Tuesday 26 May 2020

Grammar: Amphiboly 5

We don't really want to eat Vegans, or cut children in half.

Live Vegan for Less
‏This is a very thought-provoking article about just how animals also get killed by being a vegetarian or vegan. (RC)
Tables are for eating customers only
Is hunting to eat a human right for tribal peoples?

How to Date Buildings
(book title)
Eve Was Shamed by Helena Kennedy

How to style your bedroom with Daniel Hopwood
The Doom Fulfilled by Edward Burne-Jones
Women Behind Bars with Trevor Macdonald
Name Your Child Eric Partridge

(On a skip.)



Please pay displayed amount. Change is possible. (Car park machine)
Please don’t make too much noise and respect our neighbours.
Don’t kill your wife with work – let electricity do it!
All doors on this carriage will not open at the next station. Please use other doors.

Wear your wellies and head to Leighton Moss.
On a notice POST NO FLYERS, someone has stuck a picture of an emu, a penguin, an ostrich and a kiwi.

Hospitals named after sandwiches kill five (Times)
All drinking water has been passed by the local London authority.
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever.

Only children are weird.

Children getting top GCSE grades expected to be cut in half under new reforms (DT 2017)

Man shot, killed in Miami for third consecutive night
Over 600,000 people in the US have their gallbladders removed yearly.
The Met Office say we could see more frequent, hotter summers in the future. (Two a year?)
One person signing up for Veganuary every eight seconds (As AC says, that person is a bit obsessive.)

While I have my daily morning coffee, I note my weight, my urine pH and how many hours slept on a spreadsheet. (Times Jan 2019)

Australian police hold two over bush fires
RSPCA “refused to help” fox attack family
Tiger species thought extinct is possibly spotted in Indonesia
Sludge Being Found in Local Treatment Plant

Women in low-paid jobs now a Tory priority
Putin’s “youth army” recruits swear oath on world’s largest nuclear submarine
Bishops agree sex abuse rules Provincial Historic Sites Offer Free Access to Youth

Oxfam’s free will service
Free will guide (centrepoint.org.uk)

Labels on petrol pumps:
Extra out of order
Supreme out of order

45,000 jobs to go in the North Sea

Egypt hopes mummies can coax life back into tourism (Times 2017)

Venezuelan president urges women to stop using hairdryers to tackle the energy crisis (April 2016-04-12 Daily Mail)

Perseverance Works (Time Out’s offices)

Macedonia Agrees to Change Its Name to Resolve Dispute with Greece
A cure for disease that robs thousands of sight (Daily Mail headline)
Nothing works better than Benylin
Help us understand affected patients better.
Top secret hotels up to 50% off.

Sculptures at Southwark Cathedral are being replaced by students from south London.
Chinese man killed by a tiger trying to get into the zoo for free
Here are three wise men in meggings from Ravenna. (Agnes Crawford)

Don’t worry about this pony disguised as a pumpkin, “She was painted with non-toxic, child-safe, washable paint and was also diluted with water."

Here's an old codger from Maine
Who says you should never restrain
An impulse to send
A card to a friend
No matter how small or how plain

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday 25 May 2020

Grammar: Outdated Slang 5

Oh, goody!

When did wigwams become tepees? When did programming become coding? When did real ale become craft beer? When did groups become bands, a
Tannoy become a PA and corduroy become cord? When did we drop terrible imitations of Irish and Scottish accents ("Ah hae me doots!") When did we stop saying:

(As if you were about to say “Oh, lack-a-day!”)
quidlet for pound (80s)
Golly gumdrops, goody gumdrops
mull it over
de luxe

do one’s bit
mature, immature
boss shot, bosh shot (Failed first attempt.)


grass roots
(Popular in the Labour Party 60s and 70s.)
nervous wreck
Oh noes!

Bah! for “Bye!”

local yokels
xxx rules OK
spacey, spaced out, space cadet
synergy, cluster (management jargon)
wimp (80s)
shopping precinct

queer as a coot
Twitter – the “micro-blogging” app...
hissy fit
(They’re still having them.)
in a very real sense

old dear
morrising about

the occult
(1890s to 1970s.)
the Masses

(Peaked 1802.)
(Peaked 40s.)

rufty tufty
coign of vantage
spoilt child
(70s, 80s.)
zeitgeist, zeitgeisty (Early 70s.)

rock anthem
(We carried on working at desks, we just put computers on them.)
nick off with for steal

(From 1974.)
ruddy for bloody
wp for word processor/ing
recherché, rechauffé

having the chat, the coffee etc.

brown as a berry
(Which berry?)
in a very real sense
(It got laughed off the stage.)
(Became "pre-orgasmic".)
verbal diarrhoea
(Early 80s.)
way out
(Peaked 1900.)

as per usual
(Peaked 1922, common in the 70s.)
crimper for hairdresser
(A lot of very “debby” girls, ie debutantes.)
DTP (Desktop publishing, 80s.)
ego boost (50s.)
flack (Press agent or publicist.)
from the desk of… (Laughed out of court.)

...and doing X in the process

grot, grotty (1960)
het up (Mid-30s)
in the lap of the gods (30s)
in this day and age (1850)
juncture, at this juncture (Declined since  1810)
KO’d (knocked out)

(30s, 40s. Means “platitudinous lecture”.)
plough through (40s)
Well, quite.
(For “excuse me”, from Italian “scusi”.)
shamanistic (80s)
slave mentality
smarmy (70s)
bolshy (From the Bolsheviks who started the Russian Revolution.)
Grue! For bleurgh, eeew etc (Peaked 1971.)

thicko (90s)
thought process (From 1870.
umpty (He was a bit umpty about it.)
underway (90s)
warped mind (40s)
wazzock (You daft wazzock! Early 80s.)

buggerlugs (Early 80s. Disparaging term for "someone whose name I've forgotten or couldn't be bothered to pick up in the first place".)

garbage in, garbage out; gunge in, gunge out; GIGO.  (Those who now all have tablets and smartphones used this phrase to disparage computers from the early 60s.)

make the running (This discreet term for "women chasing men" peaked in the 70s.)

