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July 03, 2006


Toy 'R Us

(don't know how to make the R backward), was a favorite of my high school english teacher for corrupting children's prose.

Do student papers count?

"I liked the movie's plot. It was what was interesting about it."

Student papers can't possibly count. We'd be here all day.

Is a pan-perspective what one has just before one jumps out in the fire?

My pick for bureaucratic phrase of the day: "And I will stay a Democrat, whether I am the Democratic Party's nominee or a petitioning Democratic candidate on the November ballot."

Oh, I also like that the FAQ on that page includes both "Is Joe Lieberman getting out of the Democratic Primary?" and, as a separate question, "Is Joe Lieberman leaving the Democratic Party?"

I am DEEPLY po'd about this post. Mixing metaphor is a TALENT, thank you very much. It's like, what is that thing where you take a song and change the words, fisking? Yeah, it's a kind of fisking. You take tired old things and make something new out of them. Anybody can make something brand new - taking the old and making it new again, now THAT is hard work!

And if I were any good at it, this post would be totally replete with scrambled metaphor, but I claim a lack of inspriation.

Today, any roads.


A talent much like malapropism?

i read that and assumed the writer was just having fun. that is, on purpose.

"Do you have a favorite example of horrible, horrible writing?"

I'd point to the "Thog's Masterclass" excerpts that my old pal Dave Langford has been putting in Ansible for something over twenty-five years. Ursula Le Guin decades ago said they were her favorite, and how could they not be?

"Oh, I also like that the FAQ on that page includes both 'Is Joe Lieberman getting out of the Democratic Primary?' and, as a separate question, 'Is Joe Lieberman leaving the Democratic Party?'"

Makes sense. However irritated we all are with Lieberman -- and I am certainly well beyond irritated -- they're clearly two entirely different questions.

Full set of Ansible back issues here, incidentally, but "Thog" has never been collected separately; to find the quotes (usually just a single sentence or two, but several separate quotes together), you'll have to click on an issue, and then "find" to "thog". All quotes are from published novels. (Quite often writers will write to Dave and thank him!)

For instance (random sample):

Prestidigitation Dept (or, Yoga Exercise #42). `As Morgan sat in another chair beside him, Duncan rolled his head in Morgan's direction and looked at him searchingly, folding his hands and tapping joined forefingers against his cheek as he rested his elbows on the chair arms.' (Katherine Kurtz, The Bishop's Heir, 1984) [TMcD]
• Method Acting Dept. `Leash drilled his eyes into Ramsey.' • `May furrowed her brow. Her pupils jittered side to side, as if her frontal lobes were doing heavy lifting. Her gaze was so intense, it looked like her skull could blow up in a puff of hot steam at any moment. Then her face lit up with a divine epiphany.' (both Greg Vilk, Golem, 2005)

Thog's Blurb Masterclass, or how to praise particularly massive books: a back cover quote from A.A. Attanasio warns that `Ricardo Pinto's The Chosen strikes the reader with great force.' [JB]

Thog's Masterclass. Words Fail Dept. `Flast broadcast the nonverbal equivalent of a shrug.' (Geodesica: Ascent, Sean Williams & Shane Dix, 2005) [MC]
• Sound of Silence Dept. `... number three [thug] leaned against the wall near the window, the automatic in his hand filling the room with a silent buzz.' (Richard Stark [Donald E. Westlake], The Black Ice Score, 1965) [TMcD]
• Heavy/Light Water Dept, or Squid vs Archimedes. `The main body of the thing is sort of an inverted cup, like a half-inflated bladder, surrounded by a great ring of bone and muscle that anchors these tentacles. The bladder fills and empties with water to enable the creature to rise to the surface, or descend far below -- the submarine principle. By itself it doesn't weigh much, although it is amazingly strong. What it does, it empties its bladder to rise to the surface, grabs hold, and then begins to fill again.' (George R.R. Martin, `Guardians' in Tuf Voyaging, 1986) [TMcD]
• Dept of Born Politicians. `Untruth was a violin which he played like a Paganini of bunkum.' (Marlon Brando and Donald Cammell, Fan-Tan, 2005) [MMW]

Thog's Blurb Masterclass. Spotted on the back of Christopher Stasheff's The Warlock Enraged: `On the magical planet of Gramarye, science coexists with witches and elves [...] and telepathy is the most common means of transportation.' [SB]

• Jay Lake has the right spirit: `I believe that I speak for my co-author, Ruth Nestvold, in saying that now that we have been Thogged in the recentmost Ansible, both our careers have been completed. This is a climax achievement which can never be bested, and I shall hang up my keyboard, shave my head and go into seclusion in darkest Idaho forthwith.' No, no!

Thog's Masterclass. Hot and Cold Running Dept. `Jean-Claude's sex ran over my skin while the fear ran like ice through the rest of me.' (Laurell K. Hamilton, Cerulean Sins, 2003) [TMcD]
• Beards Got Eyes Dept. `She saw him murmur to Jair, and saw the big red beard turn in the lamplit dimness to stare almost incredulously at his leader.' (C.L. Moore, `Judgment Night', 1943) [PDF]
• Eyes Wide Shut Dept. `The eyes that stared directly at her across the churchyard were closed, the face was pale and pasty in the faded moonlight.' (Doctor Who: Grave Matter, Justin Richards, 2000) [LC]
• Unusual Psi Powers Dept. `Lucille Roman sat in a remote and lonely spot and mentally chewed her fingernails ...' (George O. Smith, Fire In the Heavens, 1958) [KMcA]
• `I shed mental tears, and I could see the same in Eve's eyes as she looked down at me.' (Otto Binder, `Adam Link's Vengeance', 1940) [KMcA]

And so on.

