Sunday 23 January 2022

Loopy Logic 9: Fallacies

50 Cognitive biases to look out for from “to be aware of so you can be the very best version of you”.  They're more likely to help you think more clearly than improve your character – but I suppose you can define practically anything as "become your best self".

Fundamental attribution error: You were late because you’re lazy. I just had a bad morning. (You drop things because you are clumsy, I drop things because people hand them to me wrong.)

Self-serving bias: I got where I am thanks to hard work, not being supported through school and university by my rich family. 

In-group favouritism: He’s an Anglo-Saxon protestant middle-aged male, so we shouldn’t prosecute him for child abuse.

Bandwagon effect: But Muuum, EVERYBODY’s got one! 

Groupthink: Everyone I know says the earth is flat, so maybe it is in a very real sense.

Halo effect: He does a lot for charideee...

Moral luck: God was on our side.

False consensus: I’m only saying what everybody’s thinking.

Curse of knowledge: What is in my mind must be in your mind.

Spotlight effect: Everyone will notice the soup on my tie.

Availability heuristic: X must be the best – it’s the only one I’ve heard of.

Defensive attribution: What X did wasn’t so bad – wouldn’t we all have done the same?

Just-world hypothesis: Why did this happen to me? I lived for art, I lived for love!

Naïve realism: I see things as they are – other people are deluded. (You could be right.)

Naïve cynicism: Everybody’s out for Number One, whatever they say.

Barnum effect: My greatest fault is generosity? You’re so right!

Dunning-Kruger effect: The less you know, the more you know.

Anchoring: The musical director can’t be telling us to breathe – I’ve sung in choirs all my life and they’re always saying “You can’t breathe there – or there – or there.”

Automation bias: Spellcheck told me “liase” was right.

Google effect: Makes finding info too easy, so you forget it.

Reactance: NObody tells me what to do! I’m going to do the opposite, so ner!

Confirmation bias: There’s no such thing as free will – I read an article saying so in New Scientist in 1984.

Backfire effect: “The evidence that disproves the conspiracy was probably faked by the government.”

Third-person effect: Crowds mourned Princess Diana – but only because they’d been manipulated by the media.

Belief bias: Well, that sounds reasonable. And it supports what I was saying.

Availability cascade: Passing on urban legends makes you more popular. Debunking them does the opposite. 

Status quo bias: There may be an easier way, but I’ve always done it this way. (See Baby Duck Syndrome: users cling to outdated applications because they were so hard to learn and they think any learning process will be the same.)

Sunk cost fallacy: I’ve spent a lot of money on my children’s schools – they MUST be the best form of education. OK, so they ring up and plead tearfully to be allowed to come home, but they’ll settle down.

Gambler’s fallacy: Red has come up 20 times – it must be Black’s turn!

Zero-risk bias: The risk is tiny – that’s the same as non-existent!

Framing effect: Boys are lagging behind girls at school, boo! (Never: Girls outdo boys in exams, hooray!)

Outgroup homogeneity bias: He’s one of THEM, and they’re all the same.

Authority bias, fallacy of authority: Science has proved... The early church fathers taught... The man in the white coat recommends...  

Placebo effect: If you think the treatment will work, it will (The effect is real, but small. Friendly, smiling medical staff can help.)

Survivorship bias: Ignore failures.

Tachypsychia: “Time slowed down...”

Law of triviality: “Rather than figuring out how to help the homeless, local council wastes time discussing bike paths.” And it’s much easier to nitpick about punctuation or wording than to debate issues.

Zeigarnik effect: Don’t just have a todo list that makes you depressed, make a “have done list”.

Ikea effect: I MADE that Billy bookcase.

Ben Franklin effect: Doing someone a favour increases your likelihood of doing them another favour.

Bystander effect: "Someone else will ring the police."

Suggestibility: Tell me about that time you were lost at a fairground...

False memory: I can see myself sitting at a table in the park and my friends in the distance waving...

Cryptomnesia: The opposite – we can’t believe something happened, so we assume we imagined it.

Clustering illusion: Very like a whale.

Pessimism bias: Nobody can help me.

Optimism bias: I can, and I will!

