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Category archive: Language

Wednesday November 25 2015

Last night I did a posting at Samizdata about Milo Yiannopoulos.

Until today, when I dug him up on YouTube, I didn’t even know what nationality this guy is.  American would have been my guess, but basically I didn’t know, although I did learn yesterday what he looks like.  But for me he was basically a name, that I couldn’t spell.

Turns out he’s British.  Very British.  Who knew?  Everybody except me, presumably.  Blog and learn. 

I asked for the opinions of Samizdata commentariat, and got some.  I don’t know why, but I expected more variety in these responses, more doubts, more reservations.  Actually, the Samizdata commentariat has, so far, been uniformly approving of this guy.

Now I’m listening to him babble away, and it turns out that, being a libertarian and an atheist, I’m “touchy” - meaning oversensitive about being criticised - times two.  As a libertarian I’m obsessed with marijuana and with computer hacking.  (Actually: No, times two.) As an atheist, well, it turns out I dress stupidly.  (Yes.  True.) He does love to wind people up, which he does by saying slightly untrue and quite funny things.  He’s like that classic old Fleet Street type, the Opinionated Female Columnist, whose job is to overgeneralise in ways that are quite popular and pile up the readers, and to make the Outraged Classes really really outraged, and who eventually gets … old.

I’m starting to think he may soon be a bit of a has been.  But, at least he now is.

I think the article that I linked to from Samizdata may have been a peak.  It is truly brilliant.

What I do like is his interest in the tactics of how to spread ideas, how to win arguments, how to be able to make arguments despite the efforts of people who want nothing except to shut him up, by saying things that shut them up.

Thursday November 19 2015

Rather as a politician, when sacked, pretends that he has resigned to spend more time with whatever is left of his family, when a cricketer gets the elbow from the national team, the selectors always now say stuff like this:

James Whitaker, the national selector, said: “Ian Bell has been an outstanding player for many years and undoubtedly still has plenty to offer England in the future. It was clearly a difficult decision but he has struggled for runs in recent series and we felt that it was the right time for him to take a break and spend time working on his game out of the spotlight.

Outstanding player.  More to offer.  Take a break.  Work on his game.  Out of the spotlight.  And sometimes, it’s even true.  After all, Compton and Ballance are both back.  But the difference is age.  Compton and Ballance are still quite young.  Bell is at that age where he is either good now, or not.  He doesn’t have a potential big decade to offer in the future, just one or two more years right now.

Bell’s problem is that he has always been the kind of player who can make a good team better, but he has never been the kind of player good enough to make a bad team good.  And even when he was playing really well, which he did from time to time, you kind of didn’t notice.  He was never a “game changer”, merely a pretty good player, who sometimes did really well, and sometimes not so well.

Talking of bellends, for several years now the comedians on the telly have been using this, to me, peculiar expression, to describe people they are not impressed by and are inclined to mock.  But only now, wanting to add something to this posting, did I learn that the bellend is the head of the penis.  Which presumably makes the bell … Blog and learn.

Friday November 06 2015

The modified cliché is a standard method to spice up writing.  You take a too-much-repeated clutch of words, like a metaphor so stale that you hardly notice the metaphor any more, and you alter it or add something to it to bring things alive again.  (Said Vinegar Joe Stillwell of Louis Mountbatten: “There’s less to that young man than meets the eye.” I still remember something Harry Phibbs wrote about how he was “eager to intrude upon private grief”.)

Something similar can be done with architecture, on a far more grand scale:


The individual bricks, so to speak, of this architectural pile are impeccably dull.  Yet they are combined in a very dramatic way.  Which makes the impeccable dullness that is thus still very visible all the more entertaining.

Modifying a cliché has particular architectural advantages, because it means that you already know how the cliché bits work, because that’s been done thousands of times already.  (See this earlier posting.)

Of course, combining them in this new way could create all manner of problems of different sorts, so you still need to be careful.  But, despite the dangers, I like this.

Wednesday November 04 2015



For further information, go here, or here.

LATER: Van Beethoven.

Tuesday November 03 2015

... causing them to stay stuck inside my head for ever.

That’s it really.  Provided something can get out of hand inside a head.

What I am talking about, in the event that you don’t already recognise the syndrome, is that you think of something to put on your blog, and start seeking out links, and you find highly pertinent links to add, but at the far end of them, you find further highly pertinent things to add to the original posting, until it ceases entirely from being the piece of fun that blogging ought mostly to be, and becomes a giant piece of homework that never gets done.

So, memo to self: Stop it.

Friday October 23 2015

Earlier in the week, I journeyed under Trafalgar Square, in a pedestrian subway.  The subway was adorned with history lessons, one of which was this one:


I did not know this, about what a Mews is.  It’s not the kind of thing you ask.  By which I mean: I never have.  A Mews is a Mews.  I have never questioned this.  I accepted it.  And then someone answers the question: Why is a Mews called that?  Before I even realised I was ready to be told.

Click on the above picture, and get the darker and less artfully composed original.

Monday August 17 2015

A lot of my postings just now involve me showing you photos I took quite a while back, and this one is also one of those.

What happens is, I rootle through all my past photos, and then sometimes get an idea for a posting about a certain category of thing or human conduct or mode of transport or some such thing, and I start gathering photos to illustrate this, in a separate directory.  I am careful to copy photos into the new directory, rather than just transfer them there.  One of my rules is, keep all the photos you took on a certain day on a certain expedition all in one place.  But, no harm in copying from those directories into other ones which are about particular things rather than particular trips or particular times.

