Wednesday, 6 December 2017

More Mixed Metaphors

Obviously Sadiq was going to win once all the lefty snowflakes started foaming at the mouth and mass sharing the poll. (Danny Corbett @redpilldanny)

In the pressure cooker of Europe, things are on a knife edge. (Katie Hopkins)

This comment sowed the seeds of the bitter chip I was developing on my shoulder
. (

A village long gone, but its echoes remain standing. (Caption on a picture of a bell tower in a lake – all that remains of a drowned village.)

Tricky waters requiring a careful tread. 

These "mobilizing passions" form the emotional lava that set fascism's foundations.

Fave mixed metaphor so far this morning - a woman describing Trump as coming across like 'A bull in a china closet'. (Mister Neil Kulkarni ‏@KaptainKulk)

Mrs May will have to crawl back into the negotiating table on bended knee!

Simmering tensions among the explorers reached breaking point. (Times)

The Clacton swamp has been drained without a shot being fired! (Arron Banks)

Core planks of the Brexit strategy (government speak)

The proof is in the pudding.
 It’s “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” – you don’t know what it’s like until you’ve eaten a bit.

Over-egging the case Overstating the case; over-egging the pudding.

This gives the team a razor-tight window – they have a razor-thin window of seven hours... (Crossrail voiceover) Razors are sharp, windows are large or small.

All this work has had to happen in a very short window. Atlas Obscura

Success will require a step increase in the current rate of sales. (Job ad) It's "step change". Perhaps they meant "steep increase".

Prick-neat kitchens, shining like colour supplement ads, more often appeared lower down that middle-class scale. (The Great Indoors: At home in the modern British house by Ben Highmore) Does he mean “neat as a new pin”?

Fattening the coffers of consultants (You fill coffers, fatten pigs. Coffers are large wooden chests – when they’re full, you get a new one. You might fatten your wallet by filling it with notes.)

Do we sit on our laurels or move to the next stage? (Jeremy Hunt) The cliché is “rest on your laurels”, ie relax now that you have won a laurel crown in the Ancient Greek Olympic games, or other sporting contest.

Untangle the Gordian knot (The whole point about the Gordian knot was that you couldn’t untie it – the only way to loose it was to cheat and cut it – which some hero did.)

Stoke divisions You can create or cause divisions. You can stoke a fire, or stoke anger or fury. But you can’t stoke a division. Try “widen”.

Tone-deaf Labour is plumbing to new depths (Telegraph headline Dec 2016) You plumb depths with a plumb line (with a weight made of lead or plumbum); you may plummet to new depths as you fall down a crevasse.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

More Loopy Logic

"Yes, but my point holds!" (Gustave Flaubert, Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues)

Se non e vero, e ben trovato. (Apt, if not true.)

Even if at the end of the day, the bad guys... turn out to be more correct scientifically than I am, life is short, and we have to make choices about how we spend our time. And that’s where I think the multiple intelligences way of thinking about things will continue to be useful even if the scientific evidence doesn’t support it. (Web)

I have been the target of "it may be technically wrong, but it's useful" counter-arguments. Very frustrating. in a bit of rhetorical judo, they often depict correctness as closed-mindedness or inflexibility. (‏@richarddmorey, in response)

Someone tells you a good story. You say “Ha ha, yes, it’s an urban legend. Look, here’s another version.” They say: “Yes, but it could have happened.” (Or “Yes, but it’s a good story and illustrates a point.” It may illustrate your point, but if it's false, it doesn't support your point. Rather the opposite.)

The video is fake, but the threat is real. (Kellyanne Conway, Nov 30 2017, paraphrase)

Indicative of a broader truth. (Ian Dunt on finding out he’s passed on some fake news about Carrie Fisher. He’s joking, but...)

In The King's Speech therapist Lionel Logue lives in a terraced house and treats the King as a mate. In reality, Logue had consulting rooms in Harley Street and lived “in a Victorian villa called Beechgrove on Sydenham Hill. Beechgrove had 25 rooms, five bathrooms, five acres of garden, a tennis court and a cook”. And he said “The greatest thing in my life, your majesty, is being able to serve you.” But, Guardian critic Ian Jack concludes, “it hardly matters. The film is true to the substance.

“It's made up, but it's still funny and apposite.” Andrew Middleton on the picture of George Orwell’s blue plaque with a CCTV camera attached (photoshopped). Someone said the same thing about Douglas Adams’s retelling of the “stolen biscuits” urban legend.

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

I mean, I like truth as much as the next guy, but if we spend all our time looking backward at all the things that are wrong with what we thought we once knew, will we have room to learn anything else? And all that self-doubt cannot be good for our souls or psyches, can it? Jeff Grinvalds

Reminds me of the nun who said that people who went to Lourdes and didn't get better "had been healed in a different way". (Paraphrase.) And the therapists who tell you your psychic integration is really coming on, even though you're no happier. And the people who say a statement is "true in a very real sense" when they mean "it's false".

More on this template: The visions of Fatima may not have been genuine, but they brought many people back to the church. The latest Agatha Christie adaptations are travesties of the books, but they brought new readers to her work.

More here.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Contradictions 5

Hijab-wearing Middle Eastern woman
breastfeeds in public

Flinching when anyone mentions vaginas or periods, while relying on women to produce children.

Amazing how the same sort of people who call anyone left of Thatcher a 'liberal snowflake' get mad if a single panel show takes the piss out of them for half an hour. (James Snow‏ @Frumple_James)

British people say “You must drop by if you’re passing,” but they’d be appalled if you did.

"There's too much immigration in this country. I'm moving to Spain."

Lots about Schroedinger's EU today. Blamed simultaneously for being an all-powerful superstate and for not controlling its Member States. (Steve Bullock‏ @GuitarMoog)

The Christmas Tesco ad caused outrage last week when, in a very brief segment, it dared to include a Muslim family hugging each other on Christmas Day. The very same people who for years have demanded that “Muslims must integrate and respect our traditions and way of life” are now apparently outraged at depictions of just that happening.

Open sexuality is dangerous/cishet monogamy is stable.
Criminal sociopaths are interesting/good ppl are boring.

Should we make this much fuss about abusers like Harvey Weinstein? Why did nobody say anything before?

You can have whatever you want as long as you want it enough. But don’t have ‘unrealistic expectations’.

We're all individuals, we all want to be different and think we are, but try being slightly more or less than average in any respect. It’s normal to pretend you want to be extraordinary, while conforming.

The Americans are so friendly and warm and polite – but they won’t give up their guns. See also the Philistines (pottery), Vikings (human sacrifice, poetry) and Aztecs (human sacrifice, floating gardens, poetry).

Idiots on Twitter: “The EU interferes too much in our lives, and should definitely do more to interfere in Spain’s internal politics”. (@RupertMyers)

Live in the moment, and be prepared. Don’t copy other people, but social skills can only be learned "by osmosis". We tell children “be yourself”, but then fuss endlessly about “role models”.

Schools are for teaching resilience and character, not for cramming children with facts. But schools are judged by exam results.

Determinism must be true, because we are influenced by other people, the economy, personality etc. But you are responsible for everything that happens to you. And you must have wanted it to happen.

If the land belongs to the original inhabitants, what were we doing in Pakistan, India, America, Canada…?

In the 50s, Hollywood likes a darkly handsome, exotic-looking male film star, but he must change his Italian name, or lie about his Anglo-Indian background, and pretend his natural skin colour is an acquired tan.

Tell people that happiness is a byproduct, and then tell them it’s a state of mind. Discourage them from seeking the things that would make them happy, because “if you got what you wanted you’d only want something else”.

Ban women from conservatoires, then ask why there has been no female Beethoven.

We want children to be mature, but not precocious.
We want them to be literate, but not pedantic.
We want young people to be idealists, not socialists.

“The Marxists are in control”, say the capitalists who are in control.

Clothes make the man, fine feathers make fine birds, wear a suit to the interview, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts, don’t judge a book by its cover, and appearance doesn’t matter.

Dream the dream, you can have anything you want as long as you want it enough, but let go of “unrealistic expectations”.