Blind spot bias: Other people are awfully biased but I’m not affected by that kind of thing. (This is probably “unconscious bias”.) Or “I can't be biased against the Jews because they’re white and rich” or “I didn’t know anti-Semitism was racism”.

Stereotyping: Boomers are useless at tech and all have houses and pensions which they have taken away from US, and besides they’re all sexist and racist. Conversely, young people are easily triggered snowflakes looking out for reasons to be offended.

More here, and links to the rest.

Received Ideas: Urban Legends 25

Paraphrased from Healey and Glanvill, The Return of Urban Myths, published in the 80s.

Urban foxes are released into the wild in Wales – from vans marked Islington Council. (Wall art by Stewy.)

A woman took home a speed camera abandoned on the grass verge, thinking it was a microwave oven.

An elderly man drove several miles against the one-way traffic on the motorway before being stopped by cops.

A new motorway was built with an access road that looped you back towards your point of origin. Once on the loop, you could never exit.

Pharmaceutical companies research natural remedies – if found to be effective they are bought up and destroyed.

Shop mirrors are designed to make you look slimmer.

Don’t bother separating your recycling – they mix it all up at the depot.

A headmaster who submitted a sample from the school swimming pool for analysis was told “This horse should be put down immediately”.

The ink for US dollar bills is made from crushed butterfly wings.

MI5 owns the top floors of all tall office buildings.

A copy of every fax is sent to MI5. (These days GCHQ is trawling Twitter and reading our emails. And MI5 used to plant an operative in every mail sorting office, equipped with a kettle for steaming open suspicious letters.)

That kink in the middle of the Channel Tunnel shows where the French calculations were off. The French tell the same story about the Brits. I'm told side tunnels were dug to wall up the boring equipment – it would have been too costly to remove the machinery.

Thinking the job interview had gone pretty well, the candidate exited suavely through one of boardroom’s many identical wood-panelled doors. He spent the rest of the afternoon in the broom cupboard, not daring to emerge during the scheduled string of interviews.

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday 22 January 2022

Received Ideas: Things that Never Happened 2

Lay people need good science woven into life stories. (@ewanbirney, paraphrase. See American self-help and “psychology” books consisting of “case histories”. “When Jean walked into my consulting room...”)

My mother told me the story that when I was little, a woman on a bus said to me "Look there's a gee-gee". And I turned to my mother and said "Does she mean that horse?" (HC)

My six-year-old somberly came to me and asked if she was born evil because she was a white person, something she learned in a history lesson at school. (@realchrisrufo Loudoun County mother)

Today my 4yr old asked can we go to England again? Curious I asked why? He answered roads aren't as bumpy and its nicer. Even more curious I asked nicer than where? Answer "Glasgow isn't nice, people drop rubbish & park cars on pavements". Says it all that a 4yr old can see it. (@bawbag03)

My son, a U.S. Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton just called me... “Dad, I will be leaving the military if they try and force the vax on me". (@GuntherEagleman)

My friend told me today that she had to see her GP for an unrelated matter. The GP asked if she’d had any Covid jabs. When she answered no he high fived her! Not all doctors are corrupt or useless. (Via Twitter)

My father once was waiting in a shop checkout queue and noticed the checkout person at the till was very unpleasant and rude. As he took his change after paying, he said "I should sue, if I were you". The cashier glared up at him, so he continued "The charm school; it didn't work", and walked away. (GL)

I was misgendered at a clothing store today and I sobbed all the way home. (Via Twitter)

We once picked up wrong suitcase in Toulouse airport and found it full of Mother’s Pride and Dairylea Cheese Spread. (CH perpetuates the myth that the British on holiday take all their own, familiar food.)

I've been looking to buy an angel for the top of my Christmas tree without success, are they banned now? (@valoakley25. Perhaps because it’s September? Presbyterians in Scotland outlawed Christmas in 1640. In 1647 Parliament banned Christmas, Easter and Whitsun festivities, services and celebrations, with fines for non-compliance. Christmas came back in 1660, and nobody has banned it since.)

