Saturday 22 May 2021

Euphemisms about Racism and Politics in Quotes

Naga Munchetty

Just in case anyone hadn't clocked that "metropolitan elite" just means "non-Tory voters". (@GarethDennis. Guardian hed reads: BBC warned against pandering to Manchester’s “metropolitan elite”.)

No we don't want to elect moderates. "Moderate" is code for "capitulate to evil". (@CarlaSchroder)

Management held “info meetings” for all ancillary staff (ie, anti-union propaganda). (

Reliable rule: "moral victory" always translates as "galling defeat". (@DavidBennun)

I often wonder what some politicians mean when they say “we need to balance the needs of all road users”, usually after vetoing cycling schemes. (@adamtranter)

In a discussion of men’s lockdown hair: What definition of "long" are we using here? Is this the same usage of words as "Tories aren't giving handouts to their friends" and "the sun is black" type of definition? (AC)

Talk in Whitehall that the UK govt is planning a “reorganisation” of Civil servants in the Northern Ireland Office as too many are perceived as too “neutralist”. (@nicktolhurst)
Uh oh. "Too neutral", how is that even possible? Sounds like obvious doublespeak for "not extremist enough, for our extreme policy". (@2ears2wheels)
Robert Jenrick says “retain and explain” policy will save monuments from “baying mobs” backed by “town hall worthies and woke militants”. (Boo!)


Naga Munchetty – I really wish they would axe her. She is so false. She hasn’t got a nice or watchable bone in her body. She is so annoying I have to switch off @BBCBreakfast. (Sovereign Brexit & UK Unity @brexitisus. Translation: She’s black. And if you wondered what Brexit was all about this may give you a clue.)

Latest guidelines for school (Sept 2020) forbid the following: promoting divisive or victim narratives that are harmful to British society.

It’s not racist to say victim mentality helps no one...
(Thanks, @TRAPTOFFICIAL, now we know what that means.)

When the media starts talking about urban and rural, they are using keywords for black/minority and white. (@_Yellow_Kid_)

I wonder if all the people in my timeline saying: ‘We live in a democracy. If you don’t like it then leave!’ realise that’s not exactly how democracies work. What they are expressing support for is totalitarianism. (James Wong)

We should be proud of our history and our country, above all proud to be British. People that don't like our country, our religion, our ways should leave. (@Bluelad67672753)

Rich white people use ethnic as a synonym for poor non Anglo-Saxon people.
(@loose_shorts. On the question, discussed by the BBC, of whether Jews – an ethnic group which is in the minority in the UK – count as an ethnic minority. Rich white people use “minority” in the same way.)

"Healing" is also the language of white supremacy. This country doesn't need to heal. It needs to change. (@alwaystheself)
"Healing" is code for "stop raising a fuss and be quiet now". (@walruslifestyle)

One slide in her training session sent to Coca-Cola employees outlined that "to be less white" is to be less "arrogant", "certain" and "defensive". (Independent)

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday 21 May 2021

Still More Euphemisms in Quotes

The scriptwriter admits: “Sometimes you have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth.” (Guardian, 2020)

Agatha Christie’s grandson Matthew Pritchard says the estate's decision to franchise stories to filmmakers is "largely based on instinct"’. Director Vishal Bhardwaj says: “My effort is to create a new detective out of my film. I like the idea of two people who are not designated detectives but end up solving a crime. It's about the making of two detectives. The story will be true to Christie's soul if not her text." (BBC. Translation: complete travesty. But it’s a Bollywood version! Starring Alia Bhatt – pictured.)

Soviet-era euphemisms

rootless cosmopolitan:
parasite: unemployed person
damage, sabotage: not working hard enough
bourgeois/reactionary pseudoscience: science that appeared to violate Marxist principles

sluggishly progressing schizophrenia: mental condition that causes the patient to oppose Soviet policies

These are all from Dear Prudie at It's just self-blaming with long, educated words.

I’ve consistently had unhealthy romantic relationships with men. A few years ago I stopped dating completely because of the toxic choices I made with romantic relationships. I’ve really worked on myself since then, especially on developing my self-esteem and steering away from self-destructive choices.

My current husband suffers from depression and anger issues that he takes meds for and gets counseling.

I realise that our sex life is something I’m going to have to work at, probably for the rest of our lives.

For the month prior to the holidays he had been struggling with depression, or so he said. Two days after spending the holidays with me and my family, he broke up with me alleging he needed time on his own to sort himself out and he didn’t want to drag me down with him. It’s been about a month and I just found out that “time on his own” really meant immediately starting to date a 21-year-old college student 12 years his junior from a different state that he met online gaming.

See also "I know his depression manifests as anger". And "hangover from previous relationshipshas this wall up".

"Leave him, lovey, leave him."
(Claire Rayner)

The literary version of estate-agent speak. (Anon)

avant-garde: There’s sex.
dated: No sex or swearing.
Every character is disgusting.
Title is the name of a species of bird: Child survives the Holocaust.
raw: Author is young but not photogenic.

Film listings
surreal: nonsensical
complex: baffling
whimsical: infuriating
hypnotic/leisurely: soporific
stark: bit of a downer
bleak: a real downer
disturbing: avoid
devastating: avoid at all costs

Film critics:
(Sarah Harrison, 2010)
enchanting: There’s a dog in it.
heart-warming: A dog and a child.
heart-rending: They die.
thoughtful: Tedious.
haunting: Set in the past.
exotic: Set abroad.
prize-winning: Set in India.
perceptive: Set in NW3.
epic: Editor cowed by writer’s reputation.
in the tradition of: Shamelessly derivative.
provocative: Irritating.
spare and taut: Under-researched.
richly detailed: Over-researched.

Ways to say "I have no idea what you just said":
I see.
Leave it with me.
Haha, yes.
Okay great.
Say that again?
Is that so?
So funny!
Can you put it in an email?
Definitely something to think about.
We'll see.
(Just smile and nod.)