Cab driver: "I love your work mate!"
A bit later "These immigrants don't contribute anything. They are all unemployed."
ME: "Erm..."
(James Wong‏ @Botanygeek)

We need Trident to protect the people, but we don’t need sprinklers in council flats.

I love that for years it was "Young people don't engage with politics, it's terrible!" and now we have "The young are stealing democracy!" (@pointlesslettrs)

It's funny how the same ppl who say "Blue Lives Matter" turn around and use police as shorthand for an oppressive force, e.g. "PC police". (Mark Tseng-Putterman‏ @tsengputterman)

Our opponents are just effete "champagne socialists", but we must fight them with all our might.

Send children to single-sex schools until they're 18, then wring your hands about lonely older men and the decline in the birthrate.

Be yourself, but try to please as much as possible. (Edith Head)

Political correctness is destroying free speech, but why can’t we ban Americanisms?

I'm having my knee replaced next week – for free! – but homeopathy is better than scientific medicine.

I’ve got free speech, but you can’t say that.

I know my rights! But there’s too much of these “human rights” these days.

Journalists always ask "How do you feel?", and reality TV isn't complete without someone weeping because their flan has gone soggy, but there's far too much sentimentality in public over occasions like Diana's death. However, it was all whipped up by the media.

Thanks to better nutrition, everybody gets bigger and taller – but clothes sizes stay the same.

Live in the moment, be spontaneous, go on the pill.

British people are Anglo-Saxon and proud, but we learn nothing about Anglo-Saxon history at school. (In my day history started with 1066 – a defeat for the Anglo-Saxons.)

People mock art students and then go watch movies, read books/comics and drool over designer clothes like??? (@Maham_Hussain)

Klan members in robes and masks complain about women in burkas.

“I don’t believe in safe spaces,” say rich white men, “I’ll just be here in my gentlemen’s club, you can’t come, no reason." (Janina Matthewson‏ @J9andIf)

Honesty is the best policy, but people on the autistic spectrum must be taught how to lie.

We celebrate diversity, but there’s a programme called Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.

Recipe for disaster:
1) Force feed people anti-immigrant myths
2) Realise that immigration is critical for the economy
3) Panic.

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

What Would Happen If Everybody Did It? (2)

Tune in, turn on, drop out!

“Everybody should follow our dream,”
says a woman who has lived on the road and travelled the world with her family for 17 years.

I downsized, and now live in the country carving wooden spoons. (Like the “entirely self-sufficient”, he depends for his living on all those who haven't downsized.)

Let's all become fregans! (Living on other people’s leftovers, and past-sell-by-date food chucked out by supermarkets.)

Grammar schools are excellent; every child should attend one. (Grammar schools get good results because they are selective.)

If Justine Greening wants grammars to prioritise children from poorer backgrounds where are the wealthy kids going to go? Comprehensives? (@omnivorist)

Admissions to fee-paying schools are dropping because fees are rising because admissions are dropping because…

A degree is only valuable if other people don’t have it. (Nicholas Naumof)

Make money by posting funny animal/kid videos on youtube!

As with Ryanair priority boarding, if everybody chooses it, the concept becomes redundant. (Eva Wiseman, Guardian June 2016)

Live by entering competitions and collecting money-off coupons.

Love is like a butterfly: chase it and it eludes you, wait and it comes and sits on your shoulder. (This is a terrible mating strategy.)

Think and Grow Rich (It's the title of a book by Napoleon Hill.)

All have won and all must have prizes. (The dodo in Alice through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll)

Believe in yourself and never give up! (Eurovision entrant)

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
Let's discourage poor people from breeding. (And there’ll be nobody to do the blue-collar jobs, keep the economy going, pay our pensions and look after us in the old age home.)

Never Work Again (It's a book by Erlend Bakke that tells you how to get other people to work for you while you take the money.)

If you sit by the river long enough, the body of your enemy will float by. (So who shoved them in?)

Brewers insist their pubs buy only from them, at inflated prices. Brewers get richer. The pubs go bust. Eventually there are no pubs.

Supermarkets progressively cut the price of milk. Supermarkets get richer. The dairy farmers go bust. Eventually there is no milk.

We have so many fab beaches, a visitor can always find a quiet spot for themselves. (@visitnorfolk)

Let's invest in property, Chinese art, beanie babies...
Time to sell, say 57% of homeowners.

The only way to get to heaven is to sell all your goods and give to the poor.
I'm not voting – I’m a Labour voter in Kent.

Non-singers join choirs because there are enough singers to carry them.

Let's not vaccinate our children – they'll be fine as long as enough people vaccinate theirs.

I think I'd vote for any politician who could get 'none of the above' on a ballot paper-but what to do if 50%+ ticked that box? (@taraheritage)

Germaine Greer’s Female Eunuch originally included a plan for utopia: Women would live in Tuscan farmhouses, bringing up children in common. We'd save on underwear and toiletries by wearing long skirts and using charcoal for eyeliner. (Are there enough Tuscan farmhouses? What are the men going to do? And don’t you rely on most women in the world not following your template?)

Everyone should abstain from sex because all forms are sinful, wrote Early Christian preachers. (Did they realise they were writing themselves out of a job?)

Look at all the thousands of art students –
And dramatic students.
Well, yes – who are turned out every year. They can’t possibly all make a living as painters.
Or actors.
There just isn’t room.
(Peter Wildeblood, West End People)

Social mobility has not decreased, but some of it is downwards. (Guardian Nov 2014)

Graduates used to rise in class compared to parents, now fewer graduates do, because there are fewer “top-level” jobs. Solution: create more top-level jobs! (Have they compared number of graduates now and number 20-30 years ago?)

Fellow Americans, we can't all be millionaires. The pie is only so big. (‏@Jugbo)

Ear all, see all, say nowt.

More here.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Outrageous Excuses 2017 (3), and Silly Reasons for Doing Things

It has been a great week for excuses (18 November 2017).

The editor of Gay Times earlier posted vile tweets about Jews, fat women, women, “chavs” and the disabled. He has “apologised”, claiming that he denigrated other human beings as a result of "self-loathing", he "hadn't been aware" of the effects of using social media in a "nasty" way, and he was a "product of his environment".

John Rivers tweeted an apology on Tuesday and said in an accompanying statement that at the time he faced “issues that prevented me from treating people with the respect and kindness I value so dearly now”. Speaking to Buzzfeed, which uncovered the tweets during research for an interview with Rivers, he said they revealed an “immaturity and self-loathing” he had at that time, but was adamant he had changed in the last two years. “I think it shows that before recently I hadn’t been aware of the effects that social media and using platforms in such a nasty and pernicious way had,” he said. “It shows I have grown.” Rivers also attributed his prejudices to his environment. “I am a product of my environment – like many of us are,” he said, adding: “I have said things that are not kind or not nice and nor do they reflect the type of person that I have become.” (Guardian)

Alvaro Neto, married to Athina Onassis, “desperately tried to persuade her that it was a fleeting mistake”, after being found in bed with another woman at the couple’s mansion. He also “claimed that it was a meaningless one-night affair that should not cost them their marriage”. His dumped mistress sent Athina documentary evidence of their long relationship. (See also “It was just sex, she meant nothing to me.” And “He wouldn’t have fallen in love me if there weren’t problems in the marriage”. Though maybe that’s more self-delusion.)

A Utah police officer fired for dragging away a screaming nurse who refused to take blood without consent blames his 'unfair' dismissal on the fact the incident was captured on camera.

The answer to any plea for traditional city layout, basic requirements like gardens, cupboards, windows: “We aren’t Georgians. We don’t live like that any more.”

There are 1001 reasons why we shouldn’t “feed the troll”, pursue neo-Nazis, condemn Harvey Weinstein, support historical child abuse cases. The response is much the same every time. Let’s not discuss this any more because:
People are making too much fuss.
It might be triggering for some.
I don’t want to jump on a bandwagon.
I don’t want to feel like a victim.
It won't help.
(Feel free to use the words "witch hunt" and "baying for blood".)

That’s not sexual harassment, that’s just a clumsy pass. (Isabel Oakeshott, paraphrase)

It’s not how real men behave, and it was out of character.