(Rise from 1860s, now recovering from 80s slump.)

Shove it!
Triff! Brill!

Me neither.
He has no hinterland.

I’m not a feminist, but...
That’s easy for YOU to say!

Why don’t you move to Russia?

One more for luck!

Would you believe?
You so and so!
You’re not wrong!

Look slippy!
Just what the doctor ordered!

You’ve got a dirty mind!
Promises, promises.
It’s all gone horribly wrong.

Ah, bless!

I’m only here for the beer.
It just isn’t done. (50s)
it was classic X.
I must say!
It was a doddle!
I’ll be with you in a brace of shakes.
You must have a warped mind.

And why not?
Let me put my thinking cap on...
Good move!
Why fight it?
Hear, hear!
You should eat to live, not live to eat.
We are what we eat.

I’ll give you a bell.
(Meaning “I shall contact you by telephone.”)
You look a bit washed out. (Clothes became colour-fast.)
Deal with it.
Bring it on!
Chacun a son gout.

Nuff said!
(Peaked 1915.)
Orft we jolly well go!
You what? Do what? Oh, what?

Rise above!

Bring back National Service!
(This one is still being wheeled out in the context of "kids today".)
Don’t put me in a box.
(Early 80s.)
He’s got a finger in many pies.
I haven’t the foggiest.
I was literally crawling up the walls.
I don’t go for…
I’m not big on…
(From 1965.)

It gives me gyp.
Lafe is lake thet (Life is like that. Was it a quotation? 30s, 40s.)
Life is a bowl of cherries.
Take the money and run. (60s)
They are having none of it.

What brought THAT on?
What’s that when it’s at home?
What was that supposed to be?
Having fun?
You're no fun!
(People were so kind and polite in the 60s.)

Mustn’t grumble.
It must
have been "meant".
These things are sent to try us.
It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.

People became more bolshy, and began to say:
That’s a pain.
That’s a right pain.
What a pain!

Hell, said the Duchess!
(Alleged first line of a story by a child trying to be shocking. It goes on: "I'm pregnant! Who done it?")

Facebook and Twitter are evil.
(These days Twitter is "this Hell site" and Facebook is "full of pictures of babies in hairbands".)

You soppy date! You need your head read.
(Elsie and Doris Waters – reference to phrenology already about 100 years out of date.)

He’s a lovely/beautiful mover. (Probably from football commentary.)

Don’t kill yourself! (Meaning “Make an effort, but don’t overdo it”. Probably said to someone doing a task in a lackadaisical way.)

Oh, dry up! (From the Charles Atlas bodybuilding ad “dry up and blow away”?)

It’s the xxx, stupid! (Campaign slogan from 1992.)

When did “old stamping grounds” become “old stomping grounds”? When did "champing at the bit" has become "chomping at the bit"?) When did planning permission become planning consent?

"Tracky bottoms" and "choochy" won't be missed.

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 21 May 2020

Grammar: Neologisms 21

Avoid clichés – keep your writing fresh.

(Designer sustainability: green elements of your building are front and centre.)
vog (volcanic smog)

throwaway catharsis Twitter account

gender theologians
psychological shrivelling
(Instead of towering, the building hugs the earth and spreads.)
pizza-cutter comments (all edge, no point)
cavilling explanations (New Yorker on the Labour anti-Semitism row)
snowmaggedon, snowverkill, snowmygod (Huffington Post on the yearly panic about the snow panic)

WEIRD nations: Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic
FANG companies: Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google.
A vast, apocalyptic soap opera. (Grantland.com on the X-Men)

Patches put on Puritanism.
(@alexadraerin on the wellness craze)

Minced rubber encased in cardboard.
(Rumpole on a pork pie, John Mortimer, Rumpole on Trial)

The cub reporter with the twisted taste in legwear. (imdb on Tintin and his plus-fours)

That isn’t news, it’s olds.
We were sold a shoal of red herrings.
(Writer-in to the BBC re Brexit)

Cubs – a little den of faded Empire. (@typejunky)
The US – a nation sutured together after the Civil War.
(JSTOR Daily)

A thin soup of secondhand testimonials. (New Yorker)

"Balanced diet" makes me reach for my scimitar. (@Arslanianexile)

Bromley. Where all hope of escape shrivels.
Dalston, urgh!  It was ghastly 30 years ago, now it's ghastly with a slightly newer font. (@benpunter)

I struggled to peel myself out of bed this morning. (RP)
A friend from Chicago talked about how they expected their politicians to be corrupt, but did insist they be amusing. His example was a state representative ripped up one side and down the other by a local newspaper, who accused him of bribery, racketeering and general high crimes, misdemeanours, and mopery and dopery on the spaceways. (Via Facebook)

The New Zealand blackfly – obviously the antipodean answer to the Scottish sabre-toothed midge. (RM)

Golf is a game where the object is to keep poor people off a giant lawn. (@juliangough, paraphrase)

When you’re too rich and comfortable to care about the consequences, politics is merely a game of winners and losers, not battles over resources with evergreen ramifications. (@JawadPullin)

To answer that unglibly I’d need to think about what “wonder” actually is. (Peter Lemer)