Started talking to the guy next to me on a plane. Real talk about the state of the world started up, obviously. Whole cabin around us was soon chiming in, "Thank God for you guys; I thought I was the only one." Start speaking up, honestly and everywhere, without fear. (@ConceptualJames)

An ex business partner once called the Chinese "Minister for Information Security" an "Obstructive duplicitous ****". To his face. We suspect the only reason he got away with it was said minister not speaking any English, and that the translator also present "softened it slightly in translation". AJB (The euphemism is usually given. Eg “He said you were hardheaded but subtle, sir.”)

Just been in to Sainsburys filled up a trolley, took it to customer services and said I would have bought all this here but I don’t support retailers who oppose free speech and walked out. Have fun putting it all back. (@LostandUnfound1. There are many versions of “I just walked out leaving my shopping”, too. Sainsbury's withdrew their advertising from GB news after customers complained – I think that was the "attack on free speech".)

As my [immigrant] neighbour once said to me “You English are SO stupid. You give us everything for free. Only a fool would do that’”. (@NW11851)

A long-ago coworker told me she was walking through a public courtyard when the elastic in her knickers gave way. She let them fall, stepped out, and called out the gapers: "Haven't you ever seen a pregnant woman before?" (Linda Shoun. More likely when knickers were held up by one button.)

My mum says that my grandfather remembered walking in front of a young woman in a hobble skirt (possibly in Glasgow) whose drawers suddenly fell down. She booted them into the gutter without more ado. And my great grandmother's brothers apparently put a small basket of fruit on some woman's bustle. The bustle was so extensive that she didn't realise. (LW. Katharine Whitehorn in Whitehorn’s Social Survival recommends kicking the garments under the nearest sofa, or picking them up and asking “Anybody’s?”)

A librarian told me the most peculiar item she'd found left in a book as a bookmark was a rasher of bacon. (Joan Hobson)

While his wife and son were shopping, a friend of mine waited outside the store with his dog. His son had just finished a can of drink and had given it to his dad to hold, who stood idly jingling the ring-pull. The next moment, a young lady, hurrying into the shop, dropped a penny into the can! (From a women’s magazine, mid-80s. See Ian McKellen in tramp costume for Waiting for Godot, mistaken for a beggar, coin in hat, Conan Doyle's The Man with Twisted Lip, the woman who owned the New York building who happened to be sitting on the front steps with an empty coffee cup etc etc.)

When the first Macdonalds opened in Moscow, there were long queues. But one man left half his burger. "Didn't you like it?" “Oh yes, such wonderful meat! I’m taking the other half home to my wife.” (Subtext: the poor Muscovites are so deprived they think a Macdonald’s burger is a luxury.)

Bookshop customer asks for Shrunken White Elephants of Style. (Strunk and White, Elements of Style). Other garbled titles: Oranges and Peaches: On the Origin of Species. Flowers Sing in Blue Sage (Fowler’s English Usage). Sickies of Sickindom (The Keys of the Kingdom) by Edge Crown (AJ Cronin). Books by Grim Grin (Graham Greene) or Sir Arthur Coal-and-Oil. Probably genuine: Clan of the Care Bears, How to Kill a Mockingbird, The Shipping Forecast by Anne Proust, Captain Campbell’s Violin. Lionel Richie's Wardrobe by Cecily Lewis (the last from Gervaise Phinn’s Mangled English).

More here, and links to the rest.

Received Ideas in Quotes 24

Most of the day we are on auto-pilot, relying on mental short-cuts and rules of thumb 
to navigate the world. ( But he doesn’t mean we stomp about like zombies or robots – and when he says “mental short cuts and rules of thumb” I suspect he means received ideas, those that must be true because everybody says so. And “we live on auto-pilot” is a received idea in its own right. Surely nobody thinks it means that we are automata. I suspect that they are about to segue seamlessly to "Don't be self-conscious" or "Don't over-think things".)