However, what often then happens is that I forget about it all.  So, the directory sits there, sometimes for years, and then years later I come across it again.  This happened last night, when I encountered a collection of photographs, assembled in 2010, of photographers who were also holding guide books.  I could tell that I had never used them in a blog posting, because when I do that, I always give photos different names.

Here are four of those photographers-holding-guide-books photos, all of which involve guide books with the word “Londres” on them:


Click to get the bigger pictures.

I’m guessing that both the French and the Hispanics spell London as Londres, with the French calling it Londr and the Hispanics calling it Lon Drez.  But that’s only a gez.

And, yes (google google), I gezzed right:

Londres, the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan and Filipino language name for London, capital of the United Kingdom and England

The guide book while photoing thing always appealed to me, not least because even then I was looking for ways to not photo people’s faces, and guide books often achieved that outcome for me very nicely.  But the phenomenon is also interesting because, slowly, it is fading away.  You do still see photographers flaunting guide books, but it is rarer now.

Instead, the smartphone is the new guidebook.  And, of course, increasingly, the new camera, for people like those shown above.  Makes perfect sense.

As for the lady above (in the picture bottom right) whose face I do here display (if you click), well, she was wearing a T-shirt saying, in London’s own language and therefore to attract the attention of Londoners like me: “believe me… i’m incredible”.  Somehow I don’t think it was “incredulous”.  Ergo, she was attracting attention with her own attention-attracting behaviour, ergo she was and is fair game for her face to go up, totally recognisably, (but nearly a decade later) on my blog.

Nearly a decade later because these photos were taken by me in 2006 and 2007.

Saturday August 15 2015

Time today only for three rather antiquated Citroens.

First, a Citroen DS23, photoed by me in Lower Marsh this afternoon, 3.45 pm:


Second, a second Citroen DS23, photoed by me in the Kings Road this afternoon, 5.06 pm:


To see one of these beauties is a beautiful thing.  To see two, within the space of less than two hours, is to be doubly blessed.

I know they were both DS23s because I also photoed where they both said they were DS23s, at the back.

And then, before the two hours were up, I also snapped this:


It just turned off the Kings Road, right in front of me.

Magnifique.  J’aime Londres.

That last one reminds me that I also took this photo, earlier in the week, in Strutton Ground:


A form of transport that is even more antiquated than are the automobiles pictured above.  See also: this.

By the way, I rather enjoyed it when I just image-googled automobile.  All I was doing at first was checking the spelling.

Trois Citroens (et deux chevaux)
Where punctuation might have helped
Credit where credit is due (in France)
A man taking a Selfie before it was A Thing (and me taking a picture of him)
Out and about with GD1 (3): Baritone borrows my charger
Paul Johnson on Mozart and Da Ponte
Another quota sign
Magic clarified
BMdotcom abusive comment of the day
Photoing the old London model
BMdotcom What if? of the day
BMdotcom (mathematical (and sporting)) quote of the day
Database blues
Early tries by my guys
Pavarotti could not read music (very well)
Fuck the duck until exploded
Is it practise or practice?  (And: would perfect communication actually be perfect?)
Sign with sarcastic sneer quotes
Xxxx-ie outside Xxxx-ridges
God was overheating and now needs radical transplant surgery (and Dawkins now has to do my email)
Quota selfie from 2006
What to call the sneerquote Salesforce /sneerquote tower? (plus a quite profound tangent)
TfL electronic signs (etc.)
Emmanuel Todd talking in English (about how the Euro is doomed)
The joyful excitement of the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer
Premier League soccer news
Two badly lit views of “Victoria Tower” and why Big Ben is not St Stephen’s Tower or Elizabeth Tower
Sorry for the outage last night
JK Rowling describes two rich girls
Boris Johnson’s London
Big Things on a better day
Comrade Blimp
Friend on telly
Sidwell (and me) on selfies
Fat bastard!
Hampers can be annoying
Monty Panesar: “I piss on your short pitched fast deliveries aimed at my body!”
The Alex Singleton blog
The right sentences but not necessarily in the right order
There are cranes and there are cranes
BMdotCOM mixed metaphor of the day
So painters also used to “take” pictures
The ups and downs of English
Kissa yrittää mennä laatikkoon
Literally the light switch of leadership
BMdotCOM Headline of the week
Thrashing India
Choosing a Clean Food Outlet in Lawas is as easy as ABC
Emmanuel Todd’s latest book - in English
Misspelt (correction: Italian) signs of the times
Multilingual signage
Excellent new word
Pronouncing on the Six Nations quote of the day
More signage
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom spam comment spelling mistake of the day
The Humpty Dumpty Learning Channel
Obamanomics dod not work
English will not last for ever shock
Another strangely punctuated headline and a depressing television play
K Street - metonym - synecdoche
To Serve Man
Reading various bits of Roger Kimball
I flipping told him
Brian Sickle-feather?
Sounds like a brothel with film star lookalikes
One of the many signs of aging
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom modified cliche insult of the day
Stepping forward into the abyss!
Old-school media versus (or becoming) new-school media (again)
All your Quite Interesting questions answered
What a difference a g makes
Spelling Micklethwait wrong and Googling for Brian Micklethwaite
Long platform ticket
I am not drunk - I just didn’t know what to put so I just started
Some neologistics
Excellent mixed metaphor
I need to get out less
“I will cause a boy that driveth a plough to know more of the scriptures than thou dost.”
Metaphor muddle alert
Today I have been blogging elsewhere and also doing other things
Computer blues
Signs of civilisation
It’s true what they say about how hard it is to pronounce Chinese – oh beansprouts!
New word alert
Robots will transform education
On the appeal or lack of it to Young Europeans of “capitalism”
When inimitable means very imitable
Today I ate something that disagreed with me
Refuting decimation