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.

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