There are moments when David Cameron’s book appears to have been written by a “Keep Calm and Carry On” tea towel. (@Anthony160213)

Listening to the rattling clomp of feet in a Swan Lake chorus can be quite disconcerting. (SP)

I never know when "Western" means US and when it means UK. It's always one of those two except when sometimes in a weird geographic quirk it means Australia. (@grodaeu)

New Age sticky plaster therapies (offered instead of practical solutions).
Poundland mindfulness and CBT. (Via FB)

I think we need to be careful of drive-by eco fundamentalism. (@herdyshepherd1)

Derek was so relaxed he was practically lying down. (Martin Roberts, Homes under the Hammer)

On the right it’s violent. On the left it’s institutional. Let’s not have a food fight about which is worse. (Deborah Lipstadt, probably talking about racism)

Great British Bake-Off meets The Golden Bough. (JL on Glyndebourne’s Magic Flute)

The Windsors lived in a “tinselled wilderness” in France, says the Daily Mail.

My own faith is a very feeble tinsel object. I sometimes think there might be some kind of celestial radio signal but it is about as intelligible as Radio Tirana. (Boris Johnson)

London is like a science fiction version of its younger self. (Photographer on FB)

 I want to avoid sanding away all the nuance surrounding Mulan and whose story it is to tell etc etc, but the truth I'm feeling right now is that Asian diaspora in the west still have so few stories about ourselves here that every single one matters. (@SDCC)

I tell about the time I was getting groceries and I heard from the pickle and olive section a woman's nasal voice saying, “Well, I know Betty MacDonald real well and it is too true that she is divorcing George, her present husband and marrying her publisher.” Another voice said, “And her marriage to that MacDonald was her fourth and I heard the other day...” The voices faded out into the soap powders. (Betty MacDonald. She stayed with her second husband, Don.)

French high style does not travel well into English and would lend a tone of camp hysteria to a treatise on stamp collecting. (Times 2019)

From that minestrone of observations, Laura, I pick out one crouton. (Boris Johnson)

In Vienna the glass is beautifully controlled – the ground and first storeys aren’t just sheer sheets of sheen. (Nicholas Boyes Smith of Create Streets)

The determinedly French-speaking staff look at you like you’ve just asked for a pair of knee-high boots in a size nine and a beginner’s guide to writing a will. “Caffay! Duh caffay!” (Times)

Today I learnt that widdershins means going counter-clockwise. Fairly sure it can only be used when referring to some sort of Rumplestiltskin character prancing in a nefarious manner to invoke dark magic. (@NonFictioness)

Whole Language with a tiny little resentful nod to phonics.
This is some grade-A, 100% pure Colombian placebo effect. (@AmyDentata)

From Facebook, re house-flipping and painting over 70s interiors:I’m ready for the grey style to be over with.
Agreed! The Taupening is dreary!
Britain First – one rung further up the evolutionary ladder than a tin of salmon. (Via Twitter)

Digby Jones, who is no spring chicken, thinks there might be some benefit to Brexit in a hundred years or so, when everyone is dead and gone. I mean there is grasping at straws and then there's babbling ludicrousness. (@WillBlackWriter)

Looking forward to getting the last train back to Sheffield from Manchester Airport, which stops everywhere, including several places that are clearly fictional. (@mrdavidwhitley)

I took that as pretty much the defining wall-handwriting moment. (slate.com)

I would rather walk round Slough with a nail in my shoe than read a Harry Potter book. (@David18054465)

How can politicians today stand up and keep saying disproven things which are complete mince? (MJ)

Armoured women moving doggedly round dance floors in the grasp of younger men. (Martin Edwards on Ngaio Marsh’s Swing Brother, Swing)

Imagine the alabaster outrage (if white people were deported from Mexico and their children seized, imprisoned and adopted). @Freeyourmindkid

If we don't get the science now I'm turning this goddamn car right around and we're going home. (@mccormick_ted)

Liberal humanist propaganda (with a side order of strangulation by obscene vegetable matter). (Nick Fuller on Dr Who)

Plaintive bridge abutments still waiting for their connection to arrive... you can still make out chunks of unconsummated pedway at first-floor level that have remained glazed-in ever since. (Peter Rees in the Guardian on fragments of the Highwalk)

You try to have a debate, but all you get back is desperate blather. (@IanDunt)

Young Conservatives never change. Do they produce them in a factory? (@DavidHeadViews. 
Another commenter asks “Do the Tories have their very own Village of the Damned?”)

Gnarled old clichés” – what Tom Watson calls the Australian cartoonist’s defence of his Serena Williams cartoon.

My kids’ new school “has a thing for pharaonic building projects”. (Slate.com)

"Tempting" and "aspic" do not belong in the same sentence. Or even the same chapter. (Tani Spielberg)

The bare minimum of icy neutrality. (Danny Lavery of slate.com recommends a strategy.)

There always seems to be one grande fromage who judges all like the Great Oz from behind the curtain. (@_stroak on Fake or Fortune)

The marketplace of ideas includes the rejected seconds and damaged/clearance bin of ideas. (@lwinling, paraphrase)

I will oppose this deliberate and callous wreckage of my country, its people and its reputation with every last erythrocyte of my blood. (@mikegalsworthy)

This is such a stinking review that I'm sure it will tempt anyone who sees it to read this novel to see what I'm warbling on about. (Goodreads on It Ends with Revelation by Dodie Smith)

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 17 May 2020

Outrageous Excuses 10

And silly reasons for voting Leave.

