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A picture worth a thousand words - though it needn't be picture-perfect.

A phrase is a feather in one's cap, an ace in the hole, an act of God, a knight in shining armour, a foot in the door, a band of brothers, a plague on both your houses, a sight for sore eyes, a giddy aunt and a dish fit for the gods. It is the call of the wild, the customer that is always right, the new kid on the block, the road less travelled, the birds and the bees, the last straw, the writing on the wall, the whole nine yards and the next big thing.

A phrase is a bold statement with derring-do in the battlefield of words. A phrase is no red herring, nor a cock and bull story, not a forgone conclusion, it is no rest for the wicked and definitely not a load of codswallop. Make no bones about it, there are many people turn a blind eye to phrases, but then make no mistake for they are the blind leading the blind.


The filthy, disgusting peasants seen in this picture, like an elephant in the room, gave birth to the phrase "Blot on the landscape".

The whole shebang, or the whole kit and caboodle, kicked off as a pipe dream for a Mr. Henry Phrase, for whom the bell tolls, in the late 1700s. He was a common apparition within the vicinity of a gentleman's club, which relished on similes. Sir Henry thought similes to be a wolf in sheep's clothing, and sought to break new ground with a new fad called 'phrases'.

He entered the fray of the gentleman's simile club one day to give his two cents worth. "I say, this obsession of similes makes my blood boil!" he splurged at a nearby gentleman, drunk as a lord. A nerve-racking response came straight from the horse's mouth (although Sir Henry knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth), "Forsooth sir, silence is like gold!". Sir Henry maintained his stiff upper lip with a grilling retort "Hell's bells! Are you wet behind the ears, man? The correct phrase is 'Silence is golden'! Go boil your head or put up your dukes!" His opponent frozen stiff with terror, as he had no simile to save his bacon, Sir Henry went in for the kill "On your bike, you piece of work! I'd be surprised if you were worth a tinker's damn or all the tea in China, or I shall be sent to Coventry!"[1]

He was then accused of foul play in the gentleman's club and was hoisted by his own petard whereupon a local bobby on the beat barged in and proclaimed, "Well, well, well, well. The game is up. What's all this then? 'ello 'ello 'ello.". Luckily for Sir Henry, he was as fit as a fiddle and went flat out of sight from his pursuers. He fell from grace but hit the ground running. He was ground to a halt as a spanner in the works slowed his advance, he came at loggerheads with the bobby, who caught him red handed, and was thrown into the slammer forthwith.

Sir Henry exposed the full Monty of phrases to the coppers and he soon found himself on a sinking ship[2] headed for trouble, like a raft of pain floating on a sea of indifference. The jury was out and he had to face the music for his crimes against the English language. He was sentenced to a long stretch doing porridge for nigh on 30 years (a fate worse than death) to teach him a lesson he'll surely never forget.

Sir Henry Phrase popped his clogs, fell dead as a doornail and kicked the bucket in the early 1800s. But the legacy of the 'phrase' lives on evermore.

How to Use Phrases

An Englishman's home is his castle. Alternatively: ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE!

When you're feeling blue, down in the dumps, whenever the curtain of night is drawn or whenever you're simply in the doldrums, a phrase is by and large guaranteed to get you through thick and thin and make you pleased as punch and over the moon until the cows come home. Phrases can aid anyone clever or thick, after all a comfortable phrase is fertile soil for the "special" writer. When you have caught your stride with metaphors, never slow down, time is but a thief, take it all for yourself. There is no point in beating around the bush with phrases, so jump on the bandwagon and get a piece of the action. You don't have to know your onions to sharpen the cut of your jib.

A hard and fast rule of the thumb; don't be afraid to voice your opinion on phrases, one's views are better seen if raised, so think outside of the box or you'll have the devil to pay. Sometimes you may be hot for a phrase but the phrase itself may be cold to you, so be sure to act cool, be frosty and chill out when in the phrase's icy stare. Get it all sorted out and mum's the word and Bob's your uncle.


Back to back, the duelists faced one another.

“During the darling buds of May, ne'er cast a clout, 'til May be out.”

You may have to look up to see that a contradiction in your words has been under your nose all along. Oxymorons are as pure as the driven snow. A phrase may be a diamond in the rough and as good as gold, but that does not mean you are as well. However, get into the spirit of living and you'll soon be back from the dead. You may have to play dirty to get a clean getaway, otherwise the policeman's taser will give you a numb sensation. You have all the time in the world in prison so take your time, life is short. If you are going on a date, remember that music is the food of love, but there's no such thing as free lunches. I'd know this, I've had more dates than you've had hot dinners.

The English language has many long words, but use a long word when a diminutive one will do. Do not put statements in the negative form. And don’t start sentences with a conjunction. If you reread your words, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing. And last, but not least, do take care to avoid clichés like the plague.

Mixed Metaphors

Mixed metaphors are the spanner in the ointment of good English. Get it right: it's not rocket surgery.

However, if you step up to the plate and grab the bull by the horns, you'll be wet blanket in a loose cannon. Mixed metaphors are too much of a weak tea to hang your hat on. You have to be a commander of metaphors to avoid this, if a commander burns his own boats, he will be in hot water. Metaphors are to be used sparingly, but effectively so you can stick them in your pipe and chew them over. If you don't master metaphors correctly, you'll never strike a spark that massages your audience's conscience. If you are worried stiff about misfiring a metaphor, do not fret. We are all in the same bucket. It is difficult to go that one clog further up on the ladder. If you're still doubtful, don't slit your wrists over it, the skill is in the wrist. Teasing the geese would merely be a wild goose chase.

