Saturday 31 December 2022

Outrageous Excuses 20: Authenticity


Actors, directors and designers come up with all sorts of reasons why they didn't stick to the story or reproduce the accent or the clothes:

I didn't want to do an act of mimicry. (Matthew Modine on acting in the prequel of Stranger Things)

You hire a Welsh actor to play a Welshman but he doesn’t sound Welsh enough so you get him to ham it up. 

Early folksong collectors added major “endings” to modal Scottish tunes.

George IV had Windsor Castle remodelled to look more medieval

I was just trying to make what had obviously happened even more clear. (Lady Carrados in Margery Allingham's Coroner's Pidgin tries to explain why she swapped poison bottles and moved the corpse.)

The author returned a very kind letter of thanks for my work and explained that she had deliberately made her heroine attractive to modern readers and if it were historically accurate the book would miss her target audience. (Via FB)

Stephen Knight explains his approach to Great Expectations: When I was asked to adapt the book I didn't take it as an invitation to climb the mountain, but simply to do my own sketch of it... This is more like a dream about a book, a way of using the timeless characters to explore timeless themes. (Such as gay orgies and opium dens...)

Some of it is dramatic licence, absolutely, but there is a truth or a greater truth in every scene. (Star of a play about Princess Diana, November 2023)

In My Fair Lady,  Audrey Hepburn was given a correct hairstyle with a bun at the back (a "Psyche knot") – but the hairdressers added a 50s bouffant on the top. (The BBC's Classic Serials from the 60s were to my mind the best-ever adaptations of Victorian novels. Clothes were accurately reproduced – but all female cast members had their hair set on rollers instead of being given the flat, straight hairdos of the time.)

In films and TV dramas set in the 40s and made in the 70s, they just couldn’t bring themselves to give male characters an authentic short-back-and-sides. Rumpole starts in the late 70s, at the tail-end of “men can have long hair now, everything has changed”. As the series progresses, the men’s hair reverts to “as you were”.

In The Imitation Game, a film about wartime computer wiz Alan Turing, the computers were made to look more dramatic: The real codebreaking machine, the Bombe, was housed in a Bakelite box. Production designer Maria Djurkovic and her team researched the working replica that is on display at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, England. "Our version of the machine had to look convincing," says Djurkovic. She and director Morten Tyldum decided to reveal the machine's inner workings. They also added more red cables to give the audience the feeling that blood was pumping through its veins. (Tumblr) 

The Crown’s scriptwriter, Peter Morgan, admits: “Sometimes you have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth.” 

The director of Wild Mountain Thyme suggests people around the world wouldn't understand realistic Irish accents. (2020)

We’re not slavish to history,” say the makers of a series about Catherine the Great. “I don’t think the real Peter ever consummated the marriage. But that’s not good TV.” (History relates that it took him 14 years.)

A certain popular TV show got permission to film in the stately home museum I used to work in and decided that they'd prefer the historically accurate yellow walls to be painted brown – for reasons? The museum management let them and didn't bother to change the colour back afterwards. (@WildWimminPod)

The costume designer for The Great Gatsby “did a lot of research” on 20s clothes but thought they were “frumpy”, so picked and chose from 20s and 30s styles and modified them to make them tighter. (No costume designer can ever quite bear to make actresses wear cloche hats in the proper way – pulled right down to the nose.)  

The show’s screenwriter, Alex Cary, said he had used artistic licence because in espionage “you never quite know what the truth is, and I took that as a licence to tell a greater truth”. (Daily Telegraph, 2022, on a new film about Kim Philby. He’s winched in a working-class female character who didn’t exist, following a trend, says the Telegraph. She's married to a black doctor and all scenes take place in inspissated gloom because it was awfully dark in the olden days, you know.)

I had to find a voice for the Queen: I didn’t want to do an impression or turn her into a caricature. (Clare Foy, paraphrase. The Crown's costume designer explained how she did a lot of research but the clothes were “reimagined from my research” and weren’t a copy of something historic. OK, so she turned herself into a 50s dress designer, but surely in a historical drama we want an accurate reproduction of everything?) 

Meryl Streep
 is the mistress of accents, but she had trouble trying to force herself to pronounce “half” like an English speaker – it kept coming out as “haaaaaaaaaaf” instead of “harf”.

Chefs given the task of recreating Titanic’s last meal “include historic hints” and think they are fulfilling their brief. “It was opulent but heavy. It had multiple meat courses and rich sauces so we adapted it a bit for modern taste,” says Titanic Belfast’s head caterer Leo Small. “We included historic hints in every course – such as our toasted barley jus as homage to the cream of barley soup – but we used modern techniques and equipment such as sous-vide ovens, foams and Heston-like touches.” (Times April 5, 2012. So he did not recreate the menu at all. Plus nobody ate their way through the whole menu – you picked and chose.)

The Dig: Key theme from Basil Brown: "The past - it speaks to us". Oh, it has to be about US, not the Anglo-Saxons. People in the present Learning Lessons. The preachy bit. We found some amazing Anglo-Saxon art and Now We Are Better People For It. (@TimONeill007. Apparently the film shows people discovering that the Dark Ages were not so dark after all, plus a lot of marital strife, tremulous romance and cross-class friendship.)

I call this the Titanic Complex. There is a very dramatic real bit of history going on but the film makers think they need to make it more interesting by adding extra drama, like a couple having marital problems, affairs, etc... Blablabla wedding ending, oh drama, pretty young things finding love, handsome chap in uniform, blablabla... some hanky panky... who on earth thought this story needed any of that completely made-up nonsense? (@fakehistoryhunt)

In The King's Speech, therapist Lionel Logue lives in a terraced house and treats the King as a mate, says Ian Jack in The Guardian. In reality, Logue had consulting rooms in Harley Street and lived “in a Victorian villa called Beechgrove on Sydenham Hill. Beechgrove had 25 rooms, five bathrooms, five acres of garden, a tennis court and a cook”. And he said: “The greatest thing in my life, your majesty, is being able to serve you.” But, Jack concludes, “it hardly matters. The film is true to the substance.” He adds: “Logue has consulting rooms in Harley Street and yet his home seems to be a mean terraced house in the East End. The front door opens straight to the pavement, where ragged children play in the fog. The point is to show that Logue's friendship with the man who became King bridged all kinds of divisions: between a ruler and his colonial subject, between privilege and a state close to poverty, between a chippy Australian and a shy prince.” (And speech therapists add that stammers are neurological, not psychological. But are audiences really that dense? Do they need to be preached to quite so obviously?)

I know his depiction is historically inaccurate and the result of centuries of malicious rumour and disbelief that Mozart could die so young but the Salieri in 'Amadeus' is the hero we deserve. (@Oniropolis)

Makers of the film Diana (2013) just couldn't bring themselves to actually copy her hairstyle (visible in thousands of pictures from all angles), and gave the actress a do that is too flat on the top and too long at the back and sides. Perhaps not enough time had passed?

Mozart is challenged to a violin duel and upstaged by a precocious rival. His name? Joseph Bologne, AKA the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, AKA young, gifted and Black. Whether this showdown ever took place is doubtful but it makes for a playful opening to Chevalier, a new film based on the life of the long-overlooked classical composer who was also a champion fencer. (Guardian, April 2023)

At the end the director states, after I thought I was watching a movie that was historically accurate, that he had changed several characters and other aspects to make them more contemporary (meaning: what he thinks the way things ought to have been 100+ years ago, vs reality) re: gender, sexual preference, racial matters, etc. As such, the movie to a degree is fiction; a lie. Which is sad, as it detracts from the ground-breaking path that Colette lived. (kjr03215 on the film Colette, imdb)

I recently learned that no historical drama - not even the ones that put real effort into accuracy - ever gets courtly male clothing quite right for certain time periods, because the things they actually wore look SO ridiculous to modern eyes that it would change the whole story. (Abi Brown via Facebook. Another designer explained she couldn't use authentic male dress of the period because it looked too modern.)

Ben Macintyre in the Times (19 Nov 2023) plays cliché bingo. He calls those who complain about historical inaccuracies in The Crown and Napoleon “pedants and purists”. (Ad hominem.) He claims that “based on a true story” films are more historically accurate than ever before. As for his own books: In each case, the screenwriter took the true story and remade it in a new art form, for a different audience, with close historical guidance. Each was faithful to the essence of the tale, context and period detail... Film-makers are not trying to reflect truth (which is impossible anyway) but rather to create a new, believable emotional realityThe Imitation Game played fast and loose with the Enigma story but led to a massive surge of interest in what really happened at Bletchley Park. (See Lourdes below, also new Agatha Christie "adaptations" that, however unfaithful and crude, "will draw in new readers".)

Was the “swearing, sh*gging, pop music, pretty people, lovely costumes” version of history created by Netflix – which doesn’t have to worry about stuffy advertisers? There is probably an acceptable artistic justification for making a film about Queen Anne with added lesbianism, swearing, rock music and rabbits, but I can't face looking for it.

My objective was not to be an historian, but rather to find a sort of logical truth. (Deborah Davis, writer of a recent series about Marie Antoinette. Her script brings out MA’s mother’s genuine cruelty, eg making her daughter wear braces on her teeth, and obsessing over her “crooked” shoulders.)

See also historical dramas where they get everything right apart from the 60s hairstyles, or the 40s heavy make-up, or the 80s dialogue.


In the 50s, so-called sandals were just shoes with cutouts and piercings because genuine sandals were a "sign" of rebellion and bohemianism.   