I voted out because I believe that if you're unhappy at any aspect of life in Britain at the minute, be that work and pay, immigration, the weather, then you have to vote out because that's the only way things can change! If we stayed in nothing would change so we had to take a leap of faith! (joe.co.uk)

I voted Leave because I don’t believe in Towers of Babel. (Scramnews.com)

Other countries will be following Britain!

People in the North voted Leave/Tory because they are different from Londoners and city folk because they used to be miners.

Flooding happens because "it was an EU law to sell off our dredgers”. (Via LBC)

I voted Leave because on Eurovision everybody sings in English but they don’t give us any points.

I voted Leave because I didn’t want to study EU law as part of my degree.

Ex-friend from schooldays (never studied, lived or worked outside hometown): "It's OK for you, you're allowed to be Scottish, we're not allowed to be English". (@NuitsdeY)

When ‘Sally’ told me she was going to use her vote for the first time to leave, I asked her if she thought things would change for the better if we were to Brexit. She said she didn’t know, and didn’t care. She just couldn’t stand things being the same. (blogs.lse.ac.uk)

We don’t exist to them, do we?
Well all of us ******* who don’t exist are voting out tomorrow.

Irish journalist Ian O’Doherty is “someone who collects controversial opinions just to be edgy, but doesn’t believe half of what he says”.

I’m a caricaturist, I exaggerate people’s features, says cartoonist who drew Ed Miliband with a hooked nose. See also "We're Ruritanians, we make fun of everybody!" "You just don't understand our Syldavian sense of humour!” etc.

Falloppio of Padua conceived that petrified shells had been generated by fermentation in the spots where they were found, or that they had in some cases acquired their form from 'the tumultuous movements of terrestrial exhalations.' Although a celebrated professor of anatomy, he taught that certain tusks of elephants dug up in his time at Puglia were mere earthy concretions ... and, consistently with these principles, he even went so far as to consider it not improbable, that the vases of Monte Testaceo at Rome were natural impressions stamped in the soil. (@lieutenantkije. Monte Testaceo is a hill of broken pots thrown out by the Romans.)

Man’s role is to give, woman’s to receive – the Catholic Church explains why women can’t give Communion.

Women don’t need the vote because they can always influence their husbands how to vote. (So their husbands no longer have the vote. Common in the late 19th century.)

I have talked to senior BBC executives, and they tell me they personally think it’s wrong to expose lies told by a British prime minister because it undermines trust in British politics. (Peter Oborne)

Audrey White was once refused a job as a BBC announcer in case her powerful looks "alarmed timid men from Wigan and country districts”. (@rallen78)

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday 15 May 2020

Misunderstandings 7

Audiobook narrators sometimes misread the text – often because times have changed and we don't wear combinations or eat picked shrimps any more.

"Don’t TELL me!" for "Don’t tell ME!"

Stephanie Cole reads Miss Marple’s famous “gill of picked shrimps” as “a gill of pickled shrimps”. She meant picked – with their shells removed.

In Rumpole and the Reign of Terror, a character called Inigo is referred to as “Indigo” throughout.

Combs (combinations) are pronounced with a long O, like the hair-styling devices. Combinations were a long-sleeved vest and long pants in one, with a few slits and flaps. They rhyme with "bombs".

Hugh Fraser performing the Blue Train: “You won’t find his title in the Almagnac de Gotha.” It’s Almanac – he’s confusing it with Armagnac brandy.

Edward Petherbridge narrating Howard’s End twice misreads "county families" as "country families". The "county families" were the people who owned most of the county. (A common audiobook mistake.)

Rhyming the tow in “tow-headed youth” with how or cow, not toe or go. Tow is unspun flax, and it’s pale yellow. (Margery Allingham's Cargo of Eagles)

Newsreaders accented Jacinta Ardern’s “vicious cycle of extremism” as if it meant “cycle of vicious extremism”.

In Anybody Can Do Anything by Betty McDonald, “calcimined” arms have been “corrected” to “calamined”. Calcimine is whitewash. It’s a joke! The Bards’ piano teacher didn’t make up her arms with calamine lotion, she “whitewashed” them with make-up.

Wikipedia calls Ian Duncan Smith’s name “barrelled”. Annoyingly, I can’t change it to “double-barrelled”. It’s like a shotgun – you’d think Americans would get that.

"Lash yourself to the mainbrace!" says the BBC. You’d be better off lashing yourself to the mainmast. What is a mainbrace? "Splice the mainbrace" is an order given aboard naval vessels to issue the crew with an alcoholic drink. Originally an order for one of the most difficult emergency repair jobs aboard a sailing ship, it became a euphemism for authorized celebratory drinking afterward, and then the name of an order to grant the crew an extra ration of rum or grog." (Wikipedia)

below the bread line (The bread line is a queue for bread, it’s not like a Plimsoll line.)

sausage-roll bangs (Sausage curls were worn by Little Lord Fauntleroy.)

“I’d rather strap my vitals to a windmill than have my Isabella marry a clerk!” jokes The Times, sending up 19th century melodrama. The phrase is “stap my vitals!”, and stap means something like “stab”. Your “vitals” are your vital organs.

Perhaps worriers are working with an outdated view of language: an old ‘for want of a nail’ image is embedded in some people’s minds, the old proverb in which a lost nail led to a lost battle: ‘For want of a nail, a shoe was lost, for want of a shoe, a horse was lost, for want of a horse, a man was lost, for want of a man, a battle was lost.’ Lack of care over ‘linguistic fingernails’ is presumed to lead to language collapse. (Language Myths, Laurie Bauer and Peter Trudgill. How would losing a fingernail lose you a shoe? And what would it have to do with the horse? The poem ends: “And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.” The horse lost one nail out of its shoe, the shoe fell off, the horse became lame, its rider couldn’t carry the vital message, and the battle was lost. It doesn't reference a soldier worrying about his manicure.)

pudding haircut for pudding bowl haircut (Times. A pudding-bowl haircut is created by brushing the hair outwards from the crown, inverting a pudding basin on the victim’s head, and then cutting round the rim of the basin. Pudding basins were used for steaming suet puddings – in the 1930s.)

