Tag Archives: language

The King with no Clothes: Break the Silence

Break the Silence

When was the last time you really wanted (or needed) to say something but kept quiet? Write a post about what you should’ve said. Ben Huberman

Attending an art exhibition opened recently made me consider the fairy tale, ‘The King With No Clothes.’ Looking at the catalogue later I observed; the more verbose the artist’ statements, the weaker the work, and less able it was to speak for itself.

Language is constantly changing. Maybe it is me showing my age, the fact that I find it hard to accept, every one now has an ‘art practice.’ What happened to painters painting, sculptors sculpting etc.? People make art now or are busy in their art practice. I find this very pretentious.

Some phrases that took my fancy in the catalogue:                                                                       ‘I ‘aim to explore the conceptual and phenomenological scope of this relationship.’

‘I think that making art and looking at art are coterminous experiences.’

‘The documentation of my lived experience within an endemic spatio-temporal environment is the cornerstone of my practice.’

Of course there are those artists who express themselves in a sincere and understandable fashion.

I can’t help remembering two of Matisse’ many quotations:                                                        ‘You want to paint?                                                                                                                          First of all you must cut off your tongue because your decision to paint takes away from you the right to express yourself with anything but your brush.’

‘Whoever wishes to devote himself to painting should begin by cutting out his own tongue.’ Matisse.

It sounds as if he meant artists should destroy their pens too. I would have loved to express a few honest words on the night, but held my tongue.

Continue reading


When Insults had class:

These glorious insults are from an era before the English Language got boiled down to four-letter words.

The exchange between Churchill and Lady Astor:

Said she, ‘If you were my husband I’d give you poison,’ He said, ‘If you were my wife, I’d drink it.’

A Member of Parliament to Disraeli:

‘Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.’ ‘That depends, Sir,’ said Disraeli, ‘whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.’

‘He had delusions of adequacy.’ Walter Kerr

‘He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.’ Winston Churchill

‘I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.’ Clarence Darrow

‘He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.’ William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

‘Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.’ Moses Hadas

‘I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.’ Mark Twain

‘He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.’ Oscar Wilde

I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend…. If you have one.’ George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill                                                                          ‘Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second… If there is one.’ Winston Churchill, in response.

‘I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.’  Stephen Bishop

‘He is a self-made man and worships his creator.’ John Bright

‘I’ve just learned of his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.’  Irvin S. Cobb

‘He’s not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.’  Samuel Johnson

‘He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.’  Paul Keating

‘In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.’  Charles, Count Talleyrand

‘Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?’ Mark Twain

‘Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.  Oscar Wilde

‘He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts…..For support rather than illumination.’ Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

‘He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.’ Billy Wilder

‘I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.’  Groucho Marx

Here is a great list of quotes, but where are the women? So I shall end with a female quote:

‘A woman has to be twice as good as a man to go half as far.’  Fannie Hurst



Changing Language:

Recently I came across some Victorian sayings that seem to have left our current vocabulary. Some are sexist, and probably a good thing that they have moved into disuse. I found them interesting never the less. Please don’t be offended, some may be a bit rude! Have you heard any of them before? I had heard only one of them. For those of you writing historical novels, they might be useful in dialogue perhaps?

1. Bitch the pot (pour the tea) As in: “Hurry up and bitch the pot, would you? I’m spitting feathers here”

2. Tight as a boiled owl (drunk) As in: “Don’t remember a single thing about last night. Got absolutely boiled owled.”

3. Quail-pipe (woman’s tongue) As in: “Did we kiss? Yes. There was no quail-pipe though.”

4. Tallywags (testicles) As in: “Oof. Right in the tallywags.” Other Victorian terms for testicles included whirlygigs, trinkets, twidddle-diddles. (sounds as if it’s out of a nursery rhyme!)

5. Dirty puzzle (promiscuous woman) As in: “Sure. I dirty-puzzled around a bit at university, who didn’t?”

6. Cupid’s kettle drums (boobs) As in: “Would you mind terribly if I…had a go on your Cupid’s kettle drums?”

7. Neck oil (beer) As in: “Go on, it’s Friday night, get some neck oil down you.”

8. Dash my wig! (exclamation) As in: “Dash my wig, there’s never anything worth watching on Netflix.”

9. Tatur-trap (mouth) As in: “Your annoying me now. Shut your tatur-trap.” (Tatur being short for potato).

10. Tot-hunting (prowling for women) As in: “I’m married now. My tot-hunting days are over.

11. Bit o’ jam (pretty woman) As in: “People seem to think Kate Upton is a proper bit o’ Jam, but I don’t see it myself.” Other terms for the same thing included “jampot” and “basket of oranges.”

