Sunday 24 December 2023

Grammar: Meet the Antecedents

Who he? What that? Who they? Harold Ross, founder of the New Yorker, used to write this in the margin of galley proofs. He wasn't surprisingly ignorant of modern life, he was pointing out that the writer had used a pronoun without an antecedent.

Most writers are terrified of repeating themselves. They know that "elegant variation" is allowed, but think it means replacing names and places with "it, they, he, there, these, them, those, do so". It means finding a synonym – so find one! The Victorians used to write "fish" in the first instance and follow it up with "the scaly breed" or "the finny tribe" and so on. You don't need to be quite so flowery, but any thesaurus will give alternatives.

What's more, the "it, he" etc needs a noun to refer back to. A possessive won't do. And refrain from using "it" to mean: "You know, what we were talking about in the previous paragraph". 

You may assume that a reader will start with your first paragraph and work their way through to the end, but they may start in the middle. They need to know what you're talking about.

That generation was replaced by editors who understood the internet, what sort of pieces the internet responded to, and what sort of pieces the internet wouldn’t. (substack. Wouldn’t what? How about: That generation was replaced by editors who understood the internet, what sort of pieces IT WOULD RESPOND TO, and what IT wouldn’t.)

Ending the tale, Johnson does at least confess that the story “has withstood all my efforts to verify it at the Churchill Archive or elsewhere.” Well, I have, and in doing so, I have concluded that Mr Johnson can’t have tried very hard. (Fake History, Otto English. He means he’s verified the story.)

I had the idea of setting a bronze maple leaf in the floor but, to my amazement, the Canadian High Commission was unable to provide us with an image – the leaf was not, at that point, the country's national symbol. It would be another 10 years until that happened. (Anthony Blee, Guardian 2012. Until what happened? Oh, “before the maple leaf was chosen”.).

Chilean wine has changed. Forget the cheap, rough, fruity past, today its mid-priced reds are excellent. (Jane Macquitty, paraphrased by The Week. What does “it” refer to? Obviously Chile. But we haven’t mentioned Chile, we’ve only used the adjective Chilean. An "it" has to refer back to a noun. Likewise we can’t say “the country’s mid-priced reds are excellent”. What country?)

Salisbury Plain may be sacred ground to some, but it’s fertile ground for bustards. Extinct in Britain until last year, four chicks have now been hatched there as part of a conservation programme. (“There” is too far away from Salisbury Plain, and “Britain” is in the way – and in the same sentence. There's also a dangling modifier: bustards, not the four chicks, were extinct etc. Times, 2010)

In the 18th and 19th centuries the models were ringed off by red ropes. Now that they’ve been removed, we can all mingle with the great and the good. (Hephzibah Anderson, Prospect, 2012. The ropes have been removed, not the models. "Now that these have been removed" should work.) 

President Karzai ordered all foreign private contractors to leave Afghanistan by last December, but that hasn’t yet happened. (What hasn’t happened? “That” must refer back to a noun. Try “but they’re still there”, or “but none of them have left”.)

Even by Pakistani standards, the religious zealotry displayed there over the past weeks has been horrendous… (The Week. Displayed in the country...)

They were reprinted by Carrol & Graf twenty years ago, but more recently Felony and Mayhem seems to have opted not to when they reprinted Allingham's novels). (passingtramp.blogspot. Opted not to reprint them when they reissuedopted not to include them… You can’t use a passive verb as an antecedent for an active verb.)

Want entertainment on tap? With our new Classic Collection, you can! (You can have it.)

Any "24/48 hours to move" mention is just a precursor to legal action. It does NOT mean we have to move this week. We won't be. (@occupylsx. We won’t be moving.)

With distinctive shields on one side of the tower, businesses were said to be queuing up to move in, but it has stood empty since 1996. (Norwich Evening News. But the building has stood empty... It’s a dangler, too. The tower, not the businesses, has the distinctive shields. Actually, the bit about the shields must belong with the previous sentence. That's another thing to avoid. Fronted adverbial or adjectival clauses can be useful, but make sure the clause stays with the verb or noun it is qualifying.)

As works of art have come to resemble other types of assets – they are used as collateral for loans or as a way to diversify a portfolio – there are calls for it to be regulated like other financial products. (Financial Times 2015. There are calls for investing in art to be regulated etc... The meaning is clear, but there’s nothing for “it” to refer back to.)

It’s called ‘the shame game’, and it’s worked remarkably well for the past 40 years. But now it isn’t. (The Canary Feb 2018 Isn’t what? “Isn’t working” is understood. "But no longer"?) 

While it is certainly possible to have people who are not volatile be untrustworthy, it is far more likely that someone whose emotional state fluctuates wildly is. ( A truly horrible sentence. What to do? "While it is certainly possible for people who are not volatile to be untrustworthy, it is far more likely that someone whose emotional state fluctuates wildly will let you down." Don’t end on a weak, dangling “is” or “will be” – find a synonym. Turn “untrustworthy” into a verb. What do untrustworthy people do? They let you down.)