To the women who are labelled:
Aggressive: Keep on being assertive.
Bossy: Keep on leading.
Difficult: Keep on telling the truth.
Too much: Keep on taking up space.
Awkward: Keep on asking hard questions.

women made history, are changing the world now - and are our future. We need to keep being ‘outspoken’, until our words and ideas are just considered to be ‘spoken’, like men’s words are. ‘Outspoken’ is a misogynistic adjective for when women have an idea or opinion. (@DrJessTaylor)

robust: tell your staff they are worthless scum
direct: slap your team round the chops
challenging environment: 100s of terrified civil servants
sorry: I’m back and it’s gonna be even worse now.

Newsbeat, the Asian Network news team and parts of the data team will all move to Birmingham in what Davie described as “part of an exciting local plan for the region which includes the creation of a new, vibrant production hub”. ( The BBC is moving parts of its news operation from London to locations all over the country.)

Common-sense practices that allow for rapid-response mission, vibrant ad-hoc partnerships among persons and groups.
( – they are splitting over homosexuality.)

After the new market development was done, there was such an optimistic buzz in the city that it was at last regenerating into a modern, happening city with charm and sophistication. (Letter in Hereford Times)

Empowerment is a "feeling" now. Not you know, going to university and assuming positions of power like men. (@GarosLal)

From my corporate days 'empowering' is up there with 'this is a development opportunity', at which point all you can do is feign death. (@mcdonnelljp. I add that it often means “You’re on your own”.)

The dancer’s simple, draped gown lacks heavy ornamentation and frills. (@FITfashionstory)

Autistic culture is being called a "little professor" with "intense passions" as a kid, only to be told you're a "know-it-all" with "immature obsessions" as an adult. (@autienelle)

In major policy reset speech, Liz Truss will hit out at “identity politics, loud lobby groups and the idea of lived experience” in a debate about a fairer society. She will unveil new approach to equalities based on “freedom, choice, opportunity and individual humanity and dignity”. (@LOS_Fisher, 2020)

Woke is the new Remoaner, isn't it? An all-consuming but ultimately meaningless insult. (@Otto_English)

A handout to the rich is called an "incentive" but an incentive to the poor is called a "handout". (

Cemetery owner @lb_southwark calls trees "scrub" when they want to cut them down. "Self-seeded" is another term of derision. (
@SouthwarkWoods) 'Wasteland' and 'disused land' are also terms I detest. (@maggiem30026514)

Fetishising: It's one of those misused pseudo-Marxist terms, derived, I believe, from the theory of commodity-fetishisation, which predates Freud's use of the concept by many decades. (@LAZ_R_US)

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested the NHS should do away with “stuffy titles”. (This is also begging the question – assuming that what you are trying to prove – NHS titles are stuffy – has already been proved

Partisanship is a word that signals bias, intransigence and polarisation. (

‘The struggle for socialism has entered a new phase’. That’s a wonderfully inventive euphemism for ‘catastrophic defeat’. (

It’s suffused with the kind of corporate-Maoist exhortations you see in brochures for new estates: “Nature’s Arc: be part of it”. (George Monbiot in the Guardian on the new face of the Oxford to Cambridge “Arc” – a band of housing around an expressway. It has been cancelled, May 2021.)
We need a term for the phenomenon where a useful word for something specific becomes a semi-useless vague term through overuse and imprecise usage – as happened to woke. (@theangelremiel)

So many people on my timeline using ‘woke’ as a pejorative. ‘Woke’ just means being aware of social injustice, esp racism and homophobia. Many misuse the word to delegitimise people simply seeking equality. In using it as a pejorative you are complicit. (@Botanygeek)

See also “politically correct”. These terms are commandeered and then mocked by people who don't like their unpleasant attitudes being exposed. (@lexiconmistress)

Patriotism is the love of one's country, whereas nationalism is the belief in the primacy of one's country above all others.

I used to do this in one of my lectures on extremism - explain how patriotism is Good (pride and Shakespeare and maypoles), whereas nationalism is Bad (aggression and hatred and war). I then explained how patriotism is reactionary and aristocratic and Tory, whereas nationalism is progressive and civic and democratic.
(Phil @DrSchwitters )

Isn't “patriotic education” a longer way of saying propaganda? (@colinmochrie)

soft skills:
Discipline, promptness, the ability to absorb criticism, and how to read people like a book. (Anthony Bourdain. See resilience, character, maturity and executive function.)

As a child, "common sense" was mostly code for "stop being so stupid and just agree with our world-view". (GC)

Ideology is what the other guy has. (Terry Eagleton. We have “common sense”, he adds.)

In October 2014, the Conservatives said that a British Bill of Rights would include the rights contained in the European Convention (so the same ones that are in the Human Rights Act) but also “restore common sense”. By this they meant putting tighter restrictions on the rights of various people, including foreigners who commit serious crimes in the UK, illegal immigrants claiming the right to family life and those claiming against the British Armed Forces for things that happened abroad. (

Common sense” is a subjective phrase that many people use when they can’t adequately explain or provide evidence for what they’re trying to communicate. (
@steak_umm )

Also look for the word “clearly” in your opponent’s argument. It usually leads you right to their weakest point. (
@glukianoff. Begging the question again.)

Similar phrases picked out by the Twitter hive mind:

Let me be absolutely clear: I have no evidence for what I'm about to say.
I tells it like it is: I am tactless, reductive and rude.
Time out! is essentially “Shut up!” (And so is "calm down".)
With all due respect: With the utmost contempt
: I do not want my politics questioned or challenged.

We're straining every sinew: We're seeking any excuse for our shambolic fiasco and/or callous inaction".