Mixed metaphors, a thorn in the flesh as they are, are common among practitioners. For example, falconers, who can advise when hunting for birds: "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, but don't go beating around the bush". God rings a bell with the priests who are dead ringers for those touched by fervour. You'll have to convert to Christianity completely to get to Heaven, being a mere church bell-ringer quite simply isn't enough, as you can't be saved by the bell. You can't get to Heaven for being an church undertaker either, no matter how hard you work in your graveyard shifts.

Although, if you throw caution to the wind, you'll be around the corner with a changing wind, to see the carrot at the end of the tunnel.


Alright, me old china?

Gordon Bennett! If winnie the pooh're willing to Adam and Eve it, Tony Blair is a hoppin' pot of phrases found in the language of Londoners. All people from the London Fanny Brown speak like this. Oh luv a duck! There is even a load of crap dang to be found in the human anatomy, know what I mean? You have your plates of meat to walk on, your mitts to steal some bread and your north and south to yell abuse at Tottenham Hotspur fans. You also have your boat race to disgust the world with, your Mystic Megs to run away with and your mince pies to take a butchers hook with. Or am I cooking up a pork pie?

Phrases Stolen From Foreign Languages

Cliché! Touché! Oui? Non...?

Ooh la la! Ay carumba! Bonjour! Ars longa, vita brevis[3]. Croissant, pain au chocolat, nutella? Carpe diem! Vis-a-vis, va va voom. Quid pro quo, Status Quo: merci beaucoup! Mamma mia, menage a trois es excellente und a la mode. C'lest la vie. De factor, "E Pluribus Unum". Zut alors! Sacre bleu! Annas horribillis, semper fidelis, el Presidente. Alma mater. Suteki da ne, nagata da re. Opus dei? Banzai! Mardi gras, laissez-faire, faux pas. Creme de la creme. Ipso facto, rigor mortis. Baka! Et tu, Brute?

Au natural, au pair, au contraire. Coup d'etat? Deja vu, cul-de-sac. Deja vu, n'est-ce pas? Double entrende, en suite, en route! Grand Prix. Magnum opus? Garcon! Haute cuisine, hors d'ourves. Alter ego, avant garde! A la carte. Piece de resistance, pret-a-porter. Sang-froid. Aqua vitae = tour de force? Veni vidi vici and vice versa. S'il vous plait! Et cetera! Bonsoir!

Vorsprung durch technik. Kaiser! Jawohl! Schnell schnell! Raus!

Art of Phrases

"We didn't underestimate them. They were just a lot better than we thought" -Bobby Robson

“Writing's easier when you've got the metaphor”

~ Kevin Keegan

The wizards of this art lie low in football management. One man, in his donkeys years, who was never afraid to let the cat out of the bag, shared his wisdom of the sport frequently: "The first 90 minutes of the game are the most important."'[4] He was also a flash in the pan with farmers with his livestock nous, "If you count your chickens before they've hatched, they won't lay an egg"[5].

Another football top dog who kept the ball rolling was Glenn Hoddle who had genius pertained in his pep-talks, "It's not a night for this or that"[6]. Kevin Keegan's management skills went from sea to shining sea with his knowledge of goalkeepers, "Goalkeepers aren't born today until they're in their late twenties or thirties"[7]. and his understanding of the world's atlas: "Hungary is very similar to Bulgaria. I know they're different countries"[8].

Alright, alright, I admit: Whenever I think about the art of phrases, my mind draws a blank. You don't have to paint me the big picture (though I find a computer image generator more state of the art) to express the importance of art-related phrases. I draw the line at artistic discussions, or I'll threaten to paint the town red. I always drew the short straw at art lessons when I was at school anyway. In fact, all this talk about art metaphors is like watching paint dry.

William Shakespeare

Alas, poor what?

Ah, phrases[9]. Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day? Many a warm reception a phrase shall give, as you'll often find a tepid speech turn to a heated debate with just one lash of the nine-tailed phrase. Like the Dickens[10], Shakespeare is elementary to phrases, but remember that discretion is the better part of valour. Keep this under your hat.

Even good men and true will quote Shakespeare to any other, and put you in a pickle by one fell swoop. Do not be a green eyed monster, just fight fire with fire, then he will give the Devil his due. If you find Shakespeare to be exceedingly well read, you will soon see the turn of the tide, but only then will it be high time to make your hair stand on end and send your opponent packing. Do not lie low too long with Shakespeare, oh, that way madness lies.

It'd beggar'd all description when, in my salad days, I bid good riddance to a man with "more fool you" to his "you live in a fool's paradise". I wear my phrase heart on my sleeve, though love is blind, and Shakespeare is the twinkling in my eye. With Shakespeare, I have lived a charmed life (though I have not slept a wink) and neither rhyme nor reason could force me be a borrower nor lender be to any other writer. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

This is a primrose path to embark on, but the path to true love never does run smooth. Even a star-crossed lover, who I wooed in haste and meant to wed in leisure, she will leave with bag and baggage[11]in the midsummer madness. When the game is up, the quality of mercy is not strained and your teeth will be set on edge. Upon the crack of doom, the Devil incarnate will out the truth and make you vanish in thin air. After all, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. An ill-favoured thing... but mine own.

I have lain this section with a trowel[12] with none of the milk of the English language[13] - It's all Greek to me[14].


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