The 1752 Murder Act... required bodies of convicted murderers to be either publicly dissected or gibbeted. Between 1752 and 1832, 134 men were hanged in chains. It was formally abolished in 1834. (Atlas Obscura. Gibbeting, or “the practice” was formally abolished etc.)

Others claim Christie wanted her husband to be suspected of murdering her, as the police briefly did. (Ben Macintyre, Times 2018. “Did”, meaning “suspected her husband”, is an active verb. It has only a passive verb to refer back to – “be suspected”. "Others claim Christie wanted her husband to be suspected of murdering her – as he was, briefly, by the police." Not wonderful, but at least it’s grammatical.)

We are starting to see the impact of the national restrictions on our local situation with data beginning to level off, but this will become clearer in the next couple of weeks. (Local council handout. “But the picture will become clearer” etc.)

Slavery was vital to the success of the Roman Empire and there were a lot of them. (Lara Maiklem. She means "slaves". 

This well-preserved 220-million-year-old dinosaur footprint has been discovered by a four-year-old girl on a beach. Lily Wilder spotted it at Bendricks Bay, Barry, Wales - and scientists believe it could help establish how they walked. (@Rainmaker1973. How who walked? Dinosaurs. But you haven’t mentioned dinosaurs, only used the word “dinosaur” as an adjective. How about “establish how the creatures walked”?)

Actor Richard, 78, became President of the Parkinson's Disease Society after comic actor Terry-Thomas died of it in 1990, aged 80. (Mirror. Died of the condition, died of the disease.)

They had put on an act for him, and still were. (Georges Simenon, Inspector Cadaver. This is a case for "do so" – "and were still doing so".)

Now, it’s fair to say that within academia there are certain unspoken codes of practice around how and why we watch films in the process of undertaking historical work, particularly within the specific sub-discipline of British cinema studies, and that moreover matters of visual pleasure and desire are not always paramount within that (which sometimes has a lot to do with the paucity of potential for that in the source materials). ( the first "that" refers to "historical work", and the second to "visual pleasure and desire".)

More danglers here, and links to the rest.

Predictions for 2024

Journalists will write about the following:

The world's first wind-powered cargo ship has set off on her maiden voyage, using her giant metal 'wings' to fly through the ocean. The WindWings have been fitted onto Mitsubishi-owned Pyxis Ocean - chartered by Cargill - and was designed by a team of British Olympic sailors. It has been built by Yara Marine Tech, and the WindWings are expected to save up to 30% of shipping fuel on average. ( According to Wikipedia, "wingsails" were invented by  L. Francis Herreshoff, who died in 1972. They've been the next big thing since then.)

The big idea: are our short attention spans really getting shorter? (Guardian, 2023-10-29. This idea has been current since the 16th century.)

Schoolgirls at Rainford High School have been lined up in fenced-off areas whilst male teachers inspect girls' skirt lengths. This has lead the girls feeling humiliated and subsequent mass school protests staged by pupils. (@David_Challen Feb 23 2023. Head teachers impose draconian uniform rules in order to get their school's name into the papers.)

2023 Fuss over a shorts ban in South Wales. (Child isolated, petition from parents.)

A Cornish tin-mine re-opens. This year it’s South Crofty, in Pool. And they’re not mining tin but miracle ingredient Z. Oh, they are mining tin because we need it for X and its price has risen because Y. (Cornish Minerals CEO Richard Williams explains: 'It's a very simple use, it's a solder for the electrical connections in computers, iphones and electric vehicles. However 75% of all the tin today comes from China and Indonesia.'

Politics is no longer about class. Class is no longer about money. Sorry, class is now about money instead of... what exactly?

Bring back blogging. (It never went away.)

Twitter and Facebook are dead. (Every year since they appeared.)

A middle-aged or elderly writer will come over very puzzled about a technology that’s been around for ten or 15 years. (“What is the point of these ‘pod casts’? When do people have the time to listen to them? What is a ‘park run’?”)

Guardian hed 2023-02-20: Goth’s undead! The dark return of Britain’s spookiest subculture (A comment: Doesn’t somebody write this article every year?)

Could a pioneering hydrogen airship help the world move away from fossil fuels? (Financial Times, 2023-02-25)


Music won’t require personal musicians in fifteen years and your favorite “artist” will be a personal algorithm, though you will still have your favorite generic public celebrity musicians. (@vkhosla Jun 29 2023. Didn't Orwell predict machine-written songs, and machine-written pulp novels, in 1984?)

Many, many people will whinge that there is no “none of the above” option on a ballot paper. (But as none of the parties seem able to define the word "woman", I may write the above on mine.)

They will moan that "nobody wants to work any more, and everything bad is caused by new things". (As someone says every year. Thanks to Paul Fairie, author of The Press Gallery) 

A novelist will use the adjective “bone” in a title. We’ve had people, clocks and ships so far.