Single misjudgement, single incident.

Emma Thompson should have done something to stop it.

All the women complaining are “just attention-seeking” or "expressing PC outrage".

If the complaints were real, they would have spoken up sooner.

It's just media hysterics.

We have more important things to worry about.

It's just "a hand on the knee", "groping", "bum pinching", "not safe in taxis".

In my day we just dealt with it.

It’s about power, not sex. (As so many people say as if they were the first to think of it.)

The media are digging up women prepared to say “Girls should take it as a compliment – just a bit of fun etc etc”.

Janice Turner in the Times brings out all the “hysterical over-reaction” tropes, including “We worry that the best-qualified, most liberated and fortunate women ever born too often posit themselves as Victorian virgins or fragile ninnies who will shatter like glass at “triggering” language or an ill-judged snog.”

Nice men are derailing the conversation to: “So are compliments not allowed? How can we ever ask a woman out?” (Let’s not go back to the 80s, when men decided that romance was sexist and a bourgeois convention, and as a consequence were rather cold, rude and business-like. “I’m not going to patronise you by telling you you are beautiful”, "I can't say 'I love you' because it's a cliche" etc.)

This week there's a lot of backlash about "impulses" and "losing control". (Domestic abusers employ the same rhetoric.)

Harvey Weinstein says: I made mistakes, please give me another chance. (He went into rehab for “sex addiction” – for a week. And lost his job.)

By lunchtime, I expect “Don’t pry into private matters” from the Tories and a new, Woke way to ignore it in a feminist way from the centre. (@flying_rodent)

And everybody has their own unique take on the Flanders poppy:

The tedious annual poppy circus. (Independent)

No-one should feel forced to wear one.

The poppy has been hijacked.

It has lost its original meaning.

It's a symbol of oppression and imperialism.

Wearing one means you like war.

It has changed from a remembrance of the horrors and loss of war into a glorious celebration.

So many people NOT wearing a poppy! I feel like stopping them and asking exactly why not. (via Facebook)

Competitive poppy one-upmanship.

Has the core meaning of the poppy appeal been diluted by crass uses and commercialism? (BBC)

A Twitter account called @giantpoppywatch wants to “highlight the absurdity and obscenity of what’s happened to Remembrance Day”. He says that in the good old days, the poppy “was fragile, and everyone's was the same - maybe that was the point." He doesn’t like “commodification and branding”, either – shops using the symbol for shop window displays. "Now there's a lynch mob of tabloid journalists and Twitter enforcers ready to pounce on any infraction, such as appearing on TV without a poppy on."

Royal British Legion says: “There is no right or wrong way to wear a poppy”.

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Euphemisms in Quotes 8

The hilarious tweets of people who don't live in London telling me that it's "getting worse": code for "black and Asian people live there". (@Otto_English)

I'm afraid all the Brexiters I know whether family, in the pub or on the bus, the brash ones say "Send them home". The more subtle ones try to talk about "sovereignty" or "making our own laws". (FionaRB‏ @MsMainstay)

When people attack immigrants, we have to 'understand their legitimate concerns'. When they defend them, it 'leads to further polarisation'. (@IanDunt)

A light hand on the tiller is always the best approach. (re moderating FB group. Does this mean “Don’t remove racist remarks”?)

The eugenicist Pioneer Fund was founded by a Nazi sympathiser in 1937 and it aims to "prove" a genetic and intellectual inferiority of black people. (Liam Hogan‏ @Limerick1914)

The Creativity Movement is a hardcore white supremacist group that dates back to the 1970s, notable for its attempt to assume the guise of a religion as a way to promote its racist and anti-Semitic views. (

I was told during the admissions process that there was no issue with nonreligious students attending the school, that it was inclusive and open to all who applied. But I just started my first week, and that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. (

Bernie Katz called his father “a colourful character – a real villain with a heavy clout around South London”. (Times 2017)

Notorious for her partying lifestyle. (BBC News re Molly Parkin)

I'd always hear her described by that awful word, feisty. (Lindsay Anderson on Bette Davis’s late-career appearances on chat shows, when she was “encouraged to be bitchy”.)

Steer clear of anyone who uses the phrase 'It's just (banal description)!' to belittle the passions + enthusiasms of others. (Jon Dryden Taylor ‏@jondrytay)

Calm down is the patronizing form of shut up. (Simon Schama)

Men are never called "spoilt" are they? It's for children and women.
(Abi Wilkinson ‏@AbiWilks)

I am sometimes tagged as belligerent because I pick people up on fictitious hate-stories. (Kate Long ‏@volewriter)

‘Comfort zone’. One of those buzz-phrases that enables people to force [you to do] stuff you don’t want to do. (Some Bloke in a Hat ‏@toolegs)

You do know, Ginette, that you’re very self-interested?’ ‘That’s what they always say about women when they try to ensure their future. And then jump on them when poverty makes them do a job that they haven’t chosen.’ (Georges Simenon, Maigret at the Coroner’s)

Wit, raconteur, bon viveur, [he] could sometimes enjoy life too much. He became ill in recent months when his conviviality finally caught up with him.
(Times obituary of an alcoholic)

He’s his own man. Be true to yourself. “Just a lame-ass way of saying you want everything your way.” (FB)

Some people tell you that you're too much this, or not enough that, or always the other. These people are abusers. (Michael Topic @tropicalontour)

In my experience, such people are also called ‘managers’. (Some Bloke in a Hat ‏@toolegs)

One of the worst phrases in the world is 'the average person'. Everybody should strive to be exceptional. (@richardbranson)
I hate to be pedantic (no I don't) but if everyone successfully strove to be exceptional, they wouldn't be exceptional. They'd be average. (@RareNeilPearson)

'The public' is always a construct and people who use it in arguments rarely seem to include themselves in it. (@How_Upsetting)
Some things aren’t “out of character”—they establish character. (

Do you have a life; or are you just living? (@volatilitysmile)

Justine Greening says selective schools "will be open to all", which is odd because they aren't by definition. (Richard Adams @RichardA)

La première discrimination consiste à parler des banlieues comme si elles ne faisaient pas partie des villes. (Paul Virilio) 

A company of actors and performers will present archive material from the exhibition through the prism of contemporary performance.
 (British Library Translation: They will not create the original performances.)

“Alternative media” (bullshit artists).

Reading a book about publishing. Have found a new euphemism for commercial failure. "Working ahead of cultural trends". (@Andr6wMale)

I really think we need to take back the word 'disruption' viz. something really stupid that achieves nothing. (Nik S‏ @Greasy_Boiler)

It's not "gritty" (a euphemism for forced seriousness and graphic violence). (@Aelkus)

Art dealers also call themselves gallerists... A gallerist does not generally now have a gallery, but a “space”... Art dealers do not buy and sell paintings: they “source” them and “place” them. (Philip Hook, Rogues' Gallery)

Eclectic career – that sounds like a weasel word for “uneven”. (Danny Baker)

And while star works by great artists make huge sums at auction or in private sales, the art market can be illiquid, volatile and subject to painfully high transaction costs. (FT) 

illiquid: You can’t find a buyer.
volatile: Prices fluctuate wildly.
transaction costs: Buyers and sellers pay commission.

The school has also signed several new corporate partnerships, including its largest ever – a 10-year, £2.3m agreement with Edwardian Hotels London. (Partnership, agreement: funding with Faustian pact.)

The challenging business environment makes it less interesting to do vanity locations. (Robert Burke quoted in NYT. Translation: difficult, less profitable.)

The Advertising Standards Authority complained that many Instagram stars are plugging brands without disclosing that they are being paid to do so. (Hugo Rifkind Instagram star: shill for product.)

The Chancellor must get the Treasury to have more realistic, optimistic forecasts and to find the money for a successful economy post-Brexit. (@johnredwood Translation: The Chancellor must persuade the Treasury to fiddle the figures so that they look better.)