They had become so used to saying the same thing… that they no longer thought about what they were saying. The same phrases were simply trotted out without thought. (The Guardian, 12 January 2013)

It’s common these days (perhaps it always has been) to sneer at our ancestors as gullible fools and talk about how enlightened modern society is. (Commenter at, July 2012)

The knowledge people have often comes from faith or tradition, or propaganda, more than anywhere else. (Agnotologist Robert Proctor,

A lot of online discourse is driven by received narratives that people swallow whole and regurgitate. (FB)

Whenever you work in an area that challenges people’s wrongheaded, cherished beliefs, it can be difficult. But sometimes it can also be a matter of life and death. (Elizabeth Loftus on false memory)

Beliefs shape attitudes and motives, guide choices and actions. (, Daniel DeNicola)

Our received ideas about Roman history derive from 5th century authors. (@byzantinepower)

Mrs General had no opinions. Her way of forming a mind was to prevent it from forming opinions. She had a little circular set of mental grooves or rails on which she started little trains of other people’s opinions, which never overtook one another, and never got anywhere. (Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit)

If you go through higher education, then you have a greater chance of being socialised into a certain set of attitudes and "common-sense" beliefs. Those beliefs may be mistaken, but you're likely to take them on just as surely as the subject of your degree. (@Robin_C_Douglas)

“But this is something new!' said Mrs. Munt, who collected new ideas as a squirrel collects nuts, and was especially attracted by those that are portable." (E.M. Forster, Howards End)

As for Mrs Munt's niece Margaret, who has contributed the new idea (that money "pads the edges of things"), she gets married and begins to " 'miss' new movements, and to spend her spare time re-reading or thinking, rather to the concern of her Chelsea friends."

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 20 January 2022

Was Agatha Christie Anti-Semitic, Really, After All?

Agatha Christie's mystery Cat Among the Pigeons is set mainly in a high-class girls' school, but the story starts in the imaginary Middle Eastern country of Ramat. Its leader, fearing a coup, makes a quick getaway. But he leaves his most valuable possessions in the hands of his pilot - somehow the package must get to London, where it will be handed over to a "Mr Robinson". Mr R, who is large and "yellow", is a constant in Christie's more thrillerish plots. He collaborates with the British security services, represented by Colonel Pikeaway, who is to be found behind a door marked "marine biology" in a chaotic bookshop which is clearly the late, lamented "Foyle's". Yes, Mr R is definitely on the side of the angels. After some exciting episodes, including several murders, Poirot hands over the package. But, he wonders, who is Mr Robinson exactly, what is his function, and what is he going to do with the loot?

“It is a very old trade,” said Mr. Robinson. “And a lucrative one. There are quite a lot of us, a network all over the globe. We are, how shall I put it, the Arrangers behind the scenes. For kings, for presidents, for politicians, for all those, in fact, upon whom the fierce light beats, as a poet has put it. We work in with one another and remember this:
we keep faith. Our profits are large but we are honest. Our services are costly—but we do render service.”

After this very modern-sounding conspiracy theory, pointing the finger at himself, Mr R takes the package, and does the decent thing. Of course, those conspiracy theories are not so modern. 

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday 5 January 2022

Grammar: Howlers 21


Sometimes a long word like appendicectomy becomes appendectomy, orientated becomes oriented – and so on.

adaptation: adaption
metamorphosised: metamorphosed
acclimatise: acclimate
preventative: preventive
orientate: orient
hypothesise: hypothecate
eugenicist: eugenist
opinionated: opiniated
asininity: asinity
nicotiniana: nicotiana.
digitalised: digitised
exploitative: exploitive
odoriferous: odiferous
Beethovenian: Beethovian
decolonialise: decolonise
demonstratable: demonstrable
empathetic: empathic
nictitate: nictate
labradorite: labrodite

Sometimes syllables are added, like interpretative for interpretive. You don't interpretate. Or fornification – which, a Latin scholar points out, means "becoming an oven". 

casket of rum
All the Covid measurements were taken away too soon! (Measures – like mask-wearing.)
epinomyous: eponymous

And sometimes we add an intrusive R: prostrate for prostate, brought for bought.

Or we try to get a Latin plural right, but add an extra I: 
We must respect the genius locii. (The spirit of a place is its "genius loci".)
Doughnuts are perfect torii. (Torus is the Latin for doughnut-shape: its plural is tori.)
Dame Edna Everage showered the audience with gladiolii. (gladioli)

The genii was out of the box. (Genii is the plural of genius, but here a genie is meant – and they  usually live in bottles. Confusingly, "genie" is an anglicisation of the Arabic djinni. The dictionary says that "djinni" is the singular, meaning an evil spirit, and the plural "djinn".)