An August 2020 National Trust internal briefing document claims that the “mansion experience” is “out-dated”, and they will put many objects in store, sacking curators and running the properties as conference and wedding venues. “On a recent tour of National Trust properties, I was astonished by the illiteracy and idiocy of the public signs. Houses and gardens were plastered with error-strewn, patronising messages,” says the Spectator. “Dame Helen Ghosh even removed furniture from the Regency library at Ickworth House in Suffolk, temporarily replacing it with beanbags. She declared there was ‘so much stuff’ in Trust houses that it put everyone apart from the middle-classes off visiting; so exhibits had to be ‘simplified’.” It's a current trope that anything that appeals to the middle classes will put off everybody else – see Extinction Rebellion protests. The document hints at reducing opening times and instead making properties available to “people who are prepared to pay more” for “specialised experiences”... [Presumably exclusive events with high entry fees.] The paper, written by Tony Berry, one of its directors, proposes an “urgent” review of opening hours and the development of “new sources of experience-based income”, which does not rule out hen parties in a former duke’s home. (Times) Update: In a letter to the Times, NT CEO Hilary McGrady says her Ten Year Vision Document was intended merely to “provoke debate”. (Translation: I didn’t expect this much criticism from influential people. Or else: I only put forward this radical plan for dismantling the organisation so that people won’t really mind when I implement the still damaging, but less drastic, version I have up my sleeve.)

Instead, they will be used as “public space in service of local audiences”—or, in other words, venues for hire. (Dr Bendor Grosvenor, the Art Newspaper) The NT called this "flexing our mansion offer".

Sheffield Cathedral sacks its choir in order to make “significant change” to the “music offer of Sheffield Cathedral” and develop “a fresh vision for our worship”. (@WalkerMarcus. Probably means “amateur choir we won’t have to pay”.) Sheffield Cathedral said the choir’s sacking was to make way for “a completely fresh start”. The chapter had decided on “a new model for Anglican choral life here, with a renewed ambition for engagement and inclusion”. The Dean said church music was sometimes “presented in a way that can be seen as elitist”. (Guardian. Translation: “difficult stuff that can only be sung by the musically gifted and trained”. Or perhaps just “congregation can’t join in”.

More here, and links to the rest.

More Euphemisms in Quotes

Red flags, dog whistles: “shoved down our throats”, “identity politics”. (Translation: mentioned at all, minority fighting for equality.)

@NTCouncilTeam have announced the 'next chapter' for
Tynemouth's 18th century library is demolition, despite being in a conservation area. (@SAVEBrit)

As I understand it, some people mistake robust defence of boundaries and safety as “meanness”, and that perception then informs their opinion such that they see such robust defence as “extreme”. I think it’s a misunderstanding and misapplication of tone, socially imprinted. (@DuncanHenry78)

"Educate yourself" means "ingest intellectually indigestible quackery".

"Educate yourself" and "Do your research" are some of the most mind-numbing, intellectually dead-end phrases of the modern age. (@A_Woman_She_Is. Translation: (a) Toe the party line. b) Watch a youtube video.)

In these last weeks we have seen extraordinary work by many women journalists, keeping a focus on issues which have too long been unspoken. Dismissing this as a “crusade” or “unapologetic activism” undermines their work and deliberately misses the point. (@SenatorWong)

Views should be taken on facts, as much as we can ascertain them. But it’s important to acknowledge nuance too. (@the_happycamper)

Christian counselling, or as I call it, not counselling.

Andouillette... Oddly, that doesn't seem to be described as a 'delicacy', which is the usual code for something absolutely disgusting for which they can charge ostensible gourmets and/or tourists exorbitantly. (AG)

Her husband is the one who encouraged (Read: forced or demanded) Helen Gurley Brown to write Sex and the Single Girl. (Amazon reviewer)

I don’t regard “innovative” as a synonym for “good” at all – as I keep telling people at meetings... The plays that work best are those ... that do not regard “stagy” as a pejorative adjective. (Conrad Brunstrom)

Innovation is mainly what we used to know as 'research.' It then progresses to 'research and development' which, one hopes, results in a new technology or technologies emerging. (David Simpson)

If I said the word 'pain' colleagues took it as coded language for 'I'm lazy' and 'I can't do my work'. (Disabled doctor on

I think, as a family, that we do feel things deeply, but we're not very sentimental. (LW See “I was sad when Diana died but I was not hysterical.”)

Objective morality?
Depends on what you mean by it. Some mean absolute morality. Some mean observable morality.
(Retired lawyer @KellyPearsall3)

Institutions aren’t gaslighting you, they’re lying to you - it’s okay to just say that. (@artfulhussey)

Let’s not conflate religion & spirituality!
religion: group think/notions
spirituality: individual think/notions

Disabled people are ‘heroes’ and ‘inspirational’ and ‘so strong’, until we ask for accessibility and equal rights and benefits we can actually afford to live on. then we’re scroungers and burdens to the State. (@TinyWriterLaura)

Artist's impression (aka artist's licence). (RM re new “developments” and McMansions)

"History" is not going to remember, record, judge, find, prove or do anything else. We have to do these things. (@rothmanistan)

We [met through Hinge and] immediately started asking each other the big questions. “How do you see the world?” “What do you want from life?” (Independent. Translation: What are your politics? Are you looking for an affair, a relationship, marriage, children?)

It doesn’t sit comfortably with me. (Woman on Country House Rescue who doesn’t want to admit the public. She means "I utterly loathe the idea".)

