Saturday 18 June 2022

Received Ideas in Quotes: 30b

Erle Stanley Gardner always used his characters’ first and last names because he was paid by the word(Jeffrey Marks)

The popular myth that Dickens's novels are all so long because he was “paid by the word” is not really accurate. Dickens was not paid by the word. Rather, he was paid by installment. (

Writers being paid 'by the word' is kind of a misnomer. Many writers are paid more for longer pieces - reflecting the author's investment - but writers are never paid to pad or extend their work. ( 

Every circumlocution has a literary purpose. Tongue in cheek, Dickens imitates long-winded bureaucratic, professional or ceremonious jargon to satirize the institutions that use such language. (Washington Post)

Victorian journalists were known as “penny-a-liners”. In newspapers and magazines, you write to fit a predesigned space, you’re given a word count, and if you supply too many words, they will be cut. But writers may have found it hard to fill the space. From a magazine of the 1940s: Resorting in this dilemma to the deductive reasoning for which Scotland Yard inspectors have won international renown... (But this too is irony.)


When I was being taught Nederlands [Dutch], we were told that it was desirable to be able to pronounce the capital's formal name – s-Gravenhage – properly. Apparently their not being able to do that was a way of identifying German spies during the war. (EJA)

In a recent Radio 4 programme, a cafe owner in Ukraine revealed that she had adopted a name for her establishment that was habitually mispronounced by Russians. It was a word for a popular dish or a vegetable if I recall correctly. That way, she knew when she was dealing with non-locals. (FL)


Kids today talk about the Kardashians the whole time.
 (For a long time we’ve denigrated children for liking people who are “famous for being famous”.)

Kids today: Say of any previous generation of young people “They look middle-aged!”

Kids today: A social reformer warned that juvenile delinquency was on the rise because mothers were too absorbed in Mahjong and Bridge. (JSTOR)

Kids today: Millennials, born in the 80s, love avocados and house plants, and are never happy – according to The Antiques Road Trip. Google suggests that they are entitled, they’re not having babies, are environmentally conscious, are weird, and are the worst generation. 

In the 50s, Enid Blyton was seen as a superior “English alternative" to what some considered an "invasion" of Britain by American culture, in the form of "rock music, horror comics, television, teenage culture, delinquency and Disney". (Wikipedia, paraphrase)


There really are tunnels/caves of some kind under Glastonbury Tor, but probably just within the hill itself (it's too dangerous to investigate but it would be good if someone could put up the funding one day). There is reliably supposed to be a tunnel under the High St from the pub to the Abbey, and also one from the Covenstead to the Abbey, but as with all things, bit more evidence required. (LW)

Stories of secret tunnels beneath Chesterfield town centre streets have fired the interest of people fascinated by the town’s history. Historian Philip Riden said that the secret tunnels are a complete myth. (Derbyshire Times)

Most "secret tunnels" are Victorian drains, says Dr James Wright. He adds, of the mythical tunnels, some allegedly many miles long: The impracticality of such construction projects is staggering. Why would such a tunnel be required? How would such a vast scheme be kept secret? Where would the spoil be put? How would the passage be maintained, ventilated and kept dry? How on earth would pre-modern engineers have managed such a venture?

Timber-framed buildings
 were made out of recycled ships’ timbers? “There has been a tendency to misidentify curved timbers, such as braces and cruck blades, as deriving from nautical vessels,” says Dr James Wright. He also makes the point that it would have been extremely daunting to shlep huge timbers (or loads of bricks/stone/tiles) along the un-made-up roads of the 16th century. It would make a lot more sense to get your building materials from near at hand. He says that “Liberty’s, a timber-framed Tudor-revival style department store in London, incorporated elements of HMS Hindustan and HMS Impregnable.” But he’s a historian and he wouldn’t make such a statement without evidence. Drawing on contemporary accounts, he concludes that broken-up ships or wrecks were used to construct or patch up sheds, outhouses, wheels, toilets and fences – but only in coastal locations. We began to run out of trees in the 19th century, not the 16th.