A pundit will write a book using “science” to complain that whatever it is young people are into this year, it’s just too enjoyable

Just finished
Dopamine Nation by Anna Lembke, interesting and fast read on our addictive, pleasure-soaked society. (@phamnuwen2. God forbid anyone should experience pleasure, especially not young people. To be paired with the one about the decline of mental health in young people – meaning that they’re unhappy, and they’ve told someone, and those someones have actually taken it on board and considered it to be a bad thing.)

A pioneer will suggest re-importing wild wolves, bear and lynx to the UK. The Leicester Mercury has the story for 2024.

More recycled topics here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 17 December 2023

Hey Guys, It's Nearly 2024!

So if my name is joint on a credit card, health insurance, or any other account but my husband opened the account and is therefore the primary holder they won’t speak to me without his permission even though I’m the one paying the bill and this is not the 1950s. (@AileenWeintraub)

It's nearly 2024 and some men resent Mary Earps for winning Sports Personality of the Year in a women-only sport while being a woman.

It's nearly 2024 and some men don't like the idea of a woman football referee.

It’s 2023 and dancing in public is outlawed in Iran. (Citizens are dancing in the streets, December.)

It’s 2023 and phone conversations are barely audible through crackles.

The comments made by a journalist about autistic people is deeply upsetting as an autistic person and reminds me why it often isn’t safe/comfortable to talk to other people about being autistic. Even in 2023. The world could be a much better place for us but we are not there yet. (@AlexHarpin)

Books on autism are still be reviewed by the one staff member with an autistic brother. The media still assumes that no autistic people listen to the radio, or read newspapers or magazines.

"Nobody wants to be lectured at by a woman!" is what British historian @bettanyhughes was told in the late 1990s. (@TheInnerViewTRT)

I really wish misogynistic men would stop telling Women what to think, how to behave, and what a Woman is. It’s 2023, men. (@inmyownfashion2)

It’s 2023 and the Sun is bringing back Page 3.

It’s 2023 and in Northern Ireland schools are still segregated.

It's 2023 and lesbians have to apply to a Human Rights Commission for permission to exclude men! (@stuartf100. The Lesbian Action Group of Melbourne has applied to the Australian Human Rights Commission for a discrimination exemption to hold a (female) lesbian-only event at the purpose-built Pride Centre.)

It’s 2023 and Bargain Hunt contestants are still joking that “The wife makes all the decisions!” It’s 2023 and the producers have probably told them to say it.

It’s 2023 and the church where the Vicar of Dibley was filmed (St Fimbarrus’, Fowey) has had no vicar for four years because the parish council’s governing council refuses to consider a woman. Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin says that when women were allowed into the priesthood in 1993, “it was felt a period of ‘reception’ was needed”, which seems still to be going on, she adds. Flying bishops still exist in the person of the Bishop of Ebbsfleet. I interviewed the office holder in the 90s and he told me his parish consisted of a Roman fort and a nuclear power station – charming man.

Update: The Times of Dec 16 reports that Fowey parochial church council has stood down, and the new council has appointed the Rev Carol Edleston to the job. On the same page, the Times reports that two women priests have become the first same-sex couple to be blessed by the Church of England. These are reasons to be cheerful.

Slow clap to @BarclaysUK whose online verification won’t allow me to have my title as Dr because I am female… (@jessamycarlson)

Feckless! Dear God – the undeserving poor raise their heads again. It’s 2023, ffs. (@YesWombat)

It’s 2023 and women are still judged on how good they are at providing food and having children. Feel left out at work? Bring home-made banana cake. No children? Borrow some. Put their photos up by your computer.

It’s 2023 and people are shocked by women with armpit hair.

Oxfam depicts “TERFs” with hideous features and demonic red eyes. (One is probably JK Rowling, but who are the men? They look like caricatures of the enemy from the 1940s. Or cartoon villains of the 50s.)

I had an entire board of trustees LAUGH at me for objecting to our lawyers writing to us as "Dear Sirs". Yes I know it's customary. I know some women "accustomed" to it "don't mind" being called Sir. I know #legaltwitter will pat me on my head. But it's 2023. Honestly people. (@katherineschof8. Women judges were originally “My Lord”, but became “My Lady”. But French lawyers are all “maître”.)

Received a letter “Dear Sirs”, asked the writer to desist from doing so as we are a female led firm. Response: “Dear Sirs, this is our standard approach and we do not see why we should depart from this.” Erm, cos we asked you and it’s professional courtesy to engage with our request? (@Anita_emplaw)

The Post Office told its fraud investigators to racially classify potential suspects, including “n*groid types”, during the company’s false prosecution spree...investigators were asked to categorise suspects as “n*groid types”, “dark skinned European types”, “white skinned European types... “Indian/Pakistani types”, “Chinese/Japanese types’ and “Arabian/Egyptian types”... The Post Office said “We don’t tolerate racism in any form”. Times, May 2023

It’s 2023 and women in Belfast are being refused service in a pub for wearing Suffragette colours and T-shirts with the word 'woman' on them. (@Isaac_de_Tormes)

I had some delusional twits try to get me fired from my old job because I spoke out. It’s 2023 and being told you’re transphobic for knowing humans are binary and can’t change sex is insane. (@ThatsWutSheZaid)

It's 2023 and we still do not have good enough power storage solutions, which is crucial for 100% renewables. (@lospabloss)

It's 2023 and hold music is still fuzzy and crackly. And in the case of my bank it’s the same crackly hold music they were playing 30 years ago. Update: They’ve changed it to something jazzy! But it’s still crackly. And the jazz style is from the 50s.