Extroversion is labelled leadership and introversion, followership. (Farah Mendlesohn)

The economy will benefit from a more flexible regulatory environment. (RR) Translation: investors make more money if health and safety and other regulations are reduced or eliminated. (RK)

There are no serious offenses that aren’t already discoverable and punishable under existing laws. When officials say they need a new security law, what they really mean is they want new powers to surveil without a warrant or to impose severe penalties without as much evidence. (@justinamash)

One Pixar animator says, “Why don’t we make a movie about talking toilet brushes?” And the other animator, instead of issuing a blank “No”, says: “Yes and why don’t we think about it for a little while longer until it becomes a movie that’s not about talking toilet brushes?” (Kevin Maher, Times)

Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines. They are more confident and independent. (Chinese Embassy. By “promoting reproductive health” they mean “forced sterilisation”.)

Lifestyle”: a word long used by crypto-moralists to judge others. (Maggie McNeill)

The pressure to “Be authentic!” and “Be vulnerable!” was often used by white Evangelicals to manipulate and control others through confession culture and peer spying. I regret letting my guard down and disclosing deeply personal info which they inevitably used against me. (@anna_apostate)

Pure,” like “chemical,” is saturated with ideology. (@sesquiotic)

I know I am in trouble during oral argument when the judge says "That is a creative argument,
Mr Selnes".
(Bill Selnes via Clothes in Books)

"I guess you're not interested in dialogue — you just want to be right." People who fail to recognise that they have been dialogued with they just want to be right. (@sumpnlikefaith)

I was listening to R4 and they wheeled in a senior Tory who said "in many ways I have a lot of respect for X", which I guess is politician speak for "mostly I think he's a complete ****."

Lovebombing is just another word for grooming. (@NSurvivor)

Bring back the words "criticise" and "condemn". They do important work that "call out" cannot manage. (@kieran_hurley)

When you hear people complain about Big Government and Too Many Rules, what they want is to store their chemicals in a residential district. (Donal Savage)

flamboyant: In Paris Chopin collected droves of fainting female fans, but little is known about his sex life before his fateful relationship with the flamboyantly mannish writer George Sand. (Independent. Usually a dogwhistle for “gay”, but here means “cross dresser”.)

The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis. (Robert Jay Lifton)

In the UK, Molson Coors have pulled their Animée ‘lady beer’ after just one year. In last week’s Marketing, WCRS Planning Director Matt Willifer argued that Animée was a “brave launch by an admirably innovative company”. (I think that translates as “idiotic move by a set of birdwitted chumps”.)

"Critical Race Theory" is today's version of "secular humanism" from my childhood. Meaning that the phrase is used as a signpost and a bogeyman by corrupt and disingenuous people to frighten targeted segments of the general population into believing they're under threat. (@andreapitzer)

When they start calling the people peacefully protesting the system "violent anarchists" and the people violently enforcing the system "peace keepers", you can disregard anything else they have to say. (@existentialcoms)

You see I come from Georgia, where it’s considered vulgar for women to know about business. (Character in Perry Mason. She means finances, or more bluntly, money.)

It was seen as "self-explaining" (code for making excuses and not really apologizing). (Via Facebook)

The BBC’s head of drama argues the corporation must “repurpose” classic novels by giving them female, black and Asian characters. (The Daily Telegraph on Twitter, April 2020.)

We used to have performance reviews every so often and at one I was asked if I wanted to be more involved in management. I said no. Talking to others later, I found this was code for "Do you want some more money?" and the expected answer was "Yes". (PD)

I have been involved in 'disruption' in the corporate sector and what it usually means is 'firing people.' (LW)

The President of Wesleyan U promises that: "Direct participation in civic life... will help students develop skills for lifelong active citizenship… gain organizational skills, learn to engage productively with others with whom they disagree and learn about themselves". (Does he mean “stop disagreeing or “admit they are right”?)

Focussing on characters rather than plot is often coded language for plots so thin and badly conceived that you could drive several coaches through them. (Mark Green.)

When the government uses the word “robust” you know they’re in big trouble. (Hugh Pearman, paraphrase)
See also "sustainable community of eco-homes", which is what car-dependent, greenfield cul-de-sacs in rendered breeze block were called about ten years ago. (Barnabas Calder)

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 13 May 2021

Contradictions 8

"There’s no room in the country for immigrants!" say people who live on Dartmoor out of sight of any other house.

As a highly social species, people around the world have evolved to put a premium on certain factors that elevate or diminish social status. Discussing social status or admitting that one cares about his or her social rank can seem tacky and uncouth. (Psychology Today)

The other person may have to ask a lot of questions and do more than his or her share of “the work” to keep the conversation going. [The person with difficulties] may give more information than the other person wants to hear. (Quoted by Dr Em.)

Psychologists and sociologists talk about social conventions, social validation and successful relationships (as a marker of normality), but lay people insist that there are no social conventions, you’ll never be happy if you look to other people to validate you, and you don’t need a relationship – in fact you’ll be stronger on your own.

The people who insist that there are no social rules also insist that the English language consists entirely of rules and get very upset when you tell them that there aren’t any.

Social conventions follow unwritten rules and can't be put into words, but Labour canvassers are given a script and instructed how to deflect difficult questions.

Never think about what other people are thinking about you, because they aren’t. Listeners never hear good of themselves.

Be spontaneous, but be prepared. Neurotypicals are very keen on the idea that behaviour is all instinctive. But they think a lack of executive function (planning ahead, following a sequence, remembering instructions) is a pathological symptom. They also claim that you learn behaviours, and then they become automatic – but they are very chary of talking about the learning stage, as if this was something embarrassing buried deep in the past.

Tell people not to copy others while conforming yourself, and knowing perfectly well that: “We observe people around us keenly, and when we don’t know what to do, we often decide by watching the actions of those we know well or respect… and pay close attention to the social nuances conveyed by body language.” New Statesman, 2012 ("Be yourself" means “don’t copy those common children down the road”, says a friend.)

You should never think about what other people are thinking about you, but unfortunately autistic people have no theory of mind. Honesty is the best policy, but it's a shame autistic people can’t lie.

You should meet people halfway, but you mustn’t try too hard to be liked or push yourself in where you’re not wanted.