For The Establishment, Mr. Kenny has returned to the art nouveau of the late Thirties, when exposed  beams were considered the only “honest” interior design, and when canvas walls each were painted a different colour to bring out the black of the ceiling. (Esquire, 1960s, describes a half-timbered “stockbroker’s Tudor” interior which is a long, long way from Art Nouveau. The style was over by about 1914. The writer may just about mean Art Deco, but exposed beams are not Art Deco either. He means Arts and Crafts.)

Russian carpenters appear to be exceptionally skilled. Someone told me once that their buildings make no use of nails at all. All the wood has been carefully cut to fit seamlessly into each other. Amazing when you think of it. (@ArianDekoning. The Russian builders didn’t use metal nails – but they did use wooden pegs.)

Many think that Harriet Vane in Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers got married in gold lamé. Academics have written reams on her “lapse of taste”. But her dress was not made from the bright, glittery fabric beloved of trailer trash and drag queens, it was a dull metallic material often used for evening dresses and coats in the 20s and 30s. Sayers writes that her dress is of “stiff gold brocade”.

Swells of the fancy were fine gentlemen of the smart town set. (Lucy Adlington, Stitches in Time. They were fighters or boxing fans. “The fancy” was the boxing world.)

Many actors and actresses would keep a rabbit’s foot in their make-up kit. Before entering the stage they would kiss it, or rub the rabbit’s foot on their hands or on their face. The rabbit’s foot would help them eliminate stage fright. It would also help them remember all their lines. (Goodlucksymbols.com) 

A rabbit’s foot for good luck is used by many actors to apply make-up.
(Animal Magick, DJ Conway, 1995. There are many references in novels to actors applying makeup with a “hare’s foot”, and it seems to have been a real one. Superstitious actors were fond of mascots.)

“A fit of the vapours” refers to trapped wind caused by a tight corset. It means any ailment cured by the application of vapours or smoke. (“The vapours” referred to any female problem such as fainting or emotional outbursts – “hysteria”. They were thought be caused by vapours from the womb as it wandered around the body. Hystera is Greek for womb.)

180 years ago, the 26 year old Charles Dickens used the word "gammon" to describe a large, self-satisfied, middle-aged man who professes an extreme patriotism in large part to disguise his essential selfishness and corruption. (@alanferrier. In Nicholas Nickleby, Chapter 16, a self-satisfied middle-aged man is addressing a packed hall. Someone at the back calls out “gammon!”. In Dickens’ day “gammon and spinach”, or just “gammon”, meant “nonsense”. “One gentleman in the rear did not scruple to remark aloud, that, for his purpose, it savoured rather too much of a ‘gammon’ tendency.” This is Dickens parodying newspaper reports of political meetings, in the overblown journalistic style of the day.)

Murder Maps gets most things right. But Edith Thompson’s cloche hat is perched on her head, when it should be pulled down over her forehead. In a reconstructed scene, Percy Thompson, Edith and Freddy Bywaters wait half an hour while a pot of tea gets cold, waiting for Avice. On the table is not a teapot, but a coffee-pot. And you would wait until all your guests were present before making tea. Paraphrasing Edith’s letters, the voiceover says she fantasised about killing Percy by putting “shards of glass” in his porridge. People at the time thought ground glass was poisonous – more likely than broken glass, which a victim would notice.

The mixture he invented was first called “SuperCrema” before it became “Nutella” in the early '60s by combining the portmanteau of “nut” and the Italian word for sweet —“ella.” (Thrillist.com. That’s “dolce”.)

An embroidered globe made in 19th century US when girls were allowed at last to learn geography. The school couldn’t afford globes so the girls stitched their own, sewing down the boundaries of their New World. (Eighteenth century girls’ schools offered “use of the globes” – celestial and terrestrial. There was no ban on girls learning geography in the 19th century.)

Asser in 893 is writing for a Christian Welsh gallery. (“Playing to the gallery” means over-acting so that your words and gestures will reach those in the cheap seats – high up in the gallery of the theatre. The “gallery” also appreciates anger, torment and pathos.)

Bullets struck the man. This is condemned as the “passive voice” because it doesn’t name the gunman or men. ("Struck" is an active verb. “The man was struck by bullets” is in the passive voice. And once a person has been charged with a crime, he can't be named until his trial. And even then he can't be referred to as a criminal until he has been found guilty by a jury of his peers. There is a current fashion for condemning newspaper headlines for being too "passive" about evil-doers.)

Most of the accents one picks up beside the haha sound as if they were hand-fashioned in a crystal factory. (Guardian, 2006 Posh accents are known as "cut-glass" because poorer people can only afford moulded glass.)

Hugging huskies and gay marriage were pursued mainly for the signal they sent, rather than for the result they achieved. (Matt Ridley, Times 2017. I think he means “hugging hoodies”. Huskies are padded waistcoats worn by posh women.)

The Ancient Greeks “kept slaves, were largely illiterate, and died at 40”. (Emma Duncan, Times, 2017)

The wind blows through leafy trees; birds chirp in the background. No sign of bubonic plague or war or a life expectancy of, what, 30? (Jezebel)

The Times on the discovery of a new Egyptian tomb: Inside was the skeleton of a woman in her seventies, a ripe old age at a time when life expectancy was at best in the early 30s.