It’s nearly 2023, and some men still think a wolf whistle is a “compliment” and “flattery”. (But then some men think women urinate through their v*gina. Some also think that women don’t need period products, they should just use “self-control”. If the v*gina had a sphincter they’d soon know about it – if ever they got anywhere near one.)

It’s 2023 and I can hardly hear the lady from Hackney Council because she’s in an office of people talking on the phone and there’s a frightful racket in the background. Couldn’t they have sound-proof booths or something? Or even partitions?

It’s 2023 and women are still fighting and getting arrested just to have access to basic human rights and be treated like human beings. (@hobisshawtyy)

It's 2023 and Iowa Lawmakers Are Trying to Ban Same-Sex Marriage. (@nightbird39)

It’s 2023 and they still calling us Indians because they thought they were in India like 500 years ago. (@dsoufhoney)

It’s 2023 @AmericanAir how about a flight tracker? (@tresamigos858. How about backward-facing seats and more leg-room?)

It’s 2023 and private schools still exist and are still charities, and one in particular produces most of our rulers. And it’s single-sex.

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday 16 December 2023

The Veiled Virgin

The Veiled Virgin is a sculpture by Giovanni Strazza (1818–1875), carved in Rome in the mid-19th century. Such figures were popular in that era. Then as now, people asked "How could a human being create such a thing?"

Here's how:

Make a clay model of your figure. Let it dry a bit. Take a length of fine cloth and dip it in clay slip (diluted clay). Drape it over the figure - you have one chance to get it right. Let the whole thing dry. Now studio assistants copy the model plus draperies in marble, using a 3D pantograph called a pointing machine.

Once they've done this, you, the sculptor, add the finishing touches with a fine chisel. You and the assistants give the marble a fine polish, to bring out the marble's translucency. And there you are.

Here's an anonymous Italian veiled nun.

Thursday 14 December 2023

Syndromes: Mad Management 2

Popped into my old office this evening to see how they had repurposed our former Humanities offices now we are required to hotdesk... 6 months on. Oh, it's not being used at alI I see.

My mum wins the worst training day ever award. When she worked for the council they paid for them to spend the day in the forest. On arrival they were presented with clown costumes which they had to wear and spend the day being a clown in order to learn how to lose inhibitions. (@ChrisYoules)

A previous school amalgamated with the associated infant school. Our first joint inset was “get to know you” / “icebreaker” activities: hula hooping, belly dancing, maypole dancing (@Mr_Kerry_C)

Oxfam hired a mediation firm to conduct a conflict resolution process. Juliet Lewis, 66, a volunteer for 15 years, recalled how she and her friends had to watch a video of cartoon bears hugging, which was supposed to instruct them in how to show empathy. “I think I blotted it out,” said Lewis. “I’m pretty sure I had my head in my hands at that point.” (Times)

Academics will get “a video about mindfulness but are still expected to work a 90-hour week”. (@Phil_Baty)

I worked in one place where everybody had a motorised stand-up desk. Never saw anybody there ever use one in stand-up mode. Because when everyone has one the novelty wears off. (@TheSkankworks)

My most recent employer tried ungendered facilities. It was an experiment that didn't last long. I was still in the old building when it was abandoned. (JP)

In 2023, some staff who refuse to put pronouns in their bio are sent on a training course. 

Some workplaces pick up a "progressive" idea like hot-desking just as everyone else has dropped it as unworkable.

I am
still hearing about school proudly announcing their plans to build flexible, open-plan learning spaces with no walls etc, and my advice to anyone thinking about doing this is do not do this. (@tombennett71)


At XYZ I checked the drivers in and out, however the shifts had been re-organised so no drivers came to me, this meant sitting in a secure office at night doing nothing. I was also involved in taking in orders for a department that had closed down. I was once detailed to provide data support for an office that had ceased to function. Quite often I've been the person walking around with a clipboard for no reason. It wasn't quite nothing, but even at a leisurely pace a day’s work could be done in under an hour. (Quora)

Want a job where you’re paid to do nothing? Anything related to the government or a really large, slow moving, old company. The people there just slowed other people down so they would have to do less work, no wonder they never get anything done. (Quora)

A friend reports he had a job where he was basically paid to surf the internet and write emails all day. Everyone went to the pub at lunchtime and few returned.

Place I worked whilst waiting to get on with my A Levels had a decimal hour. Timesheets were completed in multiples of six minutes. (CC)

First place I worked, the timesheets were completed in multiples of 36 seconds. Then fudged to multiples of 15 minutes by the payroll clerks. (IG)

Office Life
by Keith Waterhouse features needlessly complicated bureaucracy. Staff get coupons torn out and books stamped every time they eat lunch. (Amazon has vaped my review – did I reveal too much about the central conspiracy?)