Women must give the impression of being independent, while still appearing to need somebody.

You shouldn't look for someone to complete you, but "everybody needs somebody to love".

Humans like to moan about marriage and disparage their “exhausting” kids. While claiming that love is a bourgeois construct and romance a capitalist plot to force us to spend money on Valentine cards, they pair off, shack up, settle down and have children. And despise the single.

In the 1960s people didn’t talk about their feelings, but pop songs were all about “lurve”. In the 1950s sex was a taboo subject, but there was a subculture of dirty jokes, cartoons and songs.  

“It’ll happen when you’re NOT looking” co-exists happily with small ads, dating apps, Grindr and Tindr. We are supposed to fall in love with people’s souls, but Tindr/Grindr users detail precisely the physical attributes they are looking for.

As we insist that gender is a social construct, children’s clothes, shoes and toys become more and more gender-segregated. (Viewers complained that a small boy wore a raincoat printed with unicorns on The Great British Sewing Bee.)

It’s normal to pretend you want to be extraordinary, while being conformist.

Appearance doesn’t matter, but first impressions count and smartening yourself up will give you confidence.

We tell the young to be unique, when society wants them to be identikit.

Women are pressured to get breast implants, but women’s clothes are designed for the flat-chested.

Advice to the bullied: Violence never solved anything, but you should learn a martial art to give you confidence.

The French Revolution: Everyone has the right to life, but we're going to guillotine a lot of people.

"Calling someone a gammon is as bad as calling someone an N-word." "We don't need to protect women from insults because they are feminists and can protect themselves. In fact they would resent our interference.” (Ends up with men defending gammons, but not women.)

Post from a man who tweeted a constant stream of racist gibes on the level of “I hate n******s”: “I have now lost my job. Thanks to you guys. Thank you so much. I made a mistake and now I’m jobless. Please stop the hate. I’m sorry.”

“Nobody ever changes their mind” coexists with “I watched this youtube video and now I know the earth is flat”. And if you can’t change people’s minds, why are we so afraid of brainwashing? Or “radicalisation” as we call it now.

You use a smartphone and a tablet and rely on high-tech medicine, but whinge about Brian Cox and wonder why anybody needs to be interested in science.

You moan about commercialisation and overconsumption while complaining about the recession, the decline of manufacturing and the death of the high street. (If you can't do this with a straight face, you are not really British.)

Complain that children grow up too fast these days while forcing them to be mini-adults who understand money and remember to turn off lights.

White north Europeans spend hours/pounds acquiring the skin colour of people they despise - for their darker skin colour.

The people who “don’t want to bother the doctor” can’t work out that if nobody went to the doctor, the doctor wouldn’t have a job.

Theists: Richard Dawkins is a religious missionary for atheism. And atheism is just a faith.

You complain about blockbuster art shows being packed out – but if the crowds didn’t come the galleries couldn’t afford to put on the shows and you couldn’t see them.

Bar women from many professions and experiences, make it hard for them to do anything but stay at home and look after children and house, then denigrate them for having a “narrow view of the world”.

Destroy someone’s confidence then despise them for having no confidence.

The libertarians who want to stand alone and not pay tax happily benefit from libraries, hospitals, policemen, street lighting, sewers… They had no idea how much they depended on the council. I hate when rich people slag off people on benefits but use the NHS and state education but still claim to be taking nothing. (2013-04-19, Pip Borev ‏@pipogypopotamus) 

Bully says “Yes, but that was in the past”, while celebrating “our glorious past”.

I was put off Shakespeare by the incomprehensible language. I was put off Shakespeare by teachers explaining every last word.

How dare the Sussexes take so much taxpayers’ money! How dare the Sussexes earn their own money so they don’t have to live off the British taxpayer!

We’re all human – apart from those people.

We’re all equal, but we the middle classes are in control and have the best of everything because we are just so wonderful. (I think this may be "hegemony".)

People are drugged to make them more "normal", but only the exceptional become "great men" and change history. If I say “A six-foot woman is tall, but a five-foot woman is short”, it implies the existence of average height, and anyone will understand this. But at the same time they like to say “Everyone is exceptional”. (Or “We’re all on the autistic spectrum”.)

Conservatives like to conserve things, and they don’t believe in the “magic money tree”, but they are spending billions on digging a tunnel next to Stonehenge, and a dual carriage-way through three Sussex villages. What they really like are jobs for the boys, backhanders for their mates and the sheer joy of destruction.

“People just wear poppies because of peer pressure these days”, moan people who won’t wear poppies because they’re afraid of being taken for a warmongering jingoistic imperialist nationalist.

The American Dream says that you can be whatever you want, and do whatever you want, and nobody can stop you. America is one of the most unequal societies in the Western world, and many people will remain in poverty due to prejudice or lack of education, or in a job they hate but have to keep because medical insurance is so expensive.

Here in the UK we use a lot of soap and think we’re the most civilized people in the world but we pee in the street and don't wash the pavements – we wait for a rainstorm. Also we smack children and punish them without trial (ASBOs) and we were terribly upset when the UN pointed this out.

The only way to stop community transmission of COVID is to encourage community transmission of COVID.

Schrödinger’s old person is vulnerable to COVID aged 60, but fit enough to work to the age of 66.

Brits admire the Dunkirk spirit, but are incensed by people fleeing war crossing the Channel in small boats.

April 2020: The government wants to cut driving and build lots of roads.

A society that worships terrifyingly powerful goddesses keeps women in bondage.
A society that writes great poetry sacrifices a prisoner to the Sun every morning.
A society that’s known as the most liberal in Europe sterilises mental-hospital inmates until the 70s.

When people go silent they are Trying to Tell You Something.

More here, and links to the rest.