French terms can be confusing:

It’s what we call champloisé. (Bargain Hunt. It's "champlevé" enamel.)
It’s called Carolean, after Queen Caroline. (Bargain Hunt. It’s after King Charles I or II.)
the Italianette style (Italianate)

child protégé 
(A talented child is a “prodigy”. A protégé is someone you are looking after and supporting. A music teacher’s favourite pupils may be her protégés, but they may not be prodigies.)

And the coastal area in Italy is  Cinque Terre, not Chique Terre. (European Tourism)

Take care with Yiddish. Can you tell your shmuck (rude) from your shmutter (clothes)? 

Sometimes it helps to say it in American:

not have bad (It's “not half bad”.)
mind-bottling for mind-boggling 
deep-seeded hate (It’s “deep-seated”.)
I shutter to think... (shudder)

What DO people think “quixotic” means?

Grade inflation, caused by quixotic predictions, could be as damaging to posterity as the closure of schools. (Times 2020. Wild? Well-meaning?)

It was typical of Bruce Lester's quixotic career that the following year he was playing a bit part in I Walk Alone, and he continued to take small parts until retiring from acting in 1958. (Independent obituary 2008 Up and down career? It means “mercurial”, says someone on Twitter. Like Don Quixote tilting at windmills thinking they were giants, says another, correctly.)

And what do they think "genuflect" means? 

To show great respect or devotion. Examples of Genuflect in a sentence:

After Ted’s funeral, hundreds of people went by his house to genuflect to his widow.  

When Jill met her idol, she could not help but genuflect to the singer who had inspired her to become an entertainer.  

We genuflect to the heavenly father by lighting a white candle in his honour.  

The servants genuflect to their royal employers by bowing before them.  


Genuflect literally means going down on one knee. You may metaphorically genuflect to academic authorities, or widely held ideas.

Supposably” is now included in Cue people moaning about irregardless and pacifically. Do change the record.

Grammar: Howlers 24

cut and dry
 (Cut and dried. In Lark Rise to Candleford, Flora Thompson talks of corn “cut and dried in the fields”. Painting by John Nash.)

forge a path, despite the effort of forging the tunnels (You forge a sword on an anvil; you beat a path, excavate a tunnel.)

Do Americans think that a “manse” is a mansion? It's a house lived in by a Presbyterian minister.

We recorded our 500th specie! (“Species” is both singular and plural. So is Homo sapiens. Aurochs is singular – the plural is aurochsen.)

Camilla is now a fully pledged member of the Royal family. (That's "fully fledged", like a young bird that has acquired adult feathers.) 

Oh dear, Biden and Harris want to bring in “mashell law”. (That's "martial law", but they haven't yet.)

I was at your beckon call. (Beck and call – beck means the same as beckon.)

white-bred Christian male (It’s “white-bread”, meaning “normal, standard, plain vanilla”.) 

Someone on Twitter used “rote tasks” to mean exercises like “fill in the missing word”. (Rote learning is learning by heart, but its meaning seems to have expanded. When people say “rote learning”, they probably don’t intend “memorising poetry, tables and the dates of the Kings and Queens of England”.)

Espouse for endorse (He publicly espoused her wonderfulness. You espouse – literally "marry" – a cause, but endorse a candidate. Confusingly, they could both be substituted by "support" in that context. You might approve a candidate, but adopt or embrace a cause. Avoiding French and Latin, you could uphold a cause, and back a candidate.)

claiming the high moral ground (It’s the "moral high ground”. Taking the high ground is important in a land battle. Once you’re on a rise or hill, you can see further, and you can push the enemy down the slope whereas he is forced into an uphill fight.)

Playing on your mind for preying on your mind. The metaphor of predator and prey passes most people by, and “playing” has almost overwritten “preying”. 

Manga Carta, Magma Carta (End Oct 2020. Apparently Magna Carta states that governments can’t impose lockdowns.)

Harbour sympathy for generate sympathy (If you harbour something you give it a refuge. Metaphorically you can “harbour” a grudge etc.)

Ironically, the tiles were not put back on the walls when the kitchen was refurbished. (What do people think it means?)

When did “jam-packed” become “ram-packed”? “Rammed” means stuffed or crowded. The jam in jam-packed is a traffic jam or log-jam.