Aboriginal people in Australia have never been covered by a flora and fauna act, either under federal or state law. But despite several attempts by various people to set the record straight, the myth continues to circulate, perhaps because, as one academic told Fact Check, it "embodies elements of a deeper truth about discrimination". (Abc.net.au)

So Orwell never said “the working classes smell” – but he was disappointed by them, look at the way he denigrated their reading matter in that piece about Boy’s Own stories. (He was disappointed that the magazines fed the working classes a fantasy of “aristocratic” schools with titled pupils and old grey stones.)

I personally think you have to look back to see forward. My collections were inspired by my early, most powerful memories. I remember the way my mum dressed and how back then young girls dressed like their mums. I've taken shoulder pads and reinterpreted them, rejuvenated them. First of all a few people were a bit shocked to see them again but could see I'd updated them. (Young designer quoted on bbc.com. So it's OK to revive the shoulder pad as long as you "update" them in some way – I wonder what that way was.)

Restaurants claim to be bringing back “real British cheese” and it turns out to be mozzarella. They claim they are reviving “real British food”, but it’s all over chilli jam and rocket because it’s been given a “modern twist” or “fusion elements”.

Or architects building housing “in keeping” with the surroundings by throwing in one “witty reference” to Victorian architecture (that red stripe!). Or those flats by the sea that had portholes because it’s nautical you know and rocks behind chicken wire to symbolize er er the seabed. The flats were instantly christened the “tin can” and the rocks had to be taken away because they were dangerous.

See also plans to “rebuild the Crystal Palace” by, um, not rebuilding the Crystal Palace but building something new with a couple of “Victorian” details. (It was dropped.)

And interior designers who claim "You don't want to live in a museum!" while ripping out period features.

It all reminds me of the nun who said that people who went to Lourdes and didn't get better "had been healed in a different way". The visions of Fatima may not have been genuine, but they brought many people back to the church. See also the therapists who tell you your psychic integration is really coming on, even though you're no happier. And the people who say a statement is "true in a very real sense" when they mean "it's false". In the 70s feminists even used to say that women might not have org*sms but they "enjoyed s*x in a different way".

Healing is not the complete disappearance of your pain and trauma. Healing is acknowledging that the pain may still exist, but knowing that whatever you've gone through or whatever you're feeling doesn't define you. (Diplomats for Health in Resilient Community @DFHRC. Pass the paracetamol.)

And you can always say your made-up story is "indicative of a wider truth". Or "deeper", if you prefer. Or "where it differs from the letter it remains faithful to the spirit". I think you mean "I'm using this story from the past to say something about oppression, exclusion and relations between the sexes in 2023, because that's the current fad and I'll win prizes". The more authentic the setting, the more the characters have to preach current attitudes.


More here, and links to the rest.

Outrageous Excuses 21



Silly reasons for not voting:

I want my vote to count.

Every vote, whoever it’s for, is a vote for the kyriarchy.

I’m not voting until there’s a “none of the above” option.

None of the parties do enough for women.

I want to send Them a message.

I’m going to leave my vote blank as a protest.

Politicians are all liars and cheats.

I’m not voting for a politician, ha ha!

I’m going to spoil my voting paper to teach them a lesson.

Voting for someone who is the least worst is not my idea of change. (voteblankrevolution.com)

I refuse to vote until [insert condition here].

I’ve just had enough of everything.

Voting never changed anything.

They’re all the same!

I don’t want to vote for a politician, ha ha!


And from John O’Farrell’s Things Can Only Get Better:

I’m far too busy to bother with all that politics nonsense.

Well, I voted Labour last time but it didn’t make any difference.

If you vote it only encourages them.

If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it.

He adds that people tell pollsters they’ll vote Labour, then go out and vote Conservative: “For some reason, when people were asked what they considered to be the most important issues, no one volunteered the true answer: my wallet."


OUTRAGEOUS EXCUSES

It’s always something: a personal saga, a coworker’s out to get them, or a litany of excuses. Whatever it is, it’s more important than getting things done. 

Responds to every request with a boatload of inane reasons why he or she can’t do it, or arcane things that must happen first. 

“This is how we did it at XYZ company.” 

Once a man criticised my desire for knowledge saying that it was not convenient for a woman to possess knowledge because there was so little of it. (Christine de Pisan, 1364-1430, scholar and feminist)

Excuse of the week goes to Martin Christmas of @EnvAgencyYNE who told locals not to swim at Bridlington beach as water quality was "Affected by birds, which is why there are efforts to move seagulls on from some beaches, and from dogs". (Feargal Sharkey)

In the face of strong disapproval from the public, Primark say they can’t assess the impact of mixed changing rooms until they have “rolled them out” across all stores

Yet another senior British Conservative MP has been reported to police over allegations of rape and an alleged string of sexual assaults. It is reported that it "is not in the public interest for him to be named". (@archer_rs)


HOLIER THAN THOU

I found the offer of a knighthood something that I couldn't possibly accept. I found it to be somehow squalid. (Harold Pinter) 

I can’t like this picture by Cézanne because colonialism. What would it be like if colonialism had never happened?

Women shouldn’t complain to HR about harassment because they’d be collaborating with an authoritarian system.

I can’t mourn the Queen because of her association with colonialism.

Gerald Durrell was wandering the sand dunes of California where he found a flawless flint spearhead lying on the surface. It was so perfect he just left it where it was.

Fellow white dietitians: please stop saying the Mediterranean diet is the “healthiest” way to eat. This upholds white supremacy. (@KathleenMeehanRDN)

The nuns would have called it “scrupulous conscience”.

More here, and links to the rest.


Monday 19 December 2022

Grammar: Howlers 26


When I was at school at the Convent, I flinched every time my friends called the "pergola lawn" (pictured) the "pergular lawn" (to rhyme with "jugular"). They also referred to the postulants (novice nuns) as "apostulants". Every day at lunch we would say the Angelus, and the entire school would chant: "The angel of the Lord appeared unto Mary; and she was conceived by the Holy Ghost." Both biologically and theologically incorrect. Every Friday we would sing the Salve Regina, a Latin hymn to the Virgin Mary. We were never given the words – we just picked it up by ear. There was one line I could never get: it just sounded like "er er er er". So I looked up the words: they are "Eia ergo". So I sang this and everyone else sang "er er er er" for the rest of my time there. I'm sorry, but it has all been annoying me for decades.

In the 60s, it was fashionable to buy a Spanish rug from Casa Pupo. The shop's name was on a label on the rug, but everybody called the shop "Casa Pupa". I flinch when people talk about Marlene Deartrick, Johann Sebastian Bark, Rekkavik (capital of Iceland), Bob Geldorf, and Mount Siniai (the place has two Is, not three). As for Americans, why "Joolyard School of Music" when it's spelled "Juillard"? Why is Huston pronounced "Hewston"? And then there are people who deliver a "diatrabe", consult a "theosaurus" and take "Epson Salts" when the name is printed on the tin...

I also shudder when people use “cognitive dissonance” to mean “denial” – or sometimes “projection”.  You deny reality to avoid cognitive dissonance – which is what happens when you try to believe two contradictory statements at once.


MIXED METAPHORS AND GARBLED CLICHES
Rishi Sunak’s presence in No. 10 is a “groundbreaking milestone”.

They don't deserve to be raked over the coals. (It’s “hauled over the coals”. You rake over the embers of a fire.)
 
Have we taken on more than we can chew? (It's "bitten off".)

On Lady Susan Hussey receiving a Mexican order – the Sash of Special Category of the Order of the Aztec Eagle – the Times says: The Mexicans recognise the upper crust on their tortilla when they see it. (Tortillas don’t have crusts. They’re so thin there is hardly an “upper”. The upper crust is the top crust of a loaf of bread. It would be clean, unlike the bottom crust which might have picked up some ashes and dirt from the brick bread oven. Well, it’s no sillier than some explanations!)

Old-tie network for old-school-tie network, sometimes called the Old Boy network. Your fellow Etonians, identifiable by their school ties, give you a helping hand or leg-up.

Pity The Times is a burnt flush. (@SimonD555. That’s “busted flush”. From Poker?)

He was a very small cog in a much larger wheel. (Martin Edwards, The Life of Crime. “Just a cog in the machine” means that you are a tiny part of an organisation. Surely no cog can be more important than another cog – if any of them fails, the machine stops.)

That’s another part of the double-edged sword. (All swords are double-edged. They have a blade and a handle, and that's it.)

Hopefully Brits will not let this madness build deep roots. (Twitter) 

Kids today are all coddled snowflakes. (If you coddled a snowflake, it would melt. Think of coddled eggs.)

Dealt the death knoll. (Tolled or rung the death knell, dealt the death blow. No grassy knolls involved.)

Dethroning statues (Times letters page headline. You topple statues, and dictators – sometimes statues of dictators. You dethrone monarchs.)

Hanging by the narrowest of threads. (You can’t get much more fragile than “hanging by a thread”.
Hanging by a hair? The cliché is “by the narrowest of margins”.)

The rail-thin six-inch stilettoes worn by this generation of royals are a world away from the sensible block-heeled courts preferred by the late Queen. (Times. A skinny person may, with hyperbole, be “rail-thin”, but stilettos the width of a rail would be pretty chunky – whether that’s a rail as in railway or railing.)

The investigation had blown the lid on a glaring hole in the GRU’s tradecraft. (The cliché is “blow the lid off” or "blow the gaff". And that should be “gaping hole”. Holes don’t glare unless there’s a light inside. How about: "The investigation had shown up a gaping hole in the GRU’s tradecraft"?)