More here and here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 3 December 2023

Buzzwords of 2023

Anybody not giving a toss about the Coronation in May, or is it just me? (@DoctorJevvy Jan 23 2023)

passive voice: People have moved on from “passive voice” in headlines to “burying the lead”. (They're still complaining about the passive voice – they think it means "not laying blame". Or "not condemning atrocities".)

pluck: Survivors of the Turkey earthquake are being “plucked” from the rubble. (2023-02-06)

peasouper: People talking about a couple of days of mist as a “Thames peasouper”. Pea soup is a lot thicker than that – and yellow, being made of split peas. In a peasouper fog the sun never rises.  

curate: Does “curated” now mean “comes with an explainer that makes everybody feel ‘safe’, ie we’ve explained gender fluidity and non-binary to make sure visitors know that we know”?

15-minute cities: The government unveils a plan to make cities walkable by having everything you need in 15 minutes walk – corner shops, pharmacies, dry cleaners, green spaces. Weird backlash from libertarians who moan that stopping them driving to out of town supermarkets (that the carless can’t access) is a limit on their freedom. They also say it’s “statist”! Power and property grab by the state! The state has done nothing so far but impose traffic restrictions. Is it a “build it and they will come” philosophy? If people can’t drive to Budgen’s will someone open a corner shop? (How on earth would you police it? And what will happen to Budgen’s?)

People are “pulled from the rubble” after the “devastating” Turkish earthquake. 

Those who stand up for women’s rights accused of “bad faith” a lot the week of Feb 19, though it’s quite common at any time. 

Pronouns (again – and it didn’t catch on the last time, ie 40 years go, when "zhe, hir and thon" were suggested).  

dogwhistle: Is dogwhistle becoming conflated with whistleblower?

Job search website Adzuna finds that many offices have a more “dress-down” policy after staff spent two years working from home in leisure-wear.


The predicted flight from London has not happened. Meanwhile many high street shops are empty because owners can’t be found. And we wring our hands over the death of the high street. 

quinoa: I’m tired of “jokes” about people pronouncing quinoa as “keen-wah”. I don’t think anybody ever did. Quinoa has been around in Europe for over 20 years. 

far-right: You can call any opinion you like "far-right" and people will pile on to condemn it. ("I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil!")

Actress Emma Watson says she’s “self-partnered”. Just when you think people can’t get any more idiotic. 

predatory: Popular week of March 1. Woman photographed the people who chanted slogans at her when she asked what rights trans people didn’t have – described as “creepy, predatory” behaviour. (They were in the distance, turned away.)

Putting gambling machines in pubs: “This is nothing short of predatory behaviour”. 

slur: Popular week of March 6, not always correctly used.

“We need to have a national conversation about...” popular this week too. Yes, let’s have all those conversations! Roll on the Court of Law for Ideas.

Gary Lineker says Suella Braverman uses language about immigrants “similar to” that used by Germany in the 30s. Many assume he said “the British government is like Germany in the 30s and they use identical language”. (Many use “similar to” to mean “exactly like”.)

2023-03-14 Oxford Street is going to be tarted up. There must be a fund they don’t know what to do with. Not pedestrianised – some traffic will still be allowed. I hope that means “buses and taxis”, otherwise how will we get to the shops?

Lot of distortion of others’ arguments around this week. Distortion and misquotation. “She didn’t say anything about X but there was a dogwhistle! She really meant...” (How do they sleep at night?)

I've just worked out that when people say a film is “dark” they mean “sad”. Or "no happy ending"? Life is sad.

Long, bland and good-humoured threads give a sudden kick at "those who attack Jeremy Corbyn with a hidden agenda" or “those climate-activist, mask-wearing idiots”. 

ban: Sunak wants to ban nitrous oxide, and intelligent, educated people are getting quite cross about “banning things”. It only causes worse problems, apparently. At the same time, everybody is using the word “ban” when earlier they might have used “drop” or “scrap”.

It’s nearly April 1, and competitive indifference to the Coronation has begun. 

Rarebit” employed to mean “grilled cheese on toast”. Welsh Rabbit is a Bombay Duck, which is a fish. Or Poor Man’s Goose, which is veal. 

Unalive” used for “kill” because Tiktok mutes references to murder and suicide.

Musicals such as Six and Juliet have organised specific singalong shows. (Guardian)

Sunak says women don’t have penises (Week headline) One day we’ll look back on this, laugh nervously and change the subject. (John O’Farrell) Sunak’s statement was “bold”, apparently. Keir Starmer says a mere 1% of women have penises so that’s all right really. You really can’t sit on the fence, or please everybody, on this one.

Rolled out without any consultation. Too many things are. How is this possible? (Especially "gender-neutral toilets" without consulting women.)

Why is there no oversight of lobbyists in schools? Why are they there in the first place?