Train and track come together in rail management revamp (Privatisation of Network Rail)

When "in stock" means "in stock with our distributor" and "next day delivery" means "next day after we get it" I tend to go nuclear. (JH)

London house prices hit by most significant slump for five years (@standardnews)
By "slump" they mean "still rising but not by as much as before". (Tom Copley)

Think tanks are all PR agencies doing work for undisclosed clients. Some are more open about their funding than others. (@mrdavidwhitley)

Starting in the mid-1970s, a handful of conservative donors had funded the creation of dozens of new think tanks and “training institutes” offering programmes in everything from “leadership” to broadcast journalism to direct-mail fundraising.

I heard this from students quite regularly at @Conservatives conference. Groupthink getting marked up, critical thinking being marked down. ((Tory MP @JamesCleverly Translation: groupthink means socialism, anti-Brexit; critical thinking is conservatism and Brexit. Many university lecturers chipped in to deny the allegation.)

Confucian philosophy is also very strong on respect for your seniors, with “respect” meaning in essence doing what you’re told. (rmeredith@cix)

Much of the time, “that’s not realistic” is a coded “that makes me uncomfortable.” (@SamSykesSwears)

In the 80s workers were all "facilitators", with customers suddenly "clients". (And everything was a “project”, even when it was a thing.)

I have no unpopular opinions, just opinions I haven't yet explained well enough for a mass audience. (@AndrewSabisky)

Sarah Vine redefines sexual assault as a “clumsy pass”. (October 2017)

It's really odd, isn't it, how the vast majority of advice on 'how to be successful' boils down to 'do more work than you're paid for, peon'. (Dean Burnett‏ @garwboy)

“Seek help” is sometimes used to mean “get sober through rehab or a recovery program”. (

"Unfair reporting"
= TV images of what is taking place.
(Maggie Haberman‏ @maggieNYT)

Some in tech have started identifying as “contrarians,” to indicate subtly that they do not follow the “diversity dogma.” (NYT Sept 2017 Some of them want to form a male-only society. How's that going?)

The many layers of Britain’s food culture set to expand in 2017 (Translation: make more money)

Whenever someone in The Spectator writes "flexible pay settlements" I see a queue getting longer at the food bank. (@RevRichardColes)

What #MAGA really means: it's a return to a time when white men could offend women and minorities without consequences. (@keithboykin)

Apparently it's being a condescending metropolitan elitist or something if you tell #brexiters the truth. (Solange LeBourg)

New museum director must have “a highly developed ‘EQ’ to ensure successful relationship-building”. (Translation: EQ is charm, and relationship building means fund-raising.)
The hallmark of emotional intelligence is self-awareness, which involves not just knowing how you are but also how other people perceive you. People with high emotional intelligence are masters of influence—they’re skilled at altering their behaviour to make the most of a given situation. (

AFAICS, "the real world" generally refers to "people who believe and spout random bullshit based on no evidence at all". (@johnb78)

The headmaster said: “The teacher you’ll be working under can be rather difficult.” It wasn’t long before she realised that “difficult” was a colossal understatement. (Guardian Sept 2017)

So the UK government wants the ‘best and the brightest’ to come to the UK after #Brexit, but at the same time don’t like experts and when I suggest that in Universities people are more likely to leave I’m told that shows ‘university groupthink’. So who are these ‘best and brightest’ if universities are full of ‘groupthink’ and we’re better off without them? What does ‘brightest’ mean? (@PaulbernalUK)

Brightest means "brings in the most tax receipts". (Alessandro Mencarini @amencarini)

Most people disagreeing with you isn't 'intolerance' it's called 'disagreeing with you'.

Traitor: Anyone who uses legal or democratic processes to question a political idea. (@CyrusBales)

White House walks back promise about Trump donating his “personal money” to Harvey victims. ( Translation: reneges on.)
Rep Kelly walked back his statement. (He withdrew an absurd allegation.)

And still I wait... for a 'writing' job ad that doesn't feature the words 'content', 'brands' or 'targeting'. (Mister Neil Kulkarni‏ @KaptainKulk)

I also do not really appreciate that our 'annual leave' form has been renamed 'absence management'. I'm *allowed* to be absent. (Charlotte L. Riley‏ @lottelydia)

A counsellor blogs that he never wants to hear “challenging behaviour” or “complex needs” again.

Most of the time when we describe something as 'barbaric' what we mean is "we've stopped doing that". Occasionally, very recently. (Alex Andreou‏ @sturdyAlex)

"Emotionally truthful" (Chilcot on Blair) is up there with Alan Clark's "economical with the actualité". (HP)

Alexander Nix also vehemently rejects that Cambridge Analytica uses psychological profiling. “We call it behavioural communications instead.” (Campaign)

"As well as ensuring the high quality of the sector... we need to confront the possibility of some institutions choosing – or needing – to exit the market. This is a crucial part of a healthy, competitive and well-functioning market." Beneath the euphemisms, this is its starkest messages to universities: some of you need to go. ( on higher ed white paper)

Rehousing of Grenfell Tower families in luxury block meets mixed response (Guardian. Comments were vile.)

Puerto Rico to close 184 public schools in move expected to save millions of dollars amid a deep economic crisis. (The Associated Press @AP)

That's a funny way to spell, "Puerto Rico forced to close 184 public schools so US hedgefund owning politicians can cash in their stocks"(#SinglePayer‏ @puzzleshifter)

When they say unity, they mean obedience. They will not receive it. (@IanDunt on Theresa May’s Easter message.)

"I'm entitled to my opinion" is a common shorthand for "You're not entitled to your opinion that my opinion is terrible." (James Chalmers‏ @ProfChalmers)

The Police force in the UK has lots of red tape, or as some people like to call it, accountability. (MS)

We almost have this inbuilt idea that fresher, local, organic – all those words are code for “expensive” ‑ and a higher price tag is better. People will use the words “cheap food” like it’s a morally negative thing. (James Wong)

Produces as an alibi for their mistakes that old British standby “a breakdown of communications”. (Andrew Billen)

Effective social media campaign: Someone on candidate’s campaign staff, probably a 19-year-old volunteer, knows what Reddit is. (P.J. O’Rourke)

Every one of the posturing notables simpering “refugees welcome” should be asked if he or she will take a refugee family into his or her home... (Peter Hitchens)

We 'lurch' to the right and you, what, pirouette to the left? (Byzantine Ambassador ‏@byzantinepower)

School leaders say volatile results have vindicated their concerns over rushed implementation of tough new exams (Their school didn’t do as well as they hoped. And Steiner Academy Frome was one of the worst performing in the country.)

Audiences say "journalism" when they liked it and "media" when they don't. (@sarahjeong)

Psychology intro textbooks often have difficulty covering controversial topics, and whether intentionally or not, they frequently present students with a liberal-leaning, over-simplified perspective. (BPS Digest)

I have a suspicion that "reducing the stigma" [of disability] might mean "telling people who aren't able to work that they can really". (Dan Davies ‏@dsquareddigest)
Better yet, "telling other people that people who can't work are pretending". (‏@NotGiacomo)

Saying, ‘Look, I’m not going to argue with you about this any longer,’ to subtly indicate you’ve realised you’re wrong. (Very British Problems, Rob Temple)

Sophisticated humour in the French tradition of laïcité. (Translation: crude racist humour)

I retired the term "problematic" from my lexicon some months ago and mostly, my life has been much, much better for it. Seemingly it's just devolved into a way to describe things one subjectively disagrees with as inherently flawedwithout providing evidence. (‏@JamilesLartey)

"Obscure Belgian region" – anywhere in Belgium. As opposed to regions of Britain, every one of which is globally renowned. (@RobDotHutton See “remote Hebridean island”.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Inspirational Quotes 92

You are responsible for everything that happen to you, as people like to say. And change comes from within. And if you want to change the world, why not start with yourself?