It irks me  that many authoritarian and reactionary Evangelical/other fundamentalist leaders are posturing themselves as against "Christian Nationalism". (@thesnarkygent. "Positioning" is meant.)

Bending their backs to justify X. (The cliché is “bend over backwards to justify/accommodate etc”.)

Thank u to these 2 special people for having the moral compass to stand up 4 fair sport 4 females with me. (@sharrond62. That’s "moral fibre".)


PURE HOWLERS

Sometimes a typo is almost an improvement:

During what she calls "the most misogynistic period" in recent history, J.K Rowling has emerged as Nicola Sturgeon's doughiest opponent. (Reaction.life, doughtiest)

We had a set of beautiful new vanished wood gates installed. (RC)

Make sure you pick the right word, instead of one that just sounds like it. Avoid:

scale model when you mean life-sized
trenchant (pithy, forceful) for entrenched (stubborn, unshiftable)
approbation (approval) for opprobrium (disapproval)
plumage for signage
pertruberance (no such word) for protuberance (knobby bit) 
obeisance (bowing) for obedience 
flushed out for fleshed out 
laconically (shortly) for sardonically (sarcastically)
confusion reins for reigns (rules)
self-reverential (self-adoring) for self-referential (self-referring)

dead to the wide for dead to the world (In Victorian novels and melodramas, a lady who has strayed from the path of virtue is “dead to the world”. She’s still alive, but her family, friends and acquaintances behave as if she wasn’t. Now usually used to mean “deeply asleep”. What would “dead to the wide” mean? It’s like spitting image/splitting image for “spit and image” and and off your own back for “off your own bat”.)

Apparently sports writers confuse in the ascendant with in the ascendancy.
Charles acceded, he did not ascend, to the throne. 

Who dons freckles and a red afro. (Guardian, sports. To don is to put on.)

Shape and extenuate your eyes with this natural and vegan eye shadow. (Peacewiththewild.co.uk, extend)

The Tambora volcanic eruption that caused acute climactic change. (@AlexPetrovnia. Climactic is from climax, climatic is from climate.)

In the colonial period a 70-ft George V had loomed, unscathed in his imperial clad, over New Delhi’s grandest boulevard. (Lse.ad.uk Imperial clobber?)

clouds on the peripherals (Peripherals are things like printers, microphones and external hard disks that you plug into computers. Peripheries, or edges, are meant.)

Do you foment or ferment a revolution? (NGRAM shows “foment” just ahead, both rising sharply in popularity in the 1920s. “Fomentations”, or hot compresses, aren’t so much used these days.)

To this day, I’ve never stepped foot back in the building. (Stepped back, or “set foot”.)

A quick forage into Wales. (Antiques Road Trip, foray)

Release from this saccharine honey trap comes by way of ‘Girl Graduate’ in gown and mortar board, a gratifyingly popular costume. (Verity Wilson, Dressing Up. "Saccharine honey trap" is a tautology. But a “honey trap” is not a sentimental costume, it specifically means sending a woman agent to seduce a mark and then blackmail him into handing over secret documents.)

A couple of local lads flexed their boxing gloves on a carnival float. (Verity Wilson, Dressing Up. You can only flex your muscles. What are they doing with their boxing gloves? Demonstrating, exhibiting, showing off?)

The people living in this arid region are literally living on a knife-edge. (Ade Adepitan, metaphorically. Literally is often used for "very much".)

Back in England, Edgar Wallace was a much sort after newsman. (sought after)

As he has shown that he doesn’t think he should be construed by rules... (@harrycovert16 Constrained? Restrained?)

I am painfully aware I am a 20 year old university student punching a bit above my belt. (Above my weight.)

I thought gaslighting was rewriting history to better suit your narrative. (@rj3000. Gaslighting is persuading someone that there isn't a problem, from "It was just banter" on...)

Now we have Nancy Pelosi’s gazpacho police spying on members of Congress. (Marjorie Taylor Greene, Gestapo)

Grammar: Howlers 25


Words and phrases can get distorted if you've only heard them, and have never seen them written.

Munchjack deer are an invasive species. (muntjac)

His unpleasant remarks wrangled. (rankled)

The pictures were painted in egg tempura. (tempera)

The priest was a friend to his partitioners. (parishioners)

Enrol for unroll

Thither for tother

He repeated the conversation pervatum. (verbatim)

Yeons ago... (Aeons or eons.)

Forced perspective (It's "false perspective".)

Rhymes
for rhines (drainage ditches)

This book comes complete with dusk jacket. (dust jacket)

Non challancy (nonchalance)

It’s only foo leather, not the real thing. (Faux, French for false.)

In hoc to (Like ad hoc – but it’s “in hock” ie in pawn.)

I have been reading the series in order, and so far I have found this the least for filling. (fulfilling)

Their aim is to sew confusion. (Sow as in sowing seed.)

He has a pension for railwayana. (penchant)

Your remark was very inciteful. (insightful)

at one fail swoop (In Macbeth, it's "one fell swoop".)

The underpass was decorated with graphity. (graffiti)

But doth suffer a C change. (In the Tempest, it's "sea change".)

He’s biased, he's got an act to grind. (It's "axe".)

The soap opera was rather mellow dramatic. (In the early 19th century, only two theatres in London were licensed for plays. Other theatres had to present plays as "melodramas", with songs and dances and dramatic underscoring from a band in the pit. The "melo" bit is from "melody".)

brassic flint for “boracic lint”. (It's rhyming slang for “skint”. Boracic lint was a WWI wound dressing.)

Our pleas fell on death years. (deaf ears)

James Stewart raises the barre considerably. (The bar that’s raised is one you have to high-jump over, not one you hold onto while doing pliés and arabesques.)

This strategy does not address the route cause. (root cause) 

Low and behold! (It's "lo!" which means the same as "behold!", but we don't say it much any more.)

We don't need to make a big kerfluffle about it. (Kerfuffle, meaning "song and dance". )

They decide to hold up in the cave for the night. (imdb. Did we say "hole up" before we adopted the ugly “hunker down”?)

In Revolutionary France, women wore mop caps. (mob caps)

There's no need to put women on a pedal-stool. (pedestal)

Budapest is full of Art No Voo houses. (Art Nouveau)

Right from the gecko. (get go)

If I want to remember something, I write it on a postic note. (Post-It)

pratful for pratfall (vulture.com)

Quote on quote (quote unquote)

In too smaller space. (in too small a space)

More here, and links to the rest.


Saturday 17 December 2022

Predictions for 2023


In 2023:

A disappointing theme park will close its gates.

A Zeppelin comeback will be predicted. In 2022,  Canada’s Buoyant Aircraft Systems International previewed a zeppelin at the Aviation Innovations Airship Conference. UK's Hybrid Air Vehicles, makers of the Airlander 10, & France's Flying Whales, were also present.

Eco-airship contract to launch 1,800 jobs in South Yorkshire (2022-06-14) 

Plans will be unveiled to travel by maglev, mine manganese nodules from the seabed and extract gold from seawater.

Kids today will [do something kids have been doing for years] because [recent phenomenon we want a peg to talk about].


People will say the following as if they were the first to think it:

If you can write an article about being cancelled, you haven’t been cancelled. (Same goes for “silenced” or “censored” or “deplatformed”.)

If you’re so keen on refugees, why don’t you have them to come and live with you?

New technology is rewiring the brains of the younger generation and reducing their attention span. (It has taken millions of years to evolve the human brain – you can't rewire it in a generation. But somehow kids always have a short attention span and play Minecraft all day.)

Let’s get children to walk to school!
Death is the last taboo.
The menopause - no more need to suffer in silence!

Older women become invisible.
Masculinity is in crisis and it’s all women’s fault.
How can you mourn sincerely for someone you don’t know?

The survival of the fittest is a tautology.
Black Friday? Why not a “buy nothing” day!
Marriage is just a bit of paper.
Nobody looks at the upper stories of buildings.

All socialists are “champagne socialists” and don’t count. Actors and footballers should stick to acting etc.

An anarchist organisation is a contradiction in terms.
Arabs are Semites too.
Halloween is a recent American import.

I don’t care if you’re black, white or green!
Atheism is a religion.
Truth is complex.
Wage slavery is the real slavery.

When's White History month?
When’s International Men’s Day? (19 Nov)

It’s the people who bring a child up who are the real parents. The commitment made in front of friends and family is the real wedding. 

I wish I had a dollar each time a scientifically incompetent ideologue claimed science is a religion. (psmag.com)

And the one thing I ask of British Twitter is to refrain from using the phrase, "what have we become," when, for much of us, the UK has always been this way and continues to be. It just hasn't affected you and a better reflection is, why. (@Blewish)


People will use the following phrases:

Lulled into a sense of false security.
Restored to its former glory.
Spires aspire to heaven.
Restored my faith in human nature.
Glass half full, glass half empty.
Twatter and Farcebook.

Not heard so much any more:
Nuclear weapons? You can’t DISinvent them!
Calling someone racist is as bad as using the N word.

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday 12 December 2022

Buzzwords of 2022 Part 2

What have people been saying in the second half of 2022?

Kim Kardashian shouldn’t have worn Marilyn Monroe’s dress. I can’t form an opinion on this one.

If you want to get a laugh, just say “avocado”. Or vegan.

Oh no, “Fakebook” now.

