Saturday 30 March 2024

Heartsink Phrases


Not just phrases you dislike, but phrases that usher in an unavoidable experience involving hours of discomfort, distress, embarrassment and/or boredom. And possibly leaving you with a dreary artwork, garment or object – like a coffee-table made out of an old water tank.

shake up, freshen, fresh and modern, playful, renew, reimagine, appeal to young people (who can’t relate Shakespeare because it’s not about them and their lives). (A "fresh and modern" bathroom is painted in grey and black, with white lavatory tiles.)

with a modern twist (Now it’s “sculptures of medieval women”. Or in a food context, chilli beetroot. Chilli Marmite.)

The whole house has been remodernised. (Bland, bland, bland with too many shiny surfaces.)

The 60s estate is being redeveloped. (The next sentence is “Half of it has already been demolished”.)

The performance will run for three hours without a break. (And “All our toilets are gender-neutral.”)

contemporary artistic responses (You haven’t got enough old art, so you eke it out with some mediocre new art. The worst museums of this type have an interesting modern building containing nothing but a perpetual son-et-lumiere performance.)

Der Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny reimagined. (In the latest production it looks as if they were all naked.)

A community mosaic will be unveiled. (Times letter, 2018)

The following piece has been specially composed for the occasion. (Richard Barber, Times letter,  2018)

We want to bring people together. (Like in the Blitz – because hard times are ahead.)

We’ve opened up the action of the original stage play/novel.

This new show confronts the colonialism and patriarchy behind church kneelers/the work of Mary Delaney/Egyptian mummy portraits/18th century silver napkin rings/Welsh love spoons... (Women’s work is destined merely to be knelt on, Mary Delaney was forbidden by society to paint, etc.)

Scan the QR code and order from the menu through your phone. (Translation: We have sacked all our wait staff.)

It’s all done through our app now.

Are there any words in the English language less likely to make the heart sing than "non-dairy creamer"? (@sumit)

There are so many wonderful jewellery projects that you can make with recycled sweaters.

Classic X (Manufacturer diversifies steady-selling product into a “range”. The range includes “Classic X”, but it has been tinkered with and “improved”. The range no longer includes original X. The word “classic” probably means nothing in law, whereas original would mean “original formula’.)

A Jean Brodie for our times. (Re an adaptation of Muriel Spark’s classic.)

The five-mile trail is lined with sculptures by local artists.

an evening of performance art

book of condolence

breaks down preconceptions, challenges/plays with our notions of, subverts pretty much anything

comic ballet

dance piece interpreting Strauss’s Four Last Songs

drinking song

for your safety and comfort
free fun for all the family

fusion food
fusion music

gentle comedy

I don’t want to bother the doctor. (Ushers in long argument where A says “Your tax pays the doctor to be bothered – it’s his job.” And B says “I don’t want to bother the doctor.” And others on this template.)

inspired by... (Nothing like.)
installation (Or still worse, "intervention".)

internal politics

literary fiction

out of your comfort zone (If there is such a thing as a comfort zone I want to enter it and stay there for ever.)

public art

refurbished to a very high standard
religious music for the 21st century

replacement bus service

rock-inspired score
romantic comedy

site-specific devised theatre piece involving the whole community 

This is from our new album.


updated classic

vintage knitting patterns – adapted and updated to suit modern life 

with a nod to...
with a twist, with a modern twist
with hilarious results

work hard, play hard
wow factor

You should have seen your face! (Can I sink through the floor, or should I merely move to another continent?)

You’ll never guess what happened next.

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