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

She was housed in Middlesbrough.“They put me there, in a place where I knew no one. It was so depressing,” she said. “Before I came on this course, I was lonely, jobless, not integrated into society.”
(Asylum seeker quoted in the Guardian)

You can completely change your world in a matter of minutes. (Charlotte Proudman)

The men decide to deviate from their original route and take an uncharted and seemingly little-used turning on the canal - a decision that they, and the reader, soon discovers is a very large and terrifying mistake. (Amazon commenter on EJ Howard’s short stories)

If somebody’s punching and slapping me, I punch and slap back. Luckily, that happened only, like, two times. I let it go, one time. And then they would just continue to push and shove me. And then I just pushed and shoved back and then it stopped. So. (Ideas man Erik Finman, 17)

Just be yourself, and everything will be fine:
'Just be yourself', people say. Until you actually are yourself. And then they say, 'Yeah okay, scale it back a notch.' (@matthaig1)
Oh god, this happens all the time on my university course. "I was only being honest." "Well don't be honest, be more diplomatic!" (@ArianeSherine)

I was always honest about my feelings. Not in a passive-aggressive way. Just being myself. And no one liked that. (Erik Finman)

Take a more ruthlessly strategic approach to following the instructions you’ve been given. Make sure you get seen at office happy hours but bail once everyone else is two or three drinks in, when they’re less likely to notice you’re slipping out early. Schedule one or two short breaks in your day when you know most of your colleagues are likely to be chatting in the halls or in the breakroom and spend five or 10 minutes chatting amiably before getting back to work. (Mallory Ortberg,
When my daughter was 12, I told her I loved bird-watching as a child, and she burst out laughing and said 'You must have been so UNPOPULAR!' (@mrjohnofarrell)

If "no one ever talks about it" is said of a thing there is a 90% chance that everyone talks about it.

Local gangs looked askance at any form of ambition. (Bradley Wiggins)

Scholarship, like tobacco farming, exhausts the soil and then moves on. (

When you have a drinking problem you feel like the drink is the only thing holding you together. (Jon Stewart Obs Nov 2015)

I’m thankful that no one is fact-checking the stories I tell about my life.  I am not confessing to lies.  But I’m not about to claim complete historical truth either (see my earlier post on the difference between historical and narrative truth). (Ira Hayman, Psychology Today)

One previous, and remarkably similar, incarnation was Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which had it that psychological conditions such as depression were nothing more than patterns learned by the brain and that success and happiness were just a matter of reprogramming it. The idea appeared in a more academic costume... in the form of what’s known as the Standard Social Science Model. “This is the idea from the 1990s where, in effect, all human behaviour is infinitely malleable and genes play no role at all.” (

Those defending the Bible often quote nice words from Jesus. In truth these are mostly idealistic platitudes no sensible person could live by. (Noel McGivern ‏@Good_Beard)

I think I prefer action to prayer. Try changing a flat tyre by the power of prayer. (Some Bloke in a Hat ‏@toolegs)

Some commentators today honestly sound like tragedy hipsters “Bro – I care about suffering and death that you’ve never even heard of”.

When people don't like a scientific finding why do they think simply putting 'science' in inverted commas is enough to discredit the data? (James Wong ‏@Botanygeek)

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Too-Appropriate Metaphors 8

The Forestry Commission should go back to its roots. (Countryfile)

The red pine, which sprouts from dry forest soil like a giant, untamed bonsai tree.

The guns triggered an explosion of violence.
 (Programme about headhunters. You pull a trigger to fire a gun, not the other way round.)

This Civil War cannonball really blows me away! (David Harper)

She then uses a tiny scalpel to carefully trim the razor-thin fibres growing from the tips of a highly endangered Mediterranean clam. (BBC Razor too near scalpel. And how can a fibre be “razor thin”? Things are usually “razor sharp”. Do you mean “incredibly fine”? And it would help to know how long they are.)

Experts warn of chaotic fallout from nuclear plan (June 2017)

The loch bed is brimming with artefacts. (Alice Roberts)

The tail of a feathered dinosaur has been found perfectly preserved in amber from Myanmar. The one-of-a-kind discovery helps put flesh on the bones of these extinct creatures, opening a new window on the biology of a group that dominated Earth for more than 160 million years. (BBC – mixed as well. Actually the discovery helps put feathers on their skin...)

No matter how good the piece, I reckon white English-language writers talking about Hong Kong autonomy should probably avoid the verb "kowtow". (@johnb78)

The family have ice cream in their blood! (Countryfile)
Royalty is in the Queen’s DNA. (Or was it “horses”? Either way...)

“He was dogged,” says woman stalked by wolf overnight in Canadian wilderness. (June 2016)

The project hoping to bring Yorkshire’s cemeteries back to life. (@DrDonnaYates)

Don’t sell the South Bank down the river! (And move it to Greenwich?)

While concrete was being poured to create other giant urban spaghetti junctions across Europe, Copenhagen found itself at a crossroads.

In Henry’s day they just cut your head off: so you get the sense, all the time, of the characters living on a knife-edge. (Hilary Mantel. I expect they were sitting under a sword of Damocles as well.)

These photographs are a snapshot of a particular time. (Flog It!)

Fifty years on, there’s a new coin, hot off the press! (Aled Jones could have used “freshly minted”.)

Stag party on boar hunt

Are Asia’s water politics reaching boiling point?
To play the ostrich is to be a goose
May told to call off dogs before Boris bites back
Full Steam Ahead for HS2s
Palmerston the cat is no EU ‘mole’, insists foreign secretary. 

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Syndromes We Don't Have a Name For 4

And games people play, from "been there, done that" to "cut off the branch you're sitting on".

BTDTGTT: We all have a friend who, for every book you've read, has read one that's cleverer/deeper/more obscure. (Middle Class Handbook)

Time lag: We don’t all reach the future at once. Some parts of Spain never left the Franco era. (1 Oct 2017)

Role-playing: It doesn’t sound like they’re able to keep up the “sensitive, kind, and witty” act for longer than a few months. ( Just as people lie about their drinking, more people here will be buying for investment than admit it. (The Art Newspaper’s editor on an art fair)

Projection: She prides herself on being forgiving, but she… can hold a grudge better than almost anyone I know. ( Useful tip: if you scan the timeline of anyone using the word "remoaner" you generally find that they're moaning about LITERALLY EVERYTHING. (Rhodri Marsden ‏@rhodri) Strange mimetic dynamic where both progs and cons see themselves as tiny beleaguered resistance ad opposition as all-powerful. (@pegobry)

Social mobility: My mother left my father and me as soon as she could upgrade to a better model of family. (

Pas devant les domestiques: Dad used to use public functions to show affection and act like everything was fine because he knew we didn't dare do anything in front of people. (

Negative Nancy: Those who are endlessly critical and forever complaining, and who talk about resigning at the first hint of an often-imaginary slight. (Jeremy Bullmore)

Hold-out: Determined to continue living a life that everyone else has long since abandoned. (Guardian 7/3/06) Later novels by elderly women whose attitudes seem dated to a period a decade or three earlier than the pub date. ( An insistence on traditional farming techniques long after the reason for their development has been lost. (London Review of Books on sheep, floods and Cumbrian uplands)

Don't delude yourself: She was 42, but she still thought of herself as a hot babe. (Medical Detectives) Miss Knag still aimed at youth, although she had shot beyond it, years ago. (Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby)

The specials: Some people appear to derive genuine satisfaction from the belief that their cat has food intolerances. (SL)

Group dynamics: A bullying narcissist surrounded by a dwindling handful of sycophants. (LW)

Rewriting history: People reinvent what they believed in the past based on what they know in the present. (John O'Farrell)

God on your side: It was a couple of centuries before the Crusaders conceded their mistake. (Diarmuid McCullough)

Light that failed: Much of the heady idealism of the Sixties has since drained away. (Fortean Times April 09)

Shoot the messenger.
Make the possible impossible.
Diminishing returns. 

Getting stuck in the year when you were belle of the ball, flavour of the month, captain of the hockey team.

Spending a huge amount of time and effort on a non-problem, like campaigning for straight couples to have civil partnerships.

Simmering with fury for 50 years because your husband/children won’t dust the mantelpiece/empty the bin without being told.

Young woman falls in love with older celeb she has never met. She engineers a meeting, finagles a job as his secretary, and reader, she married him.

Being permanently disagreeable. Never saying anything positive. Seeing the worst in everybody and everything. Telling someone who posts about Grenfell she is a “hearse chaser”.