When did jammed or jam-packed become rammed or ram-packed?

“There’s not this massive use for food banks in this country." Conservative MP Lee Anderson has told MPs people who use food banks "can’t cook a meal from scratch" and "cannot budget” during a debate in the House of Commons. Channel 4 News

Everything is “dropping” rather than arriving, or being revealed or unveiled, or launching, or debuting.

Conspiracy theory: Bill Gates is buying up all US farmland.

Is interpretive dance the new Brown Windsor soup? There never was such a thing.

Ten non-white people are shot dead by a white supremacist and someone on Twitter pops up to say “White men are under attack too”.

Everything Boris says is now diagnosed as “rhetoric he learned at the debating society”, ie the Oxford Union.

Bristol pubs to host three-day “anti-jubilee” party – it begins.

Daily Telegraph still suggesting that we should “put down the TV remote control” for the sake of our health. When did you last cross the room to press buttons on your actual TV? And how would you do half the things you do with the remote? 

Tmesis: Sending Marni home? What (and I can’t stress this enough) the actual bleep? (Re the Sewing Bee.)

Platty jubes 

Why did so many people choose Johnny over Amber? One reply I got: “Because they think males should fight for themselves and not be weak bitches.” So men ought to be violent but all victims are hysterical liars. Does not compute.

Oh now she’s “Carrie Antoinette”.

You’re special!” is an insult. (I’m “special” for not denigrating Angela Rayner for being “common” and having red hair, apparently.)

clutch: Perfect, Exactly what is needed. (Urban Dictionary) 

I think people on both sides are calling the other side “Handmaidens”, but it’s hard to tell. But you can be sure that whatever you accuse your opponent of, they’ll accuse you of the same. (Tu quoque.)

Social media is evil because people see something written down in black and white and believe it’s true. (Says someone on social media who seems never to have read a book or know they exist.)

Newfypoos are the latest must-have cross-breed. 

Seems legit. (Used ironically.)

The UK is now a fascist state because anti-Brexit protester Steve Bray has been silenced under new rules. (Too loud.)

When they knock on your door
In the middle of the night
And take you away 
To an unknown fate
That's when you know you're living
In a police state.
(TD)

Media shouldn’t call Ghislaine Maxwell a “socialite” – she was a sex trafficker! And they shouldn’t refer to “pro-life” movements, they are anti-choice! And others on the template of “All Lives Matter”. 

July 16: Panic about the heatwave panic! Snowflakes, cowards, mad dogs and Englishmen! (Second heatwave Aug 11 and people are just getting on with it.)

A scientific review has concluded that depression is not caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, and may be more closely linked to stressful life events. (The Week)

The anti-woke are just anxious old people who don’t like new words, according to Caitlin Moran.

A feature of so many of the candidates has been a strange desire to disown the fact that they've been part of a governing party for twelve years, to talk as though they are victims of some notional alternate "progressive" regime from which they propose to liberate the population. (@conbrunstrom)

Lots of things are disgusting, last week of July.

Much sneering about the Wagatha Christie verdict. Competitive apathy. How can these “nobodies” afford agents?

People calling Keir Starmer “Keith”. Like calling George Osborne “Gideon”.

GOAT is an acronym for something – but what?

Those women who try and chuck a short-haired woman out of the public toilets – they're as real as the women who shout abuse at men who hold doors open for them, aren't they? August. (And this seems to have stopped happening, Novmber.)

Doggo, kiddo and now froggo...

First there was the text-only Internet, then it became far more widespread with pages and pictures and it became the Web. Inexplicably, it is now the Internet again.

High energy prices forecast and everyone remembers the good old days of frost flowers on the windows – and chilblains. The girl who woke up to find her hair frozen to the pillow trumps them all. (They used to tell us not to go to bed with wet hair. Perhaps this was why.)

People see nothing wrong with exploiting and mocking small children in GIFs and memes without their consent. Perhaps one day they’ll get it, just as people slowly got that it was wrong to be cruel to animals.

Cower” is popular week of 2022-08-20. Perhaps because Liz Truss misused it: “We will not cower to the ECHR.” She meant something like “bow” or “kowtow”.

When did men become “dudes”? I think I like it, I think I’ll buy it.

Is a “cheem” an idiot? As for “cheugy”.

Fuel crisis. People talking as if “no central heating” meant “no heating”. Poor dears, they don’t know about the other kinds.

If floods in Pakistan have killed 1,100 people and destroyed X acres of farmland, there’s no need to say they’re “devastating”. Is it too much to ask? Probably, when the devastation has been on such a scale.

August 30: It's August and, of course, the supermarkets are already selling Xmas pudding. (@LeoHickman)

Twitter calls them “notifications’, so why does everyone call them “mentions”?

Resilience” is passé, it’s all “teaching children critical thinking” now. We’re always planning to teach children something that isn’t “facts”. “Emotional maturity” was fashionable for a time. Or was it “emotional intelligence”? Also “teaching children how to learn”. I am skeptical of all such drives.

Is “hole up” what we used to say instead of “hunker down”?

Goodbye, Your Majesty. 

Educated, intelligent friends putting the Republican view, while others say “I agree, well done for being brave enough to state these views publicly”.

Instant rumours: All those ennobled in the Queen’s lifetime must hand back their titles. A group of Irish dancers performed a celebratory jig in front of Buckingham Palace when the news was announced.

King Charles III is acceding to the throne, not ascending to it.

Just a few faint moans about the flowers: Why kill flowers? They’d be better off used as compost (they will be). And what about food banks?

What to say about the Queen’s death: I was surprised to find I was so emotional. I thought she was immortal. (Les bons bourgeois are terrified of having the same feelings as the hoi polloi.)

Twitter and other social media areas are moaning about “passed” for “died”.

People wheeling out “How can you sincerely mourn for someone you’ve never met?” as if they were the first person to think it.

Also asking “I planned to do [anodyne activity] today – will people think it’s disrespectful?”

The crowds at the Queen’s funeral were, as we were repeatedly told, “good-humoured”.

Has “dragged” replaced “owned”? 

Foxes in charge of henhouses: The SNP has employed a man who threatened violence to “terfs and transphobes” as Equality Officer.

It's so telling that some people think "It won't make you popular!" is a decent response to child safeguarding concerns. See also "Rowling could have just retired on her riches and STFU". (@glosswitch)

Someone on Twitter dithering about getting their fourth Covid jab. Very “Yes but I didn’t inhale”.

2022-10-20 Coalition of chaos – now the revolving door of chaos! (Braverman, Starmer) 

People making air-fryer jokes and “lots of tabs open for months” jokes. Air fryers are privileged and middle class, you see, and they don’t work on working-class food. It’s an American thing. (I just scream “bookmark frequently visited sites!”)

Penny Mordaunt says “ge’ing” a couple of times and suddenly she’s speaking “Mockney”. 

Rishi Sunak will be our next Prime Minister and people on Twitter are saying “Yes, but Disraeli was white, and Sephardi Jews aren’t an ethnic group”. 

Someone points out that teenagers lack a youth movement like beatniks, hippies, punks, Goths, emo. 

Elon Musk has bought Twitter and Twitter erupts with “The doom has come upon us! Twitter’s days are numbered! Woe!”. (We all join mastodon and retire baffled, and Twitter continues on its merry way.)

Someone suggests women call themselves “the Uterati”.

purity politics (It’s the 80s all over again.)

sock puppet (what the Americans call glove puppets) has become just “sock”, as in “sock account” on Twitter.

Uh-oh, rationality is tainted by “coloniality” and other methods of arriving at the truth are equally valid, or something... Not seen such silly nonsense since the feminism of the 70s which dismissed logic as “linear and hence phallic” and the whole of science as a “triumphalist narrative by the white-coated priesthood”. I mean “science is just another competing narrative”. Oh and it was all just a “paradigm” which was about to be overtaken by a new paradigm that would admit UFOs, faith healing, Jung, homeopathy, astrology and whatever you wanted to believe. Now statistics are tainted because they were used to support eugenics. I remember when we shouldn’t believe in Darwin because he led to “social Darwinism”, meaning that the fittest survived because they were superior.

Rabbit in headlights popular November.

Michelle Obama is a “narcissist” because she’s only famous because she’s married to a prominent man; she has changed her hairstyle (to braids); and explained the US public weren’t “ready” for natural hair while she was First Lady. It’s a shame she felt like that. Her daughter has braids too and they both look wonderful. Meghan also is a “narcissist” – what a coincidence.

The Fediverse thinks everything is transphobic. (What are future historians going to think of this sentence, 100 years from now?)

Expulsion of woman from Holyrood transgender debate for wearing suffragette colours sparks global boom in feminist scarf sales.

ERG loses 2/3 of its paid-up members, says the Byline Times.

The Women’s Equality Party is running out of members and money after admitting men. 

goblin mode: Staying at home in bed all day binge-watching TV and eating junk food. Never getting up and dressed. People probably did this already but now it has a name. 

@jk_rowling funds a women’s rape crisis centre, @indiawilloughby compares her to Goebbels(@Sorelle_Arduino) 

More here, and links to the rest.


Monday 5 December 2022

Hey Guys, It's Nearly 2023


Can we stop antiques programmes patronising old ladies? Lars Tharp twinkles at an elderly lady and goes on and on about “kidney jade” as if it was potentially embarrassing. She hangs on to her smile and her dignity.