"It's like, what is that thing where you take a song and change the words, fisking? Yeah, it's a kind of fisking."

Er, maybe not. Methinks you're thinking of mondegreens.

"Fisking" is writing snotty commentary or refutations of an article, line by line, and is named after British newspaper (and book) writer Robert Fisk, to whom it was done muchly, rather than whom did it.

D'oh! Somehow I read "Primary" as "Party".

I was thinking he meant "filking".

For deliberate bad writing, the perfect place to go is the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest.

"For deliberate bad writing, the perfect place to go is the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest."

Deliberate bad writing is never remotely as bad as unintentional bad writing.

Speaking as someone who first started being paid to read slush in 1975, I'll have to suggest you trust me on this.

Amy Lawrence sure was into that game.

Oh, hi Gary....didn't see you there.

In honor of Gary's slush reading, and for the benefit of anyone who isn't already familiar with it, I suggest reading "The Eye of Argon"--be sure to scroll down and click through to the fulltext!

I just read that as the heart of the team (the key players, or maybe we can extend the mixed metaphor, the backbone of the team) like Zidane, Viera, Makalele are all ageing and not in their prime. I think the metaphor is actually clear by what is meant by legs and by heart. Tough crowd.

"Tough crowd."

Nah. Any professional copyeditor would blanch. Ageing legs shouldn't be at anyone's heart unless it's a kung-fu movie, and readers shouldn't have to work to untangle metaphors.

Actually I find the "e" in "ageing" more annoying than the metaphors. I realize it's an accepted spelling, but I don't understand how it got started. We don't write "cageing" or "pageing" or "rageing" or "wageing" or ...

"Actually I find the "e" in 'ageing' more annoying than the metaphors."

Yeah, I considered whether to change that, but more than not I tend to adopt the usage I'm responding to or about if it's not blatantly and absolutely wrong.

"I am DEEPLY po'd about this post. Mixing metaphor is a TALENT, thank you very much. It's like, what is that thing where you take a song and change the words, fisking? "

Oh, you mean one song to te tune of another: think of a song as a jam roly poly, with the tune being the sponge, obviously, which is rolled up neatly to contain the jam, or words. It would be perfectly possible to unroll the sponge and scrap out the jam, which might be strawberry or raspberry, and to replace it with different jam taken from a second roly poly, perhaps a summer fruit compote or even orange marmalade (although obviously you wouldn’t want to use a thick cut variety as that would have lumps of peel poking out through the sponge).

In case that wasn't clear enough: it's when the tune of one song and the words of another are brought together and combined as if they were both one song. It’s hard to get your head round that at first, but if you try to think of it as one song without the tune but with the words to the tune of another song but without the words, it may help.

Darn it, Jackmormon, here I was enjoying myself for a few minutes before going and Getting Something Done - but then you lured me into the world of "The Eye of Argon."

Now I have wasted an hour reading it, trying to make my husband read it, and now I find that I am laughing to hard to read even the "Rules for a Reading" (also linked at the Wikipedia page). How could I have missed this all these years? It's sort of like an H. P. Lovecraft story mixed up with a Conan the Barbarian episode, filtered through Monty Python and then ... oh, I give up - words fail me.

"All that remained was a dark red blotch upon the face of the earth, blotching things up."

"Bush rode in to Baghdad on his laurels". Not published anywhere, thanks to yours truly, but I printed and saved that one for posterity.

italics be gone

Yes, filking is indeed the word for which I searched - and didn't find, having only exercised my internal resources, said resources proving once again inadequate to the task. :)

Fisking doesn't fit here, though in general I am quite fond of a good fisks. Who isn't?

I could have looked the word up, but, as is often the case, it is more fun to risk being wrong and then see what turns up. Being right all the time can be so broing, don't you think?


I own several books by Richard Lederer, so I can produce literally thousands of funny examples. One of my favorite sections in Anguished English has examples from church bulletins, including:

(during the minister's illness)
God is Good!
Dr. Hargreaves is better.

On Saturday evening we will have our annual ice cream social. All ladies who will be giving milk should arrive early.

Even through two layers of combat armour, I felt her nipples brush against my back.

My personal favorite so far, but it's early yet.

"My personal favorite so far, but it's early yet."

Personal favorite from where?

Gosh, Slarti's example reminds me of my all-time favorite, which I believe I've already mentioned ages ago:

"Her breasts glowed like amber melons." (From a romance novel a friend of mine was copy-editing, or reviewing for a publishing house, or some such thing.)

"...which I believe I've already mentioned ages ago...."

Thrice, actually, but there's nothing wrong with that.

Ansible, natcherly.

Been on vacation; now back. Made it about seventy percent of the way through Undaunted Courage before having to leave my brother's copy behind.

"Ansible, natcherly."

Ah. I thought maybe, but wondered. (And I shouldn't have said that the quotes were all from published novels, since some are from published shorter stories, as well; the key word was "published," not "novels.")

It's good to know at least one person looked. Like a lot of comments, that was one I tossed out (twice), and it disappeared into the pond with nary a ripple. So it's good to have a blurp come back.

Mangled prose? German is self-mangling.

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