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. ( 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! ( 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 (, 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. (

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.

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