An elderly lady presents a walking stick made out of a shark’s spine to David Harper. He tells her to feel its lovely tactile qualities and then tells her it’s an elasmobranch body part. “I knew that.” “Doesn’t it spook you?” “No, not really.” “I’ve had people shriek and drop them!” Clearly, he was expecting her to shriek and drop the horrible thing and it would make “good television”. So ha ha ha, David.

And we stop encouraging contestants to buy loo seats? And can we prevent the auctioneer seizing the opportunity to be a stand-up comedian and coming out with endless wee jokes? Please? Same goes for alcoholometers, surgical instruments, bed pans, decanters etc.

And can we stop the Les Dawson jokes about “the wife” who of course is really “the boss”, ha ha ha ha? “So there’s you and your three sons but your wife doesn’t like this suit of armour? It’s four to one?” 

The Australian border security programme Nothing to Declare keeps in the segments where the man caught with three suitcases full of undeclared food blames it on his wife or mother and smiles as if it’s a big joke. “I’ll be very very cross with my wife and tell her not to be so silly next time he he he!” Even the nice man who dressed entirely in purple explains that he once put coloured clothes in with white garments in the washing machine and his wife was furious so now he wears nothing but purple! Big charming smile, everybody laughs.

Bargain Hunt

Tim W: And how did you become a gender expert?
Contestant (old white man): I think it was trying to understand the female brain.
Tim: And have you cracked that one?
Contestant: No!
All: Ha ha ha.

It’s 2021 and people are still making misogynistic “muh wife” jokes. (@anumccartney)

Another cliché: the expert roars with laughter at everything done or said by a very ordinary middle-aged couple. Sometimes one of the pair is coached to be the “card” who goes off-script and spontaneously buys things or knocks down the price. “Ooooh, there’s no holding her!” or “I knew I was going to have trouble with you!” “She’s very decisive, isn’t she?”

More here, and links to the rest.


Hey Guys, It's 2022!



It's 2022 and young women are being shot and killed for not wearing a headscarf.

Reading lists with token women on token women's topics? let's leave them in 2021, shall we? Feels like we could have left them in 1901 and yet, here we are. 
(Dr Charlotte Lydia Riley @lottelydia)

It’s 2022 – the future! - and medieval dragon fantasies are popular.

And in Lewes they’re burning the Pope in effigy.

Food banks are providing warm rooms.

My bank still has the same crackly hold music from 25 years ago. In fact, all hold music is crackly.

Americans are still dressing up like a parody of indigenous people.

Private schools still exist and are still charities, and one in particular produces most of our rulers. And it’s single-sex. (And the Labour leader says they do a lot for the country.)


There are illegal faith schools in the UK that teach children practically nothing about the modern world.

Northern Irish schools are still segregated by religion.

It's 2022 and I have to actually tell y'all that eugenics is a bad thing. (@heidi_seidr)

It’s 2022 and adults still think putting the burden on young girls to “close their legs” counts as sex education and is an appropriate way to address young girls being preyed on by adult men. (@naledimashishi)

A friend who practises in litigation told me that when she and other female colleagues/friends attend an interview they remove their wedding rings and refer to their husband as their partner to avoid the 'she might have a baby soon' stigma. Diabolical in 2022. (@LizMcG_emplaw)

A friend did their OSCE’s with me recently and got yellow carded for wearing a “short skirt”… could someone explain to me how it’s 2021 and medical schools are still pushing sexist notions of primness upon its female student cohort, for daring to display their ankles? (@MedicGrandpa)

It’s 2021 and people are still moaning about headlines “using the passive voice” to avoid apportioning blame. Blame can be apportioned in the passive voice.

And an unelected, unofficial body decides policy for schools, universities, institutions and political parties. As someone said, it’s paying a lobby group to lobby you.

There are still no full-time black male High Court judges in the UK. (Leslie Thomas)

And still, here in 2021, "attention seeking" is used as a put-down and dismisser for any women speaking about things that are uncomfortable to hear. (@AmyScaife)

How are there "Unregulated Children's Homes"? How is that a thing in 2021? (@williemillersm1)

It’s 2021 and there are still faith schools, and private schools have charitable status.

There is no oversight over who can “provide materials” for schools. Translation: disseminate propaganda.

It’s 2020 and I’m still being called “exotic”. (@jjconceptsinc)

More here, and links to the rest.

The Demon Drink 5



Can we retire the expression “enjoying a drink”? Also "tipple" in the context of old people?

Alcohol is the only drug you seem to have to apologise for not taking. (Adrian Chiles)

I don’t drink, which sometimes makes it hard to meet people. (slate.com)

It’s very difficult not to drink here. Everyone is like, “Drink! Drink!”. You can’t let your glass get low because they’ll fill it. And if you say no they get angry. (American girl who married an English toff, Times 2016)

I didn’t drink for most of last year and I really noticed how the rest of the world revolves around it. I was treated with suspicion by people when I said I didn’t drink, and it became the only thing people could talk about when it was revealed. Being a non-drinker around people who love booze weirdly makes it your problem – the drinkers start to feel self-conscious and inspired to recount to you, sometimes in great detail, their own relationship with booze, how they couldn’t live without it and all the advantages of getting out of your skull. They can’t understand why you would stop and quiz you about it, becoming very personal – not to mention hyper-sensitive – very quickly. I spent so much of my life trying to work out who I was and what the best version of myself could be... building your whole world around drinking – rather than socialising or having fun, which don’t necessarily need booze – is not a personality substitute. If anything, it robs you of your character. Your anecdotes become tales of stupid things you did when drunk, or stories about how you can’t actually remember what you did...  It was only when I stopped drinking that I saw the adult world for what it really was... my main takeaway from being sober is that drunk people are absolute a*holes and terminally boring. (Theguyliner.com)


We have a drink problem in the UK. Might it help if pensioner TV stopped using alcohol as a cheap laugh?

This discussion group with a friend – does it take place in a pub? (Alexander Armstrong, Pointless. The answer was “no”.)

The grain was used for bread, and more importantly for beer! (Antiques Road Trip)

You’ve brought along a bottle and you’re looking for a party. Everybody likes a tot of whisky. (Anita Manning, Flog It!. OK the item was a bottle of whisky.)

Was that pre or post opening the wine? (Selling Houses with Amanda Lamb)

Bargain Hunt contestant: And have a glass of wine after.
Charlie Ross: I bet you need one after boogie bouncing!

What’s funnier than an alcoholic bear, after all? (Eric Knowles, Bargain Hunt)

Tim Wonnacott: What do you like about Italy?
Contestant: The people, the culture, the food...
His daughter: THE WINE!
All: Ha ha ha.

Eric Knowles: Do you do a lot of meditating when you’re sitting on the riverbank fishing?
Bargain Hunt Contestant: We do a lot of drinking!
PEALS of laughter from all within earshot. 

Ladies don’t usually like tankards... but I know a couple of ladies who could empty a bottle of Pinot Grigio out of there! (Antiques Roadshow, 2019)

Invite family and friends around and let the hours fly by, enjoy sitting in the conservatory come rain or shine with a glass or two or just for some well-deserved peace and quiet. (Estate Agents’ details_

Pick a room and just move straight in. You don't even need to lift a finger here once you’re unpacked as all has been done ready for so grab a glass of whatever you fancy and just sit back and relax. (Haart estate agents)

I like a bit of champagne.
Don’t we all, darling?
(Bargain Hunt)

David Harper, as contestants pick up a decanter: But what are you going to do with it?
Contestants: Fill it with wine! We Australians love our wine!

I think those two would enjoy a tipple together. (Paul Martin on Flog It! David Harper is talking to an elderly lady who has brought in an alcoholometer. “Waste of good gin – I’d rather drink it!” says David.)

Giving up vodka at 80 as a health kick: this is the sort of “ageing” I can embrace. (The Times on Jilly Cooper saying she’d been “drunk for a fortnight” to celebrate her birthday – on wine, not vodka.)

Paul Martin: What do you like if you don’t like brooches?
Punter: I like going to the pub.
Paul Martin: No comment. (But at least he didn’t laugh or twinkle.)

Woman describes sequence dancing: And then you hold hands and twiddle around.
Tim Wonnacott: And then do you have a gin and tonic?
Woman: Oh, no, we’re old dears, we can’t go out like that!

Britain’s oldest woman has died at the ripe old age of a hundred and something. She puts her longevity down to “a regular glass of sherry”! (BBC Breakfast,  2016)

It’s very tempting, Gaynor, isn’t it? (Dickinson’s Real Deal. Gaynor is selling a bottle of champagne.)

Ooh I think I need a gin. (Woman told her clock is worth the price of a car, Antiques Roadshow)

I think we need some tea.
And some whiskey.
Ha ha ha!
(Countryfile)

Jamie’s doing all the hard work, and I’m sitting at the table with a glass of wine... ha ha ha ha! (Escape to the Country)

Two restorers on The Repair Shop are renovating a giant teddy bear in a field: Wondering what time the picnic hamper is going to arrive. Nice glass of red?

He looks as if he’s had a heavy night out, which is perfectly appropriate for the night before Christmas. (John Kay on BBC Breakfast on Santa cakes)

Alcoholics Anonymous

Monday 28 November 2022

Misunderstandings 8b


It was all a terrible misunderstanding!

Consider starting a journal and see if you are filling all the important “buckets” in your life. What would your buckets be? (A person on Twitter misunderstands “bucket list” – the list of things you’d like to see happen or do yourself before you kick the bucket.)

There’s an edition of Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone with a cover image of a moonstone – the jewel in the story is a large faceted yellow diamond. 