The entire situation has cast a pallor over my pregnancy. ( A pall is a black, white or purple cloth you drape over a coffin. Pallor – paleness – is from the same root as “pale”, but the funeral pall is from pallium, a garment.)

Tears have flown on more than one occasion. ( The birds have flown, and tears have flowed.)

tidied over (It’ll keep me tided over – ie it’ll keep me going until the next high tide when I can go out and catch more fish.)

He held on to the tenants of his faith. (Tenets – "tenet" is Latin for "he holds".)

The anaesthetics of the oligarch's flat were surprisingly restrained. (aesthetics)

Ratifiers for ratafias, gobble-stitch for gobelin-stitch (Girls’ Own Annual, 1920)

More here, and links to the rest.

Grammar: Howlers 23 (Short Ones)

The Lion, the Witch and the Waldrobe
, full of sound and flurry – what the blue blazers? I'm sure you would never perpetrate howlers such as these.

impunity from prosecution (immunity)
pho jewellery (faux)
entrained for ingrained

escaped goat (scapegoat)
cower to for bow to
repost for riposte (Times April 13 2021)
in the same vain (vein)

in turns of (in terms of)
scotch free (It's "scot free".)
canopy for canapé
don for sport (put on/wear)
Stock and trade (stock-in-trade)
rest bite for respite

forced perspective (false perspective)

morays (mores)
post-dramatic stress disorder (traumatic)
whole-scale for full-scale
stings and arrows of outrageous fortune (Shakespeare wrote of the "slings and arrows".)
fail proof for fool proof
on death’s door (You are at death’s door or on Death Row.)
People are still writing “imputing” for “inputting”.
minisecond for millisecond

fully cogniscent (cognizant)
gin up on the case (Gen up – "gen" is information.)
bulbul scar on a worked flint (Bulbal – a bulbul is a nightingale.)
enmired (mired or enmeshed)
pawn off an inferior copy on a naive client (palm off)
clamping up for clamming up (You clamp your jaws shut when you clam up.)
What an amazing sight! It's incredulous! (incredible)

Texas chainsaw mascara (spellcheck error?)
They decamped for weeks on the doorstep. (camped)
opitomy (Epitome – but you say it "a-pitter-me".)
vagrant disregard for social distancing rules (flagrant)
waylaid with the flu for laid low (Radio 3)

I just want to touch basis. (bases)
Beggar the thought! (perish the thought, beggars belief)
ignomy for ignominy
From what I can gleam. (glean)
afficiandos (aficionados)
duke box (juke box)

We will not stand by idol! (Stand idly by.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Grammar: Howlers 22 (in Quotes)

According to both @MailOnline and @TheSun I have said Andrew needs to 'jump through four hurdles'. No, you jump over hurdles. You jump through hoops. (@davidallengreen)

I have a real disdain for people whom beg for money for no real reason. (@TheWomanHolmes)

These are the budding cast members of 2017. (Countryfile. A branch puts out buds which become leaves and flowers. These are the cast members, they’re not becoming cast members.)

People think the pentacle of a career is becoming a New York Times bestseller but I’m increasingly convinced it’s a cameo on Sesame Street. (@SarahEBond. She means "pinnacle".)

Dominic Raab on BBC Breakfast has just said “Misogyny is absolutely wrong, whether it’s a man against a woman or a woman against a man”
(@hellothisisivan. Misogyny is prejudice against women.)

In many ways he was the forerunner of the sort of dusty, dismissive academics who lurk in one corner of Twitter, coruscating less-informed users with facts and bar charts and logic. (castigating)

The Herodotean legacy has sometimes been dismissed even as that of his near-contemporary Athenian historian Thucydides has found great succour with academics. (favour)

Freeman trolls through the two collections of Chandler’s papers. (Bill Peschel. In the UK, we trawl for mackerel but troll for trout, pronouncing them differently. We would trawl through papers. When we troll down the street we bounce along. Internet trolls are like monsters who live under bridges singing “Fol de rol”.)

This is the largest caliper ammo the public should be allowed to own. (@ClaireFosterPHD. She means "calibre".)