Discussions about life expectancy often involve how it has improved over time. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy for men in 1907 was 45.6 years; by 1957 it rose to 66.4; in 2007 it reached 75.5. Unlike the most recent increase in life expectancy (which was attributable largely to a decline in half of the leading causes of death including heart disease, homicide, and influenza), the increase in life expectancy between 1907 and 2007 was largely due to a decreasing infant mortality rate, which was 9.99 percent in 1907; 2.63 percent in 1957; and 0.68 percent in 2007. But the inclusion of infant mortality rates in calculating life expectancy creates the mistaken impression that earlier generations died at a young age; Americans were not dying en masse at the age of 46 in 1907. The fact is that the maximum human lifespan – a concept often confused with "life expectancy" – has remained more or less the same for thousands of years. The idea that our ancestors routinely died young (say, at age 40) has no basis in scientific fact. (Livescience) 
The title of A View to a Kill was so odd (and grammatically dubious) that scriptwriters felt obliged to make some sense of it during an exchange between the villain Zorin and his henchwoman May Day. Her: “What a view!” Him: “To a kill.” (Times 2018 It’s from fox-hunting. A hunt starts with a “view” of the fox, and ends with a “kill”. It proceeds “from a view to a kill”. The article adds that Bond titles are philosophical-sounding but meaningless. Really?)

Casino Royale (Name of a casino.)
Live and Let Die (Variation on old proverb.)

(Dictionary says “a small square sail set above a skysail” – a kenning, like “skyscraper”. The original moonrakers were ignorant villagers who tried to fish out the moon’s reflection in a pond with a rake, thinking it was a cheese. Or were they smugglers trying to retrieve barrels of brandy, and only pretending to be stupid to fool the excise-men? Wikipedia says the inhabitants of Lincolnshire are known as moonrakers.)

Diamonds Are Forever (From a current ad for diamonds: "A diamond is for ever.")
From Russia, with Love (Needs no explanation.)
Dr. No (Name of the villain.)
Goldfinger (Name of the villain – lifted from architect Erno Goldfinger.)
For Your Eyes Only (Something that might be stamped on a top secret government file.)
Thunderball (It’s about bombs. From ball lightning, or a slang term for an atomic mushroom cloud?)
The Spy Who Loved Me
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Wordplay refers to “On Her Majesty’s Service”.)
You Only Live Twice (Wordplay on proverb “You only live once”.)
The Man with the Golden Gun (It’s about a man with a golden gun.)
Quantum of Solace (A quantum is a minute amount. It’s a bit like “cold comfort”.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 12 May 2020

Received Ideas about Etymology in Quotes 16

In the 16th century, following King Henry VIII's split with the Catholic Church and the decades of anti-Catholic sentiment that followed, Pope's Head pubs were renamed King's Head, a safer declaration of allegiance. (Ordnance Survey website)

Titled undergraduates at Oxford and Cambridge were entitled to wear golden, rather than plain black, tassels on their academic caps. In the late 17th century these became known as “tufts” and this name was then given to the wearers, with those who followed and looked-up to them being known as “tufthunters” so the sense here is an obsequious sycophant. “Tuft” changed over time to become “Toff”. (worldwidewords.org)

In November 1884 the comedian changed his stage name to Little Tich, which derived from Tichborne, and "Tich" or "Tichy" became a common term meaning small. (BH. Tich was tiny and the “Tichbourne claimant” was known for being huge.)

I've heard a tale that these Spaniards are the origins of the Irish surname Cassidy. (Via Facebook.)

Goosey Goosey Gander,
whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
and in my lady's chamber.
There I met an old man
who wouldn't say his prayers,
so I took him by the left leg
and threw him down the stairs.

Chris Roberts, author of Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme, claims that "the word 'goose' meant prostitute". Henry VIII took land from the Catholic Church, and the rhyme is part of his propaganda justifying his activities. "The rhyme associates the Catholic Church with prostitution." Furthermore, "left-footer" is English slang for a Catholic. "And so there you have the rhyme linking the Catholic Church to immoral acts.

He goes on to explain that Baa Baa Black Sheep goes back to "the 12th century at least". "The Lord Chancellor still sits on a woolsack in the House of Commons to remind everyone about that England's wealth was built on wool. [Not since 2006 – it's now the Speaker's seat, and it's in the House of Lords, not the Commons.] He goes on: "Baa, Baa Black Sheep was a lament from the farmers of England who are represented by the little boy. The master is the king or the king's representatives ... and the dame is the church. So you have these very punitive tax rates of 66 percent; a third to the church, third to the church and a third left for the farmer."

Edinburgh was once home to Nor Loch, also known as the Lost Loch ... where the gardens at the foot of Edinburgh Castle are now. A stagnant pool of waste water, Nor Loch is said to have produced a less than pleasant aroma that could be smelled from miles away. It was this awful stench that gave Edinburgh the less than pleasant nickname Auld Reekie. There are those, however, who believe that Auld Reekie refers to the stench that came from the smoke of the coal fires used by the residents of Edinburgh. (Quartermile blog. The name means “Old Smoky” and has nothing to do with smell.)

The ‘h’ in ‘ghost’ was randomly added by a single hand. A typesetter from Flanders, working for William Caxton, didn’t like the look of the English ‘gost’ and lobbed in an ‘h’ to make it look more Flemish. (Susie Dent)

Caxton was not an adequate translator, and under pressure to publish as much as possible as quickly as possible, he sometimes simply transferred French words into English; but because of the success of his translations, he is credited with helping to promote the Chancery English he used to the status of standard dialect throughout England. (Wikipedia. The encyclopedia's article on Middle English claims more modestly that the printing press helped to spread "Chancery Standard" English, based on the London dialect.)