12. Cackle-tub (pulpit) As in: “That’s easy for you to say, vicar, up there in your cackle-tub.”

13.  Shoot into the brown (to fail) As in: “I thought victory was guaranteed, but I shot into the brown at the last moment.” The phrase is derived from shooting. Miss the black and white target and your shot would hit the muddy (ie brown) ground instead.

14. Inexpressibles (trousers) As in: “Put your inexpressibles on, it’s time to get up.”

15. Gas-pipes (tight trousers) As in: “No wonder your voice is so high-pitched, what with you wearing gas-pipes like those.”

16. Tickle one’s innards (to have a drink) As in: “Come on, stop moping. Let’s go out and tickle our innards.”

17. Gigglemug (smiling face) As in: “It’s always nice to come home to your gigglemug.”

18. Mutton shunter (policeman) As in: “Leg it, chaps, the mutton shunters are coming!”

19. Beer and skittles (good times) As in: “Sure, life is all beer and skittles when you’re in your twenties, but just you wait.”

20. Bags o’ mystery (sausages) As in: “PIck up a few of them bags o’mystery on your way home, will you?

21. Crinkum-crankum (vagina) As in: “Careful how you sit. You don’t want to expose your crinkum-crankum.”

Sources: Passing English of the Victorian era, a Dictionary of Heterodox English, Slang and Phrase, by J. Redding Ware; 1909, Routledge, London.


Language and inconsistencies:

      Ponder  on these imponderables for a  minute:-

1. If you take an  Oriental person and spin him around several times,
does he  become disoriented?

2. If people from Poland are called  Poles, why aren’t people from
Holland called Holes?

3.  Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy  adultery?

4. If a pig loses its voice, is it  disgruntled?

5. If love is blind, why is lingerie  so popular?

6. Why is the man who invests all your money  called a broker?

7. When cheese gets its picture taken,  what does it say?

8. Why is a person who plays the piano  called a pianist but a person
who drives a racing car not  called a racist?

9. Why are a wise man and a wise  guy opposites?

10. Why do overlook and oversee mean  opposite things?

11. Why isn’t the number 11 pronounced  onety one?

12. ‘I am’ is reportedly the shortest sentence  in the English language.

Could it be that ‘I do’ is the  longest sentence?

13. If lawyers are disbarred and  clergymen defrocked, doesn’t it follow
that electricians can  be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged,
models  deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners  depressed?

14. What hair colour do they put on the  driver’s license’s of bald men?

15. I thought about how  mothers feed their babies with tiny little spoons and forks  so I wondered what do Chinese mothers use?  Toothpicks?

16. Why do they put pictures of criminals  up in the Post Office? What are we supposed to do, write to  them? Why don’t they just put their pictures on the postage  stamps so the postmen can look for them while they deliver  the mail?

17. You never really learn to swear until  you learn to drive.

18. No one ever says, ‘It’s  only a game’ when their team is winning.

19. Ever wonder  about those people who spend £1.50 apiece on  those
little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian  backwards: NAIVE

20. Isn’t making a  smoking section in a restaurant like making a peeing section  in a swimming pool?

21. If 4 out of 5 people SUFFER  from diarrhea , does that mean that one enjoys  it?

Lexophile & Paraprosdokians:

‘Lexophile’ is a word used to describe those that have a love for punning wordplay, such as ‘You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish’, or ‘to write a broken pencil is pointless.’ A competition to see who can come up with the best lexphillies, (I can’t find this word in the dictionary), is supposedly held every year in an undisclosed location. This year’s winnning submission is posted at the very end.

-When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.

-A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

-When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.

-The batteries were given free of charge.

-A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

-A will is a dead giveaway.

-With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

-A boiled egg is hard to beat.

-When you’ve seen one shopping centre you’ve seen a mall.

-Police were called to a day care centre where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

-Did you hear about the fellow whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

-A bicycle can’t stand alone; it is two tired.

-When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

-The guy who fell on to an upholstery machine is now fully recovered.

-He had a photographic memory that was never developed.

-When she saw her first strand of grey hair she thought she’d dye.

-Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.

-And the cream of the wretched crop:

-Those who get too big for their pants will be exposed in the end.

Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently humorous. Winston Churchill loved them.

1. Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.

2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it is still on my list.

3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

4. If I agree with you, we’d both be wrong.

5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

6. War does not determine who is right – only who is left.

7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

8. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

9. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

10. In filling out an application, where it says ,’In case of Emergency, Notify:’ I put ‘DOCTOR’.

11. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.

12. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

13. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.

14. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

15. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in the garage makes you a car.

16. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.

17. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one now.