People being told to “touch grass”.

Just Stop Oil are “middle-class” protesters with “luxury beliefs” (A man called Edred threw turmeric onto a snooker table during a televised match – actually it was orange powder symbolising flames.)

Liberal and Reform Judaism merge. Joint CEOs are Josh Levy and Charley Baginsky.

Journalist confuses misgendering with dead-naming. “Yes, OK. But it doesn't matter what term you use for it – it's intentional and hurtful.” (Flaubert: Yes, but my point holds!)

Kirstie Allsopp on the culture wars acting like a throwback from the 50s: Sit down, you’re rocking the boat; there’s always an off button; block and move on. Not just the “Nothing to see here, haven’t you got homes to go to?” but the assumption that she knows best and gives the orders. Someone says she belongs to a rich Bohemian set in West London. Explains the “I’m all right, Jack”. She bought her kids tablets and then broke them in front of their eyes because they used them too much. Performative cruel parenting. “Not the sharpest tool in the box, and separated from the sharp end of the debate by class and cash,” says @lespauljunior3. I add: She and others like her assume that their expensive education has made them more intelligent than the plebs.

Judy Blume and Margaret Atwood come out in support of the gender-critical movement, and then almost immediately publish an apology and basically say “No, I was wrong, transwomen are women.” Someone says they should be holding up a copy of today’s paper in their hostage video. 

Diane Abbott has been suspended from the Labour Party for saying that Jews, Roma and Travellers experience “prejudice”, not “racism”. And Martin Rowson’s caricature of Richard Sharp, straight out of Die Stürmer, has been taken down. (Feeble excuse: “Those aren’t gold pieces, they are polyps on the mantle of the vampire squid.” What kind of squid, Martin?)

Many people post pix of elaborate past architecture and ask “Could we do this today?” Answer: The reason why we don’t built Reims Cathedral today is a) it takes several hundred years. b) The money was provided by people who wanted to stay out of Hell, a form of crowdfunding that has passed its sell-by date. 

Lots of “why isn’t there a ‘none of the above' option”? @GeorgeReeves94 sums it up: Don’t feel like you need to choose the least bad option. 

Women are talking too often and too loudly. Could they protest a little more softly? And not quite so publicly?

crunchy: Seen three or four uses of the word “crunchy” in the past week. Crunchy socks, crunchy pop, crunchy anti-vaxxers. Meaning? (Gone, December.)


Lots (well, two) complaints about biased headlines that turn out to be purely factual.

What do you conclude about someone who starts a sentence “I am not anti-Semitic...”?

When people say “I had to do X” they never really had to. Nobody was forcing them to. It wasn’t a life-or-death scenario. Likewise “half the time” means “all the time”. Sorry, I’m a bit slow.

May 30 2023 This week’s “thing I am too refined and superior to give a damn about” is Philip Scofield


Joke: Free-thinking nonconformist comes out as non-binary just like every single one of her friends.

There’s a restaurant (Silo in East London) serving up invasive species – at last: This week, it launched its most ambitious menu to date, featuring grey squirrel, seaweed, crayfish, muntjac, venison and Pacific oysters. (Did the writer mean “muntjac venison”, since a muntjac is a kind of deer?)

rewilding: Boring conversations about “Is that really rewilding?”, “What about this?”, “But is that proper rewilding?”. It may be about the way jumpers on the bandwagon are selling ways of profiting from rewilding. Is rewilding the next ostrich farm?

Covid: Some on Twitter really don’t like me saying that Covid is a real disease and vaccines protect you from it. Everybody I know, knows someone who was vaccine-injured. Everyone who was vaccinated regrets it now. Why am I “losing my wig”? Because you’re talking nonsense, that’s why.

the socials: Social media is now “the socials” – the Communist Party of Britain’s website even has a tab labelled “socials”.

Latest “thing that never happened” anecdote is “My mother/friend/acquaintance was waved through the passport queue because she said she was still “emotionally” a member of the EU (or somesuch).” (2023-06-15)

There’s still a rash of people tweeting pix of Gothic cathedrals and asking “Why can’t we make such beautiful buildings now?”. Latest incarnation: My father-in-law is a builder. It is difficult to get his attention in a magnificent space because he is lost in wonder. We were in a cathedral together years ago and I asked him what it would cost to build it today. I will never forget his answer… “We can’t, we don’t know how to do it.” (Nearly always with a picture of fan vaulting.) @DJMHarland points out: Most Gothic cathedrals are still standing and in good condition precisely because they continue to possess highly trained, expert stonemasons, who have an intimate understanding of their architecture and continuously work to maintain them. Dr Francis Young responds with pix of Gothic church: Also, this was mostly built in the late 90s and early 2000s.

And must trans activists winch in the word “existence” at every opportunity?

Vigil in Nottingham for three murder victims like a cross between an American political rally and a religious service. How did they organise it all so quickly? A choir, religious leaders, the bereaved families, the victims’ friends – and everybody is clapped. Somebody said “mawkish”. 

Midaxi? Just the skirt-length I want!