Lukashenka hijacked an EU-owned, EU-registered plane full of EU citizens travelling between EU capitals in order to seize an EU-recognized political refugee. If we don't make this tin-horned dictator regret it, what hope is there of restraining bigger scoundrels? (@radeksikorski. A tinhorn is someone who pretends to have money. A tin-pot dictator may try to look powerful, but he is no more than a tin-plate toy, a tin soldier.)

What a wonderful awry of comical satire and self-ridicule. (imdb, array)

They keep moving the carrot stick. (People understand the metaphor but the carrot has become confused with the stick. If you’re driving a donkey, you beat it with a stick while dangling a carrot on a fishing rod in front of its nose – it chases the carrot but can never catch up with it.)

Origen agreed [Jesus and magicians] shared superficial similarities, but claimed they were fundamentally different because magicians cavorted with demons while Jesus’ wonders led to moral reformation. (Consort means “hang out with”, while cavort means to dance or leap. “Prance, caper, gambol”, says the Thesaurus.) 

Bond is played by David Niven as a stuttering priggish English gent, with variations of him played by a nebbish Peter Sellers, an even more nebbish Woody Allen, and so on. (Times. Nebbish is a noun; the adjective is “nebbishy”.)

Someone emailed me last week, requesting my involvement in something which I politely declined by return email. I have now received what I will charitably describe as an "impassioned" response, exhorting me to "take another look at the frozen cons" of the idea. (@oxymoronictimes. That's "pros and cons".)

He had clearly also imbued much from Pugin. ( He absorbed much from Pugin, Pugin imbued him with a lot.)

In 2017, Adele became the latest megastar to lay down roots here. (You lay down bottles of wine in a cellar, but put down roots.)

Historical binders, outdated books and ancient files align every wall. ( They’re lining the walls, not lining up with them.)

These so-called eco-crusaders turned criminals, attempting to thwart the media’s right to publish without fear not favour, and a shameful attack on our way of life, our economy, and the livelihoods of the hard-working majority. I refused point black to allow that kind of anarchy on our streets. (Priti Patel, reportedly. That’s “without fear nor favour” and “refused point blank”.)

In TV in particular, in the past few months alone, we’ve seen the BBC 
languish in female victimhood. (Independent. I think they mean “revel”.)

Another illustration of why data brokers need to be reigned in. (@djleufer. The Queen reigns, you rein in a horse by pulling on the reins.)

Following old empirical recipes with “ozzes”. (imperial)

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 2 January 2022

Reinventions and Handy Tips

Life hacks, inspired by The Guardian (the numbering is the paper's, and their wording is in bold).  (Sat 1 Jan 2022)

1 Exercise on a Monday night. Book a dance class – or sign up to a philosophy class and exercise your mind.

2 Find the perfect trousers/widget online – but don’t click “buy”. Wait a few days to see if you still really need/want the thing.

4 Bring fruit to work.

5 Work four days a week.

6 Put yourself in other people’s shoes – and then turn round and look at yourself.

7 Plant spring bulbs, even if they’re just in a pot.

9 Keep a bird feeder by a window.

12 Sharpen your knives.

15 Frame your children’s drawings and paintings.

16 Set aside 10 minutes a day to do something you really enjoy – be it reading a book or playing Halo. (Ten minutes?)

17 Don’t obsess about dishwasher stacking. If your partner thinks they're the expert, just pile the dirty crocks by the machine and leave the job to him/her.

18 Reuse all plastic bags.

19 Take a photo of your cloakroom tag. (And your meter reading.)

27 If possible, take the stairs.

29 Eat meat once a week or less.

30 Be polite to rude strangers. Not sarcastic – just polite.

31 Ask questions, and listen to the answers.

32 Connect with nature: stand outside barefoot for a few minutes – even when it’s cold. But maybe not if you live in an inner-city tower block.

33 Join your local library. (They’ve been researching “advice to teenagers” from old copies of Jackie, haven’t they?)

34 Go for a walk without your phone. And your mother will think you’ve been run over by a bus.

37 Walk or cycle for short journeys.

39 Send postcards from holiday destinations. (With increased roaming charges thanks to Brexit, this might be a good idea.)

40 Get old shoes repaired.

42 Don’t install Twitter on your phone. You don’t have to have email or Facebook, either. If you have them all, turn off notification beeps.