More here, and links to the rest. And here's the whole book.

Monday 11 May 2020

Received Ideas in Quotes 15

Most of the day we are on auto-pilot, relying on mental short-cuts and rules of thumb to navigate the world. (Briwilliams.com.au. But he doesn’t mean we stomp about like zombies or robots – and when he says “mental short cuts and rules of thumb” I suspect he means received ideas: those "facts" that must be true because everybody says so... And “we live on auto-pilot” is a received idea in its own right.)

Mills and Boon paperbacks are used as filler for motorways.

Edward Lear's
The Owl and the Pussycat actually symbolises the real-life 'marriage of convenience' between a Victorian gay man and woman. (@sacha_coward)

On rebuilding St Paul's Cathedral post 1666, a workman found a stone with RESURGAM ('I shall rise again') carved on it. With an eye for future folklore, Wren placed this stone above the South Door with a phoenix above it. London rose again from the ashes.
(@ewencadenmoore. More likely the inscription was always part of the design.)

George Barratt founded Barratt and Co, which was once the largest sugar confectionery manufacturer in the world. These days Barratt’s is best-known for childhood favourites such as Dip Dabs, Jelly Babies and Dolly Mixtures. George Barratt stumbled upon his confectionery business almost by accident. George left a batch of toffee on the boil for too long, resulting in a tough and sticky mixture. Not wishing to throw it away, he took his new 'stick jaw' toffee around to local business and residents to try and earn some money. As the story goes, his stick jaw toffee went down such a storm that many locals asked him to make a double batch the very next day -- and so, the Barratt’s confectionery empire was born! (www.workspace.co.uk. Wikipedia says it was Liquorice Allsorts that were “created by accident in 1899”.)

Der Germanische Geist ist der Geist der neuen Welt. ("The German spirit is the spirit of the new world," said philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Not just the Zeit, the Germans thought everything had a Geist.)

One thing we must not omit, namely, that the white veils now so much worn, have a tendency to increase sunburn and freckles, by their increasing the intensity of the sun’s light. They are also very injurious to the eyes, and will, in a short time, spoil the freshness and dim the lustre of the most brilliant eyes. Green is the only colour which should be worn as a summer veil. (The Family Oracle of Health: Economy, Medicine, and Good Living, 1824)

One ubiquitous piece of total BS is the idea that Japan is a "shame society" where people are mainly motivated by the need to keep up external appearances, while the U.S. is a "guilt society" where people act right out of internalized morality.

Huge backlash after Indonesian commissioner's warning that girls could get pregnant sharing pool with men (abc.net.au, 2020-02-26)

A misconception that medieval naves were pewless meeting-places is often exploited to justify this kind of aggressive secularisation. (Apollo)

Ever wondered why a barber’s pole looks like that? Back in the day, barbers performed surgery and basic dentistry as well as haircuts. The red stripe indicates they’ll bleed customers, the white tooth extractions – and the blue a straightforward shave! (@Alrightpunk)

The funny thing is they say the same thing about everyone. From the Irish to Jamaicans to Indians to Africans, British anthropologists had the same “findings”. How can we ALL be cunning and childish and violent and noble and stupid and secretive? (@SiyandaWrites)

Pre Raphaelite Painter Edward Burne Jones found out his brown paint was 'mummy brown' and was so upset that he insisted on burying the tube and holding a funeral. (@daisy2205. The paint was supposedly made from ground-up Egyptian mummies.)

Sovereignty lies with the people. (Not since the 19th century, Annunziata Rees-Mogg.)

One of the instructions King James had given to the translators was that his new Bible should be familiar to users of previous translations: in particular the Bishop's Bible of 1568 and the Tyndale Bible of 1525. Modernised, perhaps, but still not the everyday (or even formal) vernacular. (RM)

James’s instructions can be read: he recommended using the translations that already existed, and had been okayed by previous committees. Why reinvent the wheel? It’s a stretch to claim that this means “the language was archaic even for the time and wasn’t the vernacular”. “Vernacular” meant “the language of the country”; it did not mean "slang", "dialect" or "everyday language". (I wonder if people moan about the KJV because it IS so English and avoids Latin and Greek-derived words?)

The KJV was written with the intention it would be read aloud in church, and so favoured euphony above strict accuracy. (GH. James says nothing about this, either.)

If a single snowflake falls in Atlanta, the city is paralyzed for three days and it's on all the channels as a news flash every 15 minutes for a week. (Via Facebook.)

Destroy the idea that you gotta be good at artistic things to enjoy them, that every hobby has to become something you’re good at so you can monetize it. A capitalist lie. Sing offkey, draw poorly, write badly. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not monetized. You’re not a product. (Internet wisdom.)

The guide told us how people didn't go to Church because it was in Latin and they didn’t understand it and they then got fined for not going. (@TheMarianWay)

Durham Cathedral, why are your tour guides telling visitors that women weren’t allowed into the Cathedral pre-Reformation and that the "Lady Chapel" is the only place they were permitted?

There’s no such thing as the self, just “random garbage sense organs looking at an unknowable universe”. (@enkiv. Popular in the 80s, though nobody ever lived as though they believed it.)

Kids today "seek flexible-hour jobs at Google, Facebook or Twitter sitting on bean bags and flicking elastic bands at each other". (Alan Sugar)

When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocados for $19 and four coffees at $4 each. (Australian millionaire developer Tim Gurner, in an interview with 60 Minutes Australia in 2017.)