Contradictions 9 (In Quotes)

I'm not a snob
Ask anybody. Well, anybody who matters. (Simon Le Bon)

1. Vaccine passports are an unacceptable infringement of civil liberties.
2. National ID cards are an unacceptable infringement of civil liberties.
3. Voters must have photo ID.
Weird how the same people seem to hold all three views, isn't it?

I especially love it when [those with “controversial” ideas] get protested on college campuses and then try to say, "Universities are for the free expression of ideas, specifically mine and not these dumb kids who should quietly sit and listen to their betters." (@sotsogm)

Jews are stereotyped, by the racists, in all the same ways that other minorities are – as lying, thieving, dirty, vile, stinking – but also as moneyed, privileged, powerful and secretly in control of the world. Jews are somehow both sub-human and humanity’s secret masters. (David Baddiel, Times Literary Supplement) It’s wrong to be overtly Jewish, but it’s also wrong to try and hide your ancestry. Also: Jewish people should a) go back to Israel b) Get out of Israel.

Well lads, @JewishLabour is both an anti-Israel, ultra-left organsisation that gas-lights Jews, and an Israel proxy dedicated to kicking out socialists from the Labour Party. (@davesgould)

Schrödinger's racism is middle-class white men simultaneously denying its existence while claiming to experience it. (@AGlasgowGirl)

Well, there seems to be a 50:50 ratio today between messages telling me racism is my imagination and those telling me I should be deported to ‘back to China’. It would be almost logical if so many weren’t from the same users. (James Wong @Botanygeek)

If the rich love a trickle-down economy why do they hate the idea of their money trickled out to the lower classes? (@Jugbo)

I was struck by the gap between the rhetoric of our trainers — constantly stating that the teacher should be creative and never apply prescribed formulas — and the training that taught us decades-old methods that had not changed since the founding of the first Waldorf school in 1919. (Grégoire Perra)

[Therapy] teaches you to be self-obsessed while at the same time condemning you for it. It tells you to be aware of yourself while at the same time telling you to stop thinking so much.
(Liza Long)

You can’t close job centres and make universal credit an online-only platform, then proceed to moan when poor mums spend money on a smartphone. (@samduff23_)

Being a woman in tech is so confusing. The messaging is like "We need more of you, but also why are you here?"

Universities love to have Latin mottos and then close their Classics departments. (@ryanaboyd)

I had years of leftwing university teachers instilling in me a critical mistrust of authority, capitalism and the profit motive. In later life I learned they had all inherited and acquired by purchase a multiplicity of houses and flats which they rented out at high prices. (

Why chip us with a vaccine to track us? We’re all willingly walking around with GPS devices. (via Facebook)

Promiscuity, while it might be pushed in the larger culture, is still not embraced in practicality. My "socially progressive" family blackballed women who were single and/or who separated from their husbands. (@getadumpsterthx)

It seems very telling that on the one hand people say "we live in an equal society where anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and succeed" whilst also assuming anyone who sounds smart must have had a privileged middle-class education. (@gulliwog)

January 2020: If you made your own sandwiches you would be able to buy a house.
August: Stop making your own sandwiches, you're crashing the economy!

Universities are Marxist indoctrination camps, says Douglas Murray, “But somehow the universities still manage to churn out the bankers, the accountants, the management consultants, the engineers, the scientists, the salespeople...” (@ThraleRichard)

“We need to fight obesity” says Tory Party that sold off the playing fields and closed the youth clubs and forced councils to shut sports centres and swimming pools and made it so that millions can never afford healthy food. (@davidschneide)

Brexiteers ask Scots “Do you realise how hard it will be to unpick the Union?”

Tory MP Damian Green just tried to claim that building a Brexit customs centre in his constituency is "unfair" to local residents, even though they voted to leave the EU. (@CourtneyWilding)

Why are Brexity people so against lockdown, which they say is an infringement of their freedom - also, keen to restrict our freedom to move between EU countries? (@flipettydish)

A succession of Tory MPs have lined up recently to tell us how fortunate Northern Ireland is because it enjoys both access to the UK market and access to the EU market. The same Tory MPs have been making the case for five years that it's brilliant to cut the UK off from the EU market. (@uk_domain_names)

How come when fish cross an imaginary line they become OUR fish, but when people do the same they don't become OUR people? (@BlackRyu82)

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 9 May 2021

Having It All by Helen Gurley Brown

Having It All by Helen Gurley Brown (1982)

This hefty volume came out 20 years after S*x and the Single Girl, and until recently I'd never read either of these works. I followed a different type of feminism – the kind that despised makeup, skirts and high heels. I’m beginning to think I took the wrong path.

This is a distilled Cosmo advice column (HGB edited the magazine for years), sprinkled with American wit. (“We’ve all seen thirties movies in which... the billionaire is persuaded to back a loony invention powered by aardvaarks.”) It’s Dale Carnegie for women, the kind of boosterism parodied by Betty Macdonald in Anybody Can Do Anything. Is Ethel Evanski in Jacqueline Susann’s The Love Machine a cruel portrait of the "single girl"?

Helen was a “mouseburger” from Little Rock, Arkansas who clawed her way the top. She was pretty, but not strikingly beautiful, and started out as a secretary in the 40s supporting her mother and sister.
There were no internships back then. Start in a lowly role, she recommends, never think you’re too good for the job. Whatever you’re asked to do, do it to the best of your ability – unless it’s “sleep with the boss”.

You must have ambition – this is the United States of America! Don’t be like Helen’s accountant friend who “checks in with a few rabbity friends, and occasionally has a rabbity friend to dinner”. Fill your life! Cook for six Latvian students! Don’t miss your disco dancing class! (There were classes?)

She wastes no time on “don’t think about what everybody is thinking about you” – reputation is important, at work as elsewhere. Don’t be a diva. Look pretty, be pleasant, kind and helpful. It may not make you popular, but nobody will DISlike you.