In an organisation, alpha males attack the safe targets.

A friendly group recruits you – because they need someone to do the boring jobs.

Sect drops the austere features and weird practices that attracted early followers, and becomes conventional and mainstream.

Telling someone off for something they might have done if you hadn’t told them not to.

Always finding excuses for the person whose awful behaviour I am complaining to you about.

Trying to own someone else’s pain, illness or tragedy. Telling others how they should feel. Telling others what they feel. Telling others what they think.

Preventing your child eating anything sweet, or knowing that such food exists.

Blaming the Enlightenment for not foreseeing the industrial revolution and global warming.

Not even knowing that things were different in the Olden Days.

Being drawn to places that were once at the forefront of technological progress, but now lie in ruin.

Never do a low-scoring Scrabble move that will benefit you as well.

Gourmet hot cross buns, appliquéd skirts, modern arrangements of the Beggar’s Opera, boutique seafronts.

Not realizing that everyone has been willing you to retire for years.

I’ve been to one workshop, and read one article, and now I’m an expert.

Don’t let’s stop here, I’m sure there’s a better picnic place further on.

Insisting on your slightly wrong pronunciation of the name of a famous person (Geldorf, Hobsbawn).

Sometimes you come in at the beginning, sometimes in the middle, sometimes in the last dying moments.

You simply hate to be proved wrong, but espouse a lost cause, like homeopathy or the Turin Shroud.

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Art Shows in London, Durham and Southampton

Bloomberg Building
3 Queen Victoria St, London
Bloomberg's new building, designed by Norman Foster, incorporates the temple to Mithras discovered in 1954. The Mithraeum will open to the public, free, on 14 November, with an accompanying exhibition of objects found at its original site. Mithraism was a male-only religion popular among Roman soldiers.

Royal Institute of British Architects
Portland Place
To 26 November
Pablo Bronstein Conservatism of the long reign of pseudo-Georgian architecture. Drawings of 20th century buildings in an "ostensibly neo-Georgian style", plus Georgian objects in a domestic setting.

Soane Museum
Lincoln's Inn Fields
Until 9 Dec
Adam Nathaniel Furman's colourful classical ceramics. Wish I could afford a "soapaduct".

Dulwich Picture Gallery
Tove Jansson To 28 January
The Finnish writer and illustrator of the Moomin books was also a painter and graphic artist. She lived in an attic studio and spent summers on a tiny island.

Pallant House Chichester
To Feb 4
David Bomberg
Spirit of the Mass: David Bomberg's Legacy
The works of David Bomberg, and a parallel exhibition of the artists he taught at the Borough Polytechnic between 1945 and 1953, including Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff. Bomberg started his career as a modernist, moving from Vorticism to a more naturalistic approach as a war artist in World War Two.

Courtauld Gallery
To 21 January
Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters & Bellboys
The Russian-Jewish painter Chaïm Soutine, who was based in Paris, was more famous for painting rotting sides of beef in thick impasto. But he also painted witty and sympathetic portraits of the workers who staffed the capital's restaurants and hotels. The paintings proved popular, and their sale lifted him out of poverty.

Palace Green LibraryDurham
To 25 February
Between Worlds: Folklore and Fairy Tales from Northern Britain
2 December to 18 March
Hell, Heaven and Hope: A Journey through life and the afterlife with Dante

British Library
Euston Road
To 28 Feb
Harry Potter: A History of Magic
Divination, potions, creatures, unicorns and more.

Sainsbury Centre
University of East Anglia
To 11 February
The Russia Season: Royal Fabergé
Jewellery and objets d'art from the Imperial fabricators. Eggs, flowers, cigarette cases, hardstone animals and a model of the Tatlin Tower (in the grounds).

British Museum
Living with Gods
2 November to 8 April
The story of the world's religious practices, told through objects. And in 2018 the museum is showcasing Oceanic Art.

Southampton City Art Gallery
Commercial Road
To 6 Jan 2018
From Mile End to Mayfair: the East London Group 
This talented bunch of painters were taught by Walter Sickert to record the streets of London. Look out for Elwin Hawthorne and Albert Turpin. Works by the Camden Town group will be shown alongside.

And there's still time to catch the monstrous, apocalyptic Art of Ray Harryhausen at Tate Britain, London until 19 Nov.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Confusibles 3

Some words and phrases sound so similar that they are often confused. It's dangerous to mix up your alkahest with your almagest, especially in the presence of Queen Elizabeth I.

almagest: A treatise on astronomy, geography and maths compiled by Ptolemy about AD 150.
alkahest: The universal solvent once sought by alchemists.

Magician John Dee (pictured) is wearing a goffered ruff.
A goffering iron
(short O)  is a device for putting pleats in a ruff or bonnet.
A gofer (long O) is someone you send to fetch (go for) things.
A gopher (long O) is an American rodent.

You bail out a leaky boat, and bail a friend out of prison, but you bale up a bale of straw with baling twine.

You can have a buttoned-down (Puritanical) personality. You may be buttoned-up and rarely reveal your feelings. When you apply yourself to a task you buckle to (or down). When you collapse from all that hard work you buckle up, or just buckle.

Censers burn incense, censors ban books, and sensors are robot eyes and ears.

A bad egg is addled, an over-rouged woman is raddled.

Discomforting: disconcerting, making someone uncomfortable.
Discomfiting: Beating someone in a fight or argument.
(They’ve been confused for centuries.)

A galley is a compact kitchen on a boat, a gallery is where you sell works of art. So a small kitchen in a house is a "galley kitchen".

A gambit is a move in a game, an ambit is a sphere of influence, an orbit is the path a planet takes round the sun, your remit is your area of responsibility.

Bears are grizzly, beards are grizzled (grey), ghouls are grisly (gruesome).

Hermitic individuals avoid the rest of humanity, hermetic knowledge is magical or obscure (it's been hermetically sealed).

The jive is an energetic teenage dance of the 50s, to jibe is to agree or fit, when you gybe in a sailing boat you go about, a gibe is a needling insult, and gyves are fetters.

Lightning is a bolt from the blue, lightening is a relief of pressure.

If you're livid you are purple like a bruise from anger, or pale with shock; a lurid light is a sinister glow, a lurid paperback contains a shocking tale.

Mettle is determination, metal is gold, silver, iron, steel, tin, brass...

Ordnance refers to weapons, ordinance to rules.

Populace is a noun: it means “the people”. Populous is an adjective meaning “crowded”.

A bum rap is a harsh sentence; a bad rep is a poor reputation.

Society may be riddled with corruption as a Gruyere cheese is with holes. It may also be crime-ridden, and riven with dissent and factions. Anything riven is likely to be full of rifts.

You build on a site, keep your small child in sight, and cite facts in support of your argument.

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Past and Present

This is the first scene in Augustus Egg's Past and Present, recently discussed on Britain's Lost Masterpieces. The man has just come in (that's his briefcase and umbrella in the foreground, and he's set down his top hat on the dining-room table). He's clutching in his hand an incriminating letter, revealing his wife's affair.

The picture is full of symbolism: on the back wall are portraits of the couple, and engravings of the temptation of Eve, and a shipwreck by Clarkson Stanfield. The wife has just cut an apple in half - a gleaming red apple from the Tree of Knowledge, but it has a rotten centre. Notice her beautiful brown silk skirt and filmy blouse, and the little girl's moire silk dress. The children are building a house of cards which is about to fall. The woman's snake bracelet may be a reference to the snake in the garden of Eden.

Here's my reading: the man came in and stood, showing her the incriminating letter. She fell to her knees in front of him, holding up her clasped hands and begging for forgiveness. He may have pushed her over - or else he refused to forgive her, and she fell, still holding out her arms. Now her clasped hands and bracelets make it look as if her arms are shackled. He then collapsed into a chair.

In the subsequent pictures, the little girls, grown older, are alone in their bedroom. The older girl is looking sadly out of the window at the moon. The wife looks up at the same moon from an arch on the foreshore. She is holding another child under her shawl.