Other Hollywood Philo Vances would include the manor-born Basil Rathbone, the incongruously Slavic Paul Lukas, and the proletarian Alan Curtis. (Mysteryscenemag.com. Hamlet talks about people being “to the manner born”. He’s not talking about stately homes, but traditions that should be allowed to lapse. The TV show To the Manor Born was a pun. Rathbone was born in South Africa, the son of a mining engineer.)

I am literally grasping at straws! (Pic shows a hand reaching out to a packet of drinking straws, helpfully labelled “straws”. This is from an old proverb: "A drowning man will clutch at straws." Meaning pieces of straw, dried grass stalks – not drinking straws. If you’re drowning, you’ll clutch at anything that might hold you up.)

After 21 years, Pods shuffle off mortal coil (Times head May 2022)

So far, so Shakespearean. But the text reads: But now Apple has announced the iPod is shuffling off the stage and will be discontinued, marking the end of an era.

Hamlet said:

To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.

Hamlet is talking about the soul shedding its physical body like a snake sloughing (pronounced “sluffing”) off its skin. This “mortal” coil because the body is mortal, it dies, while the immortal soul lives on. When he says “There’s the rub”, he means “That’s the snag” – referring to the place where your shoe painfully rubs your foot.

Two ditsy girls do a podcast on con men where they discuss solemnly what makes tricksters so confident. They may be, but they’re called confidence men because they gain your confidence.

Cherry-picker trousers (Tim Wonnacott, Antiques Road Trip. The 19th century soldiers’ trousers were red, and the regiment was known as the “Cherubims” or “cherry bums”. Victorian joke.)

Infantile sectarian anarchist throwing windmills with nothing useful to say. (The cliché is "tilting at windmills", like Don Quixote charging them with a lance, thinking they were giants. It doesn't mean "throwing tantrums" or even "inclining from the vertical".)

Fiona Bruce thinks Edinburgh was called “Auld Reekie” because it suffered from “a particularly smelly smog”. It just means “Old Smokey”. London was known as "the Smoke" before the Clean Air Act.

Gone was the palatial edifice of the Euston and Victoria hotels that looked like they'd been carved from sugarloaf. (londonist.com. Baroque architecture is often called “icing-sugar architecture” because it looks like a wedding cake covered in piped swirls and shell borders.)

Many commentators on Golden Age detective stories say that Ngaio Marsh’s hero, Inspector Alleyn, is “an aristocrat, like Lord Peter Wimsey”. Lord Peter is the son of a duke; Inspector Alleyn is the brother of a baronet. “Baronet” is about as far down the aristocratic food chain you can get without being an actual commoner. Joke on Marsh’s part?

In Sense and Senility, an episode of Blackadder, two old actors demonstrate what to do if anyone quotes from the “Scottish play” (Macbeth) or whistles in a dressing room: 

You face each other and chant:

Hot potato
Orchestra stalls
Puck will make amends – ow!

Ow because the ritual ends with pinching the other’s nose. This has evolved into:

Pluck to make amends! 

Obvious, they’re plucking each other’s noses, aren’t they? No, it’s from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, which ends with the character Puck, aka Robin Goodfellow, promising “And Robin will restore amends!”. And even Tony Robinson got it wrong! But then he wasn’t in that scene.

Footnote: “Orchestra stalls” is rhyming slang.


When people talk about a “bad apple” or “a few bad apples”, they imply that once they’ve removed the rotten apples the rest of the batch will be fine. The original saying was something like “If you put one bad apple in with the good ones, it’ll rot the whole barrel” – which it will.  

Remember, remember, the fifth of November; gunpowder, treacle and plot. (The tweeter says that’s how she discovered the existence of treacle.)

For some shepherd's pie = lamb, and cottage pie = beef. For others, shepherd's pie = just mince+gravy, while cottage pie = with grated carrot. Think I've also heard people distinguish them by the topping... (AG. Shepherd's pie is made from sheep. Took me years to work that out.)

The perfect bottom turns the body into the shape of an S. “It’s the classic hourglass figure. That’s what you go after.” (Guardian on bumplants. Have these children never seen an egg timer?)

The sands of time stretch into eternity. (From Facebook. The sands of time fall through an hourglass.)

Avoid embarrassment in seconds with this invisible peep-toe bra. (It’s a modesty vest you attach to your bra. Perhaps they mean “peekaboo”.)

Cartoon: Then it struck me – nobody originally on the paleo diet lived past 35. (Average life expectancy at birth is explained here.)

The Colossus striding across the world stage... (@castlvillageman) The Colossus, a giant statue, did not “stride” anywhere – it legendarily “bestrode” the mouth of the harbour at Rhodes. Shakespeare again. Cassius makes it clear that Julius Caesar is static, not striding anywhere:

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus
, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings. 

In the section with the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge is going through the list of all of the food that he sees in the shop windows, and one of the things that he sees is French Plums. And that’s really interesting, right? Because it makes it clear that the present is once free trade starts happening. (Claire Jarvis, an author and assistant professor in the Stanford English department, Huffingtonpost.co.uk) French plums are a variety of plum that had been grown in England for a few hundred years. But they wouldn’t be fresh in the middle of winter – were they dried or crystallised? 

To call the book cobbled together would be an affront to all the skilled workers who cobbled streets. (The Scotsman makes a good stab at taking down Neil Oliver, but you “cobble together” pieces of leather to make shoes, belts, saddles etc. Cobblers use large, obvious stitches that you wouldn’t want to see joining two pieces of fabric.)

Crazy paving was how people did garden paths in the 70s and 80s. It was 'orrible! (Arthur Smith, voiceover on Money for Nothing. Crazy paving was popular in the 20s and 30s – it even goes back to the Romans. But we can ascribe anything tasteless to the “70s and 80s” because that was the Olden Days when everything was Wrong. And many people’s knowledge of history goes back no further.)


AUDIOBOOKS 

Modern readers frequently put the emphasis on the wrong syllable.

In John Mortimer's Rumpole books and TV series, Phyllida Trant is always away doing a “long firm fraud” – accented on “firm”, whereas it is really “long-firm fraud” with the stress on “long”. Her case isn’t going on a “long” time – it’s the name of a kind of fraud.

Loose boxes for loose boxes, camp stool for camp stool. (It's a stool you sit on in a tent, not an affected stool.

A sheer lawn handkerchief, as if it was a handkerchief you used on a lawn. It’s a hanky made of lawn, or very fine linen.

You’re telling me? With an upward instead of a downward inflection. It's "You're telling me!"

They Came to Baghdad, read by Emilia Fox. A couple of times, Christie calls heroine Victoria "a little Cockney", meaning that she's never been out of London. Fox responds by giving Victoria an Artful Dodger, Cor Blimey Guv voice. She'd have got nowhere with the Clipps, or the posh lady on the hotel balcony, or Dr Rathbone, or Dr Pauncefoot-Jones, talking like that. And how could she convince anyone that her uncle was a bishop if she came from the East End? I can't remember why Victoria has to earn her living, but to get an office job she'd have to sound "refined".

Ian Carmichael, Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers:

Soul-searing for soul-searching.
I was off to tell you but I forgot. (I was told off to tell you.)
"Popping off that howl in my ear" was originally "pooping".

"Go on?" Said Miss Rossiter. Surely she wasn't encouraging someone to continue speaking but saying skeptically: Go on! ("Garn!" in Cockney – see Eliza Dolittle.)

Carmichael gets this line right: He said we needn’t think he wasn’t a gentleman because he worked in an office. In the Radio Drama version it comes out as: He said we needn’t think he wasn’t a gentleman, because he worked in an office. Working in an office is not a qualification for being a gentleman, quite the opposite.

And sometimes they misread words:

“Sir Henry and Lady Angkatell, they live here. They are what is called ‘in the country’.” Poirot in Agatha Christie's The Hollow. It’s “the county” as usual – the people who owned most of Shropshire. 

A.k.a. (also known as) pronounced as “acker”. “Re” spelled out as “R.E.” – it’s Latin for “about”.

"He’d been raggéd" for "He’d been ragged", i.e. teased.

 Chaffing (joshing) is read as “chafing” (rubbing).

Nissan huts for Nissen huts, the otherwise perfect Tom Hollander reading A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carré.

More here, and links to the rest.


Monday 7 November 2022

Agatha Christie and the Aristocracy


Yes, Agatha Christie was a snob who only wrote about aristocrats - wasn't she?

Or does she write more often about self-made men than hereditary aristocrats? In Giant’s Bread the beautiful old house is saved by a strategic marriage with a button-shank heiress

In The Seven Dials Mystery, Lord and Lady Coote are only renting “Chimneys” from Lord Caterham. Lord Coote started life in a bicycle shop, and made his money from an unspecified “works”.

Roger Ackroyd, who looks “more like a country squire than a country squire himself”, made his money from wagon wheels

The Crackenthorpe family in The 4.50 from Paddington descend from a man who used the wealth gained from manufacturing biscuits to build the “Victorian monstrosity” they rattle around in. 

Carrie-Louise in They Do It With Mirrors starts out in life as an American heiress. She marries the wealthy Swede Eric Gulbrandsen, who sets up a charitable trust to administer his money after his death. She later marries Lewis Serrocold and together they start a school for delinquent boys – in another “Victorian monstrosity”. 

Lord Whitfield in Murder Is Easy made his money from newspapers and bought the local manor house.