Give men your whole attention – gaze into their eyes. Apple polish – be charming to superiors AND inferiors. And flattery is part of “charm”. (Men might remember that.) Don’t lose your temper at work, don’t tell colleagues all about your inner feelings, private life or latest surgery. Work relationships can feel very intimate, but once you’ve moved on they forget about you. (And when a higher-up takes you out to lunch, they may want to start an affair, or they may want to find out where your ambitions lie. This is an opportunity to tell them which jobs you would be useless at.)

HGB had an eating disorder, and there is too much about punitive dieting. She wastes no time on “being beautiful on the inside” – “It’s on the outside is where they frequently judge!” Know what you look like – and your position in the looks league. “Many unpretty women seem to have grown up not knowing they weren’t.” The only consolation is that the beautiful girl may be too picky early on, and end up alone, or settling for Mr Second-Best. The unpretty should wear make-up just to show they’ve made an effort – it makes you look “approachable”. (I heard this from my mother – and from men. Unfairly, expensive clothes were also “making an effort”.) It’s the very attractive who tell you “beauty comes from within”, but plastic surgery is more effective. Finally, Helen recommends doing something with your hair – ie going blonde. “You create a look, and then act that way.” But don’t forget to update.

More tips: don’t buy the expensive perfume, get the cologne. Can you still get Jhirmack’s Nutri-pack peach cream hair reconstructor? “Good grooming – what a dull expression but we’ve got to call it something.” Clothes: go for good materials like silk and wool. Follow fashion for the up-to-date outline: “What was wide last year will probably be skinny this year.”

Yes, there’s lots about s*x. Please your man! She is direct about how you do this: not just HJ, BJ, fake it, but serve him real coffee on a tray with a linen napkin as a traycloth – and an exquisite flower in an antique vase. Get out of his apartment briskly in the morning and leave nothing behind. Flatter, don’t cling or argue. Give personalised presents – or expensive gifts.

Helen grew up in the 30s, when girls were supposed to do nothing, with anybody or solo, before their wedding night, when “the opening of the Aswan Dam was promised”. (In the early 60s, your husband was alleged to “awaken” you. Judging by the many letters to "Evelyn Home" asking “Is it all right not to climax?” this approach can’t have worked very well.) Helen advises “There is almost no chance that you are technically frigid”. Likewise, she says, don’t worry that you’re a “nymphomaniac”. (We were still using this terminology in the 80s, believe it or not.)

Recommended seduction techniques: a full-body hug on greeting. And “don’t talk too much or show off your brain too much or be too newsy.” (Uh-oh.)

We get the usual “where to meet men”, recycled from many magazine articles. (They often drop the essential component: take a girlfriend.) Introductions, work, parties. Unlikely settings like libraries – start a conversation by asking a practical question. Spectator sports, participatory sports, gyms. Evening classes in masculine subjects. Political activism. Don’t be pushy, but cook for him, invite him to a “movie, lecture, exhibit, concert”.

She is good on affairs with married men. Yes, he’ll leave his wife – for someone else who doesn’t know his back story. His heartfelt promises that you’ll “end up together” don’t have a date or an action plan. She warns against marrying down – you want your spouse to be “dynamic”, ie rich.

But after all the propaganda about the wonderful man she pressured into marriage, and recommendations to treat men like small children, she then describes how husbands act – like small children. Sometimes you just want them to be less difficult, she says. Translation: finding fault with everything. She claims you shouldn’t fight, but then describes an evening out where she was disappointed in the entertainment – she’d expected a star line-up. She sat there fuming, and bending the cutlery. When she and her husband got home, they had a fight that lasted eight hours!

Live all your dreams, Helen advises. She bought an apartment with a piano because she dreamed that Stephen Sondheim would come and play it. She threw a big, star-studded party and invited Sondheim (they were strangers). He came and she asked him to play. With a “startled fawn” expression, he declined. Never mind, she says, at least I acted on my dream! I did it!

Perhaps some dreams should stay dreams. But I'm filing a lot of this under "things I wish I'd known".

Thursday 6 May 2021

Received Ideas in Quotes 19


I was in [X supermarket] when I heard “Sorry, [silly name], I’ve still got to find some [pretentious food].”

A professor of mine went to hear Derrida speak. The entire talk was about cows. Everyone was flummoxed but listened carefully, and took notes about... cows. There was a short break, and when Derrida came back, he was like, “I’m told it is pronounced ‘chaos’.” (@pmgentry)

Prof at Cornell told me about a guy in one of her classes who wrote this publishable paper on “fantasy cycles” in literature. She asked him, “Where’d you get this idea?” He said, “Huh? You’ve talked about it all semester.” He’d misheard “fin de siècle”. (Via Twitter)

My mom just asked me if I have "finished that paper for school yet", by which she meant my PhD dissertation. (@yuliamilton. Do all PhD students' moms ask the same question? See the granny who leaves out one ingredient when she passes on a recipe, and the other granny whose closely guarded family recipe comes off a Betty Crocker box.)

I held the door open for a woman once and she swore at me for being patronising. (Reliable witnesses say this does happen, but assure me that they will continue to hold doors open.)