The pictures are here.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Styles and Genres 5

Chicago bungalow (Ornate, with features from many periods and countries. Let’s build lots.)
cheap clumsy reproduction (What you get after a Georgian terrace is demolished.)
cinematic expressionism – towers and irregular arcades (Martin Lampprecht)
contemporary funky polite (Adam Nathaniel Furman)
cosy modern a la Indian YMCA (ANF)
developer’s quayside tat (Gareth Hughes)
Essex barn vernacular
1950s spindly fusspot architecture (Hugh Pearman)
funny shape-ist (for houses, HP)
pastry-cook’s Gothic (early 19th cent)
Polish cathedral (Over-the-top, with domes and a westwork.)

Po-Tech: An early classic from the period when Po Mo met High Tech resulting in a sort of camp modernism or a less historicist Post Modernism depending on your point of view. (Charles Holland on Terry Farrell's Water Treatment Centre in Reading)

Rubik’s Snake: looks like half-unfolded origami
Tesco pomo (ANF)
Victorian picturesque thrusting classical pomposity (Rohan Storey)

80s Chinese restaurant (mint wallpaper and ornate silk paintings)
luxury avant-garde 
American post-war corporate (Douglas Murphy)
faux bois: rustic log and twig garden furniture
industrial scrape’n’reveal vibe (HP)
witch kitsch

cocktail lounge jazz 
landfill indie bands of the early Noughties (Paul Whitelaw)
Tawdry 80s visions of the good life: I’m driving away from home, 30 miles or more. Love is a stranger in an open car.

Vaguely soulful pop fodder that’s clogged up the charts recently: a touch of gospel aligned to modern digital production, words on thwarted love, and a singalong chorus that’s perfect for an X Factor hopeful to give their all to while their relatives burst into tears at the side of the stage. It’s resolutely unremarkable. (Will Hodgkinson)


Daily Telegraph alternative Turner prize: paintings of café terraces and bougainvillea with too much ultramarine
high concept: The kind of art project that involves finding 50 people called Dominique Lambert, getting them to fill in a questionnaire describing themselves, giving the questionnaires to an artist who draws a picture based on their answers, giving the pictures to a police artist who turns them into efits and... I can’t remember what they did with the efits because I’d lost the will to live.

amateur choreographer, teaching assistant with a dark past (Eva Wiseman)
Heroin chic (90s) Fashion spreads in empty rooms in run-down hotels with dralon sofas and peeling, awful wallpaper.

normcore: dull food from the early 90s. May be ethnic, but in a safe and not very tasty way.)
snackwave: junk food
What to call the ramen burrito? Normcore fusion?

Watched the Titans movie. It's a classical mash-up. A bit 'tell Perseus that Helen's cyclops is riding a Minotaur in a trireme.' (Dan Snow)

The decade was finally starting to show the growth of the Post War economy and shine, so were the Movies, even the Noirs and it was the beginning of the end for the Genre. The look was not the only thing that started to "lighten up", the Characters were becoming less cynical, more perky, and frankly more boring. This can be exemplified by the Roommates here that are so spunky and aloof that they seem to glide and float through this Mystery/Thriller. Lowbrow Blues and Jazz was replaced with the nonthreatening Pop softness of Nat King Cole. (Anonymous imdb commenter on Blue Gardenia)

The "for people who hate forrin muck films" breed of lazy remake.

Upmarket Romance - girl gets the guy, but, boy, does it take time. (@JonnyGeller)

amazing dreck (Dan Auty in the late 70s when rep cinemas screened old scifi and you could even see it on telly sometimes.)

berserk pensioner
chase-a-minute action romp (Spooks)
desert road trip movie (popular in 70s)
doll horror
fashion horror
(The Eyes of Laura Mars)
found footage
French-window froth (imdb)
inspiration porn: films about cute brainboxes
low-tech Steampunk Victoriana (Greg Jenner on Dr Who)
mama drama
pig opera (Babe, Private Function/Betty Blue Eyes)

bonnet book
bus shelter poetry (Paul Whitelaw)
cat mystery: all characters are cats
clogs and shawls: romantic novel genre

country mystery:
  even broader than “country house mystery”, takes in any story not set in a big city
cozy mystery: There’s a murder, some suspects and a detective, but the whole thing is set in a country village and deliberately smothered in quilts, chutney, ponies and kittens. (No, I haven’t read any.)

creative writing class prose: present continuous, banal detail

ghostwriter’s prose: "
It was a lovely hotel… suddenly a man in a Stetson hat appeared…" On top of page after page of this mind-numbingly boring and irrelevant filler, the paint-by-numbers ghostwriter's prose is also dull and grating - "correct" in construction but utterly void of any creativity, style or interest. (Amazon review. Ghostwriters also tend to say “he was my rock” and “his smile lit up the room”.)

London cabbie humour
slum porn


Within general fiction we have subdivisions, from the university satire to the coming-of-age novel, but within genres there are even more, with Steampunk, Hard SF, Alternative History, time travel and Space Opera in SF and Cosy, Procedural, Psychological, Legal, Period and Serial Killer in Crime.  (Christopher Fowler)

Or make up your own: medieval self-help, Ice Age family saga etc

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Pedantry 4

We must have [grammar rule] because in [unlikely scenario], if we ignore the rule the sentence might be ambiguous.

And we're all going to hell in a handcart because people are ignorant of the following: 

Christmas news bulletins sent to your friends are not round robins, they are circular letters.

"I and the staff would like to wish you a Happy New Year" – well why don’t you, ha ha?

Different to, different from, different than have different meanings and one of them is not “grammar”.

The programme should be spelled Desert Island Disks because “disk is original”.

Cooking instructions are a “receipt”, not a “recipe” – "recipe" is French.

Tube trains run through a tunnel, underground trains run through a covered trench.

The earth isn’t round, it’s spherical.

There's a distinction between complementary and complimentary.

Using “etc” is sloppy.

They’re herring gulls, not seagulls.

"Owing to" refers to a verb, "due to" refers to a noun. You can only say "thanks to" if you're thanking somebody. So what can we say? "On account of"? But that's American. So we may have to state directly that A caused B, and B happened as a result of A. But we can't do that, we're British!

Anticipate means “be prepared” not “expect”.

You’re wounded on a battlefield but injured in a car accident. (Times style guide)

It’s thank you, not thankyou. “Thankyou” is not a word. (See NGram – use of “thankyou” has risen sharply since 1972, while “thank you” has declined and then risen slightly since 1900.)

It's an historical, an halal, an herbivore.

It’s not “this year”, it’s “the current year”. (And as for this week, next week, brought forward, put back... etc.)

There’s a difference in meaning between ’til and till.

You must use Oxford commas either all the time, or never. (NGram shows a steep rise for "Oxford comma" from 1985. It depends on context. Sometimes you need a comma before and, and sometimes you don’t.)

These are brackets [ ]
These are parentheses ( ) 
These are braces { }
Homophobia means fear of the same, or fear of yourself. (It may not be the best term for intolerance of gay people, but it’s the one we’ve got.)

Enormity means “outside the norm” (and egregious means outside the flock). Its meaning changed to "nastiness", and then to “unusually large size”.

“Ironic” doesn't simply mean "paradoxical".

It’s “an aught” not “a nought”.

Till should be spelled 'til, as it’s short for until. (Same goes for 'phone and 'bus – telephone and omnibus.)

Though I admit I flinch when people say “etch” when they mean “engrave”.

Singular 'they' never went away; it has been in steady use for centuries: Wikipedia quotes Chaucer, Shakespeare, Chesterfield, Ruskin, Byron, Austen, Defoe, Thackeray and Shaw. Some 19th century grammarians promoted a gender-neutral 'he', but the former remained widespread. (AG)

Merriam-Webster, which calls the usage 'entirely standard', notes that "hopefully" has been used to start sentences since the early 1700s, and other sentence adverbs for a century longer still. It's interesting that, according to an American Heritage Dictionary usage panel, approval of 'hopefully' as a sentence adverb dropped from 44% in 1969 to 27% in 1988. Also, if you disapprove of it, do you also disapprove of 'accordingly', 'seriously', 'understandably', 'amazingly', 'frankly', and 'honestly'?  We all seem quite happy to use those in the same way. (AG)

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Neologisms 18

People come up with new figures of speech every week – fortunately. They're far more fun than dialect words for long-forgotten agricultural tools.