So tired of the word “journey”.

Writer-in to Times Feedback column asks if the word “guardrails” is the most over-used in June 2023. Metaphorically, of course.

And I wish people would shut up about unicorns.

Story about schoolgirl who identifies as a cat was made up. You amaze me.

WFH: "People working from home are to blame for everything" is the new "Single people are to blame for everything".

Does “gender stereotypes” now mean “they think humans can’t change sex” and “they think humans are either male or female”? Men and women are just stereotypes?

Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, has claimed that anxiety caused by social media and the physical strain of working from home at unsuitable tables have contributed to a dramatic rise in people suffering long-term sickness. (So get a suitable table! And an adjustable chair with arms.)

GOAT: greatest of all time (Has rather faded, December.)

Now they’re trying to find a woke alternative for “virginity”. Confusing the thing itself with patriarchal attitudes about the thing. (The map is not the territory.)

And the gender critical are “a cult”. No, you’re a cult! 

holding the ring: monitoring a debate while not joining in.

Is everything a human interest show now? BBC Breakfast, Antiques Road Show, Bargain Hunt? At least the creeping blight hasn’t hit Homes Under the Hammer or The Antiques Road Trip. No room for sobbing on HutH – it’s all mundic block, grout, filth, awful puns, relevant pop songs, vertiginous gardens, converted Methodist chapels, ripping out kitchens, destroying Art Deco glass... While The Yorkshire Auction House starts straight in with cancer diagnoses. 

When did party become “house party”? When did driving somewhere become “road trip”? (@amotorhomme)

“Is it true Muslims don’t pay stamp duty?” asks @colinedwardvoss. And homeless people own dogs because they get their food for free...

narcs: Now narcissists, not narcotraficantes.


Yasslighting: Yes, of course you pass! You go, girl, etc.

Working from home is bad for young people. (They could have a point as young people use workplaces to make friends and look for a partner.)

I didn't think I'd see the return of UFOs – or men calling feminists “man-haters”. Or saying “equality means women want to dominate”.

Many people posting pix of overhead projectors and asking “Who knows what this is?”

When they’re not doing that, they’re posting pix of quaint towns under snow, which might have had some point if we were experiencing a heatwave. Meanwhile, it probably IS snowing.

Stupid labcoat scientism cult – I didn’t think I’d live to see this one again, either. Popular in the 80s, though then it was “white-coated priesthood”.

You’re some tulip – like “a bit of a daisy”. Funny idiot.

Guarantee always bespoke tweets from a boutique posteur. (@hyperdiscogirl)

Arguments about who can walk on the grass at Cambridge.

Fluffing popular mid-Aug.

Flex moved from meaning “bend” or “tense” (something you do to muscles to show them off), to “brag”. Now it just seems to mean “attitude”.

On the regular (late Aug)

Planes are grounded – it’s “chaos”, of course.

I wish people would stop using “heart-wrenching” for “heart-rending”. Perhaps they don’t know what “rending” means (tearing). I have rent my garment. The tree was rent in twain by lightning.

Latest is “a pregnancy is entirely a woman’s responsibility”.

Europe is really tiny, and why don’t the Brits just drive eight hours to get to Edinburgh? (Probably because, unlike in the States, there are a lot of towns in the way. And if you're starting from Dublin, the sea.)

Why are shorts worn mainly by very old men?

I am always a safe person and will hold space for you. What does this mean?

mid: Looks like “mid” now means “Looks like a human being rather than a surgically enhanced freak”. Can that be Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin? And young men are getting the "jaw of the moment".

Cope is apparently this year’s buzzword. If you don’t like it – cope. But there may be other meanings.

People are talking about the Rapture, and astrology. Is this 1985?

wounded, trauma, healing, triggered: (What happened to “closure”?) You are supposed to reach a stage when you are "healed" and no long feel "triggered" by distress, neglect, mistreatment, abuse... And you are supposed to work towards healing and feel guilty if you don't reach it. It’s victim-blaming by any other name. Translation: One day you won’t mind what people did to you in the past, which gets the perps off the hook. Notice that you “heal”, you are not “healed”. People done you wrong? Heal yourself! Don’t think of reporting the perps to the police, or reorganising society so that nobody can do the same thing again.

People popping up to say, helpfully: “What we need to do in this confusing situation is to change the current popular meaning of all the terminology, sometimes to the opposite meaning.”

Much moaning about 15-minute cities. Do some Americans never walk anywhere? Never walk along a street? Perhaps we should sell it as a cure-all therapy! Street-bathing. 

universe: People have substituted "the universe" for God and believe in a "just world that cares about me" without ever defining it. One shamanic practitioner was honest enough to say that she refers to “the universe” because the word “God” puts people off. But “the universe” is very controlling. See also “It was meant”. Meant by whom?

Frog of shame? Rizz? Please explain.


accelerationist:  People who genuinely want there to be societal collapse and advocate for ways to get us to that collapse quicker. Millennialism, explains @BlakeBlakebabee. Apparently it's very popular, in different brands, in Silicon Valley. There are probably separate schools, sects and heresies by now.