Standard English is the best, the purest. Spoken by the upper classes - the best people. It is imposed on other classes. (English is not policed by a body like the Académie Francaise – its Bible is the Oxford English Dictionary, which includes new usages every year to the fury of those who forget that the same thing happened the year before, and the year before that...)

John H. Fisher has argued that standard English was first the language of the Court of Chancery, founded in the 15th century... It was then taken up by the early printers, who adapted it for other purposes and spread it wherever their books were read, until finally it fell into the hands of school teachers, dictionary makers and grammarians. (John Algeo and Carmen Acevedo Butcher, The Origins and Development of the English Language)

Chancery Standard, also Chancery English. Present-day terms for the 15c written usage of the clerks of Chancery in London, who prepared the king's documents. Before the 1430s, official records were mainly in Latin and French, but after that date mainly in an English based on the Central Midland dialect, with such usages as gaf (gave) not Chaucer's East Midland yaf, such not swich, and theyre (their) not hir. Until the end of the 15c, Chancery and the Exchequer built a foundation of written English that was developed by Caxton when he set up his press in Westminster in 1476. Over the years, printers replaced some features of Chancery usage with London equivalents, such as third person -s instead of -th (hopes, not hopeth), and are instead of be. (The received idea ends up as “Printers standardised English”.

Cease and desist, to have and to hold: I've heard claims that they really are synonyms, but originated in times when commoners wouldn't necessarily have understood Latinate words, and the elite wouldn't necessarily have understood Anglo-Saxon terms, and so both were used for clarity.


Cliché bingo on statue toppling:

Pulling down a statue will not bring anybody to your side. 
It will upset other people who might have been open to persuasion.  
It will harden the divisions between groups.
It will lead to more violence which will upset the undecided.
Some on your side will feel that committing a criminal act is going too far and may start listening to the other side.
It won't bring about equality.
It's divisive.
It's playing into the hands of the racists.
Who was converted as a result of the toppling?



The 1950s – when you could live life without waiting for the prime minister to decide how free we can all live. (@StevenEdginton)

Restrictions on ‘freedom’ included: food rationing; exchange controls; National Service for men through 1950s; homosexual acts illegal; suicide illegal; routine smallpox and polio vaccination… (@susiesymes1)


Although the BBC reported in 2006 that the Japanese embassy in Paris had a "24-hour hotline for those suffering from severe culture shock", the Japanese embassy states no such hotline exists. Also in 2006, Miyuki Kusama, of the Japanese embassy in Paris, told The Guardian: "There are around 20 cases a year of the syndrome and it has been happening for several years", and that the embassy had repatriated at least four Japanese citizens that year. However, in 2011, the embassy stated that, despite media reports to the contrary, it did not repatriate Japanese nationals suffering from Paris syndrome. (Wikipedia, which admits to the existence of Jerusalem Syndrome.)

Though there are numerous accounts of people fainting while taking in Florentine art, dating from the early 19th century, Stendhal syndrome was only named in 1979, when it was described by Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, who observed over a hundred similar cases among tourists in Florence. (Wikipedia. Glastonbury residents say visitors suffer similar syndromes. They come because they think the place will solve all their problems, but there is little practical help. Any help offered costs money, and may be ineffective or harmful.)


But don't bother debunking, says the hive mind:

Psychology says prioritizing your peace over proving a point is a form of self-care.

The less people know, the more stubbornly they know it.

Never get into an argument with a fool.

It’s easier to fool people than convince them that they have been fooled.

We don’t have to respond whenever provoked. Steward your energy well. We have justice work to do. And strategy to outline. And self-care to prioritize. And love to live. It’s okay to let provocateurs leave empty handed.

It is almost impossible by rational argument to persuade people to believe what they do not want to believe. (Popular Jan 2022)

Humans prefer assertions to denials. (MD)

I see a lot of people say "if you haven't been vaccinated by now, you can't be convinced," but the numbers don't bear that out at all. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are getting their first shot every day right now. (@studentactivism)

And it seems to be a given in the US that giving people the facts won’t work – you have to wrap them up in a personalised narrative. “This is how conspiracy theorists operate,” says the Fortean Times. More "It happened to me" here.)

Many more in my book What You Know That Ain't So.

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