Perhaps I should explain that in the UK, "aristocrats" are people whose families have held titles and land since the Reformation in the 16th century. They look down on self-made men and recently conferred titles. 

More about Christie here, and links to the rest.


Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman, by Lucy Worsley


I have Lucy Worsley's book on order; this is a review by Scott Bradfield from newrepublic.com. As so often when current writers take on Agatha Christie, he damns her with faint praise.

Anyone who wants a systematic vision of how deeply the British middle class distrusts itself need only read Agatha Christie. In nearly 70 novels and more than 150 short stories, she imagined a series of claustrophobically cloistered middle-class villages and island-like communities (a cruise ship, a hotel, a passenger train...), in which almost everybody is up to no good and almost any prominent person appears capable of plotting devious assassinations of their neighbors and relatives for the pettiest of reasons—usually money.

These insular, generally inbred fictional spaces... were almost entirely inhabited by utterly English types: doctors, lawyers, bankers, businessmen, actors and actresses, lords and ladies, and even policemen. Sure, there are plenty of servants roaming the crime scenes, but at the end of the day, they are inevitably blameless—leaving the profession of murder to those who run the society in which they merely serve. In a Christie novel, violent murder might happen at any moment—and yet the meals and tea still arrive on time, the beds are duly turned down, and the gardens properly managed.

Don't they have doctors, lawyers etc in the States?

One of the great pleasures of these novels is their repetitive nature, and according to Lucy Worsley’s new biography, Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman, Christie’s life was a continuous yearning for a return to childhood pleasures. In that desire, she was not unusual. It was, however, her manner of conjuring those pleasures—through a signature mix of charming settings and cold, logical violence—that presents a mystery, since few authors have managed to assemble a body of work at once so comforting and so emotionless, so quaint and orderly and yet so saturated with cruelty.

Well, as Miss Marple says, you see a lot of evil in a village.

Born in 1890 to a wealthy Irish mother and American father, Christie lost many of the things she loved at an early age.

According to Wikipedia, Christie's mother was born in Dublin, the daughter of a British army officer. She inherited money later.

Her father frittered away the family fortune, and after his early death, her older siblings moved out, and her mother went a bit mad.

Her father's money was "frittered away" by inept trustees. Her mother was devastated by his death, but there is no suggestion in Christie's autobiography that she was mentally ill. Her sister married a year after their father's death, and her brother Monty was already away in the army.

Then she was sent away to school, leaving behind the lush garden of her family estate overlooking the English seaside town Torquay—a privileged and “secret” garden that she would never enjoy the same way again.

It was not an "estate", but a Victorian villa with a large garden. Christie spent a short time at a regular school, but went to a "finishing school" in Paris.

As she confided to her second husband in 1944: “Sometimes I feel very homeless. I find myself thinking ‘I want to go home’ and then it seems to me I have no home—and I do long for Ashfield. I know you didn’t like it—but it was my childhood’s home and that counts.”

For a long time, Christie felt that her stability had been torn away; and yet she possessed a passionate, indefatigable quality that would carry her through the rest of her life. Her first Hercule Poirot novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), was rejected for four years by multiple publishers, and after it finally appeared, she swiftly began producing one or two books a year—even more during periods of war and/or divorce, when her life was at its most tumultuous. She found escape through writing stories as much as her readers did through reading them—and she tended to produce her best work when her world was most worth escaping.

Her first marriage to a young military officer was a passionate one, but passion was never kind to Christie (or to her characters). When her husband left her for a younger woman in 1926, Christie crashed her car in a quarry and disappeared for an 11-day private holiday at a spa hotel in Yorkshire. The intense newspaper coverage was surprising, since Christie was only a modestly successful writer at the time; at one point, her disappearance inspired up to a thousand police officers and many thousands of members of the public (including Dorothy L. Sayers) to beat the brush in various parts of the countryside searching for her body, and Arthur Conan Doyle enlisted his favorite spiritualist to track Christie down through the use of one of her gloves.

Archie Christie was a pilot in World War One. In an interview given shortly after these incidents, she claimed to have intended to drive off the edge of the quarry, but was stopped by a tree.

The spiritualist soon reported that Christie wasn’t “dead as many think,” which proved him a far more capable tracker than Guildford police constable William Kenward, who devised a series of theories almost as preposterous as those in a typical Christie novel—that she had been murdered by her husband, or staged her disappearance in order to pin her murder on him, or vanished simply to promote her latest novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926). Eventually, residents at the Yorkshire hotel began to notice a resemblance between their fellow holidaymaker and the newspaper photos and informed her estranged husband, Archie, who came to collect her. He later explained her actions as the result of “amnesia,” another hackneyed literary device that was almost certainly untrue. When they were divorced a few months later, Christie lost her home for a second time.

Did her fellow-guests contact the newspaper, or the police? This is a dispassionate account of her disappearance, and of course amnesia is a hackneyed literary device, but she hated the house they'd bought and named "Styles". 

Christie’s fictional universe... provides the safest possible space for readers to inhabit, and every book is reliably different from every other one in almost exactly the same way—which is probably why these stories of human slaughter are, more often than not, labeled as “comforting” by those who enjoy them...

You've just said her "claustrophobic" settings were peopled entirely with people who weren't who they pretended and had motives for murdering each other. You also called her stories "repetitive".

First, of course, there’s the introduction of principal suspects at a party or church function. Then the inevitable murder, which arrives shortly after several local conflicts are mapped out—adulterous liaisons, the squabbles of relatives over estates, and half-forgotten crimes from the past. But while the initial corpse arrives quickly, and is often followed by more, each victim is politely assassinated off-stage, and the description of each body is relatively bloodless...

The clichés come thick and fast. For "bloodless murders", try Hercule Poirot's Christmas and Towards Zero.

Even when victims are shot, stabbed, poisoned, or bludgeoned, they remain discreetly off-camera, in order to be unemotionally examined by doctors, coroners, and cops who aren’t concerned with detailing violent contusions, sexual defilements, and torture implements... rather they are only concerned with the broken body’s proximity to doors and windows, half-incinerated notes left behind in ashtrays, and conflicting evidence regarding the exact time of death...

Or displayed on a hearthrug in The Body in the Library, to be closely examined and observed by Miss Marple and Dolly Bantry. 

Then, with the arrival of the detective (such as Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot...) the clues rapidly proliferate; multiple maps of the homes and gardens are produced and various theories propounded. But at the end of the day, no matter how closely the clues are examined or how intricately the theories are developed, the most important information (usually pertaining to motive, a secret will, or some train timetable misprint) isn’t revealed by the detective until they have gone off somewhere and brought it back—and it usually turns out to be some secret they have been privy to all along.

As Julian Symons argued in Bloody Murder, each novel in the mystery genre... assembles puzzle-piece fragments of truth, testimony, locked rooms, and forensic riddles that permit “no emotional engagement with the characters.” It may have been Christie’s deep reticence that drove her to create such isolated fantasies of wholeness.

She was certainly reticent about her disappearance, and her second marriage was "quiet", but this is pure speculation.

No wonder Christie’s preferred form of murder is poison—something that can be administered dispassionately and with a minimum of human interaction.

What would you expect of a professional pharmacist?

As another recent Christie biographer, Laura Thompson, observed, what fascinated Christie was “the gleaming neatness of the bottles, the elegant precision of the calculations, the potential for mayhem contained and controlled.” 

Speculation again.

While the years after her divorce were emotionally tumultuous, they were also some of her most productive—a time when she wrote many of her best books, such as Peril at End House (1932), the first two (and two best) Miss Marples, Murder at the Vicarage (1930) and The Moving Finger (1942), the twice-filmed Murder on the Orient Express, and the many-times-filmed and adapted And Then There Were None (1939). As decades of her well-kept notebooks attest, Christie enjoyed plotting novels even more than she did writing them; and each contraption of plot seems designed to lead readers into a story, show them multiple false exits, and then snap shut all the doors before they get any bright ideas about finding a way out for themselves.

Christie wrote her most emotionless and divertingly complicated stories when she was at her most vulnerable. But at other times, under the name Mary Westmacott, she let those emotions loose—and Westmacott novels such as Unfinished Portrait (1934) and The Rose and the Yew Tree (1948) provide better emotional insight into Christie—which could get pretty turgid.

Sadly true, though Unfinished Portrait gives a more detailed account of her first marriage.

Eventually, after her successful second marriage to the archaeologist Max Mallowan, whom she met while touring his dig in Iraq, she grew increasingly secure and prosperous.

Mallowan was working on a dig led by Leonard Woolley. Christie was staying with the Woolleys.

And it was possibly no surprise that a woman who spent her life trying to reclaim the homely securities of the past would prefer the company of archaeologists. In fact, she spent so much time on digs (while partly subsidizing them), that she had her own mobile toilet built, which was referred to as “Agatha” at the British School in Baghdad until several years after her death, when it was infested by termites and burned. 

In Come Tell Me How You Live, a short account of her life on archaeological digs with her second husband, she describes how she had a personal toilet built as part of the expedition house – named "Beit Agatha", or "Agatha's House" by the crew. Perhaps Worsley's book will reveal more.

For a body of work so vastly populated with dead bodies, the Christie oeuvre may ironically be the most peaceful, predictable, comforting space in twentieth-century literature. The stories rarely (if ever) refer to our ugly political world; the simplistic psychology of the characters is easily dissolved by either love or money; and each novel takes place in a timeless space lacking any actual historical or cultural landmarks, such as market crashes, wars, death camps, crime families, corrupt politicians, or pandemics.