Centrepoint: mid-air concrete embroidery (Magdalene Logan‏ @MaariVekki) 

One of those days when you could sob a beck full of tears...
(@herdyshepherd1, May 23 2017)

A lot of what drew me to the novel and made it distinctive I felt was sanded off in adaption. (@jeannette_ng)

Just coined the word "sparsescapes", and I'll fight any editor that tries to cut it. (@mrdavidwhitley)

Blimey! When I lived in Glasgow, I wouldn't have known an avocado if I'd found one in my porridge, as we used to say, I think. (Alison Classe)

Casual, little Englander superior nostril flaring. (via FB)

Compared to the banquet Jeremy Corbyn is offering, that’s rather a dry biscuit. (Andrew Marr to Theresa May)

Every galah in the pet shop is now an energy expert. (

He had all the common sense of an igneous rock. (AJB)

I don’t want to throw myself a pity party here. (

If you don't want to cringe so hard you'll end up in another dimension, do not read Theresa May's interview with the Plymouth Herald. (Owen Jones)

This, from a self-identified right-libertarian, features more spectacular projection than the 3D IMAX. (John Band‏ @johnb78)

[Prime-ministerial hopeful] isn’t competent to run a bath. (@johnb78)

Rome didn't so much fall as slide around a bit. (David M. Perry‏)

There’s a warehouse full of myths and urban legends when it comes to Prince. (BBC Breakfast)

Visitors arriving by train are now greeted with a generic clone-town scene more like a suburban retail park than an illustrious seat of learning. (Olly Wainwright on Cambridge)

We’ve got a duvet of cloud. (BBC weatherman)

You don’t have to be Encyclopedia Brown to find out that they’re living a very different life than the one they project. (

Covent Garden street performer hell

edu-lingo (full of terms that refer to nothing)
lobotomised whelks (Michael Cashman on Sun journalists)
malignant dimwits (Simon Schama on Trump’s “kakistocracy”)
neoclassical mounds of bombastic gloop (Rowan Moore on neo-country houses)
Remainders for Remainers
rurban fringe, bastard countryside (edgelands)
stained-glass platitudes (JP on Rees-Mogg)

More here, and links to the rest.

Reasons To Be Cheerful 20

I remember when bar staff thought women shouldn’t order drinks at the bar, so if you tried, they would ignore you (circa 1970). The stigma against going on blind dates – you had to pretend you’d met through friends – really has disappeared. (There were endless articles claiming it had gone when it hadn’t.) Heatherwick buses now have windows (and they slide to open, actually letting in AIR). 
Over the last two centuries, poverty has fallen, education and literacy have risen, democracy has increased, more people are vaccinated, and child mortality has fallen. Smoking in pubs and offices is a distant memory. Aquariums like Sea World no longer exhibit performing whales. And we don’t kill people for fun in public arenas any more. Do you still want "everything to go back to how it was", Brexiteers?

And when did the UK stop prosecuting “poachers” for shooting rabbits that nobody else wanted?
When did we cease whaling? Circa 1960, says Wikipedia. (Harpoon guns made whaling too efficient, and we ran out of whales.)

Since 1558 England has had a female head of state for 41% of the time. (Dan Snow)

1598 Edict of Nantes gives rights to French Protestants
1685 Edict of Nantes renounced, leading to persecution and flight, and depriving France of “many of its most skilled and industrious individuals” (Wikipedia)
1787 Rights restored
1797 Declaration of the Rights of Man ends religious discrimination in France

Poland banned corporal punishment in schools in 1783 (in their Constitution), and the Soviet Union in 1917. (UK 1986, some private UK schools 1998.)

Capital punishment was banned in West Germany in 1949. It continued in the DDR until 1987.

1782 Spanish Inquisition abolished
1823 Slavery abolished in Chile
1851 Window Tax repealed in UK

1914 Defence of the Realm Act ("The trivial peacetime activities no longer permitted included flying kites, starting bonfires, buying binoculars, feeding wild animals bread, discussing naval and military matters or buying alcohol on public transport. Alcoholic beverages were watered down and pub opening times were restricted to noon–3pm and 6:30pm–9:30pm (the requirement for an afternoon gap in permitted hours lasted in England until the Licensing Act 1988). Wikipedia)

1917 Dangerous Drugs Act bans selling and possessing non-prescription narcotics
1917 Women are admitted to the armed forces
1917 House of Commons agrees to remove the grille from the Ladies’ Gallery

1917 Stoke Newington appoints first woman Councillor
1924 Stoke Newington appoints first woman Mayor

1960s Australia no longer classifies aborigines as animals under the Flora and Fauna Act
1962 Jamaica gains independence from UK
1965 Contraception legalised in US
1970 Royal Navy ends officially sanctioned daily rum ration for sailors, instituted 1665
1974 Roman Catholics can be appointed Lord Chancellor

1974 Women can get credit cards without a husband's approval
1982 El Vino’s lifts ban on women standing at the bar

1990 Native Americans allowed to practise their languages in schools.
1992 US ratifies Human Rights Covenant
2002 Keiko the orca from Free Willy was freed in Iceland and lived in the wild for five years.

2015 Malta becomes the first country to outlaw non-consensual medical interventions in cases of intersex.

What a week! Greater abortion access for Northern Ireland women, same-sex marriages in Germany, huge faith school reforms in South Africa and Ireland. (@Humanists_UK)

By law now nothing prevents Tunisian Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men and inheritance between men/women is now equal!

Massive collapse in number of Anglicans in Britain, survey shows. “Given the number of faith schools, something is wrong!”
(@WalkerMarcus, paraphrase)

Homeopathic products should not be sold in Australian pharmacies because they place consumers at “unacceptable risk”, an independent review of pharmacy regulation for the health department has found. (Guardian) The NHS is considering ceasing to fund homeopathy in London and the Southwest – why hasn’t this happened already?

The Tasmanian government apologises to people affected by laws against gay sex and cross-dressing, repealed in 1997.

Garden Bridge quashed.
Supreme Court ruling extends same-sex survivor benefits to pre-2005 accrual.
First same-sex wedding involving a Muslim in the UK.
Church of England priests can choose whether or not to wear vestments in services.
Baroness Hale becomes Britain’s top judge.
Jordan's parliament votes to abolish a law which allowed rapists to avoid jail by marrying their victim.
Nepal criminalises banishing menstruating women to huts.
The loos are free at Victoria Station.
First Pride march in Kosovo.
Kenya’s High Court rules that one-third of MPs must be women.
MTV scraps gender-specific categories for movie and TV awards.
Falkland Islands introduce marriage equality.
First US woman wins a college football scholarship.
Rola Sleiman becomes the first female pastor in the Arab Christian world.
Female Islamic clerics declare fatwa against child marriage.
Nevada bans gay “cure” therapy for kids, becoming the 10th jurisdiction to ban gay “cures”.
Taiwan’s top court rules same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.
Scottish Episcopal Church votes to allow same-sex marriage.
The King’s Troop is almost 50/50 men and women.
German government approves equal marriage.
Saudi women can drive. (It had something to do with the country's reputation in the rest of the world.)

1857 Taney's Dred Scott ruling declared that African Americans, whether free or enslaved, were not and could never be citizens of the U.S.

The Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. (Alexander Stephens, 1861)

The Great Reform Act of 1832 gave the franchise to about 17% of the adult male population. And even that change had been fought fiercely by many of the landed interest that dominated British politics… [The “reform” narrative] was a tale of doing just enough at the 11th hour to avert rebellion by the majority of Britons who made the wealth. (Times, Sept 2017)

If you are a same-sex married couple you cannot get divorced on the grounds of adultery – adultery being a biblical definition that relates to an extramarital affair between a man and a woman. In reality, a same-sex couple can get divorced on the grounds of “unreasonable behaviour”, which can cover infidelity, but in the interest of equality this should be changed. (For straight couples, if your husband is unfaithful with another man, that isn’t adultery. Independent)