43 If you find an item of clothing you love and are certain you will wear for ever, buy three. Your favourite supplier is bound to stop making the only trousers that fit you.

44 Take a short cold shower before a hot one. (This tip is about 200 years old.)

45 Text to say thank you. In fact, thank people warmly for the slightest help or favour. And say good morning/good night/Happy New Year to the reception desk staff.

46 Read a poem every day. Browse Poem Finder and share your discoveries.

47 Take out your headphones when walking – listen to the world.

48 Buy secondhand.

51 If something is making you angry, write (politely) to your MP. (Surely your MP has an email address? And there’s nothing to stop you sounding off on Facebook and Twitter.)

52 Say hello to your neighbours.

53 Mend your clothes. If you don’t know how, get a sewing lesson from your mother, gran or great-aunt.

54 Always bring something – wine, flowers – to a dinner/birthday party.

55 Learn the names of 10 trees. (Why stop at ten? Do the same for wildflowers.)

56 Call an old friend out of the blue. (No – don’t! Contact them via FB, LinkedIn or email first.)

57 Clean up your inbox with “unsubscribe”.

58 Buy a newspaper.

60 Drop your shoulders. It helps with the breathing – see below.

61 Don’t buy a new dress – make one.

63 Volunteer.

65 Instead of buying a morning coffee, set up a daily transfer of £2 from a current into a savings account. Or to a charity.

66 Don’t save clothes for “best”.

67 Sing! If you want to improve, learn a song and sing it every day. And get a few voice lessons.

68 Stand tall and look ahead. (Essential for singing.)

69 Hang up your clothes.

75 Keep your keys in the same place.

77 Rent, don't buy, your fabulous wedding-guest outfit – and hat.

80 Mute or leave a WhatsApp group chat. (Especially if others keep posting dog videos.)

83 Join a local litter-picking group.

84 Handwash that thing you’ve never cleaned. (Not sure if they mean "jersey" or "porcelain shepherdess".)

86 Nap.

89 Politely decline invitations if you don’t want to go. Aim to stay half an hour or an hour at a party. Always take a friend. Stay longer if you're enjoying yourself, but leave as soon as you aren't. You can exit films and plays half-way through, too.

90 Have an exit strategy. (Including slipping out unseen. If stuck on your own, join a group and ask “Have you seen Stanislas?” Or join another sufferer and try to make their experience less ghastly. Introduce yourself with "I loathe parties – don't you?)

92 Don’t look at your phone at dinner. One day manners will catch up with technology.

93 Do that one thing you’ve been putting off.

94 Give compliments. (Hello, men: women adore flattery. And they love to think you’ve noticed something about them. In general, be clean, kind and helpful.)

96 Keep a book in your bag. It would help if publishers produced pocket/handbag sized, light paperbacks. Publishers: copy an old Penguin.

And a few from me:

Give your brushed-back hair a rest once a week with a side parting, or your hairline may move gradually north.

Live as near to work as you can (or work as near your home as you can).

Use bookmarks, not tabs. Clear your cache. Reply to your own tweets to create a thread. Keep your files in a folder on your hard disk. Back up in the cloud. Learn proper touch-typing – there are online tutors.

Give instructions in chronological order. 

Disable the overhead light in your living room and put in wall lights that are turned on by the switch at the door.

Slice onions with the skin on for fewer tears, recommends a former sous-chef.

Don’t be so well in time for your train that you rush, with a spilling cup of coffee, to catch the one before it.

Don't listen to your friends, listen to your partner – and then do what she asks. You know what I'm talking about.

Breathe properly – using the bottom half of your lungs. A voice coach will give you better instructions than a youtube video.

Update your makeup – get a makeover and throw out your old products. A "warm" foundation won't make you look healthier, it'll make you look orange.

Update your hairstyle – both back-combing and very flat hair are both passé.

Take social dancing classes – look for “club dance” or “ballroom”.

Learn to knit.

Whatever the problem, alcohol will make it worse.

Advise readers how to cut down on telly, Twitter and phone – they won’t, but they’ll feel they’ve been done good to. And they'll share the list with all their friends!

Happy New Year!

More "not rocket science" here, and links to the rest.