The 27 stripes on a Breton shirt represent Napoleon’s victories over the English. (Paddy Grant)

They do say that you need 14 attempts to get to like a taste. (AG)

Pea Patch Island emerged as a mud bank in the Delaware River in the 18th century. According to folklore, the island received its name after a ship full of peas ran aground on it, spilling its contents and leading to a growth of the plant on the island. (Wikipedia)

The brain chemical imbalance theory of mental illness has long been debunked. (@DrJessTaylor, author of Why Women Are Blamed for Everything)

Before 1884, no newspaper in the world had more than eight pages. (@UberFacts)

Happiness comes from within yourself and it’s cool to share it with others but they don’t exist to make you happy. (Writer Joolz Denby)

Lace-making in Buckinghamshire in the 19th century gave women a chance to make a living so that they didn’t have to get married – this had never happened before! (Countryfile)

This building by a Birmingham canal has been left empty for years because it’s where all major banks in London will be moved to if the financial core of the city is wiped out. (@MjTurner_)

I’m told the adoption of doubled letters at the start of a surname was once a Gaelic ruse for disowning a member of the family who had committed some unforgivable transgression. Hence Lloyd, ffolkes, etc. (Anthony ffrench-Constant)

The West has too individualistic an understanding of the self. @crankular

It's technically "under weigh" (as in weighing a ship before sailing) not " under way", but this is now so underused it seems overly pedantic to insist on it. (@deeokelly1)

When I was a boy I was brought up to act in a way that most young men – and I regret to say a good many of their elders – now seem to think rather absurd. I was taught that it was polite to give my seat to a lady if she should happen to be standing in a bus or a train. (Writer Nicolas Bentley in 1957)

Astra Zeneca translates as “weapon that kills”. (March 25, 2021)

Bricklayers’ Arms flyover on the A2: a massive flyover/roundabout built to fit a tube station in the centre that never came. (Via Facebook)

If 250,000 people fill in the census with their religion as 'Freedom', it becomes a recognised belief. (No, says

No, Anton Chekhov did not say "don't tell me that the moon is shining, show me the glint of moonlight on broken glass" and this is not where Show Don't Tell comes from.

Le Temps des Cerise was one of the most popular songs during the Commune. I can’t remember which French author heard a woman singing it on the barricades and fell in love with her, though he never met her. (CB. The same story is told about two of my ancestors: he heard her practising in a room above Blackwell's music shop in Oxford and declared: "I will marry the owner of that voice.")

The deeper the indentation on the bottom of the bottle, the better the quality of the wine. (Internet)

Some people will refuse to use the Oxford comma based on prejudices about the place or its imputed attitude or prescriptiveness or whatever. Andy Gidds (It was stipulated by Oxford University Publications, but only in-house.)

I went to Europe in 1996. I realized that the US is isolated in a media blackout. The only international stories that are reported are the ones that make other countries look backward or f***ed up. (@Snarkycardchick)

Apparently being drowned in a butt of wine was an actual legal option during the Middle Ages.

Tunnels run between Wigmore Abbey and Castle, St Radegund’s Abbey and Dover Castle, and Leiston Abbey and Framlingham Castle. And between the cathedral, castle and Three Tuns public house in Norwich and from Canterbury Cathedral to various pubs and a reputed brothel in the town. ( Post-Reformation disgracing of the Catholic past, again.)

Ottery St Mary parish church has a fan vaulted ceiling with a twisted pendant boss – the rest are straight. The centre boss was done by the master mason.  He then said to his underlings that if any of them could copy it exactly they’d be sacked. (@Portaspeciosa. He confesses that he made it up.)


In early summer 2011, a taxi driver in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, devastated by the tsunami a few months earlier, picked up a woman wearing a coat near Ishinomaki Station. She climbed into the back seat and said: “Please go to the Minamihama district.” The driver, in his 50s, said: “The area is almost empty. Is it OK?” The woman said in a shivering voice, “Have I died?” The driver turned round to speak to her. There was no-one there.

Is it true that a train was bricked up in the high-level station when Crystal Palace closed? (@StuartFfoulkes)


I’ve often encountered this anti-diagnosis sentiment, i.e. “Let’s not pathologize/confine you to a box.” (@anna_apostate )

“If you give it a name you give it power.”

There's no right "not to be offended" and no legal remedy if you are. Your solution is not to look (at cartoons of the Prophet). (AJB)

(Does offence depend on the intentions of the offender, or the feelings of the offendee? Neither – offensive things are objectively offensive. Surely?)


If it’s wrong to call the British flag the Union Jack, why do people keep doing it?

From the Times:

Peter Hayward wrote on Thursday: “I find it unbelievable that a ‘flagship’ newspaper should state in a headline that the ‘Union Jack’ is to fly on all government buildings. It is not the ‘Union Jack’ it is the ‘Union Flag’! The Jack is the pole it flies from.”

Mr Hayward was quite pressing that every member of the Times editorial team should urgently be made aware of this, but I’m afraid I have news he is not going to like. There’s already an entry in The Times style guide on the subject, and it begins: “Union Jack is fine, and arguments to the contrary may be ignored.”

I won’t ignore them, this once, since Mr Hayward was not alone in his misapprehension. There were emails arriving thick and fast on Thursday morning, conveying greater or lesser dudgeon but all singing from the same song sheet.

According to the Flag Institute (“the UK’s National Flag Charity”) what we nowadays call the Union Jack, and some the Union Flag, has had any number of names in its day, ranging from the Britain to the Banner of the Union and His Majesty’s Jack. There are as many theories as to where “Jack” came from, but it seems that, as Mr Hayward says, there was a pole from which flags were flown called a jack yard, although this was a comparatively insignificant spar for a gaff topsail and would never have carried a full-sized ensign.

As to what we should call the flag today, the institute says this: “It is often stated that the Union Flag should only be described as the Union Jack when flown in the bows of a warship, but this is a relatively recent idea. From early in its life the Admiralty itself frequently referred to the flag as the Union Jack, whatever its use, and in 1902 an Admiralty Circular announced that Their Lordships had decided that either name could be used officially. Such use was given parliamentary approval in 1908 when it was stated that ‘the Union Jack should be regarded as the National flag’.”

So keep calm everyone. The Flag Institute says that both are correct and either may be used. “It is the Union Jack, and the Union Flag. Officially and unofficially, we all know what the terms mean. It is the image, and the associations of character and history, that make the British flag what it is.”

(Rose Wild in the Times, March 3 2021)

More here, and links to the rest.