Ask your uncle if he knows the story of Australia's north-south railway from Darwin to Adelaide. I heard a story when I was there and wonder if it's true. About the mismatched track gauges, and no one realized 'til the tracks met in the middle of the outback? (@PenlandKW)

Lots of marbles were fired into the sea by children with slingshots trying to hit seagulls. Hence the mass amounts of marbles around today on beaches. (Via Facebook)

I thought milk in first was so the hot tea didn't break your cheap china and milk in last was to prove you had expensive porcelain. (TR)

So many old roof tiles with animal prints on them have been found in the Thames and elsewhere that it has led some to suggest the tile makers encouraged animals across their freshly made tiles to personalise them. (Lara Maiklem, author of Mudlarking)

Talking to my mother about my great-grandmother, who moved in with my nan and was convinced that fearsome draughts came out of those new-fangled electricity sockets: she went around hanging handkerchiefs over them. My other grandmother was convinced that electricity leaked out and would form lethal pools on the carpet, and my father believed that you should unplug everything, in case it blew up. (LW)

My Grandmother had us turn all the mirrors to face the wall so they wouldn't pull the lightning inside the house. (CL)

My gran in Ireland was terrified of lightning. She would gather every pot and pan and all the cutlery and put them in a cupboard under the stairs. She also believed staring at red poppies made you blind.

It is likely, given what we know of tribal healers today, that many of their traditional ministrations would have been ineffective or dangerous (e.g. using garlic to treat carpet viper bite, as in the Own Correspondent show on Radio 4, does not work). This is why the work of cunning folk died out with the advent of the police, the NHS, and the legal system. (Liz Williams, author of Miracles of Our Own Making)

Fact of the day: the wooden frame of the Liberty department store in London comes from the remains of two East India Company ships. (@Sathnam)

Conservatives... think of the popular as synonymous with cheap and vulgar. Marxian radicals and liberals, on the other hand, see the masses as intrinsically healthy but as the dupes and victims of cultural exploitation by the Lords of kitsch. (Dwight McDonald, A Theory of Mass Culture)

Mary Queen of Scots' order of execution "was presented to Queen Elizabeth I in a large pile of papers that she signed without reading". (Web)

“Congratulations”, wrote Victoria Solt Dennis from Gillingham, Kent, “for stating last week that Elizabeth I ‘is reputed to have said’ that she had a bath once a year whether she needed one or not, rather than stating it as fact. I started encountering this factoid about a dozen years ago. The interval is sometimes given as ‘once a year’, sometimes ‘once a month’, ‘every three months’, etc, always the sign of a word-of-mouth legend. The last six words are always the same, though, implying that this is a quotation, but nobody seems to know where it comes from. It’s a mystery.” Chris Partridge thinks he has part of the answer. “Apparently this crack came from a diplomatic dispatch written by one of the foreign ambassadors at her court, and it was intended to convey not how clean she was, but how rich. A bath was a huge operation involving drawing all that water from a well and heating it with expensive firewood. Only monarchs could afford more than a splash of cold water.” Suggestions for an authoritative source will be gratefully received.
(Rose Wild, Times)

It is extraordinarily entertaining to watch the historians of the past ... entangling themselves in what they were pleased to call the "problem" of Queen Elizabeth. They invented the most complicated and astonishing reasons both for her success as a sovereign and for her tortuous matrimonial policy. She was the tool of Burleigh, she was the tool of Leicester, she was the fool of Essex; she was diseased, she was deformed, she was a man in disguise. She was a mystery, and must have some extraordinary solution. Only recently has it occurred to a few enlightened people that the solution might be quite simple after all. She might be one of the rare people who were born into the right job and put that job first.
(Dorothy L. Sayers, Are Women Human?)

One thing the history curriculum tends to overlook is that, just as everyone, for centuries, was more or less squiffy (because you couldn’t trust the water), so our ancestors walked round in a constant miasma of putrescence. (Robert Colville, 23 Jan 2013. Our ancestors knew that clean drinking water was preferable. They drank water, milk, coffee and tea – and they also washed as much as they could.)

One story states that a kind-hearted old woman decided to free a mating pair [of parakeets] in Vondelpark, where they quickly multiplied, while another claims that a truck carrying hundreds of exotic birds overturned in Amsterdam, allowing its cargo to escape. A more recent theory suggests that the first generation were originally owned by an American company based in Amsterdam-West. While relocating to new offices elsewhere in the Netherlands, this firm accidentally released hundreds of birds upon Amsterdam. (Theculturetrip.com)

Lisa Williams of the Hotbed Collective podcast asks an interviewer if she’d recognise a picture of the clitoris, adding: “It’s tricky – it was only discovered in 1992.” Evening Standard, 2019

Someone suggested that the discovery was actually made in the 60s. The Sensuous Woman by “J” came out in 1969. Our Bodies, Ourselves appeared in the late 60s. Jilly Cooper talked about “the great discovery of the age – that women like it too” in the mid-70s.

Georgia Cassidy is wrong to suggest that the important development of the possibility of a female sexuality began only in the 1960s. Long before, back in the 1920s, the art critic Clive Bell... notoriously proposed that the greatest development of the 20th century was not the invention of the radio, aeroplane or motor car but the discovery that “women like it too”. (Sharon Footerman, Times, Sept 2019)

In 1918 the British MP Noel Pemberton Billing, in his own journal, Vigilante, published an article, The Cult of the Clitoris, which implied that [dancer Maud] Allan, then appearing in her Vision of Salome, was a lesbian associate of German wartime conspirators. (Wikipedia)

More here, and links to the rest.
And here's the whole book.