decent human beings) versus sensible people (racists and conservatives).

We voted Leave, the decision was made, end of story.
“I voted for change.”

I don’t think the membership will stand being lectured about phantom antisemitism any more. (Simon Maginn. None of the Labour leadership candidates is anti-Zionist enough.)

clam: tired old joke, sitcom cliché

Can’t we just abolish Christmas? It starts in mid-November now! We’re going bowling, then out for Chinese food!”

fan service
wine cave

People using “believe in” for “agree with”.

J.K. Rowling is a TERF and a transphobe.

red wall (As somebody points out, everybody immediately pretending they've been saying it for years.)

More here, and links to past years.

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Inspirational Quotes 96

Drink-parenting is as bad as drink-driving.
(Alan Davies)

Everyone knows that consultation can be tokenistic or faked.

Lacking a rapt and compliant audience does not equal actually being silenced. (Camille Lofters)

Today, most middle-class parents spend years taking classes and pursuing careers before they have children. It’s not surprising, then, that going to school and working are modern parents’ models for taking care of children.
(WSJ 2016)

We often make quick decisions about complex issues on the basis of our past beliefs or even chance associations. After we have made these decisions – which often happen in a matter of milliseconds – we start the laborious process of proving ourselves right. (

"Guilty pleasures"? If you think I should feel guilty for liking anything, I literally don't care about anything you will ever say. (@stevenpoole)

Everyone mocking "experts" today. I've booked each of you an appointment with an amateur dentist tomorrow. Have fun. (Repeat with amateur doctors, solicitors, architects etc.) (‏@JournoStephen)

A 2011 survey of declared Christians in the UK found that the majority of self-identified Christians either aren’t aware of or don’t accept many fundamental aspects of Christianity; only a third of British Christians believe in Christ’s resurrection, and nearly half don’t think Jesus was the son of God. (New York Times)

Her nature is too delicate to brave the fierce storms of public life. Woman is the power behind the throne. Unseen, she rules the destinies of men and nations. Her influence is the barometer of civilization. (Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler, 1888)
An Olympiad with females would be impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic and improper. (Pierre de Coubertin)

We seem increasingly in thrall to a 1950's-flavoured 'American Dream' where there's no unfairness just 'temporarily frustrated millionaires'.

Research also shows that explanations accompanied by images of the brain also persuade people to believe in their validity, however random the illustration. (Guardian)

If you're going to defend yourself against charges of sexism, do not under any circumstances use the word 'banter'. (Ian Dunt)

National Public Radio's comment board troubles are same-old: in-fighting, point-scoring across unrelated topics, racism, sexism, general nastiness. Online was ever thus, and the only known solution is heavy, persistent, consistent, human moderation. (Wendy Grossman)

"That's just how it is!" People objecting to other people not liking something, despite that also being just how it is. (@garwboy)

In my new profile pic, I'm affecting the facial expression of a "Who? Me?" Edinburgh Fringe hack comedian. (@paulwhitelaw)

What did the rest of humanity ever do for us? Writing, mathematics, paper, monotheism... yes, but apart from that.? (@simon_schama)

I don't know why anyone should be surprised that "have cake and eat it" is the Brexit position. It has been the Brexit position all along. (‏@sturdyAlex)

Not only did the murderer see himself as innocent, but he wished to make his victim feel guilty. (David Ohana on Fascism)

The obsession middle-aged journalists have with student unions is deeply disturbing. Absolutely can't handle them making their own decisions. (@WordMercenary)

I have no idea what British Values are. Morris Dancing, Up Helly Aa, Orange Marches, Welsh Language? (@bmc875)

To imagine that therapy, rather than social transformation, can address or prevent the conditions that lead to despair is to be wilfully blind. (A group of psychologists writing to the Times.)

Shout out to the man who seems to have lost his Angry Internet Man phrasebook and addressed me as 'cupcake' rather than 'snowflake'. And it's a JOY to see how quickly people go from "FREE SPEECH!!!" when they want to be offensive to "you're gonna get sued" when offended. (‏@lottelydia)

However well intentioned, this "there have always been idiots", "we're still the same tolerant country" shtick, makes us feel unheard. (@sturdyAlex)

It's funny how Brexiters seem to lose their sense of humour when the joke is on them. (Kevin Keaves Eaves)

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 1 December 2019

Literary Clichés Part Seven: How to Write a Modern Detective Story

The 1970s, when all cops start needing a good therapist.

We've moved on – Golden Age mystery detectives had quirks; modern detectives have problems. This makes them “3D characters with depth”. Modern mysteries also feature “real women with flaws”, but unfortunately this usually means “they drink a lot”.

Give your detective a few contrasting characteristics, but make him/her wise and warm.

The detective must engage in witty banter with a sidekick.

The detective must have a tormented private life which will from time to time impinge on the story: an unfaithful wife, a delinquent daughter, a drug-addicted son, an ill but estranged parent.

If male, the detective will be a chain-smoking alcoholic. He's crumpled, smelly, unshaven, in constant danger of losing his job/house/marriage. But he will relax by collecting ethnic art, and will have at least one affair with an attractive, much younger person. If female, the same, more or less. But troubled child (preferably daughter) obligatory. Will either live in an uber-chic through-designed minimalist pad or a tip. In both cases, however, will not be able to cook. Or possibly will have a depressingly normal sister who will crop up from time to time and ask "When are you going to settle down with a nice man like Tim? You and Tim were so good for each other." (JL)

Lead the reader into a world they don't know.

Set your story in the past, in a country other than the US or UK. It may or may not be your native land. Use the story as a frame for your research – pick a place and time that’s new to your readers.

Include descriptions of delicious food and if possible, recipes. The clue could be in the cookbook, and they only discover it’s in code when they try to follow the instructions for mulligatawny soup and find out it’s inedible, or uses a lot of mysterious ingredients which are all code for something,.

Include arcane knowledge (there’s a language called Yiddish, autistic people have literal minds).

The detective must teach you all about (for example) Chinese poetry while solving the mystery.

The detective must employ a dysfunctional young geek to do the computery bits of the investigation. (This may be a bit out of date now everyone's got a smartphone.)

The detective's love interest will turn out to be an enemy agent or master criminal but will die in the detective's arms at the end of the story.

The female detective, near the end of the novel, comes face to face with the Master Criminal, whom she is about to destroy before he destroys her. She of course finds him fascinating, compulsive, sexy. In their final confrontation she finds out that they are exactly similar (e.g. both adopted, abused as children, fought their way up from underclass, born in ghetto, traumatised by successful sibling, refugee, bullied at school etc etc). This won't stop her from destroying him at the end, of course, but it will mean that her triumph is hollow. (JL)

Some writers make you feel you're clever, by crudely dropping in little literary references (all of which are actually very obvious) to flatter your sense of your own intellectuality. The quotes are never identified, to make you feel even brighter for being one of the few to recognise them, or to appreciate the cod philosophy and Fine Writing and description for its own sake. (JL)

With a lot of help from James Loader.

More here and links to the rest.