There's a corrupt politician in One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, and her oeuvre is full of references to current fads like crosswords. Plots hinge on cloche hats. Murders are discussed over games of Mah-Jong. Demobbed soldiers are reduced to selling stockings door-to-door. (During the Second World War, publishers often forbade their writers to mention the conflict.)

And at the end of each story, after the victory of wits is won by a slightly-more-brilliant-than-the-murderer detective, the murderer is clearly identified and eliminated—usually by a hangman’s noose, or by their discreetly removing themselves offstage, where they commit suicide. For they are easily the most obliging and polite murderers in crime fiction.

In Christie’s universe, the most sensible and ubiquitous human motive is, as Poirot often exclaims, the “inevitable motive. Money, my friend, money!” Even when a murderer appears to be insane, for instance, in The ABC Murderers (1936), where it first appears that a murderer roams the country randomly identifying victims by the first letters of their last names, Christie’s murderers are always eminently logical and almost pathologically “reasonable.” Only fools (such as Poirot’s recurring foil, the much dumber Captain Arthur Hastings) attribute madness to a murderer, for the real problem with most murderers, Christie’s detectives repeatedly argue, is not their capacity to commit violence, since virtually “everyone is a potential murderer,” but their capacity to devise complicated schemes for avoiding capture. They are more reasonable and judicious than everybody else, and that’s what makes them dangerous.

If criminals murdered out of passion or rage (which they rarely do in Christie), they might well get away with it. But by cleverly “trying to cover up their tracks, they invariably betray themselves.” Unlike American thrillers, Christie’s stories don’t devolve into escalating mayhem and violence until the streets are littered with corpses... rather, they present stories in which individual acts of violence can be resolved and contained. Christie’s murderers kill to beat the social order at its own game; they seek to be more successful than everybody else. But the act of murder is also an opportunity for the social order to reestablish itself by evicting (or eliminating) the culprit. “Out of confusion comes order,” Poirot tells Hastings. Every crime in the Christie canon is an opportunity to make the world safe once again.

Cliché bingo.

The “solving” of each (often absurdly) complicated murder is never quite so important to Christie (or her amiable, cantankerous, and often elderly detectives) as elaborating how many local suspects are capable of committing the murder and possess good reasons for doing so.

Her small, local, middle-class white communities are rife with suspicion, infidelity, unease, and a sort of indefinable evil that permeates almost everybody and everything. At the opening of The Moving Finger, the local vicar wakes up to an anonymous letter accusing him of being his sister’s lover—and similar letters, filled with disturbing accusations, are sent to other members of the community, eventually weaving them together in a “trail of blood and violence and suspicion and fear,” which describes the most common atmosphere in a Christie novel.

It is the incomer to the village, the injured pilot, who is accused of passing his girlfriend off as his sister. The vicar has no sister, just an insightful wife.

Miss Marple, Christie’s greatest creation, isn’t a paid detective like Poirot; she’s an irrepressible snoop, always checking out neighbors with her opera glasses, keeping notes of their whereabouts at different times of the day, collating the latest gossip and aspersions, and sending instructions to the local police about what questions they should ask of whom. In Finger, she operates almost as invisibly as the murderer, rarely at the center of scenes so much as orbiting at their periphery, dropping notes off to various locals, passing on information and opinions through third parties, and never getting too closely involved with her neighbors—which seems to be her personal strategy about surviving village life. In The Body in the Library (1942), one friend refers to her “low opinion of human nature” as “refreshing,” especially at a time when people often had “too much of the other thing.” (“One does see so much evil in a village,” Miss Marple later reflects.) And Poirot often feels that most murder cases share one similar characteristic: “Everyone concerned in them has something to hide.”

People are either lying about their relationships to one another or their true identities, or their relationships to the victim, or how much (or how little) they were implicated in unsolved crimes of the past...  One of the hardest parts of reading a Christie novel is keeping the characters straight—since they are all, to some degree, at least mildly unsavory, dishonest, and guilty of something. They are also mostly white, attractive, well employed, and well dressed; and they all speak with the same polite middle-class manner—however, as in Poirot’s case, distinctly accented. Their characters (if they can be said to possess characters at all) are entirely distinguished by incidental qualities: jobs, interests, sexual attractions, and family histories...

Servants, rustics, dwellers in the "Development" (The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side) hardly sound "polite and middle-class".  Examples of characters who are not "white, attractive, well employed, and well dressed": Elizabeth in Hickory Dickory Dock; Tina in Ordeal by Innocence; Merlina Rival in The Clocks; the denizens of the typing bureau in the same book; the hippies in Third Girl; the maid in A Caribbean Mystery.

This is the second “major” biography of Christie in 15 years, and while it’s an enjoyable opportunity to reconsider the immersive, bathtub-like pleasures of Christie’s work, it’s hard to see what more it offers than the previous one by Laura Thompson in 2007. Certainly, Worsley doesn’t do as extensive a job of closely reading through the breadth of Christie’s work, or of measuring Christie’s strengths (fast scenes and dialogue, all-absorbing clue-fests, and enough surprising plot traps to capture even the wariest readers) against her manifold weaknesses (too much of all the above). And like previous biographers, Worsley spends an inordinate amount of time on Christie’s now legendary 11-day disappearance, perhaps tempted by a century-long question regarding Christie’s life: Can the motives of her disappearance be solved as satisfactorily as in one of her novels? The short answer is probably no, for the greatest “mystery” of Christie’s life may simply be that her 11-day fugue was little more than a frantic elopement from reality conducted by a desperately unhappy woman.

Christie’s place in twentieth-century literature is both irrefutable and endlessly disputed... it’s still hard to meet anybody who has never enjoyed a Christie novel and/or one of the multitudinous movie and TV adaptations. And while Edmund Wilson once famously asked, “Who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd?” Christie’s multitudinous fans over the past hundred years might fairly respond: “Who the hell is Edmund Wilson?” Christie’s novels have been acclaimed by many of her fellow practitioners, including Dorothy Sayers and Julian Symons, and just as heartily condemned by others...

Christie’s weaknesses are manifest: Her humor is mild at best.

This I can't forgive! Read Mrs McGinty's Dead, and the Mah-Jong game in Ackroyd. Perhaps he means there is no slapstick, not much farce, and no one-liners à la Raymond Chandler. Christie's humour is found in her dialogue, her often ironic narrative voice, and the way characters are revealed by their choice of décor. 

There are undercurrents of racism, especially against Jews (in The Secret of Chimneys, she describes a Jewish businessman, Mr Herman Isaacstein, as having “a fat yellow face, and black eyes, as impenetrable as those of a cobra”).

Sadly guilty as charged – later editions have been discreetly edited. Pleas in mitigation here.

Her detectives—with the possible exception of Miss Marple—are among the least interesting and most irritatingly repetitive in mystery fiction. And yet it is hard to read two or three of her best novels without experiencing a small, sweet thrill of purely escapist pleasure. As successfully as Tolkien or Lewis, she devised an all-encompassing alternate world—one in which nobody commits a crime without eventually paying for it. (Ha.) There are even some novels, such as Curtain—the “last case” of Poirot, written in the 1940s and locked away in a security box until its publication in 1975—that may still surprise and delight the most experienced whodunit lovers.

But like many British subjects of her time and class, Christie viewed change with suspicion.

Change comes to St Mary Mead in The Mirror Crack'd. Miss Marple's contemporaries condemn "the youth of today", but Miss M sets out to investigate the new inhabitants for herself. Mrs Oliver, Christie's avatar, encounters youth in Third Girl, appreciating young men with long hair and velvet suits, while Poirot wonders why girls no longer make anything of themselves.

And in her later years, she continued producing the same sorts of novels so often that even many of her biggest fans began to grow weary... And in one of her last and bestselling novels, Passenger to Frankfurt (1970), Christie’s apartness from the world never felt more extreme. In one of her few “political thrillers,” Hitler survives the war by hiding out in an asylum, while his Nazi confederates feverishly sow drugs, discontent, and even worse—promiscuity!—in all those places where things change too much for someone like Christie: the youthful college campuses that she rarely visited. 

Hitler survives the war? Not in Frankfurt, but in a much earlier unpublished short story. There are some neo-Nazis, but they're a red herring.

It may have been the silliest irony of her life that while she could plot puzzles for readers like nobody’s business, she couldn’t solve this almost too obvious puzzle of the 1970s: Why would college kids rebel against a society being run by privileged, cloistered middle-class individuals like those in Agatha Christie’s novels? As long as she lived, she never came close to solving that one.

Scott Bradfield’s most recent book is Reading Great Books In The Bathtub: Essays & Reviews 2005-2021.

As someone points out, Bradfield seems more interested in attacking the “privileged white middle class” than discussing Christie or even reading her books. And what are the crimes of the middle-class? Being cloistered in claustrophobic surroundings. And everybody is too polite, even murderers and corpses. Sometimes their crime is just "being British", and everybody knows (if they live across the pond) that the British are repressed and formal. Even their murders are insufficiently sanguinary.

Christie wrote about people like herself and her friends. She wrote FOR people like herself and her friends. She was a professional woman: she needed to sell books. What do writers like Bradfield think she should have done instead? I've pruned references to modern writers, but like most people who write this piece about Christie, the subtext is that past writers, hidebound by stuffy convention as they were, can't possibly be as good as modern writers who are free to describe sex, bloody murders and gruesome autopsies. 

More on Christie here, and links to the rest.