Someone is posting on Twitter film of London from the 30s to the 60s, accompanied by tinkly piano music. “What do you think of this scene?” the account asks. Peaceful, tranquil, how did we lose it? Shame it is now “destroyed” say the comments. And also “no black people”, which was the subtext from the start.

Post-Maine, Speaker Mike Johnson blames mass shootings on “no-fault divorce laws”, “feminism” and Roe v. Wade. Women, in fact.

Things are being “throttled” this week, end Oct 2023. If you want to create a platform that attracts high quality creators, don’t throttle Tweet visibility, even temporarily @elonmusk. (@tristanbeanie14) May be from some American sport, me lud. Watch Benson throttle down, cut back inside, and shrug off a couple tackle like it’s nothing. (@7RoundsInHeaven) Rugby, not strangulation.

Subaltern is back with us from WWI.

Trans Rights Activists of all kinds video themselves crying in their cars because they’ve been misgendered. They couldn’t do that on a bus.

queer: now means “TRA”.


People using “bipolar” to mean “contradictory”. They know they’re not supposed to use “schizophrenic” in the same way. How long will it take to beat it into their heads that no, they can’t use “bipolar” either?

Gender-critical people are also anti-abortion, very right wing, Nazis, Holocaust deniers, genocide promoters blah blah.

Stonewall have moved on to asexuality, led by Yasmin Benoit. (She's helped write their report. It's an umbrella term, say Stonewall. In the bad old days we might have used the word "frigid".) 

Struggle sessions or denunciation rallies were violent public spectacles in Maoist China where people accused of being "class enemies" were publicly humiliated, accused, beaten and tortured by people with whom they were close. Usually conducted at the workplace, classrooms and auditoriums, "students were pitted against their teachers, friends and spouses were pressured to betray one another, [and] children were manipulated into exposing their parents". Staging, scripts and agitators were prearranged by the Maoists to incite crowd support. The aim was to instil a crusading spirit among the crowd to promote the Maoist thought reform. (Wikipedia. It couldn't happen here.)

Facebook has banned the Lord’s prayer! Oh, only a rumour.

refoulement No, we can’t send refugees to Rwanda. (The expulsion of refugees from a place where they can rightfully claim refugee status to a place where they may face persecution or other threats, such as the country or disaster area from which they originally fled. Free Dictionary)

Israelis are accused of being “white”. (@FabricioNakata, Nov 13) You can't say MENAs (from the Middle East or North Africa) are white because that's like saying they're privileged.

2023-11-18, outside Downing Street 7.30pm. Trans rights activists singing ‘From the River…’. Just Stop Oil activists with Palestinian flags… What is going on? (@nicolelampert)

Anti-Semitism: I don’t wish to be pedantic, and I let most things pass, but it’s “anti-SemITic”. It doesn’t rhyme with “emetic”.

We can only analyse by looking for power imbalances. Who are "we", again?

Mossad was behind the Dublin riots 2023-11-24. Oh, of course.

Mommunes are a thing.

Can we stop saying things are “broken”?

Everybody is called Brianna.

Either everything is "hate" or nothing is. (Saying “I don’t want to share bathrooms with men” is “hate” (and “bigotry”), but calling for a genocide of the Jewish people “depends on the context”, per Harvard and Penn presidents. They have issued qualifying statements since.)

domicide 😞 (Destroying someone's home and society.)

picky tea (Pick a bit of this and a bit of that. Meze, tapas.)

What happened to all those snowflakes? Did they melt?

People tweeting heartbreakingly: "I DO own my life, with all its flaws, I DO own it! I WILL heal! I will no longer be triggered." This is victim-blaming AND gaslighting. Please, dear souls, forgive yourselves. If your life was pretty awful, it was. And I’m sure you know where the fault lies. Maybe you can never "heal" from dreadful experiences, only make sure they never happen again. 

When did bakeries become 'micro'? Why is there a middle-class tendency to prepend words like bakery, brewery and swimming with buzz words to make them socially acceptable? (@gwpurnell)

Context” excuses and explains everything.

Oodie. Is it a Slanket with a hood?

Are we using words like equity and parity because others use "equality" to mean "preferential treatment"?

settler-colonialist: the new "Let him be anathema".

It's still December 2023 and Easter Eggs are on sale, giving some people conniption fits

energy: It's back in some people's vocabulary, meaning "spirit, psyche, soul" as before. (What energy are you taking into 2024?)

from a place of...

Male folksingers are singing affecting ditties much too slooooowly.

And classical musicians are doing the equivalent of "food with a twist" by pulling the time around. Bach wrote his pieces in strict tempo, and that's how wanted them played. They are much more affecting that way. 

Meanwhile cellists are trying to put significance in to Bach's suites for their instruments. Nobody thinks the violin partitas and sonatas are works of great pith and moment, so fiddlers get away with playing them as they are written. Is high-pitched music somehow less important than low-pitched?

More here, and links to the rest.